Thursday, January 30, 2003

Views on Iraq not changed by speech

By Dan Klepal
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Opinions about war aren't easily changed.

While many people in the Tristate gave President Bush high marks for his State of the Union address, few were swayed in their opinions about the prospect of war with Iraq by the president's strongly worded speech in which he said Iraq will either disarm or be disarmed by a U.S.-led coalition.

Alice Gerdeman, coordinator of Intercommunity Justice and Peace Center, hosted a group of about 30 people to watch the speech Tuesday. She critiqued it from several points of view, including the efforts being made to avert war and international cooperation. Gerdeman, 56, said the speech left her with little hope that war will be avoided.

"The feeling I got was that (the speech) was meant to instill fear and hopelessness," Gerdeman said. "That there was nothing that could be done to prevent war. I personally felt it seems President Bush expressed American arrogance, to think we're in charge of the world and the opinions of others don't matter if it's what we think it best."

Scott Gehring, a 19-year-old Delhi Township resident who made a run for a seat on that community's Board of Trustees in 2001, said the speech made him dig in his heels even more in support of Bush.

Gehring stood in support of Bush amid an estimated 2,000 war protestors outside Union Terminal when the president made his case for war in Cincinnati in October.

"He did exactly what I was hoping for, gave more evidence (of Iraq possessing weapons of mass destruction), which is what the public needs to know - that he's not just doing it on a whim," Gehring said. "We're not just going to go it alone, but if for some reason others don't support us, we're still willing to do what's best for America.

"I was very impressed with that."

A SurveyUSA poll for WCPO-TV (Channel 9) of 500 people in the Tristate found that 53 percent think the president has made a "good enough case for why the U.S. should invade Iraq." Thirty-nine percent say Bush has not made a good enough case, with 8 percent saying they're not sure. The survey, taken Wednesday, has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.5 percentage points.

Those percentages held up across gender and age lines, with the only notable exception being in the African-American community, where only 20 percent of the 52 people in the sample said the Bush administration had made a good enough case for war.

Mary Showman looked to the speech for guidance.

Showman, 46 of Fairfield, has a son in an ROTC program and is nervous about the prospect of war. She thought the speech was excellent.

"I think under the circumstances, given context of the State of the Union address, what he said was appropriate," Showman said. "He referred to the Feb. 5th meeting (at the U.N.) and I thought communicated clearly that more details would be forthcoming. I was confirmed in my respect for President Bush as our commander-in-chief."


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