REACTION FROM DENVER
February 20, 1998
The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer Transcript
Iraq's continued resistance to U.N. Inspectors has the U.S. on the verge of airstrikes in the absence of a deal. Opinions about this course of action are divided: Is it time to take Saddam Hussein out? Is the level of support for military intervention overrated? Elizabeth Farnsworth asks a panel of citizens in Denver.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: It's good to see you all again. Thanks very much for being with us. Chris Goodwin, do you support strikes--military strikes--against Iraq to enforce compliance with U.N. resolutions?
CHRIS GOODWIN, Stockroom Manager: No, I don't, absolutely not.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Why?
CHRIS GOODWIN: I think it's a very reckless policy. It's a policy that doesn't seem to have a lot of purpose to it. I think the people who are going to suffer from these bombings are innocent Iraqis who really have nothing to do with Saddam Hussein's policies. I think it's a big mistake. We seem to be, for the most part, going it alone on this policy. That's another big mistake. Even the countries in the Middle East region around Iraq aren't supporting this policy. I also think it's a very hypocritical policy. We do not have anything resembling an evenhanded foreign policy in the Middle East. There are other countries that possess nuclear weapons, weapons of mass destruction, and countries like Israel who are to this day in violation of U.N. resolutions. It's a big mistake. I think it's a disaster waiting to happen in a lot of ways.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Linda Stahnke, a big mistake?
LINDA STAHNKE, Homeschooler: No. I think we should act militarily. I'm concerned that we don't have enough resolution to finish the job. I'm concerned that our plan is just to bring them partway to a point. It seems so political, like the Vietnam War, rather than something firm, that we have goals that we'll finish the job.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Well, what you said, something political, what do you mean, you mean run by politicians, instead of the military?
LINDA STAHNKE: Yes. Just all the bickering back and forth and maneuvering and threatening and at the same time there isn't a decisive goal; there's not a finish to this. We won't know when we're done. I think they should hit every target they know of, every production facility. They should hit every storage facility, and we do have the weapons to target that now. They can be very specific in what they hit, and they need to get Saddam Hussein out of there and let those people run their country, instead of that tyrant.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Dick Ceresko, what do you think about objectives, are they clear enough? Have you heard what you need to hear?
DICK CERESKO, Vietnam Veteran: I don't think that our objectives are very clearly defined in terms of a military action. To me, one of the lessons of the Vietnam War was that bombing in itself is not an effective way to achieve strategic objectives. You have to have really massive military force to accomplish something like that, and it seems like kind of a rehash in a sense. The strategy is limited war with limited objectives, and it failed in Vietnam in many cases because we didn't really use the amount of force that was needed to achieve our objectives. And I think after all these bombs are dropped, if they are dropped, there will be no real change in the situation, other than Saddam will be thumbing his nose at the U.S. again.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: So if you felt that the objectives weren't limited, would you support it, or do you not support the bombing in this case, period?
DICK CERESKO: I don't think aerial bombardment is an effective tactical approach. We were misled during the Gulf War by all of the news clips that were given by the Pentagon to the news media of bombs going through elevator shafts and these kinds of things. And we found out later when the GAO and others studied what actually happened, we really learned that it was not as--anymore effective than what was happening in Vietnam. And the only way to do it is, you know, if you're going to use military strategy is to use massive force and not just aerial bombardment.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Tom Bock, where do you come down on all of this?
TOM BOCK, Vietnam Veteran: Well, some of the things that Dick says I agree with, but I tend to go with Linda. I think that it's time that we do something. We've talked about it. I mean, we've rattled our sabers long enough. And if we back off now, what's to say anything is going to happen. Of course, a diplomatic resolution would be the first choice, but that's not working it out. And I would wholeheartedly support going in there and taking it and saying when we leave, Saddam goes with us.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Athena Eisenman, how much of a problem, from your point of view, is not having more support say in that region?
ATHENA EISENMAN, Director, Charity Organization: I think that's our biggest problem. The first time we went in with Desert Storm, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, we had Jordan; we had all of the countries with us. This time no one desires to stand with us as a country relating to Saddam Hussein and the problem he's created in Iraq, and I personally feel as long as he stays within his own borders and he is not aggressing against any other country there, we're the odd man out. Perhaps what we need to do is just stand back, allow him to do whatever it is he's going to do, and at that point, if he aggresses, I'm sure we will get a lot of allies, and at that point be invited to come in and to help. But I think the key here, we must be invited. We're not invited yet.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Tom Conway.
TOM CONWAY, Stockbroker: Well, I'm really--I've got a lot of mixed emotions on this. It's certainly not as clear as it was eight--seven years ago in '91, when he made an aggressive act and we retaliated. Right now, he is thumbing his nose at the U.N. and not complying with the resolutions, and we do have to go in there and make him comply with those resolutions. But the situation right now, as far as I can see, is not clearly stated in those objectives. If we're going to do it, let's go in, occupy it, take it over, and make 'em run it right. And maybe we have to occupy with the U.N. for 10 years.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Do you agree, Bob Jornayvas, that the objectives not being clear, is that the main problem?
