WASHINGTON -- George W. Bush's eagerness to take on Iraq has fanned the flames
of Middle East anger, rankled the United States's closest allies and spread unease
in Republican ranks.
But for James Zamorski, a 50-year-old architect from Chicago, the case for
war against Saddam Hussein's Iraq is pretty simple, really.
"We support the President, and if his people say he's a threat, then we
support going after him," Mr. Zamorski said as he and his family were taking
vacation snapshots yesterday outside the south lawn of the White House.
Opinions about a possible war vary greatly among Americans, with many expressing
fears about the potential human cost, getting drawn into a protracted Middle East
conflict or alienating allies.
But with the one-year anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks nearing, polls show
almost seven of 10 Americans support military action against Iraq. And 59 per
cent are ready to use ground troops to get the job done, according to an ABC News/Washington
Post poll released this week and conducted in the first week of August.
There is growing concern, nonetheless, that Mr. Bush may be rushing into a
quagmire by moving too swiftly to target Iraq, without making a solid case to
Americans or the rest of the world.
The poll, for example, shows that Americans want Mr. Bush to make sure he has
the backing of the U.S. Congress before taking any action. This week, several
respected Republicans spoke out against the Bush administration's high-profile
The growing cast of Republican skeptics includes former secretary of state
Henry Kissinger and Brent Scowcroft, national security adviser under Mr. Bush's
father, former president George Bush.
"An attack on Iraq at this time would seriously jeopardize, if not destroy,
the global counterterrorism campaign we have undertaken," Mr. Scowcroft warned
in an opinion piece published this week in The Wall Street Journal.
An attack might cause Iraq to retaliate with chemical or biological weapons
in a bid to draw Israel into a wider Middle East war, said Mr. Scowcroft, who
has provided occasional advice to the Bush administration.
He also noted there is a "virtual consensus in the world" against an
attack, making a war more costly and militarily challenging.
Mr. Kissinger, likewise, cautioned about international reaction, noting that
a war would be a long drawn-out affair that shouldn't be undertaken without careful
thought and planning.
He suggested that a war now could prove to be a watershed event in U.S. policy.
"Military intervention should be attempted only if we are willing to sustain
such an effort for however long it is needed," he said in a commentary in
The Washington Post.
Mr. Bush took the criticisms in stride, speaking yesterday to reporters at
his ranch in Crawford, Tex. "I am aware there are some very intelligent people
expressing their opinions about Saddam Hussein and Iraq," he said. "I
listen carefully to what they have to say. There should be no doubt in anyone's
mind that that man is thumbing his nose at the world, that he has gassed his own
people, that he is trouble in his neighborhood, that he desires weapons of mass
Despite the President's strong rhetoric, Secretary of State Colin Powell and
some of his top advisers are reportedly taking steps to slow down the momentum
for war among the hawks in the administration. Mr. Powell is said to be leading
efforts to spark international debate about what kind of regime should replace
Mr. Hussein's military dictatorship.
Iraq yesterday asked the United Nations for further technical talks in Baghdad
before allowing weapons inspectors back into the country that has locked them
out for the past four years. Renewed inspections are key to staving off a war.
The 10-page letter from Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri to UN Secretary-General
Kofi Annan appears to fall short of UN demands that Baghdad send a "formal
invitation" for arms inspectors to return to Iraq before additional substantive
talks could be held.
British jets are currently helping the United States patrol the no-fly zones
in Iraq. Britain also made the largest non-U.S. military contribution against
Iraq in the Persian Gulf war.
British Prime Minister Tony Blair is facing dissent within his government over
a possible war and widespread public opposition.
Support from Britain is crucial because the country is the United States' most
important military partner, capable of providing more firepower than any other
ally and rallying European support.
Like Britain, Canada and most other U.S. allies have expressed strong reservations
about overthrowing Saddam Hussein by force before United Nations efforts to defuse
the crisis have been exhausted. Foreign Minister Bill Graham has said Iraq should
be given a chance to comply with UN conditions for resuming weapons inspection
before considering military action.
The Bush administration's escalating military planning has also deepened the
rift between the United States and some of its Middle Eastern friends. Saudi Arabia,
for example, has warned the United States that it won't be able to use its soil
and bases as a staging ground, as it did during the gulf war.
Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel, meanwhile, one of the most outspoken Republican
critics of war in Congress, insisted there is no hard evidence that Iraq possesses
"You can take the country into a war pretty fast, but you can't get out
that quickly, and the public needs to know what the risks are," Mr. Hagel
For Mark Wasserbauer, 44, of Rochester, N.Y., who is vacationing in Washington
with his young family, the risks of war outweigh the present danger. Mr. Wasserbauer
is too young to have fought in Vietnam, but he's worried that Iraq has all the
characteristics of a conflict that could be long and nasty for his country.
"It has the potential to be another Vietnam," he said as a gazed toward
the White House. "It's a terrible idea to attack Iraq. They should fix the
other problems in the Middle East, like the Palestinian situation."
© 2002 Bell Globemedia Interactive Inc