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February 14, 2003
Copyright © 2003 PUERTO RICO HERALD. All Rights Reserved. 
War Or Wait?

Several weeks ago, Herald readers responded to the question, "What Course Should President Bush Take Regarding Iraq." This poll was taken before Secretary of State Colin Powell’s recent 90-minute presentation to the United Nations Security Council, purporting to tie Saddam Hussein’s regime to the production of biological and chemical weapons and of evading the efforts of U.N. inspectors to locate weapons of mass destruction. 49% of poll respondents said that he should act quickly and 51% preferred to wait for the completion of U.N. inspections, virtually a dead heat. Readers identifying themselves as living on the island were less anxious to rush to war. There, 60% preferred to wait for the inspectors report while 40% wanted quick action.

Opinion of the nation as a whole reflected that of Herald readers regarding hostilities with Iraq. However, a Zogby International poll released on February 9th showed that 58% of Americans are ready to support a U.S. pre-emptive strike against Saddam Hussein, while 37% opposed it. 5% were not sure. These numbers represented a 9% shift in support of a war policy from the previous Zogby poll four weeks before, largely attributable to Secretary Powell’s performance at the U.N. A concurrent poll conducted by the Gallup Organization attributed a 7% increase in war support over the same timeframe to the Secretary’s indictment of Iraq in his New York appearance.

Some three months before the most recent Herald poll on the subject, another interactive poll posed the question, "Should The United States Initiate War Against Iraq," giving readers three choices. Within those options, 39% said that the U.S. should "go it alone if necessary," 37% said that the U.S. should act against Iraq only within the authority of a U.N. resolution, while 24% thought that the U.S. should refrain from hostile action against Iraq altogether. Again Puerto Ricans on the island were less hawkish. Only 1/3 of those respondents chose "go it alone," while the rest were split between action only under U.N. auspices or refraining from hostile action against Saddam Hussein.

So, U.S. public opinion, both on the island and mainland, seems to be moving in the direction of support of the Bush Administration’s determination to bring Iraq to account by military action and to do so outside of the U.N’s specific authorization, if necessary. As this week’s Herald edition goes up, intense U.S. diplomatic activity is afoot in Europe to bring reluctant nations to President Bush’s point of view, but Germany, France and Belgium insist that another U.N. resolution specifically authorizing military action against Iraq will be required for them to sanction war. Russia and China now hold the same opinion. They favor a more intrusive inspection program with UN "blue helmet" soldiers backing a dramatically increased cadre of investigators. They plan to offer such a plan before the Security Council as an alternative to a U.S. led military invasion.

Washington believes that the U.N. has already spoken with its current Resolution 1441, authorizing the inspection regime and warning of "serious consequences" if Iraq is found to be in "material breach" of its provisions. The U.S is persuaded that Iraq, on many counts, has breached the resolution. The "serious consequences" that Americans envision are evidenced by the ongoing buildup of U.S. military force in the Middle East, the largest since 1991, when a coalition of nations, led by the United States, forced the Iraqi army out of Kuwait, a nation that it had invaded some six months before. By mid-February, the total is expected to swell to 150,000 men and women in American uniforms in or around Iraq.

As National Guard members and Reservists are called to active duty to augment the total military force, the specter of war has been brought to the doorstep of many American homes. The Pentagon recently announced the activation of nearly 40,000 more reservists, bringing the nationwide total to more than 150,000 in response to the Iraq crisis. The recent mobilization of National Guard units in Puerto Rico brings to 4,700 the number of Guard members who been activated to face the international terrorism threat, some 39% of total Guard strength. In addition, over 1000 Puerto Rican reservists have been called to active duty since September 11, 2001. Not able to be counted with accuracy are the thousands of Puerto Rican men and women from the island and the fifty states who are full time members of the regular armed services now facing danger, should hostilities commence against Iraq.

This week Herald readers can again sound off on the question, "war or wait?."

Is war with Iraq justified at this time?

This Week's Question:
Is War With Iraq Justified At This Time?

US . Residents
. PR
Yes 39%
44% No 48%
8% Don't know 13%


.To submit your idea for a future PR Herald poll question or "Hot Button" issue, please click here.

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