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Speech Doesn't Sway Doubters

Reaction: Southern Californians voice opinions on Bush's latest case against Hussein.


At the close of the school day, Salvador Narez, 19, paused Monday in the lobby of Cal State Northridge's student union. A wide-screen TV blared President Bush's speech.

As other students slept on upholstered chairs and checked their e-mail from computer terminals, Narez listened to Bush present his case to the nation for forcing Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq.

For Narez, a political science major, the 30-minute address proved convincing.

"I appreciated the background about 11 years of dictatorship in Iraq," said the sophomore. "That they say one thing and mean another, and about the crimes against their own people. He didn't say military action was his first goal, he said it was his last resort."

But across the San Fernando Valley campus, the reasons laid out by Bush--who said he would not "stake one American life on trusting Saddam Hussein"--were met with disdain.

Jose Perez, 27, a member of an unofficial campus group, Students Against War, called Bush's comments coercive.

"I thought the speech was more of a tactic to instill fear than any reasonable or logical process," said Perez, a political science major who attended an antiwar protest in Westwood on Sunday.

"Anybody who is a friend of the United States and wants to use weapons against an enemy of the United States can go ahead and build them and that's OK?" Perez said, referring to U.S. allies. "I think this is going to be an illegal war and the U.N. is not going to condone this. He's still going to brush this aside and go on to war."

In downtown Los Angeles, some workers said they would need to hear definitive proof that Hussein poses a threat to the United States to back any attack.

"There have been so many contradictory things coming from the administration, such as whether or not there is a clear and present danger, that until the information gets sorted out, we really should not go after this war," said Ed Templeton, a paralegal. "I'd like to see a smoking gun before we send our own bullets."

Echoed office clerk Takako Mizushima: "I don't support it. The Iraqis said they're going to let the inspectors in. Bush hasn't shown us the proof."

Their comments came as Bush was saying from a lectern in Cincinnati that such proof might "come in the form of a mushroom cloud" if America waited too long.

At American Legion Post 291 in Newport Beach, Bush appeared on both TV sets at the bar but failed to hold the attention of veterans. Most chose to socialize on the patio. The men outside, however, expressed support for the president's goals.

"I think it's a tough sell, but we have to stop this guy [Hussein] now or our children will have to pay for it later," said Dave Ryan, 66, of Corona del Mar, a Korean War-era Navy veteran.

Army veteran Bruce Vaughan, 67, of Costa Mesa, agreed.

"Set politics aside," he said, "and take [Hussein] out. That's the No. 1 priority."

Both men said they planned to catch the rebroadcast of the speech. As soon as the live presentation ended, an impatient vet demanded the channel be switched to the baseball playoff game, and the bartender quickly complied.


Times staff writer Megan Garvey contributed to this report.

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