Dissent sparked and then flamed in the Quaker church, where activists from 30 organizations had gathered to plan anti-war strategy.
Charlotte Warren, the daughter of a career infantryman, believes in the need to rein in President Saddam Hussein of Iraq - but with a United Nations force only.When she heard of plans to send 200,000 more U.S. troops to the Persian Gulf, Warren volunteered her Catholic service group for the front line of the new anti-war movement.
"The sooner we can get people in the streets, the better chance we have of preventing this war," said Warren, a teacher in her mid-40s.
Before sliding into his pew, Bart Tippetts, 44, stopped by the Vietnam War Memorial, the haunting wall of black marble etched with the names of 55,000 American dead.
In Vietnam, near Junction City, Tippetts' artillery unit suffered in some of the war's heaviest fighting. Afterward, they bulldozed enemy casualties into trenches. Tippetts carried away some of his friends, in body bags. His memories churned in the Quaker church.
"We have to put a stop to this war now," said Tippetts, who was representing the Veterans' Peace Coalition. "We should take over the offices of Congress and not leave until our troops come home."
In venues across the nation, anti-war forces are building with a new urgency since President Bush announced that more U.S. troops would be sent to the Persian Gulf.
Chants of "No War for Oil" are sounding more and more as the anti-war sentiment coalesces. The volume of the dissent and the amount of civil disobedience will depend on the course of events in the months ahead. But activists warn that demonstrations on campuses and in city streets could be fierce.
"If Bush goes to war, I promise you that hundreds of thousands of people will do battle in the streets of this country," said Ron Kovic, the activist and Vietnam veteran portrayed by Tom Cruise in the movie "Born on the Fourth of July." "It will look like Czechoslovakia or Berlin; this country will never be the same."
Speaking by telephone from Los Angeles, Kovic added: "I've spent 22 years paralyzed in my wheelchair because of Vietnam. I am not going to let our young men and women die in the Persian Gulf, or come home like I did."
Bush's administration still has the support of most Americans during the hastened buildup of troops. But Americans' skittishness is rising, polls show. Three national surveys showed that between 52 percent and 60 percent of Americans support Bush's handling of the gulf situation. In mid-August, his support exceeded 80 percent.
After a long test of wills, anti-war sentiment is stirring. On Oct. 20, the first coordinated anti-war protest aimed at the Persian Gulf took place in 20 cities around the nation.
The Coalition to Stop U.S. Intervention in the Middle East, an umbrella group, plans a number of demonstrations, including a march in Washington. Nationwide protests across the nation are set for Jan. 15, the birthday of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. An international "speak-out" against war in the Middle East is planned, to be held at Madison Square Garden in New York.
"Since Bush upped the ante with the new troops, things have mushroomed," said Brian Becker, spokesman for the coalition. "We are flooded with calls from many kinds of people, like military reservists and families of GIs."
The faces of the new anti-war protesters differ from the holes-in-blue-jeans look during the Vietnam War. In the early phases of Vietnam, anti-war banners were carried mainly by college students and activists from the civil rights movement.
In 1990, a broader array of people is getting involved, among them veterans, environmentalists, religious organizations, Gray Panthers, homosexual and lesbian groups, Hispanics and Palestinian rights groups.
"We have many years of activism around issues such as Central America, South Africa, nuclear disarmament," said Leslie Cagan of the National Campaign for Peace in the Middle East, also in New York. "We're also in a different world now, one in which far more people are tuned in to what the government does."
Today's anti-war coalition has something else that was absent 20 years ago: disapproving conservatives. Unlike Vietnam, the Persian Gulf has nothing to do with containing communism, which held many conservatives in lockstep support of the Vietnam War.
But Patrick Buchanan and some other well-known conservatives have expressed qualms about the course toward war that they say the United States seems to be following.
Their isolationist view is helping to forge an alliance similar to pre-World War II years when conservatives such as Herbert Hoover and Charles Lindbergh allied themselves with pacifists and with socialists such as Norman Thomas.
Some of the participants today are the same as 20 years ago. Daniel Ellsberg, a former Pentagon official, became famous in 1971 when he leaked the Pentagon Papers - documents showing the history of secret government planning in Indochina.
Last week, Ellsberg called on government officials to divulge the same sort of explosive documents related to the Persian Gulf.
"If they face prosecution, they should see that as a light price to pay," Ellsberg said at a news conference.
Bishop Thomas J. Gumbleton of Detroit, another longtime critic of war, tried unsuccessfully to get Roman Catholic bishops meeting in Washington to ask Catholic soldiers to become conscientious objectors.
"When a nation is quick to resort to violence, as this one appears to be, it hardens us in a certain way; it destroys us spiritually," Gumbleton said. "It is almost incredible to me that in a civilized society, our nation would go to war almost automatically without negotiations."
Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service