War of Words

The raised voices—some in anger, some in unison—at many a dinner party in the past few weeks are testament to the fact that every New Yorker has a painfully reasoned, multifaceted, fully implementable, and always passionate position on the impending war in Iraq. (Never mind that these opinions count about as much as, say, a member of the U.N. Security Council’s.)

We canvassed New Yorkers from Mort Zuckerman to Hillary Clinton, Mario Cuomo to Moby, on what should be done. Consensus emerged on only one point: Saddam Hussein is not a nice guy. Could we win the war and lose the peace? Are we fighting for oil? Why is Bush doing this now? And is it possible to change his mind?

Mort Zuckerman
Chairman and co-publisher, Daily News
Hawk-O-Meter: 4 hawks
Let’s roll! U.N. backing not needed (but W. could have handled it better).
IRAQI PSYCHO: “I believe Iraq is headed by a psychotic individual, definitely a sociopath. I’m not willing to risk that his leadership won’t result in a terrorist attack or the use of weapons of mass destruction.”
AU REVOIR, MON AMI: “And the fact is, the French have used the U.N. resolution not to control and contain Saddam Hussein but to control and contain the U.S.”
AGAINST SPEED-DIAL DIPLOMACY: “I do think the Bush White House failed to do diplomatically what they could have, mainly because nobody travels.”

Photo: AP/Wide World Photos

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Junior U.S. senator, New York
Hawk-O-Meter: 3 hawks
A zigzaggy 3. Behind the president, but against unilateralism, but …
MAY THE FORCE BE WITH W.: “Perhaps my decision is influenced by my eight years of experience on the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue,” she said last October, voting for the resolution authorizing Bush to use force against Iraq.
BUT NOT TOO MUCH FORCE: “My vote is not, however, a vote for any new doctrine of preemption, or for unilateralism, or for the arrogance of American power or purpose—all of which carry grave dangers.”

Katrina vanden Heuvel
Editor, The Nation
Hawk-O-Meter: Dove
Old left, new left, however you want to slice it, war is wrong (if great for circulation).
WAR, WHAT IS IT GOOD FOR? “This is a war of choice, not necessity, that will make America less secure. Iraq is a brutal dictatorship, but it poses no clear-and-present danger to the United States.”
THE TIPPING POINT? “If it were revealed by inspectors that Iraq had a transatlantic nuclear capability, I think that the international community would need to act.”

Photo: AP/Wide World Photos

The Reverend Al Sharpton
2004 presidential candidate
Hawk-O-Meter: Dove
Is God really on our side?
HIGHER AUTHORITY: “I don’t think anyone that sits in the White House ought to in any way imply that what they’re doing is based on their personal religious convictions … If he’s really concerned about human life, then he should not risk human life unnecessarily.”

Felix Rohatyn
Former managing director, Lazard Frères; former U.S. ambassador to France
Hawk-O-Meter: 3 hawks
War is inevitable, but Bush really blew it. Give inspections another try.
EXISTENTIAL CRISIS: “Les jeux sont faits—the cards have been dealt. I frankly don’t see a way to avoid war. But it is worth a significant effort to get more votes in the Security Council. If we can’t, we have to do what we have to do.”
WAR CHANGES EVERYTHING: “At the same time, we have to recognize that if we go to war without the Security Council, the world will be very different and a lot of institutions we have relied on for our security will be very badly wounded.”
COULD BUSH EVER SEDUCE FRANCE? “I think the question is, what can France do to come around? France and Germany are making a historic strategic mistake. And all caused by some murderous tyrant in the Middle East.”

James F. Hoge Jr.
Editor, Foreign Affairs
Hawk-O-Meter: 2 hawks
Isolationist interventionism is not our best policy.
RISKY BUSINESS: “The post-conflict scenario is one which has a higher degree of risk than anything I’ve seen in a quarter century. We are about to do something unprecedented: go to war when virtually everyone else is against it. I agree that there is a potential threat. I do not think it has to be solved by a military conflict.”

