Steve Hermiz Acho stood teary-eyed in his check-cashing business Thursday afternoon, a tiny transistor radio pressed to his ear, his 6-year-old son, Steven Jr., on his lap.
“Steven, the war just started,” the Iraqi immigrant whispered to his son. Then, to no one in particular, he added, “I didn’t think Hussein would take the (Iraqi) people into another war, I didn’t think he would take on the whole world like he has. He is one man against the entire world.”
For Acho and the 8,000 Christian Iraqi residents of San Diego County, news of the air attack on their native country brought anger against Hussein but fear and sadness that relatives and friends back in Iraq could suffer severely as the tempo of war increases.
His youngest son had asked him several times over the past couple of days if war had yet started, after hearing friends in his first-grade class at school talking about what they had heard from parents and television.
“For God’s sake, think of all the citizens over there, the Iraqi citizens who are not supportive of the government of Iraq,” Acho pleaded. “They can’t vote for their government, the people over there got no choice like the people in the United States, the Iraqi people have suffered eight miserable years, and now this.” Three of his cousins were killed during the brutal eight-year war with Iran, he said.
The 34-year-old Acho, the older brother of San Diego Sockers star Waad Hirmez, added, “I’ve been here for 16 years, and I’m a full-fledged American citizen--I love the United States but I love my (native) country, too.”
Acho planned to close his Southeast San Diego business early and go home to watch the television news.
Falah Jarjosa shared similar fears as he surveyed the empty tables at the El Cajon Manor Wednesday evening, a Chaldean social club in El Cajon that normally would be packed with people unwinding after a day of work.
Only four people stood near the many white tablecloth tables as CNN news blared on a nearby television.
“I was shocked to see this,” said Jarjosa, a cook at the club who has four sisters, a brother and his mother still living in Baghdad.
He unleashed a string of harsh epithets about Hussein, accusing him of having no scruples in risking the deaths of thousands of Iraqis.
“But nobody is allowed to talk in Iraq, it’s like the Mafia,” Jarjosa said.
“Of course, the U.S. is going to win, but hopefully without killing too many citizens.”