- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 25, 2003

WASHINGTON, Feb. 25 (UPI) — President George W. Bush said he refused to let polls influence his political decisions on the Iraq crisis. He may be right on this, as polls can often be confusing.

Current polls show that most Americans oppose a war, although, initially, previous polls showed that most favored a war.

But it's not that simple on one Washington, DC, campus. Gallup and Washington Post-ABC News polls show a majority of those polled in the past six months support invading Iraq. However, a UPI reporter who spoke with 20 undergraduate students at American University over the last two weeks found most of them were against invading Iraq.

Students against the war said they saw it as economically driven and fear the potential human and political consequences of a conflict. But some students said Iraqi president Saddam Hussein poses enough of a threat to Iraqis and other countries to justify a war. And, most male students eligible for a military draft – if it were ever to be reinstated — said they would fight if drafted.

Polls show that people with more education are less likely to support a U.S. invasion of Iraq. Sixty percent of individuals with high school diplomas or less favor the war, whereas according to Gallup polls taken between June 2002 and Jan. 2003 show that around 55 percent of college educated people support the war.

Many anti-war students named oil or economic interests as what's motivating the conflict. Andrew, 19, a former Army reservist who withheld his last name, said he left the reserves because "I'm not going to spill my blood for Bush's oil." He was inspired to enlist after his mother was almost killed in the World Trade Center during the 9/11 attacks.

Others, like Andrew George, 21, said Bush has a "personal vendetta" against Saddam for his attempted assassination of Bush's father, the former President Bush.

Some called the war an exercise of power or imperialism. Michelle Argueta, 20, referred to Washington as the "heart of the empire." Magdalena Aguilar, 22, accused Bush of trying to be "the president of the world."

Others feared that an invasion would lead to years of U.S. occupation and high civilian casualties in Iraq. "It's the civilians who are going to pay," not Saddam Hussein, said Negaar Saidi, 18.

Wallied Shirzoi, 22, complained that the administration is "so focused on getting rid on this regime," they haven't considered the consequences of ousting Hussein. Shirzoi, who is French and Iranian, said deposing Saddam might lead to a clash between minority and majority Muslim populations in Iraq. "Bombing is easy but not every country's going to be an Afghanistan where you can just oust the Taliban," he said.

Franklin Foster, 20, said that with so many of Hussein's family in "high positions," it would be difficult to fully enact a regime change.

Shirzoi also called the war unnecessary because the U.S. hasn't examined all options. Mariel Otero, 22, agreed that "not every possible diplomatic route has been explored."

But other students feel the war is necessary, if unpalatable. George Los, 20, cited Saddam's attacks on Israel, his oppression of the Iraqi people, and his "persistence in developing weapons" to justify an invasion. "I wish there was a way to remove Saddam without going to war, but I don't see that happening," Los said.

Justin Biedrzycki, 18, acknowledged the possibility of civilian deaths, but "if you're liberating a people, it's for the greater good," Biedrzycki said.

However, Otero called the idea that a war would liberate Iraq "an excuse." She said that Latin American countries such as Guatemala and Nicaragua haven't seen any "great benefits" from U.S. intervention. Michelle Argueta, 20, who was raised in Guatemala, also feels that the U.S. "has not always done the right thing," during foreign interventions.

For some people, it's not if, but how Saddam is deposed. Most people Foster knows feel Saddam Hussein is "not a good man," and want him out, but don't want to send American troops to do it, he said. Many students, including those supporting the war, said they are worried about friends and relatives in the military or who could be sent in harm's way f war breaks out.

And they may have reason to be worried. In a Fox News poll from Jan. 14, 56 percent of those polled favored reinstating the draft.

"My uncle was drafted (during the Vietnam War) and still suffers from anxiety attacks," said Sara Guderyahn, 19, who feels there are "enough volunteers" that a draft isn't warranted right now.

While most students offered opinions about the war, some are still struggling to form one or even to express it. Guderyahn speculated that students against the war are "so passionate" they might intimidate students who do support the war into keeping quiet. Guderyahn said she's never talked to anyone who said they were for the war. Jaime Bugaski, 19, said many people her age are "still trying to figure out where they stand." Marisa Lengor, 19, also said that students change their minds almost daily about the war, but that reinstating the draft would shift public opinion more firmly against the war because of who would be expected to fight.

"It's the common American child," who fights wars, not the children of government officials, Lengor said.

Jabrieel Cowling, 22, foresaw even grimmer possibilities in a draft.

"This war has the potential to be the Vietnam for our generation," he said.

While most male students knew they could be drafted, some dismissed any possibility of that occurring. Biedrzycki had "no strong opinion about the draft because I can't see that happening," and said he is "more afraid of a terrorist attack" than being drafted. Others like Andrew George said they're not worried about a draft because "Bush knows better."

"The political consequences of a draft would be so bad that Bush would never do it," George said.

In the end, most male students conceded that "I owe to my country to serve," like Jim Kurdek, 22, or that the draft was something "I can't do much about," like Russell Hsiao, 20.

Argueta called the draft "unfair," but acknowledged that post-9/11 patriotism might make it work.

"Fighting for your country should be something that comes from within you," she said.

Unfortunately, some students have more than one war to worry about. Ji Ahn, 23, who is from South Korea, does not want a war with Iraq but is also concerned about a possible war with North Korea. She recently overheard some students express hatred for North Korea and Koreans in general; like many Arabs after the 9/11 attacks, she now fears for her safety.


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