Photo: AP/Wide World Photos

Chuck Schumer
Senior U.S. senator, New York
Hawk-O-Meter: 3 hawks
Against Saddam, but waiting can’t hurt. And how ’bout those gas prices?
THE AL QAEDA CONNECTION: “I don’t think it is the strongest link, but I don’t think Saddam Hussein can be allowed to remain in power,” he said this month. “He has ignored twelve years of deadlines.”
WHAT’S W.’S HURRY? “If we have to wait a little longer to enlist more allies, it’s worth it—not for winning in Iraq but for the long-term war on terrorism.”
GAS PAINS: “I have news for Big Oil: If we go to war with Iraq, crude-oil prices aren’t going anywhere but up.”

Donald Trump
Hawk-O-Meter: 2 hawks
Donald Dove?
PYONGYANG CALLING! “I think we have far bigger problems than Iraq. One could be right next door in Iran. One is North Korea. I think Iraq is the least of our problems—though it would be nice to have more international support than we have now.”

Georgette Mosbacher
Author, Republican
Hawk-O-Meter: 3 hawks
The right man at the right time for the right war.
HER HERO: “I think Bush has shown extraordinary courage and foresight.”
SO MUCH VX, SO LITTLE TIME! “Saddam Hussein has thousands and thousands of gallons of biological and chemical weapons! I don’t want these Islamic fanatics destroying our way of life.”
THE GAUL OF IT: “I stopped serving French wine when France started to be so bellicose in not supporting us. It’s my small way. I’ve been to Omaha Beach. I don’t recall Frenchmen landing there.”

Photo: AP/Wide World Photos

Bill Clinton
Forty-second president, New Yorker
Hawk-O-Meter: 3 hawks
Put the squeeze on Saddam, with force as a last resort.
UNITED WE WIN: “I think the greatest victory of all would be if Saddam Hussein saw the whole world arrayed against him and thought, you know, the jig was up,” he said after Colin Powell’s February 5 U.N. presentation.
A LITTLE MORE TIME, PLEASE: “I always tell people: When you got the only real supermilitary in the world, you can kill people next week or the week after that or the week after that, but you can’t bring them back. So I don’t see that it hurts our country any to give Mr. Blix a little more time.”

Charles Rangel
U.S. representative, New York
Hawk-O-Meter: Dove
Support the troops, stop the war.
BAD BATTLE PLAN: “The world is not going to be any safer by bombing Saddam Hussein. Indeed, if we just had to bomb someone for retaliation, it would seem to me that there’s more evidence coming from Saudi Arabia. I think it’s morally wrong for us to take a preemptive strike where there is no evidence that our nation is in imminent danger.”

Mario Cuomo
Former governor
Hawk-O-Meter: 3 hawks
Give talks more time, but Bush hasn’t done half bad.
BIPARTISAN SUPPORT: “First you have to get the whole world on the same page to maximize the threat against Saddam Hussein. Bush did that when he went to the U.N. And you’ve got to put pressure on Saddam Hussein, and he did that with the military buildup. He hasn’t done anything wrong yet. Unless he stops diplomacy and goes in now.”
CAN WAR HELP BUSH IN ’04? “I think it will be a political disaster for him. He goes in, wins the war, and a year later people look back and say, ‘Wait a minute, what did we accomplish? Yeah, we won, but we lost people and made enemies.’ And he’s got Iran and North Korea to worry about. And the economy will explode immediately, but then it’ll sink like a stone. These deficits will kill him.”

Steven Rattner
Times reporter turned media titan
Hawk-O-Meter:4 hawks
Let’s get this over with!
WAR NOW, PEACE LATER: “I just think at this point, whether you like how we got to this place, at this point we have no choice but to go forward—ideally with the U.N. but possibly without it. If we don’t do it, we lose all credibility, and all of our ability to make the world a better place.”
NO WAY TO TREAT FRIENDS: “Treating the Europeans as if they’re his butlers or worse—that’s terrible. He’s made a serious and unnecessary mistake.”

