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Utah Residents React to Claim of Soldier's Beheading

Utah Residents React to Claim of Soldier's Beheading



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WEST JORDAN, Utah (AP) -- Tony Vasquez used to be in favor of the war in Iraq, but now he's not so sure.

Pushing a stroller around a city park just miles from the family home of a U.S. Marine reportedly beheaded in Iraq, Vasquez expressed frustration and disappointment after hearing the news about Cpl. Wassef Ali Hassoun.

"I think we ought to just get our troops out of there," said the 46-year-old Midvale man.

Many of the residents ambling around the park for the Fourth of July Western Stampede celebration, where American flags hung thick and smells of deep-fried food and barbecue mingled in the air, had similar views.

Brent Arnold, a 48-year-old from South Jordan, winced when he heard the news. He and his daughter had just stopped by a shop selling T-shirts, and a young girl sang the song "Independence Day" about 20 yards away.

"It hits closer to home," he said. "I think we need to speed it up before more lives are taken."

Nearby, three U.S. Army soldiers staffed a mostly quiet information booth, stopping occasionally to chat with children and teens.

Don Randle, a 50-year-old from West Jordan, held his young granddaughter's hand a few booths away. He has a shaky view of the Iraq war, which he compared to Vietnam.

"You're fighting someone, and you don't know who's good and who's bad," he said. "These beheadings -- that's not a war, that's a crime."

Judy Godfrey, a 58-year-old from Murray, said she wanted more information before she sorted out her views. She said that Hassoun's Utah ties didn't really make a difference, because "any beheading is terrible."

Mike Satterle, 36, who came to the festival with his family, called the militants' claim "a horrible shame. But it's war, I guess."

On the outskirts of the festival, a musician in a cowboy hat calling himself "Brother Bill" played cover songs on an amplified acoustic guitar with an American flag stuck in the neck.

In between songs, Bill said he didn't support the war to begin with, but he was behind the troops and wanted them to stay as long as it took.

"It was a fool's move," he said, the flag reflecting off of mirrored sunglasses. "In my imagination, we shouldn't have started it in the first place. But we've got to stay. We done bit off more than we chew."

At the Hassoun home, roughly five miles away, a well wisher showed up with flowers for the family.

"I think everybody should be thankful for the people fighting for our country," said Eric Hailes, 15, of Salt Lake City.

He didn't know the Hassoun family, but said he was angry over reports of the beheading.

"There's no reason they should have done that," he said.

U.S. Rep. Jim Matheson, a Democrat who represents Utah's 2nd District, said he deplored "these senseless and brutal acts."

"They solve nothing but reveal much about the extremism of the insurgents," he said.

Other members of Utah's congressional delegation did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

(Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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