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Friday, 20 September, 2002, 06:24 GMT 07:24 UK
US press sceptical of Iraq action
President Bush, Vice President Cheney, Secretary of State Powell
President Bush continues to push for action against Iraq
Commentators in the US press were not as convinced as the public was by President Bush's speech last week that urgent action was needed against Iraq.

A poll taken after the president's speech but before Iraq's announcement that it would allow weapons inspectors back into the country showed that 60% of respondents thought President Bush had made his case for ousting Saddam Hussein.

That was up from 39% before the speech.

But newspaper columnists, including conservative Peggy Noonan, had expressed scepticism about the need to invade Iraq before the speech, and many continued to do so afterwards.

Poll numbers questioned

Thomas Friedman of the New York Times is sceptical of polls that suggest Americans support Saddam Hussein's overthrow.

The most oft-asked question I heard was some variation of: 'How come all of a sudden we have to launch a war against Saddam?

Thomas Friedman, New York Times

Based on questions from radio call-in programmes across the US, Mr Friedman said: "Don't believe the polls that a majority of Americans favour a military strike against Iraq. It's just not true."

Most Americans are perplexed, he said. "The most oft-asked question I heard was some variation of: 'How come all of a sudden we have to launch a war against Saddam?'"

Americans believe that they have done a good job of putting Saddam in a box and keeping them there.

They are not concerned about Saddam, who they believe is deterrable, Mr Friedman said.

They are concerned about the "'undeterrables' - the kind of young Arab-Muslim men who hit us on 9/11.'"

And Mr Friedman believes that these undeterrables are more of a threat than a contained Saddam Hussein.

Race against time

Before Mr Bush's speech before the UN, columnist Richard Cohen of the Washington Post was not convinced by administration arguments for attacking Iraq.
Saddam Hussein
Richard Cohen sees no evidence Saddam had a hand in the 9/11 attacks

"I can find no one with any expertise who thinks Iraq has an imminent nuclear capability. Similarly, I can find no one who thinks Iraq is directly linked to al Qaeda and thus to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11," he wrote on 10 September.

Show me the proof, he said.

After Mr Bush's speech, he remains sceptical that war is necessary and still believes that the administration has produced no credible evidence linking Iraq with the attacks of 11 September.

"'Proof' of it exists only in the writings of certain conservative commentators who hankered for a war against Hussein even before Sept. 11," he wrote.

And he added that the CIA and the State Department had stopped looking for such a link.

The American public, at least 53% of them in a Gallup poll in August, believe that Saddam Hussein was "personally involved in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks."

But, he believes, "little by little, that number will drop and so, as a result, will support for the war."

Conservative support

But, conservatives in the US perceive both the New York Times and the Washington Post to be voices of the "liberal elite".

The proudly conservative Washington Times is solidly in the Bush camp.

(Saddam Hussein) has dug his own grave. It is time he is shoved into it

Tony Blankley, Washington Times

Editorial page editor Tony Blankley drew parallels between those who call for continued containment of Saddam Hussein and those who called for appeasement of Hitler before World War II.

It was a false and illusory peace then as is the one that exists in a world with Saddam Hussein, Mr Blankley writes.

Mr Blankley has been convinced by administration arguments that the Iraqi leader is arming terrorists. "He is providing both material and psychological support to the terrorists."

"Before there can be hope and peace and justice in the Middle East, there must first not be Saddam. He has dug his own grave. It is time he is shoved into it," he added.


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