More On The Plate Than Freedom Fries
WASHINGTON, March 13, 2003,

In her latest Political Points commentary, CBS News Senior Political Editor Dotty Lynch offers food for thought on the looming war with Iraq.

Au revoir French fries.
Howdy Freedom toast and Freedom fries. Now that's the way to get under the skin of those nasty French.

With Americans growing weary (or angry or embarrassed) by the refusal of the French to sign off on a military invasion of Iraq, two members of Congress decided to fight back and rename two favorite foods in a House office building cafeteria.

A juvenile stunt, but somehow it tickled a tense Capitol. A CBS News/New York Times poll conducted over the weekend showed that the number of Americans wanting to give U.N. inspectors more time dropped from 60 percent to 52 percent. And 50 percent now believe that the Iraqi threat requires military action immediately – up from 45 percent last week.

There is still significant concern about military action, and Americans are split 52 percent to 46 percent on whether they are confident or uneasy about President Bush making the right decision on Iraq. But they are even more unhappy with the United Nations, with 58 percent saying the U.N. is doing a poor job handling the Iraq issue.

The American people have taken note of the international dissing of the U.S. A year ago, by 67 percent to 22 percent, people thought that world leaders respected President Bush; last week the public split 45 percent-45 percent on this issue, with even 21 percent of Republicans conceding that foreign leaders lack respect for him. We make jokes about the heavy diplomacy going on to get Guinea or the Cameroon behind us, but our ally Tony Blair is tanking in Britain – just 19 percent of Britons are with him on this war.

With the lack of sustained opposition from the Democratic political leadership, the loudest anti-war message in media has come via Hollywood actors. However, there are some strong, serious voices of dissent breakthrough the clutter. Sen. Bob Graham of Florida and former Colorado Sen. Gary Hart are predicting a serious terrorist attack if military action is taken. Graham, the only Democratic senator running for president who voted against the resolution giving President Bush the authority to wage a preemptive war against Iraq, said this week that intelligence experts have told him there's a 75 percent likelihood that terrorist attacks would be initiated if Saddam feels he is threatened.

Hart has said much the same thing, citing CIA Director George Tenet’s public words to this effect last fall. And Hart keeps harping on the fact that the U.S. is not prepared to deal with these attacks. From his perch as co-chairman of the U.S. Commission on National Security for the 21st Century, which came up with the idea for a Homeland Security office, he has leveled scathing criticism of the Bush administration for not putting clout and resources behind the new Cabinet department.

Another serious line of attack has come from former New York Times reporter and columnist Tom Wicker. Writing on the Editor & Publisher Web site (, Wicker levels criticism at journalists who he says are playing on the administration's team and not asking the right questions.

The question Wicker wants asked is how the administration makes linkage between Iraq and al Qaeda. "Will al Qaeda be damaged by an American attack on an Islamic nation? If not, how does a war on Iraq help the so-called war on terror, against al Qaeda?"

Forty five percent of Americans believe that Saddam Hussein was personally involved in the Sept. 11 attacks – a fact that has never been substantiated. Wicker says, "The administration insists that Iraq and al Qaeda are, in fact, linked and that Washington has the evidence to prove it. But that evidence can't be revealed, lest it disclose how we know and from whom we know it.

"That may be true, as it often is with secret intelligence information, but this argument raises at least two questions: What kind of democracy allows its leaders to take it into war without fully specifying the reasons? And should a 'watchdog' press present the supposed link between Iraq and al Qaeda as if it had been demonstrated, because President Bush and Secretary of State Colin Powell say so, or point out that it hasn't really been proven, even at the United Nations?"

It's been reported that President Bush is terrified that another Sept. 11 will occur on his watch, and he clearly believes that waging war with Saddam will make that less likely. One wonders what he knows that the rest of the world doesn't. Despite pleas from religious and world leaders, it seems he's determined to go forward. We can only pray that he's right.