Keep Troops Home, Many in Area Say U.S. Should Solve Own Problems First, Some Declare in Interviews

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At Holy Cross Lutheran Church in Creve Coeur, the Rev. Roy C. Moore prayed that the U.S. peacekeepers going to Bosnia would be "honored and respected."

"As I said those words, many shook their heads affirmatively," the pastor said. At Holy Cross, many people are unclear, even puzzled, about Americans joining NATO peacekeepers.

"People are worried that we might get ourselves into a quagmire - another horrific thing like Vietnam," Moore said.

Sunday morning, as scores of area congregations prayed for the U.S. soldiers asked to keep the peace, President Bill Clinton ordered 700 soldiers to Bosnia.

Most of the sentiment expressed in interviews Sunday was against sending troops to Bosnia.

Outside the Washington Tabernacle Missionary Baptist Church, 3200 Washington Avenue, two men informally debated the issue and summed up feelings of many.

"It's somebody else's war," said Galvin Byrd, who served in the Army in the 1980s in this country. Americans have problems at home, he said.

James J. Williams, a church deacon, who served in the Marines Corps in the 1970s for three years and in reserves for six years, disagreed.

"There are people dying there," he said. "What if it was our grandparents, our sisters and brothers dying here . . . blowing up factories and schools. If we couldn't take care of it ourselves, wouldn't we want another country to help us? If the U.S. doesn't help them, a lot more people are going to die."

He compared the mass killings in Bosnia to the Holocaust under Hitler.

Byrd didn't buy it. The conflict in Bosnia has been going on for generations, he said.

"It is hard to tell who is wrong and who is right this time," Byrd said about the players in Bosnia.

Williams said the United States has the troops and equipment "that I pay taxes for" and should help.

Byrd was not convinced. He fears that Americans might die or get unusual diseases while working in the peacekeeping effort. The `Don't Go' Camp

Perachit Whitaker, 48, of O'Fallon, Ill., is from Thailand and worked on a military base there during the Vietnam War. "I don't think they should go get killed for another country, when our own problems are here," she said. She said she feared the same thing could happen in Bosnia as happened in Vietnam.

She was one of many shoppers at the Fairview Heights shopping center in the "don't go" camp.

Said Jack Hamilton, 57, of Aviston, Ill., "They should stay home where they belong." Hamilton, who runs a feed mill, doesn't believe that the effort will remain a peacekeeping mission for long.

"They have to go, but it stinks," said John Nicholson, 59, of Washington Park. "We've got the same thing here as they have in Bosnia. . . . There's so much hatred over here," he said.

Garic Watson, 29, of Belleville, said he agreed that the United States has an obligation to keep as much peace as possible in the world. …

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