President Clinton outlined the plan to bomb targets in Iraq in a detailed address he gave at the Pentagon. The speech before an audience of military brass was carried live on television, and on the surface at least, the immediate reaction to it was highly favorable.
A CBS News poll taken the next day revealed that 77 percent of the American people approved of the preparations for air attacks on strategic positions in Iraq. At the same time a majority of those polled – 59 percent – said they were not yet ready to go to war. They endorsed the view that more efforts should be made to reach a diplomatic solution before ordering the air strikes.
That cautionary note indicated a certain uneasiness about the proposed mission, and the same day the poll was taken, three of the Administration's top foreign policy officials were bombarded with anxious and angry questions about the military preparations at a public forum on the campus of Ohio State University.
The blistering comments that greeted the three visitors from Washington came from both ends of the political spectrum.
Those who opposed any kind of military action denounced what they called "a racist war" against the Iraqi people.
From the other extreme came criticisms that the Administration's limited objective – to "diminish" the threat posed by Iraq's weapons of mass destruction – was far too modest. If there must be another war with Iraq, these hard-liners argued, then this time U.S. forces should not stop until they've completely destroyed the dangerous regime of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.
Written by Gary Paul Gates