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Last Updated:  Thursday, 27 March, 2003, 10:38 GMT
Black Americans sceptical about war
Kevin Anderson
BBC News Online, Atlanta

The thumping bass of the hip hop clubs of Atlanta's Buckhead district is a world away from the thudding explosions of the war in Iraq.

Iyante Miller
Iyante Miller: People are dying unnecessarily

But the war was not far from the thoughts of young black Americans as they queued outside the Shadow club waiting to get into a birthday bash being thrown for basketball star Shaquille O'Neal.

Many of them have brothers, sisters and cousins who are in the United States military who are in the Gulf.

There is a divide between black and white Americans on the war in Iraq.

A New York Times poll found that 82% of whites said the US should take military action to force Saddam Hussein from power, but only 44% of blacks approved of the use of force.

And young black Americans are particularly sceptical.

'Stolen election'

"People are dying unnecessarily. We don't know what we are going to war for," said Iyante Miller as she waited to get into the club.

"First it's Bin Laden, then to Saddam Hussein. It's crazy," she said. She doubts the link between al Qaeda and the Iraqi regime.

When we turn on the television that we see innocent lives being taken
Alisha Thomas
Georgia Representative

"We're just going on what Bush is saying," she said, and that is not enough to convince her of the need for war.

She, like many black Americans, mistrusts President Bush. They still believe that he stole the election.

"Why is his word enough when we had ballots thrown away?", she asked.

Jay Corbett accused the president of jumping into the war haphazardly and said the war was a way to distract the American people from their economic woes.

"He didn't have a clue as to how to rejuvenate the economy," he said.

But with the war, the president will rebuild Iraq in return for oil, and then take credit for bringing the American economy out of its doldrums, Mr Corbett said.

'Innocent lives lost'

Atlanta was a key battleground in the fight for civil rights.

Roads in Atlanta bear the names of leaders of the movement: Joseph Lowery, Ralph Abernathy and, of course, Martin Luther King.

Alisha Thomas
Alisha Thomas: We don't understand or support it

And the city is giving rise to a new generation of black leaders.

Alisha Thomas got her political start in the ongoing work of the civil rights movement.

At 24, she has turned an early interest in activism into a budding political career, serving in the Georgia House of Representatives.

She echoed the comments of other young black Americans. "We don't understand it. We don't support it."

"All we know is that when we turn on the television that we see innocent lives being taken. Whether it's on this side or the other, how can you support that?"

'Coming round'

Of course, not all black Americans oppose the war, and there appears to be a generation gap.

Some older blacks spoke of initial scepticism giving way to support with the broadcast of pictures of Americans prisoners of war and dead troops.

"A lot of people didn't believe Secretary Powell and the president when they stated that Saddam Hussein was capable of doing the things he is doing," said James Quarterman.

With reports of Iraqi troops using their own citizens as human shields, opinion is building behind the war, he said.

"I think that African-Americans are coming on board in great numbers in seeing a need to put a tyrant government to rest."




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