Americans express anxiety about going alone vs. Iraq

Baton Rouge Police Chief Pat Englade pauses before answering a question Thursday, Oct. 31, 2002, during a news conference at police headquarters in Baton Rouge, La., where he announced that ballistics tests have matched the rifle used in the Washington-area sniper killings with the fatal shooting of a Baton Rouge beauty shop worker.

The Associated Press
Published: Friday, November 1, 2002 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, November 1, 2002 at 12:52 a.m.
GLENDALE, Ariz. - On a warm fall morning at a suburban pumpkin patch, as their toddlers negotiated the corn maze, two women on a "mom's group" outing considered a more intricate puzzle: Should America go to war against Iraq, even if America ends up going it alone?
"It makes me nervous any time we talk about going to war," Republican Danelle Piert, 33, said as she kept an eye on 20-month-old Mason. "It makes me really uneasy knowing we're the only country that wants to do this."
Melissa Drake, a Democrat, was more direct about President Bush's unwavering - and internationally unpopular - position on military action against Iraq. She accused Bush of adopting a "cowboy mentality" stoked by election-year rhetoric rather than proof of an immediate threat.
"I don't know why we have to come on so strong," grumbled the 38-year-old engineer-turned-stay-at-home mom.
She isn't the only one wondering. While recent polls show that almost two-thirds of Americans support the use of military force against Iraq, much of that support quickly fades if the action isn't backed by the United Nations and U.S. allies. Given the choice of attacking alone or waiting to build a broad coalition, more Americans say hold back.
"If there are a lot of countries saying, 'We're not with you on this,' then where do we stand? We stand against the whole world," said Philadelphia taxi driver Rodolpho Williams, 45, who didn't vote for Bush in 2000.
The issue crosses party lines. There are Republicans who insist they support the GOP president on everything but a war on Iraq, and Democrats who urge him to go for it.
"If we don't take control of the situation now, while we've got the advantage, we're not ever going to be able to do it," said Democrat Sam Evans, 50, an autoworker and Navy veteran from Moraine, Ohio.
Negotiations intensified this week on a U.S. resolution before the United Nations demanding that Iraq destroy its weapons of mass destruction or face consequences, potentially military action. Though backed by Britain, the measure is opposed by other key U.S. allies, including France and Russia.
Yet Bush has pledged to confront Iraq even without the U.N., declaring that "if the United Nations doesn't have the will or the courage to disarm Saddam Hussein . . . for the sake of peace, for the sake of freedom, the United States will lead a coalition to disarm Saddam Hussein."
It's that sort of "my way or the highway" talk that has some Americans worried.
"We've gotten a lot of enemies from taking that standpoint," Alex Watterworth, 22, said as she juggled visitors at a tourism booth in downtown Denver. Watterworth didn't vote in the last presidential election but said she wouldn't have backed Bush.
Some, like Drake, questioned whether the president's motivation stems from something other than the possibility of an eventual attack by Saddam. Control over oil? Election-year chest-beating?
"Maybe we should be asking why all the other countries think this shouldn't be a war," said Democrat Wayne Johnson, 35, an Atlanta real estate agent. "We need to be sure what we're going to war for."
Others groused about domestic problems, like the shaky economy, taking a back seat to Iraq.
"There's a war on drugs, crime, old ladies getting mugged," said Madie Williams, 43, a cook in Philadelphia who didn't back Bush in 2000.
The president has his supporters, too - those who insist a campaign to oust Saddam is long overdue, whether the United States stands alone or with its allies.
"It's not so much us vs. Saddam Hussein as it is the threat of mass destruction that he continues to harbor," Bush voter Mike Childs, 43, said at an Indianapolis mall. "I really believe if we don't do something about it now, we will truly regret it 10 years from now."
Some are simply torn, caught between a steadfast belief that something must be done about Iraq and their fear over the consequences should the United States wage an unwelcome war.
"Saddam should be taken out because of his agenda. But then it's war, which should be avoided at all cost," 33-year-old valet Rodney Breyer, who considers himself a Libertarian, said as he hoisted luggage at a Dallas hotel.
Ultimately, however, Breyer decided he was on board - and he suspects the world isn't far behind.
"They might hate us and talk behind our back, but they're still going to be shaking our hand every chance they get," he said. "So, yeah, I think it's worth it."

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