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Iraq Special Report

  About 2,000 Protest at White House

By Michael Powell
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, February 22, 1998; Page A29

About 2,000 banner-waving protesters rallied outside the White House yesterday to denounce President Clinton's threat of a U.S. military strike against Iraq.

With military action perhaps days or even hours away, and with Clinton meeting inside the White House with his national security advisers, the demonstrators chanted, "No war!" and called for renewed negotiations.

Few defended the conduct of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. But most predicted that sustained bombing would not force him from power and could cause the deaths of thousands of Iraqi civilians, including children.

"It's a knee-jerk reaction to try violence first," said Marywinne Sherwood, a social worker and one of 60 demonstrators who rode a bus from Chapel Hill, N.C., to the demonstration. "I don't think anyone here supports Saddam Hussein, but bombing only seems likely to rally support for him."

Sherwood, as did many other demonstrators, said she was concerned that U.S. officials were talking of bombing not just military targets, but bridges, roads, and electric generating plants. They noted that tens of thousands of Iraqis have already died because of a lack of medicine and that United Nations officials predict further food shortages in the wake of a bombing campaign.

"They're going to target the infrastructure of the nation again, and that's totally deadly," said Sam Husseini, of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee. "He's a horrific dictator, but this will not force him out. This will only cause the deaths of thousands more people."

Several demonstrators spoke of the sparse debate about the nation's threatened military intervention, and they blamed the national media for focusing too much attention on Clinton's alleged sexual relationship with former White House intern Monica S. Lewinsky.

"The coverage has been so superficial that this [military] action has not become much of a topic of conversation," said Robert Vandivier, of Falls Church, a national board member of Veterans for Peace.

Hari Scordo, of Arlington, nodded in agreement.

"Saddam is definitely dangerous and desperate and looking out for himself," said Scordo, also of Veterans for Peace. "But a lot of innocent people are going to die, and he's still going to be there. This nation needs to show some moral leadership."

© Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

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