U.S. public gives Iraq attack mixed reviews

December 17, 1998
Web posted at: 10:50 a.m. EST (1550 GMT)

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(CNN) -- Polls taken soon after the start of U.S.-led air strikes against Iraq show most Americans support Washington's get-tough stance. But Arab-Americans and peace groups criticized the attacks, warning they would increase the suffering of the Iraqi people and undermine U.S. policy goals in the Middle East.

Other Americans, including some congressional Republicans, were suspicious of the timing of the attacks, questioning why President Clinton ordered military action Wednesday as the U.S. House of Representatives prepared for the first presidential impeachment vote in 130 years.

Such criticism of Clinton is "unjust and ill advised," said former President Jimmy Carter, a fellow Democrat. "It has been clear since early November that such a military action would be launched," Carter told CNN from his home in Plains, Georgia.

The divisions in public opinion led to a brief scuffle outside the White House on Wednesday. Demonstrators carrying banners that read "Don't bomb Iraqi civilians" clashed with two men in military fatigues holding banners saying "Kill Saddam" and "Good job Clinton," who walked into their protest.

Here is a sampling of more public reaction:

'Military strikes are not the answer'

  • "I think this is a disaster," Kevin Martin of Illinois Peace Action told CNN. "I think it is the latest chapter in a failed U.S. policy. The administration's own estimate is about 10,000 people will die in this attack, on top of the 6,000 to 7,000 people already dying from the sanctions each month."
  • "We have made it clear to the administration, that as frustrated as we and the world community may be with Iraq's brinkmanship and the callousness of its regime, we do not believe that economic sanctions and military strikes are the answer," said Arab American Institute President James Zogby.

    Zogby urged Washington to develop "a coherent policy that can punish the regime while offering sustenance and hope to the people of Iraq."

  • In Dearborn, Michigan -- home to the second largest Arab population outside the Middle East -- members of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee said that while they understood the objective of the attack, they did not condone the action.

    "Whatever needs to be done should be done," said Muhannad Haimour, "but not to continue to bomb Iraq where the people of Iraq, civilians, children are dying every day."

  • "It's all politics, and I feel very bad for all the innocent kids that are going to get hurt." -- Amar Ghassanm, of Novi, Michigan, a 23-year-old native of Yemen.
  • The American Friends Service Committee, a Quaker peace group, said it deplored the military action, and urged the United States to halt all attacks immediately.
  • About 100 protesters in New York City's Times Square waved placards and chanted "Stop the bombing! Stop the war!"

'I don't think we had a choice'

  • "I think it was a long time coming and overdue. I don't think it had anything to do with the president's scandal at all." -- Phillip Dailey, 23, who manages a nutritional supplement store in St. Paul, Minnesota.
  • "I hate to see anybody brought into a war. But I don't think we had a choice. There are times when we have to think of ourselves first." -- Delia Carter, 27, a teacher in Pittsburgh.
  • "I respect Clinton a heck of a lot more because he's been able to keep his mind on the events going on in the world and not just the problems at home." -- Brian King of Harpers Ferry, West Virginia.
  • "I don't think it will have any effect on impeachment. What's going on in Iraq, they need to solve. The guy's been pushing us around." -- Bill Hitchcock, 56, who was selling Christmas trees in Alexandria, Virginia
  • "It's easy to be cynical, but I am not. I think Saddam Hussein had no intention of adhering to any agreement over arms inspectors. I think he thought the president was vulnerable." -- Pete Adkins, an insurance company executive in Des Moines, Iowa.
  • "If I was young enough, I'd go down and sign up right now. There's not a man in here that wouldn't." -- Johnny Groves, a Vietnam veteran speaking at VFW Post 5293 in Joplin, Missouri.

The skeptics

  • "This is just another attempt by the president to shift focus from his political woes and divert attention elsewhere. Didn't he bomb some other little country a few months ago following his televised apology about his affair with [Monica] Lewinsky? This is the same kind of tactic." -- Jack Sokey in Cumberland, Maryland.
  • "What makes Saddam so much more a threat today than a month ago?" -- Tony Mitchell, critical care director at Freeman Hospital West, Joplin, Missouri.
  • "This is just like 'Wag the Dog,'" said Henry Heise, 55, referring to the recent movie in which a president invents a military conflict to distract the country from a sex scandal.
  • "His timing stunk. I'm sure the impeachment vote influenced when he was going to do it." -- Joe Girsch, 67, a farmer in Cedar Falls, Iowa.
  • "I'm not sure what it achieves. It shows the shortsightedness of our foreign policy. There doesn't seem to be any long-term policy. What is it that we want to achieve?" -- Khamis Siam, a chemistry professor in Pittsburg, Kansas.

The believers

  • "I didn't vote for Clinton. I don't particularly like the man, as far as what he's done. But I don't believe that this is a ploy," said Alan Bauer, 45, a Santa's helper who wore his red-and-white hat as he left work in Kansas City, Missouri.
  • "The timing is just coincidental," agreed John Callen, 41, a hotel concierge in Philadelphia. "Clinton is just trying to prove he can still run the country. It's time to get back to that rather than spend so much time on his personal infidelities."
  • "The timing, I don't think, has anything to do with it," said Neal Abunab, a member of the American-Arab Anti- Discrimination Committee. "This has been going on long before the Lewinsky affair and all other affairs."

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has anything to do with it," said Neal Abunab, a member of the American-Arab Anti- Discrimination Committee. "This has been going on long before the Lewinsky affair and all other affairs."
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