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Bush: 10 Million People is 'Focus Group'

Antiwar Protests Fail to Sway Bush on Plans for Iraq

RICHARD W. STEVENSON / NY Times 19feb03

Mindfully.org note:

Dear W,

With protection like yours, the USA, as well as the rest of the world, doesn't need enemies!

February 20, 2003
The President and the Protesters

To the Editor:

Re "Antiwar Protests Fail to Sway Bush on Plans for Iraq" (front page, Feb. 19):

I for one am dismayed at President Bush's dismissal of the protest marches around the world.

According to your report, Mr. Bush said, "Size of protest — it's like deciding, well, I'm going to decide policy based upon a focus group."

As a very narrowly elected president, he should be listening carefully to this country's voters.

If he did, he might consider that the unilateral action he is threatening in Iraq is likely to expand anti-American sentiment that will facilitate terrorist actions and impede American foreign policy for decades to come.

As the leader of the world's only remaining superpower, Mr. Bush should stop, look and listen to what the rest of the world is saying, too. Only then will he be able to bring the United Nations and the world to consensus on military action in Iraq.

JIM BRISTOW San Francisco, Feb. 19, 2003


To the Editor:

President Bush has likened millions of people congregating to promote the message of peace to "a focus group" ("Antiwar Protests Fail to Sway Bush on Plans for Iraq," front page, Feb. 19).

We are not deciding on a name for a toothpaste but on a policy that will change the world forever.

Mr. Bush, as the president, elected by the people of this country, could at least feign interest in what we have to say.

SUZANNE RUSSIAN Metuchen, N.J., Feb. 19, 2003


To the Editor:

Re "Antiwar Protests Fail to Sway Bush on Plans for Iraq" (front page, Feb. 19):

I don't believe that any American wants war, but certain facts need to be considered when contemplating action that will affect the world for a very long time.

Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait unprovoked to improve Iraq's economy and regional power after the Iran-Iraq war.

He set the Kuwaiti oil fields on fire when defeat became apparent.

He fired Scud missiles at the Israelis.

This man is a threat to the entire region, making him a threat to the entire world.

France and Russia have too much at stake economically with Iraq and will sabotage every effort to overthrow Saddam Hussein.

If this administration is swayed by antiwar protests and United Nations indifference, the world will suffer.

Imagine a world in which Saddam Hussein has nuclear capabilities. I would rather not.

JOSEPH W. PELLEGRINO Oakdale, N.Y. Feb. 19, 2003


To the Editor:

Re "A Warning on Iraq, From a Friend," by Jean-David Levitte (Op-Ed, Feb. 14):

The French ambassador to the United States, in his expression of Europeans' misgivings about war with Iraq, speaks not only for the French but for many Americans — about half of us, according to the polls. ANNE MACKIN Boston, Feb. 14, 2003


WASHINGTON, Feb. 18 — President Bush dismissed antiwar protests today as a factor in his plans for confronting Iraq and pressed ahead with a strategy to persuade reluctant allies that United Nations weapons inspections would not secure the disarmament of Saddam Hussein.

In his first public comments about the antiwar demonstrations by millions of people over the weekend in the United States and abroad, Mr. Bush said his overriding goal was to protect the American people and that leadership sometimes involved bucking public opinion.

"Size of protest — it's like deciding, well, I'm going to decide policy based upon a focus group," Mr. Bush said in response to a reporter's question at the White House. "The role of a leader is to decide policy based upon the security, in this case, the security of the people."

Administration officials said the United States planned to submit a proposed new resolution on Mr. Hussein's failure to disarm to the United Nations Security Council, probably at the end of this week or early next week after the conclusion of a United Nations debate about Iraq that began today.

A statement from the European Union on Monday that explicitly if reluctantly supported the use of force against Iraq as a last resort raised British and American hopes that the Security Council could ultimately be won over. Officials said the European acceptance of the principle that force might be necessary, in combination with possible critical statements about Iraq's cooperation over the next several weeks by Hans Blix, one of the chief United Nations weapons inspectors, could ultimately provide the basis for backing of force by Security Council members, including France.

