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US Opponents of Air Strikes A Small Minority - 2001-10-14

Nationwide polls in the United States suggest most Americans support the U.S.-led military action against Taleban and suspected terrorist targets in Afghanistan. But there is a small minority of Americans who maintain that Washington should try other methods of fighting terrorism. Peace activists admit theirs is not a popular sentiment among most Americans, but they continue to march and hold vigils.

Public opinion polls conducted for major U.S. news organizations suggest about 90 percent of Americans support the military's air strikes. Those who support the action call it an appropriate response to the September 11th attacks in New York and Washington that have left more than five-thousand people dead. Downtown Chicago office worker Sumner Farren offered his thoughts recently as he passed a vigil calling for a nonviolent response. "I think you have to send a strong message that this can not occur over here as easy as it has in the past," he said.

Those who oppose the use of military force against terrorist training camps and those who operate and support them say they condemn the September 11 attacks and want anyone connected with them punished. But Dorothy Pagosa of the Chicago Coalition against War and Racism says she and members of her group do not like seeing bombs dropped on Afghanistan.

"Because right now I am picturing Afghanistan surrounded by Great Britain, the United States and Canada. They [Afghanistan] are the size of Texas. The individual people in Afghanistan have done me no harm. The life of an Afghani person is worth as much to me as the life of a U.S. person. I am a citizen of the world as well as this country.

Ms. Pagosa spoke to VOA outside of a recent coalition planning meeting. Meeting organizers did not allow reporters to attend because they felt coalition members would feel uncomfortable speaking freely with the media present.

Ms. Pagosa says she realizes most Americans are ignoring her call for a nonviolent war on terrorism. "It certainly makes it tougher, but I have the strength of my convictions. I do not enter them lightly. I also think we as a country are dealing with a lot of grief, and one of the symptoms of grief is anger.

The coalition held a rally near downtown Chicago's federal buildings just a few hours after the military action began in Afghanistan Sunday. A few hundred people called for nonviolence again in a march through downtown Chicago Monday evening. Ms. Pagosa knows the vast majority of Americans support the military response, and some people consider her group to be un-American, but she disagrees.

"If it is un-American to dissent, then I do not know what the premise of this country is. We were founded on dissent. If it is un-American to speak your mind, then I would have to ask, "What is American?" And I would caution us: it is one thing to be patriotic, but another to be nationalistic.

Similar anti-war protests have been held in recent days in Boston, Washington, San Francisco and New York, where more than a thousand people protested within hours of the U.S. military's action in Afghanistan.