Clinton speech on Haiti intervention not persuasive, Sun callers say

September 17, 1994|By Joel Obermayer | Joel Obermayer,Sun Staff Writer

Despite President Clinton's repeated warnings to defiant Haitian military generals and appeals to the American public for support, his speech Thursday night did not persuade many area residents that an invasion is a good idea, according to an informal survey of callers to The Sun.

About 70 callers to Sundial, The Sun's telephone information service, overwhelmingly opposed military intervention.

"President Clinton made absolutely no dent on my feelings at all. We are going to go in there and use up American lives and get bogged down there," said Jean O'Shea of Cockeysville. "[President Jean-Betrand] Aristide is not everything everyone says he is."

"Somalia was enough. I don't think anything is going to be gained by force. And if he [Mr. Clinton] is just worried about refugees, what does that say about this country that we can't even protect our borders?" Ms. O'Shea said.

Richard W. Emory said Mr. Clinton had put too much of his own prestige on the line.

"I think he painted himself into a corner by making promises and threats, and now he's got to go through with it," said the 81-year-old Roland Park resident. "I spent four years in World War II. If he had spent time in combat, he wouldn't be so quick to send troops. I'm sick of war."

But for some, the president's speech helped to clarify issues they had been thinking about.

"I am often troubled when I hear about the U.S. flexing its muscles. But I just thought this is a situation where President Clinton has been moved by the suffering of the people of Haiti," said Tricia Rubacky, 39, a consultant who lives in the Wyman Park area of Baltimore.

Ms. Rubacky said she was especially glad to hear the president's assurances that the U.S. involvement would not be open-ended. "I'll go along with him in that he intends to go in and make it a short invasion, and it will help protect the people down there," she said.

Ralph J. Peay, 35, a writer in Northeast Baltimore, said he feels strongly that deposing the Haitian military junta is the right thing to do. "The government down there, those guys are hoodlums. They are thugs," he said. "It is a renegade government, and an invasion will halt the exodus of people from the island."

But Mr. Peay also said he thought the midterm elections this fall might have pushed the president to adopt a more aggressive stance.

Indeed, many of the Sundial callers opposing an invasion saw political posturing, rather than a clear threat to national security, behind Mr. Clinton's ultimatum.

"The only way I would agree that we should invade Haiti is if President Clinton is the first one leading the charge onto the beach," said John R. Bothers, 64, of Severn. "We have enough atrocities here in the United States. . . . If we are going to use that as a reason for an invasion, then we should be invading every major city in the United States."

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