GOP Rally Supports President on Iraq

Times Staff Writer

With the U.S. teetering on the brink of military action in Iraq, Rebecca Summers takes it personally when she sees antiwar marches on television. And when her friends shrug off President Bush's warnings about Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, she really sees red.

So on Saturday, the 16-year-old Valencia High School student joined a crowd of about 300 people at a busy Santa Clarita intersection to demonstrate in support of Bush's Iraq policy and the U.S. troops who are preparing for war.

"In our history class, we talk about the Iraq situation all the time, and kids say, 'Oh, I don't care. It doesn't affect me.' I get a little angry," Summers said. "I tell them, 'They're out there fighting for you.' "

That point hits home for her because her cousin recently shipped out to Kuwait with the Marines. "It becomes a lot more personal when you have someone you love over there," she said as thousands of cars streamed past the rally just outside Valencia Town Center mall.

Although the rally was small compared with antiwar protests in Hollywood and Santa Monica last month, the pro-Bush demonstrators were greeted with a steady stream of thumbs-up gestures and enthusiastic honking from passing motorists.

"This is almost like a party," Bob Ritter, 47, of Lancaster said. The local Republican headquarters organized the rally, putting out word through leaflets, e-mail and posters.

Santa Clarita resident George Packard, 56, a Vietnam veteran who said he had never been to a rally "in my entire life," joined the demonstration because "I'm tired of seeing all those antiwar protesters get so much attention when I know we vastly outnumber them."

Packard, the co-owner of an interior design products firm, believes strongly that war with Iraq is necessary.

"Look what happened when we didn't do something in '91" to topple Hussein after the Gulf War," he said.

Others were there to boost the morale of U.S. troops.

Cheryl Allen, 53, of Castaic, said her son-in law, an Army captain stationed in Kuwait, appreciates hearing that people support him -- even if he can't see it firsthand.

She and her husband, Jerry, took 27 photos of the rally. "We're going to e-mail them to him as soon as we get home."

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