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War of Words


D.J., downtown pop star, vegan
Hawk-O-Meter: 2 hawks
Hates W. as much as he hates Saddam.
BETWEEN A ROCK AND . . . “I’m a pacifist, and I can’t stand George W. Bush, but Saddam Hussein is loathsome and he’s been a belligerent dictator for over twenty years. Given the variables and the disingenuous behavior from all sides, I have no idea.”
CHANGE OF TUNE? “If weapons of mass destruction were found in Iraq, then I would be inclined to support military action in support of the U.N. resolution prohibiting Iraq from manufacturing and possessing weapons of mass destruction.”

Charles Barron
City Council member, former Black Panther
Hawk-O-Meter: Dove
This war is strictly business.
IT’S THE OIL, STUPID: “This is all about geopolitics—oil and protecting an ally in the Middle East, Israel. But I think oil’s the key factor here.”
WHAT ABOUT SADDAM? “Even the CIA said that if Iraq is attacked, it would increase the threat of terrorism. So why are we doing it? Is it to stop a despot, a dictator? I think not. Because America has historically supported dictators.”

Ric Burns
Hawk-O-Meter: Dove
Peace is not a left-right issue.
MY FELLOW AMERICANS: “It’s almost like a political-science experiment. In eighteen months, we went from a position where everyone in the world said, ‘We are all Americans,’ to a position where everyone in the world said, ‘We hate America.’ There can be no swifter reversal of political reputation in the history of nation-states.”
AND PERSONALLY: “As a New Yorker, it’s appalling. It’s the most unworldly, least cosmopolitan viewpoint possible.”

Janeane Garofalo
Actress, comic, activist
Hawk-O-Meter: Dove
Dreads W. even more than she dreads Lorne Michaels.
SURE SADDAM’S BAD, BUT WHO ISN’T? “There’s been a lot of people who have been mass murderers. Also, the sanctions, you could say, have been responsible for mass murder. And he was also a human-rights violator when he was our ally, don’t forget.”
ATOMIC POWERS: “There’s a whole lot of people that are going nuclear. And I think that Saddam Hussein is actually the least able to use nuclear weapons and the least obvious offender in that area at this moment.”

Victor Navasky
Publisher and editorial director, The Nation
Hawk-O-Meter: Dove
Foreign affairs require foreign allies.
WAITING GAME: “If you look at things politically—cynically—Bush is better off having his war closer to his election. He’s not a stupid person, and he saw what happened to his father. I’ve been dubious that war is two weeks away, which they’ve been saying for three months.”
SOLITARY CONFINEMENT: “I don’t like the idea of our going in not under a U.N. flag. It seems to me that international terrorism requires international institutions to respond. We should be in the business of building up and not tearing down or declaring the U.N. irrelevant.”

David Harris
Executive director, American Jewish Committee
Hawk-O-Meter: 3 hawks
Saddam must go!
REGIME CHANGE: “America’s national interest and the international order are best served by removing Saddam Hussein and his clique from power. We recognize the urgent necessity of accomplishing this.”
BACK TO THE FUTURE: “If we allow ourselves to believe inspections alone can solve the problem, then what we’re now witnessing in North Korea is what’s likely to happen in Iraq given a few more years. Namely, a demonic government with nuclear weapons in hand, the missiles to deliver them, and the irrationality to use them.

Abraham Foxman
National director, Anti-Defamation League
Hawk-O-Meter: 3 hawks
Sometimes war is the only path to peace.
FREEDOM FIGHTER: “I believe it’s a defining moment for the international community to stand up to a threat against freedom. If military action is the way to achieve that goal, then I would support it.”
THEY DON'T FEEL OUR PAIN: “I think what the international community fails to understand is the impact on our psyche of 9/11. For them to sit and decide when we should or should not defend our freedom is inappropriate.”

Floyd Abrams
Civil-liberties attorney
Hawk-O-Meter: 3 hawks
War’s necessary, despite the danger to free speech
SPEECH IMPEDIMENT? “There have already been some significant civil-liberties defeats since 9/11. There’s no doubt that in times of war, civil liberties are often the first casualty. Nevertheless, the case for war is powerful enough that we should go ahead if we have to.”
EVEN WITHOUT THE U.N.? “If the vote is not unanimous, that is a major blow. But it should not at all prevent us from taking steps that are necessary, for our national security and our preservation of human rights in the world.”

Andrew Cuomo
Former HUD Secretary
Hawk-O-Meter: 2 hawks
Even if the case has been made, there’s still no need to invade Iraq now.
FOOLS RUSH IN: “As a New Yorker, I would say, ‘What’s the rush?’ You can accept everything the president says about Saddam, and the need for action, but not in the time frame and the manner that precludes a coalition and crowns us ‘America the Arrogant.’ That could sow bitter seeds for years to come.”
CLEAR-AND-PRESENT DANGER: “You would need an immediate threat of harm, which you don’t have. And there’s never been any connection drawn between 9/11 and Saddam Hussein.”

Leslie Gelb
President, Council on Foreign Relations
Hawk-O-Meter: 4 hawks
Everyone wants us to get rid of Saddam.
IF NOT NOW, WHEN? “My instinct tells me that we’ll have to deal with Saddam sooner or later. He’s a monster who’s killed tens and tens of thousands of his own people and will continue to do that. We have a chance to stop that and make the world a better and safer place.”
SILENT PARTNERS: “I find that in private, when I talk to Arab and European leaders, they say that the single worst thing to happen now is for us to pull our troops out. They just don’t want to say that publicly.”

Rabbi Eric Yoffie
Leader, America’s Reform Judaism movement
Hawk-O-Meter: 2 hawks
Both his movement’s leadership and its rank and file are deeply ambivalent on the question of war.
DON’T QUOTE ME: “We’ve decided it’s not realistic or fair for a handful of leaders to speak for the entire body of Reform Jews in America when our members are so clearly divided on the issue.”
PLAYING THE ISRAEL CANARD: “The notion that Israel will benefit from this under any circumstances is absurd. You could end up with a Shiite-dominated government in Iraq that forms an alliance with Iran. That would be much worse than what exists now.”

Bill Perkins
City Council member
Hawk-O-Meter: Dove
The home front matters more.
WHOSE HOUSE? OUR HOUSE: “Our domestic agenda is going to be subverted, particularly in New York City, which is going through a fiscal crisis. It’ll be just like Vietnam, when the Great Society programs were neglected.”
WAR THERE MEANS WAR HERE: “Obviously, Saddam Hussein is not a good leader and is someone who should be replaced. But I’m very concerned about terrorism in New York. And I join those who fear that an attack on Iraq will result in greater attacks on New York.”

Related Stories
Reading the Times: Please, Howell, tell us what to think! (March 24, 2003)

War at The New Yorker: The editorial "We" are of two minds. (March 24, 2003)

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