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US Anti-War Minority Vows to Continue Pressuring Bush on Iraq - 2003-02-20

Different polls taken in the United States recently have consistently shown the same thing, more than half of Americans support military action to remove Saddam Hussein from power. Pollsters say, however, the anti-war minority is more vocal and visible than the majority.

Millions of people took to the streets in hundreds of cities around the world over the weekend to show their opposition to a possible U.S.-led war against Iraq. In the United States, there were demonstrations across the country for and against military action, although the anti-war protests were larger and louder.

Pollster John Zogby says his group's latest survey actually shows an increase in U.S. public support for military action against Iraq, to 58-percent. By contrast, he says, only 37-percent oppose a war. But he has this to say about the anti-war camp. "The higher intensity support is among those who oppose the war, and that makes all the difference in the world because people who are intense vote, make their voices heard, are generally much more active in shaping public opinion than a simple majority," says Mr. Zogby.

Groups firmly with the majority include the American Legion, the largest veteran's organization in the world. The organization's Steve Thomas emphasizes that the American Legion is not beating the drums for war, but feels national security should be the number one priority. "The most important thing a government can do is keep its people safe," says Mr. Thomas. "And there's no way to prioritize things such as education and urban renewal and matters of that sort without first ensuring that our people are safe."

The main coordinator of the recent anti-war protests in the United States is a group called International ANSWER, which critics dismiss as being an offshoot of the Socialist World Workers Party. But the opposition is broader than that, and it includes church groups, college students, military veterans and elected city officials.

President Bush, in a recent reaction to the anti-war protest, said he welcomed public dissent, but will not change his mind. "First of all, size of protest it's like saying I'm going to decide policy based on a focus group."

Comments like these, however, have not discouraged the opposition. Tom Andrews, of Win Without War, a national coalition that represents more than 30 organizations, says his group holds out hope it can still sway the administration's policy. He says mass protests last fall influenced U.S. decision to go to the U.N. Security Council and push for resolution 14-41. "They ([the Bush administration] did it because people were mobilized and organized, and began to express their opposition," says Mr. Andrews. "And they may not be able to see the light immediately, but they've started to feel the political heat."

He says President Bush's firm stance has inspired Win Without War to, in his words, turn-up the heat even more.