ROBERT JORNAYVAS, Oil and Gas Executive: Well, I think our overall policy has some problems with timing and not being well thought out. I mean, this problem has been growing for a long time, and our administration has just not taken the time to fix it over time. And all of a sudden, we want to go in and bomb now. At some point we're going to have to deal with Saddam, but we're going to have to build a coalition similar to what we did before because if we go in now by ourselves, we're going to get ourselves in trouble. The question is whether or not this administration can go in and create a worldwide coalition that will not allow Saddam to build weapons of mass destruction because we know he will use them. So to suggest bombing in the short-term I think is not prudent. But we do need to start focusing on a longer-term plan here, whether it's six months or a year, to build a coalition to go back in and do a much more comprehensive solution.
ERIC DURAN, Financial Analyst: I disagree. I think that in 1991, George Bush made the decision not to go in and occupy Iraq because it would take serious casualties from the American public. We don't know that, you know, the Iraqi people would be willing to support U.S. occupation; there would be serious numbers of casualties, and I don't think the American public is ready to accept that. The coalition is not going to go for the occupation; they were only for the removal of Saddam Hussein from Kuwait. I think this decision was made a long time ago at the end of the Gulf War, and I think our only real option at this point is containment.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: In other words, you would support bombing as a way of containing now?
ERIC DURAN: Absolutely. And I think we're going to have to do it. I think the administration is not being very honest with the public. I think the reality is that we're going to be bombing this country for--we're going to bomb 'em for a week now, and we're going to probably bomb 'em in another year or so. And that's the policy.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN IN GROUP: Well, this recurring nightmare, then the objective, as was stated, should be longer-term. Let's resolve this. They've been fighting since--
ERIC DURAN: Well, there's no way the American public or any of the coalition--
UNIDENTIFIED MAN IN GROUP: Well, the entire U.N. has to be--
ERIC DURAN: They're not going to go for it.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Okay. Dee Cisneros.
DEE CISNEROS, Retired Teacher: How did the United States ever get into a corner that we can't get out of it? I mean, it really bothers me that here we are with the United Nations and we can't get the support of--but three out of five of the security--I mean, they're just not with us. The Iraq neighbors are not with us, and they're the ones that we're supposed to be protecting, and they don't seem to be afraid. So why are we worried?
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Do you think it's a failure of political leadership in--has the administration failed in some way?
DEE CISNEROS: Well, somehow, something happened, I don't know, and I don't think they've used up all their options. I'm hoping diplomacy will still work. They haven't sent Jimmy Carter there yet. (laughter among group)
LINDA HOUSTON, Insurance Broker: I believe that part of the reason they don't have the support is because we didn't finish the job seven years ago. And I think that was--the fact that we didn't finish the job seven years ago I think was very political. We had a president who needed to be re-elected, and he was at his highest rank of popularity at that point. And I think he was looking at it as a--sort of a humanitarian sort of thing to do--not to take it any further. I think he should have done it seven years ago.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Suzanna Cordova, do you think you're getting the information you need?
SUZANNA CORDOVA, School Administrator: I'm very conflicted about this, and I feel just now, listening to people talk about bombing and I find that really frightening on one hand, and to think about just the cost in human lives is, I think, really overwhelming to have a casual discussion like this, where, you know, where we can talk about it in a room is really frightening, and on the other hand, I think if this really is the kind of situation where we're talking about a Hitler in '38, you know, it's a pretty heavy thing on both sides, and I haven't really made up my mind if I think we should do this, or if I feel like we should go all the way and get Saddam out, or if I feel like we should take a more, you know, cautious "wait and see."
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Tom Bock, do you think that the President is doing a good job preparing the American people for casualties, for the reality of what may be ahead?
TOM BOCK: No, I don't. I was kind of surprised at the venue they selected to make their announcement in Ohio. I didn't think that was very effective at all. I tried to watch some of it, and I became very frustrated in the fact that with the environment being so nosy you couldn't hear the questions going back and forth, and it just seemed like chaos, rather than an organized effort in representing the most powerful country in the world.
LINDA HOUSTON: I was also really frustrated that it wasn't President Clinton. I mean, he's supposed to be the best communicator in our nation. Why didn't he address it? I mean, I really felt like he needed to get up and address it and really lay down the plan.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: What do you think, Jim Sulton?
JAMES SULTON, Higher Education Administrator: I think the public needs to know. I don't get it why people don't understand the objectives if the objectives have been clearly articulated and they have targeted the weapons of mass destruction. You need to go in and take out those weapons of mass destruction because this is an individual who will not hesitate to use them, and he needs to be stopped.
DEE CISNEROS: I have a family there. I have a niece with her entire family in Kuwait, so if they go in there and bomb and put all that, what, chemicals into the air, some of those people, the Saudis and the Kuwaitis, they're going to get sick, or die. And I'm just really concerned about that.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Chris, how about you?
CHRIS GOODWIN: I don't think there is any military solution to the problems in the Middle East. I think it has to be settled through diplomacy. The military solution has never worked there.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Well, thank you all very much for being with us again.
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