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Indian opinions on war in Iraq: A spectrum of sentiment

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - As allied forces close in on Baghdad and troops fight pockets of hostility in the southern towns and provinces of Iraq; Indian people at home respond to the situation overseas. Opinions occupy the full range of feelings from complete disagreement with allied actions to total accord with the American government's presence in the Middle East.

Steel Worker First Class James C. Santistevan, Jicarilla Apache, a member of the Navy Reserve's Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 22 (NMCB-22), Detachment 03 out of Albuquerque, N.M. said he is torn both ways.

"You hate to see what has been documented about how terrible (the Iraqi) regime is and how (Saddam Hussein's government has) treated its people - how its treated its neighbors. Yet, you see the problem and you don't know if you have the right to do that. But I look at it with the sense that if you see an injustice and you let it go on, it becomes a bigger and bigger thing. So sometimes you do have to take a stance and stop an injustice," said Santistevan.

"I'm not a strong supporter of this, but I do support taking action, because sometimes inaction is the worst thing to do," he continued.

NMCB-22 is preparing for imminent deployment and Santistevan says he feels some concern. "I'd be a liar to tell you I wasn't a little fearful. The unknown is always the unknown. Life is just a long part of a line and death is just a short part of that line so I'm not going to concentrate on that part I'm going to concentrate on the living."

He said he is confident with the quality of the training his battalion has received and trusts the talents of the people who are in his reserve to meet any challenge faced overseas.

Shayai Lucero, Miss Indian World 1997 and presently the executive secretary for the All Indian Pueblo Council, feels diplomacy wasn't given enough of a chance. "It didn't have to come to a war. I think the UN and the other countries were working toward a resolution with Iraq," she said.

She believes Iraq is not the problem and that the Iranian and North Korean governments are more unstable and should conflict occur in those countries, it could have more devastating consequences.

And although Iraq has, in her opinion, biological and chemical weapons, she doesn't see Iraqi leaders using them. "I think they do have the capabilities of creating biological and chemical weapons. But, I think, as terrible as Saddam is, I don't think he is willing to use them. I think it's mainly a ploy in this whole political game by Iraq."

Lucero said that Iraqi and American economies depend on each other and destruction would not benefit either country. "It's hurting us already. You hear about all of the anti-American protests going on. I'm afraid this is going to drag on. The war may end quickly, but repercussions are going to affect us greatly in the future with regards to negotiation with oil companies, imports, exports. There's going to be so many things like trade and tourism that will be affected negatively."

She also feels oil companies will benefit more than citizens. "A lot of the big oil companies have invested time and money into the oil fields in Iraq. That's why I think they're protecting them so much. The regular people are going to be the ones paying for the war. Taxpayers are going to be the ones paying for the war. I see that happening in Iraq too."

Lucero does support the troops. "Even though I don't believe politically in this war, there has to be support for the troops. They're the pawns in this game and they're the ones that we need to be praying for. My dad is a Vietnam veteran and no veteran should come home to the country they love and defend and be greeted by rotten tomatoes and trash thrown at them like my dad had seen when he came home. Hopefully we have learned our lesson about that," she said.

Sandia Pueblo Governor Stuwart Paisano said he supports what the president is trying to accomplish but is very concerned with what the troops face. "I wish them well and God speed. They are there protecting our freedom and our rights."

Paisano happened to be in Washington on Sept.11, 2001 and said he was very saddened by the lives lost that day. "By doing something like this, we would hopefully rectify (wrongs committed by) some of the world's most dangerous people."

"For the future I see," he continued, "being able to establish world peace."