Youths thoughtfully debate war

Times Staff Writer

"Can you love America and still be against war with Iraq?" "What does it mean to be patriotic?" "How did we get to this point?"

Adults of all backgrounds are wrestling with these tough questions. So are our worried kids.

Linda Ellerbee's latest "Nick News" special, "The Iraq Question: American Kids Talk About War," gives a group of young people, ages 10 to 14, a chance to speak their piece about the increasing probability of war. Pro and con, their opinions turn out to be as passionate, mixed -- and troubled -- as those of their elders.

Ellerbee, a low-key moderator, starts out by showing news footage and presidential speeches to give viewers a history, much abbreviated, of the complex relationship between the United States and Iraq. It begins only with Iraq's 1990 invasion of Kuwait and ends with present-day tensions.

Cut to Ellerbee's in-studio guests, who have varied reactions.

"Whether we're for or against war, we're scared," says one boy. A girl sternly declares that "we have to go and get" Saddam Hussein; a boy concurs. One boy argues that Osama bin Laden should be the target; another states that "disagreeing with the government isn't wrong. It's perfectly fine in this country."

Yes, adults are saying pretty much the same things in these tension-filled times. This particular forum, however, is resonant with an underlying poignancy: These children, many of whom are near or at the age of those who may soon be fighting on either side, are trying to understand a world that they have had no hand in shaping.


'Nick News'

What: "The Iraq Question: American Kids Talk About War"

When: Sunday, 8:30 p.m.

Where: Nickelodeon

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