Veterans React to Hussein Interview

Saddam Hussein is speaking out, issuing a challenge for President Bush. CBS newsman Dan Rather spoke with him in his first interview with an American journalist in ten years. WTOC talked with some local veterans about the interview, who seem to think that all Hussein is doing is trying to buy himself some extra time. They're just hoping this doesn't turn into another Vietnam.

When Korean War veteran Warren Lynn and Vietnam veteran Al Smith heard about Rather's exclusive interview with the Iraqi leader, they decided it was something they had to see.

"I'm surprised he did. If he can sit down with a journalist like that, they know exactly where he is," said Smith.

One hot topic Rather asked Hussein about was the Al-Samoud missiles in violation of United Nations' mandates, to which he answered, "We do not have missiles that go beyond the prescribed range." He also told Rather he won't destroy the missiles in question, something the veterans shook their heads at.

"If he's going to be that way, go over there and take care of him," said Lynn. "Let's get the boys on back home."

Hussein issued a challenge through Rather, saying "I am ready to conduct a direct dialogue, a debate with your president. I will say what I want, he will say what he wants. This will be an opportunity to convince the world." It's also something that shocked Smith.

"He's had several months or a year to settle down," Smith told us. "Why should he sit back and debate him? He's just killing time."

But Hussein continued, saying, "This is proposed in earnest out of my respect for the people the United States and the people of Iraq and the people of the world. I call for this because war is not a joke."

"He hasn't got any respect for his own country," said Smith. "I know he doesn't respect the United States  or American citizens."

Rather reported that Hussein understands the reality of war could be coming soon. Hussein told Rather he doesn't want it, but he's prepared for it. The veterans we spoke with don't want war either, but they say they know we've got to do something to secure peace here at home.

Reported by: Holly Bristow,