11-Year-Old Boy Bashes Bush

Sep 252005
Authors: Vimal Patel

As car horns honked in support of U.S. troops overseas, a war veteran and a pre-teen boy squared off about the Iraq War on the corner of College and Mulberry streets Saturday.

Each week for the last few years, two opposing camps have been holding mini-rallies at that street corner. One side is "pro-troops" and the other anti-war.

"Bush's reason (for going to war) was nuclear weapons and we found no weapons of mass destruction," said Ben DeNardo, an 11-year-old Fort Collins resident representing the anti-war side. "Another reason Bush started the war in Iraq was because he wanted to finish what his daddy started."

DeNardo, who at his tender age listens to National Public Radio, trotted across the street to the pro-troops side and asked Iraq War supporter and Vietnam War veteran Harry Campbell why he supported the war.

"We had half a million people who were killed by Saddam Hussein," Campbell said. "There were a lot of horrible things the (Iraqi) government did…I'd compare it to Adolf Hitler."

The kid shot back.

"Is it true that our nukes are good nukes and their nukes are bad nukes?" DeNardo said. "We have nukes that can destroy all life on Earth except cockroaches."

To which Campbell responded, "Aren't you glad they're in our hands?"

Exchanges like this are not uncommon between the two sides. Campbell said his camp has had someone on the corner every Saturday since October 2001, no matter what weather conditions have been like. One time, he said, he was out there in the middle of a 30-inch snowstorm.

The purpose of the weekly pro-troops rally, Campbell said, is not political, but rather to show appreciation to Americans who have served in wars.

"They hear so many negative things," he said. "It's nice to let them know that the American people appreciate them."

Both sides compete to get passing motorists to honk to support their cause. Every few seconds, the droning hustle-and-bustle at the busy intersection is broken by a honk.

Both sides also make liberal, no pun intended, use of the American flag. The anti-war side, however, also flies the flag of the United Nations.

Campbell said the people across the street are "anti-American" and that "they'd be much more comfortable living under the flag of the United Nations."

Joe Stern, a World War II veteran and Iraq War opponent disagrees.

"I oppose the war and support the warriors," he said, adding that at one time he believed in fighting but has since come to the realization "that there's no such thing as a just war."

Stern says that he has made the trip across the street to distribute anti-war material to his pro-war counterparts on many occasions, but for the most part, they don't want to accept his offerings.

Brian Mooney, 24, who leaves for Iraq in November, said the job of a soldier is not to support or oppose war, but simply to accomplish the mission at hand.

"I'm in no position to make a decision whether we should be there," he said. "When the first bullet flies past your head, it's not about politics."

The United States has a history of leaving unfinished business, he said, citing Somalia, Vietnam and the first Gulf War as examples.

"It's my firm belief that we should finish what we started," Mooney said. "If we leave (Iraq), we give the whole world the impression that if you bloody us, we leave."

Mooney also said the U.S. media sensationalize events and focus on the negative without emphasizing positive steps, such as the rebuilding of infrastructure.

"Despite what you hear on the news, 98 percent of the soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan want to be there," he said. "You don't hear about the good."

Campbell, the Vietnam War veteran, and Stern, the World War II veteran, although on opposing sides about the Iraq War, were cordial and friendly in their discussion. Only they and other veterans can truly know what it's like to be a soldier on a battlefield.

As for the NPR-listening, articulate, 11-year old Iraq war opponent?

"That's what happens when you brainwash someone completely," Campbell said jokingly.

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