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Tuesday, 20 August, 2002, 21:24 GMT 22:24 UK
Americans back attack on Iraq
Iraqi schoolboys practise firing assault rifles at a summer military camp.
Iraq says any attack will be doomed

Most Americans are in favour of sending US troops to invade Iraq.

That appears to be the message of the polls. The most recent one - conducted for the Washington Post and ABC News - suggests that 70% of Americans back military action.


The American public want a quick successful war, but if the battles were bloody and long drawn out, support might dwindle

But there are important caveats.

The same poll suggests that most Americans want the President to do more work making the case for an invasion before it takes place.

Specifically they want Congress - the elected representatives of the people - to be consulted and to sign off on the plans.

'Being liberators'

Virtually all Americans would like to see the end of Saddam Hussain.

US President George W. Bush
Bush says no decision has been taken yet

But they would feel much happier about going ahead with an attack if they could be shown that the Iraqi people themselves would welcome a change of leader.

Americans do not associate their military campaigns with wars of invasion directed against peoples. They like the idea of being liberators.

They also like the idea of their troops coming back unscathed.

Even as they back the idea of a war they also admit to the pollsters that they might change their minds if there were significant US casualties.

'No stomach for fight'

The findings were these: nearly six in 10 - or 57% - said they supported a US invasion of Iraq with ground troops, while 36% opposed such an action.

Poster of Saddam Hussein
Saddam Hussein has vowed to resist any attack

When asked whether they would favour a ground war if it were to produce "significant" US casualties, support plummeted to 40% and opposition rose to 51%.

An interesting footnote is that American men want a war, and American women are much more evenly divided.

US males favour a ground invasion by two to one; while females are split 50/50.

So, the American public want a quick successful war, but if the battles were bloody and long drawn out, support might dwindle.

That confirmation of the lack of stomach for a real tough fight will concentrate the mind of the Commander-in-Chief.

Not convinced

Still, at least the public attitude is bellicose enough to back the President if he decides to fight and manages to win quickly and at relatively low human cost.

Brent Scowcroft. Picture: USIA
Scowcroft warns a strike 'could unleash an Armageddon in the Middle East'

The politicians are not nearly so convinced.

Senior Democrats are not actually hostile to the notion of a war - at least not publicly.

But the party has been newly invigorated of late and if they see an opportunity to attack the President and to divorce themselves from a policy they perceive as unpopular then they could still do it.

They are not fully on board.

Republicans split

But the Democrats are the least of the President's worries.

It is his own Republican party that seems to be providing the lions share of peaceniks at the moment.

Chief among them two men not famous for pacifism: former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and former National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft.

The second of these men - who has warned of the political and diplomatic consequences of an attack - is the more interesting because he is one of the closest and oldest friends of George Bush senior.

So, the Washington insiders are wondering whether Dad is sending a message - via his friend - to his son.

A message that says, "Don't do it."

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Steve Kingstone
"The administration is suddenly on the defensive"

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16 Aug 02 | Middle East
12 Aug 02 | Middle East
11 Aug 02 | Middle East
09 Aug 02 | Middle East
08 Aug 02 | Middle East
07 Aug 02 | Middle East
02 Aug 02 | Middle East
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