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Monday, 25 March, 2002, 13:42 GMT
'Determined' US resigned to war
Ground Zero
11 September continues to define the public mood

Americans, in my view, would support military action against Iraq - but with resigned determination, not triumphal enthusiasm. There is little opposition, though that could grow if the idea of war becomes a plan.

I doubt though, if protests will become an anti-war movement of the kind which led to rioting against the war in Vietnam.

Indeed, students who might have protested against Vietnam are, during the "war on terrorism", sewing a patriotic quilt instead.

Freedom Quilt
The quilt project plans to celebrate freedom
The quilt will be made up of 320 panels, each three feet by three, and in the form of a giant American flag.

It will be laid out, hopefully on the anniversary of 11 September, on the grounds of George Washington University in Washington, DC.

The general would have been proud.

'Celebration of freedom'

One of the students who thought it up, Ari Mittleman, a 19-year-old first year student from Pennsylvania taking American studies, says:

"It is supposed to be not so much a memorial, but a celebration of the freedoms which have carried America through past crises, and will do so through this one".

A war against Iraq might not even happen. But if it does, then most people will probably swing behind it

He and a colleague were impressed by a lecture given by Senator Mary Landrieu of Louisiana.

She mentioned that alongside photos of her children in her office, she kept pictures of New York firefighters and urged students to make a visual reminder themselves.

It's a sign of the times that students are sewing, not shouting. Ari Mittleman however might be waving, or making a flag. But he does not want to make a war.

Saddam Hussein, he says, is "deplorable" but there has been no evidence linking him to 11 September. Before it does anything, America has to "keep its allies abreast," he says.

He is reluctant to commit himself, but equally does not back away. It seems to be like that with many Americans.

Martial mood

Right now, they are concentrating on the business in hand. A war against Iraq is months away and might not even happen.

But if it does, then most will probably swing behind it, so long as it is necessary and so long as it is quick.

We Were Soldiers
'We Were Soldiers' caught the US mood

There is, to the visitor's eye, a martial mood in the country. Americans don't like that adjective much. They prefer "determined."

Call it what you will, it can be seen in the rehabilitation of the Vietnam war in the film "We were Soldiers".

The film did not dismiss Vietnam as futile, and instead celebrates the soldiers as heroes and the cause as noble. Another sign of the times.

You can catch the same feeling at Ground Zero itself, where two huge beams of light now reach to the skies in a ghostly manifestation of what there once was.

Afghanistan has been seen as a success in America

The job of clearing the wreckage is nearing completion, but the people still come to look. The expression on their faces says enough about their determination.

I watched the St Patrick's Day parade on Fifth Avenue. For me, the most striking moment came when hundreds of firefighters went by to shouts from the crowd of "USA, USA!".

Whispers of dissent

President Bush has approval ratings of 80% in the latest Gallup poll, taken in early March.

It is 10 points down from six months ago, but, as Ari Mittleman put it: "the polls speaks for themselves. Bush is doing well".

Tribute in light memorial
The 'tribute in light' to the World Trade Center victims

But, according to the small - though not still - voice of opposition, Mr Bush has done badly and will do worse.

A group of activists called International Answer - Act Now to Stop War and End Racism - is holding a march in Washington on 20 April at which it hopes to rally support against any war with Iraq.

Saul Kanowitz, a San Francisco database manager - is one of those against what he calls the "so-called war against terrorism".

Saddam Hussein
Saddam Hussein could be the next US target

"My job is really just to pay the rent; I am mainly a social activist", he told me.

Saul is the son of parents who campaigned on social issues, and he's been doing the same for most of his 44 years.

He says of George Bush's "axis of evil" - Iraq, Iran and North Korea: "The real axis of evil is war, racism and poverty".

One of the slogans to be used on 20 April is "No new war against Iraq."


Saul went to Iraq himself last year, and says that it is weaker than ever. The claim that Saddam has weapons of mass destruction is, in his view, a "smokescreen."

President Bush
The president continues to enjoy high approval ratings

In Saul Kanowitz's view: "A new McCarthyite period is being ushered in", a reference to Senator Joe McCarthy of Wisconsin, the famous anti-communist of the 1950s who saw "reds under the bed" everywhere.

His supporters have been trying to repair his reputation since the fall of communism, but his name is still a synonym for victimisation.

In one of the last big demonstrations in Washington, against the World Bank a couple of years ago, the protesters at one point marched around the campus of George Washington University, which is spread out in and around residential streets not far from the White House.

They were just trying to round up stragglers though one university security guard looked terrified. He pulled on latex gloves and gripped his truncheon extremely tightly.

Perhaps they will pass through the University again on 20 April. Ari Mittleman says they can decorate a panel for the flag if they want.

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See also:

06 Mar 02 | Americas
08 Mar 02 | Americas
08 Jan 02 | Americas
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