Photo: AP/Wide World Photos

Rudy Giuliani
Former mayor
Hawk-O-Meter: 4 hawks
Solidly behind Bush (and appearing regularly on Fox).
ONLY AN IDIOT WOULD DISAGREE: “The logical next step after Afghanistan would be Iraq. It’s shown capacity to use chemical and biological weapons in the past,” he said on March 3.
ONLY CONNECT: “The connection is, there is terrorism. The connection is not necessarily to one event, but it’s to those those countries that support terrorism and make terrorism possible.”
WAR ISN’T OUR CHOICE: “Saddam still holds the key to avoiding military action.”

Ed Koch
Former mayor
Hawk-O-Meter: 4 hawks
Do it Now.
TOGETHERNESS: “Iraq wouldn’t hesitate to sell Al Qaeda weapons of mass destruction if they haven’t already. There’s no reason in the world why they wouldn’t do that. I have no doubt that they have a common agenda.”
U.N. MANDATE: “It’s nice to have, but not key, because the U.N. already ratified it by fifteen unanimous votes including an Arab nation—Syria. You don’t have to do it twice except to make Tony Blair comfortable.”
BLACK GOLD: “After war, all the nations that didn’t participate will line up and say, ‘We want to be part of the restoration of Iraq, and we also want to be able to do business with it.’ And I believe the U.S. should say to them, ‘Well, we’ll let you do it if you pay the prorated cost of the war.’ I think France will be the first one in line, and Russia will be second.”

Wendy Wasserstein
Hawk-O-Meter: Dove
Damn the torpedoes—that is, damn our torpedoes.
ONE-PARTY SYSTEM? “What I find upsetting is, where is the opposition? Not the civilian opposition, but the Democratic Party. It feels like our president has decided to do this, whether our allies or the American public supports it.”
THE WAR AT HOME: “New York feels vulnerable. Very intelligent people I know are going online to buy inflatable Navy seal rafts.”

Keith Wright
Harlem state assemblyman
Hawk-O-Meter: Dove
Against military action in Iraq under any circumstances.
MILITARY CAMPAIGN: “I think it’s silly. It’s the Bush reelection campaign. I don’t see any need for it right now. During the campaign, Bush scoffed at the idea of nation building. But that’s what he’s trying to do now—build another nation in his own image.”
WHERE ARE THE MARCHERS? “Mostly I see the veterans of the civil-rights movement and the peace movement of the sixties. I think the activists of the sixties made life very comfortable for their kids—and I’m probably guilty of it with my own kids—and as a result, they don’t realize what it took for them to be able to live the way they do now.”

Nora Ephron
Hawk-O-Meter: 1 hawk
When did it become so treasonous to be a liberal?
SILENT MAJORITY: “At the moment, I don’t know whom I’m more frustrated about—the president and his awful courtiers or that huge, silent group of Democrats, with the exception of Howard Dean.”
ALL TOGETHER NOW: “Everyone always has to add, as a disclaimer, ‘I have no affection for Saddam Hussein,’ as if we have to apologize for being against going to war when we haven’t begun to exhaust the diplomatic means. The Democrats are all so afraid that it will be like ’91, and they’ll be punished for being against a war that we might win—as if winning is in fact the only thing that matters.”

Dan Klores
President, Dan Klores Communications
Hawk-O-Meter: 2 hawks
Where’s the smoking gun linking Saddam to Osama?
PRESIDENT JOHN WAYNE: “I feel like I’m in a bad movie and they’re going ahead with the script anyway. I thought we had a legitimate enemy and it was bin Laden. We can’t catch him, so they just made this up.”
CASUALTY OF WAR: “Once these body bags start coming home, it’s the end of George Bush.”

War now, or never? We’ve distilled our participants’complex views into a rating of their Iraq bellicosity.
4 flags: Bombs away!
3 flags: Invade soon
2 flags: Inspections need time
1 flag: Saddam’s bad, but …
Dove: Moving to Paris

YOUR TAKE ON WAR Where Do You Stand? Vote!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) Intelligencer: The scramble to publish Norman Mailer’s Why Are We at War?Discussion
Reactions: What did you think of the opinions quoted in this article?

Photo: AP/Wide World Photos

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.”

Photo: AP/Wide World Photos

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)

Reactions: What did you think of the opinions quoted in this article?

War of Words