Opposing War: What Is It Good For?

After a long drive from the Deep South, Diane McNaron rolled into Washington, D.C., in the middle of the night with four college kids in her car and the rock band From Autumn to Ashes on the stereo.

Their destination: the 200,000-strong demonstration last month that organizers claimed was the largest antiwar rally since the Vietnam War. Now, days after Republicans took back the Senate, McNaron feels let down by Democrats who have not, in her view, sufficiently supported antiwar efforts.

"We feel our job is to keep morale and spirits high to keep this movement fighting," said the 55-year-old musician from Birmingham, Ala.

After a midterm election widely seen as an affirmation of President Bush's popularity — and on the heels of the U.N. Security Council's approval of his Iraq ultimatum on Friday — passionate opponents of U.S. military action against Baghdad have to wonder where they stand.

Even the Democratic leader of the Senate suggested that voters had approved Bush's Iraq policy.

"I think it means that the president has an opportunity here to enact and proceed with the plan [on Iraq] as he has articulated it," Sen. Tom Daschle, D-S.D., said after the election. "I think the American people appear now to give him the benefit of the doubt."

But it's not so easy figuring out just how many Americans do support the president, and how many would fall under the description of "antiwar" when it comes to Iraq — and harder still is figuring out how much public opinion matters and what difference it makes.

Before the election, ABCNEWS polls showed that 61 percent of Americans supported ousting Saddam Hussein, but that support was conditional — fewer than half agreed if U.S. allies are opposed and support dropped even lower if war required heavy casualties and ground fighting.

For their part, antiwar groups claim a mainstream following.

Soccer Moms Join the Fight

"It is absolutely a movement," said Karen Dolan, a fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington, which calls itself the nation's oldest multi-issue progressive think tank. "You see people like soccer moms, the regular middle class participating in a lot of these events. The Washington [Oct. 26] march was full of families and senior citizens. It was a mainstream crowd."

She pointed to some other antiwar efforts:

The Not in Our Name Coalition, one of the many antiwar groups focused on the Iraq situation, includes prominent intellectuals, activists and celebrities including Noam Chomsky, Gloria Steinem, Russell Banks, Susan Sarandon and Edward Said.

The venerable retired journalist Walter Cronkite, historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr., former New York Gov. Mario Cuomo were among those who put their names on a full-page newspaper ad opposing Bush's Iraq policy that was sponsored by the consumer group Common Cause.

More than 13,000 American academics signed a petition opposing a U.S. invasion of Iraq and also purchased a New York Times ad.

The U.S. Conference of Bishops also expressed opposition to a pre-emptive strike against Iraq.

Not everyone thinks antiwar dissent has filtered through to the general public. Many protesters are just holdovers from the Vietnam era, said Ariel Cohen, a fellow at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank.

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