Report of order by Hussein to withdraw meets skepticism in Marylanders

Bonnie Gray of Owings Mills wants to see Saddam Hussein "personally throw up the white flag." Then she'll believe reports from Baghdad that the Iraqi president has ordered his troops out of Kuwait.

It'll take more than that to convince Bob Hausler of Randallstown: "I want to hear the words from Saddam himself: 'I surrender unconditionally.' "


From Potomac to Hollywood, from Baltimore to Bowie, Marylanders reacted skeptically last night to televised reports that the Iraqi leader had ordered his soldiers to "withdraw in an organized manner" from the tiny oil-rich nation that they have plundered since the August invasion.

Families of Maryland soldiers serving in the Persian Gulf resisted the impulse to believe that the allied forces' firepower in the 2-day-old ground war had routed the enemy from Kuwait.


"I'd like it to be true, I really would," said Lori Bokeno of Baltimore, whose husband, David, is serving with a Maryland National Guard company in Saudi Arabia. "I don't want to get my hopes up because I only get let down."

William E. Alli, the state coordinator of the Military Families Support Network, has cautioned the members of his group to "beware of getting on the roller coaster."

"With Saddam Hussein you have to be more skeptical than a doubting Thomas," said Mr. Alli of Bowie, who has two sons serving with the Marines in the Persian Gulf.

Other Marylanders who have much less of an emotional stake in the outcome of the war than the families of soldiers said that unless they heard officially that Iraq had pulled out, they would prefer the coalition-backed troops to continue on their course.

"The war isn't over until one side surrenders," said Andrew Runfeldt of Elkridge. "It's not over 'til the fat lady sings, and that fat Saddam hasn't sung yet."

The news of the Baghdad radio reports caused hardly a ripple last night at the Columbia Mall, but the war was clearly on the minds of shoppers.

Most of a sampling of people in the mall said the United States shouldn't change its military plan because of the Baghdad announcement. However, opinions differed as to whether an Iraqi pullout would be sufficient or whether the United States should press for Mr. Hussein's ouster from power.

"We're over there on a very limited mission," said shopper Susan Holley, a 33-year-old attorney from Laurel. "We should stick to what we first said -- free Kuwait, and that's it. Or else we'll lose a lot of good faith."


To Anna Vidi of Mount Airy, the radio report from Baghdad was just another ploy by Mr. Hussein to make the allied forces "pause." But a telephone call from Saudi Arabia last week made her pause.

Mrs. Vidi said her 21-year-old brother, Maryland National Guardsman Patrick Sofsky of Rosedale, "sounded really well," which gave her hope that he would be home by late spring.

"I hope we see him back in May. He has a godson to be christened," she said.