The new resolution is expected to be a short, straightforward assertion that Iraq has defied calls by the United Nations to give up its weapons of mass destruction and now faces the "serious consequences" threatened in the previous resolution, officials said.

Both Jacques Chirac, the French president, and Gerhard Schröder, the German chancellor, have this week criticized the idea of a second resolution. France has made it clear that it will oppose the measure.

Mr. Bush has said he plans to reach a decision on the use of force against Iraq within weeks, whatever the Security Council does.

But with military forces still moving into place, there were indications that the United States and Britain want to use the next several weeks to give the leaders of France and other nations that oppose an immediate war an opportunity to show their publics that inspections and diplomacy are not making headway.

Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain said today that the large antiwar protests in his country would not affect his close alliance with the United States over Iraq.

"Of course I understand the concerns of the thousands that marched on Saturday, and of course I should and do listen to those concerns," Mr. Blair said at a news conference in London.

But Mr. Blair said the world should also listen to the voices of Iraqi exiles, who, he said, have made a case that Saddam Hussein's government is "one of the most barbarous and detestable regimes in modern political history."

Mr. Bush referred scornfully today to giving Mr. Hussein "another, 'nother, 'nother last chance" to comply with prior United Nations resolutions demanding that Iraq disarm.

Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and his deputy, Richard L. Armitage, continued intensive discussions today with the British and others on the wording of the new resolution. Administration officials said the measure might not be voted on for two more weeks, and the language might be revised in that period.

By early March, the administration expects that Mr. Blix will be prepared to make a more negative appraisal of Iraq's cooperation than he did before the Security Council on Friday. Officials said Mr. Blix gave them that impression in private.

Mr. Blix is being pressed by the United States to set "benchmarks" over the next several weeks, demanding that Iraq fulfill its obligations in at least three specific areas: allowing unimpeded interviews with scientists, destroying illegal rockets and allowing unconditional overflights by reconnaissance planes.

A refusal to cooperate on any of those would make it clearer that Mr. Hussein was defying the inspectors, administration officials said.

In another indication of the pressure on the United States to give weapons inspections and diplomacy more time, Prime Minister Jean Chrétien of Canada told his Parliament that he would oppose military action against Iraq that was not explicitly authorized by the Security Council.

The administration today pursued negotiations with Turkey, which has been demanding $32 billion in loans, grants and debt forgiveness as the price for allowing the United States to stage troops there and open a northern front against Iraq in the event of war. Ari Fleischer, the White House spokesman, said the president "understands that Turkey is in a difficult position." But Mr. Fleischer also made clear that the United States was not interested in drawn-out negotiations with Turkey over the size of the package, saying it was "decision time" for Turkey.

After a weekend in which protesters in the United States, Europe and much of the rest of the world urged giving diplomacy more time or ruling out war altogether, Mr. Bush said he welcomed the right of people in democracies to express their opinions.

But he indicated that he viewed the protesters as questioning not so much his reluctance to extend United Nations weapons inspections or seek other nonmilitary ways to contain Saddam Hussein, but the need to deal with Iraq's weapons of mass destruction at all.

"Evidently, some of the world don't view Saddam Hussein as a risk to peace," Mr. Bush said. "I respectfully disagree."

Mr. Bush used the words "courage" or "courageous" to describe his two most stalwart allies in confronting Iraq, Mr. Blair and Prime Minister José María Aznar of Spain, who is scheduled to visit Mr. Bush at his ranch in Texas this weekend.

Mr. Fleischer compared the protests to those in Europe in 1983 against President Reagan's deployment of intermediate-range missiles against the Soviet Union. In the long run, he said, the fall of the Soviet Union proved that the American doctrine of "peace through strength" had been successful and that the protesters had been wrong.

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