Putting `why' before `war'


Views: A sampling of voices from newspapers across the United States indicates disagreement with the Bush administration's stand on Iraq.

January 24, 2003

While Americans tend to think the world would be safer if Saddam Hussein were removed from power, they are having doubts about rushing into war against Iraq, according to polls taken in recent days.

A Newsweek poll last week found that 4 out of 5 of those asked thought America would be more secure without Hussein in power, but 60 percent said it was important to take time and try to avoid military force. Eighty-one percent are in favor of U.S. military action - if the United Nations Security Council favors it. (Only 39 percent would approve of going ahead without the United Nations.)

A Washington Post-ABC News poll found that 7 out of 10 Americans think that U.N. weapons inspectors should have more time to look for arms in Iraq.

According to a Knight Ridder poll, 83 percent of Americans would support war against Iraq if a coalition joined the attack and the United Nations was in favor. Sixty-eight percent said the United States should try to contain Iraq without war.

Following is a quick look at how Americans are expressing those opinions, as seen through the pages of newspapers in American communities:

From a column by Mike Bailey, associate editor, the Peoria (Ill.) Journal Star:

... My ears do perk up, though, when I hear from the likes of Bill Bivens, a 69-year-old insurance broker and Korean War veteran from Avon in Fulton County. He opposes any attack on Iraq that does not have United Nations backing. He thinks a lot of central Illinoisans are of like mind but too shy to contact their politicians.

So he's taken his mission/petition to churches, the grocery store, town cafe, bowling alley, VFW hall. ...

"I don't have any pull with anybody" and "I haven't done anything like this before," he says. But "the American public hasn't spoken out yet on this" and "the media ... have been asking the questions wrong." Of the 80 or so opinions he's collected thus far in his town of 900, about 90 percent are with him on Iraq, he says.

"He [Bush] is putting all these troops over there. ... It's terrible," Bivens says. "Iraq's not going to hurt us. Let them [the inspectors] stay over there another year. Bring the troops back home. It's too costly to let 'em sit. ... We're going to be over there 10 or 20 years. Those poor boys ... and ladies, too."

Bivens believes that Bush has made up his mind, but that there's still hope for Congress. "It's got to be started somewhere. Avon is speaking out. Let the world hear it."

... I haven't detected all that much support for war in Iraq locally, not even in those corners where denizens lean to the right of Attila. ... But Bivens is right: It's time for Americans at the grass roots to speak up, one way or the other.

From an editorial in the Lima (Ohio) News:

... [Secretary of Defense Donald H.] Rumsfeld told reporters last week that while a smoking gun could prompt a war, the lack of a smoking gun could be an even greater reason for war, because it means that Hussein is hiding his weapons from inspectors.

It's this sort of Alice in Wonderland logic that makes us wonder what the heck the administration is doing.

There's a big difference between scouring a country for weapons and finding a few forbidden empty warheads, and dealing with a country with loaded missiles and threatening to wage war or to invade one of its neighbors.

If the administration can use diplomacy and patience to deal with North Korea, it can do the same with Iraq. Keep on inspecting, by all means, but let's have an answer of substance to "why" before saying "war."

Editorial from The News and Observer, Raleigh, N.C.:

Word of the Bush administration's announced willingness to consider exile for Iraqi President Saddam Hussein is a welcome break from the steady war beat out of Washington. ...

A quiet departure for Saddam might not stifle accusations that the United States simply was seeking to solidify its control of Middle Eastern oil fields, but avoiding war would help moderate the resentment that many Arabs feel. That is one of many reasons why exile for Saddam should be enthusiastically pursued.

Editorial from the Cincinnati (Ohio) Post:

... The idea of asylum [for Hussein] is worth pushing, with two caveats. First, there has to be some mechanism in place to ensure that the world is not trading one dictator for another, that the successor government to Saddam is representative and committed to due process and human rights. And, second, aggressive arms inspections must continue until the U.N. resolution calling for elimination of weapons of mass destruction is satisfied.

Letter from Gordon Gibson of Elkhart to the Elkhart (Ind.) Truth:

On behalf of P.E.A.C.E. (Peacemaking Efforts Around the County of Elkhart), I thank The Truth for its good coverage of the rally Saturday against the rush to war with Iraq.

We counted those who set off from the Civic Plaza to walk past the county courts building. Over 290 set out, several people joined us as we walked, and some had gone home at that point to escape the bitter cold.

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