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N.C. for war in Iraq? Send in the bureaucrats

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"Most in N.C. favor war," the headline on the lead story in The News & Observer declared Friday. Really? No, not really. In fact, not at all. The N&O's assertion that "North Carolinians continue to show strong and unconditional support for war with Iraq" was flat wrong and an object lesson in how to mess up a poll.

The N&O reported that its poll, conducted Feb. 15-19, showed 68 percent of voters statewide answering "yes," they would support using military force against Iraq. But then the "yes" respondents--and only they--were asked if they'd support the use of ground troops. "Yes," 55 percent of them said again. But 38 percent said "no." Combined with the 30 percent who answered the first question no, that's about 51 percent against using ground troops in a war.

Hard to have a war without them. That number is down from 57 percent against using ground troops in The N&O's poll in January (which also went unreported), but still a remarkable majority considering all the warmongering that's been going on.

The N&O poll's shortcomings were underlined the same afternoon when Elon University released its statewide poll. Conducted Feb. 18-20, the Elon Poll, too, found that 67 percent of North Carolinians said "yes," they would support the use of military force against Iraq. But would they support "an attack on Iraq without the backing of the United Nations Security Council?" By 49 percent to 42 percent, the answer Elon got was "no."

The N&O poll followed up as well. But only after stacking the deck. It asked: "So far, the United Nations Security Council has not endorsed military action against Iraq for its failure to cooperate with a U.N. disarmament resolution (emphasis added)." Then the same question: "Would you support the United States going to war with Iraq without the Security Council's support?"

Tipped to the proper answer, 57 percent said yes, they would, and just 32 percent said "no."

Kudos: To the Chapel Hill Town Council, which adopted a resolution opposing the war unless all diplomatic options have been exhausted and the Security Council endorses invasion. Chapel Hill and Carrboro are the only two N.C. governing bodies on record against the war. Nationally, there are 107, including Los Angeles, Chicago, Atlanta, Philadelphia and the state legislature in Maine.

A reader pointed us to www.citiesforpeace.org and suggested that folks in Raleigh, Durham and Cary try to get their councils to consider passing one of the sample resolutions it offers.

And if your council members--ducking for cover--say it's no business of theirs? Refer them to Chapel Hill's resolution: The impending war is "a direct concern for local governments," it says, because it would divert resources from homeland security needs and other important domestic programs and further weaken the limpid economy.

Enemies 'R' Us: Listening to former Raleigh City Councilor Mary Watson Nooe on Monday describing the process that was going to result in the deportation of her husband to Pakistan two days hence, we heard the cacophany of madness that is our "war" on terrorism. Barring a last-minute reversal, the federal government was ordering Mohammad Shafi Khan back to Pakistan, having suddenly decided his 9-year-old political asylum claim while not deciding whether to recognize his 3-year-old marriage to Nooe.

Got that? The government rejected his first claim without stating a reason. And Nooe said it wasn't clear when it would get around to his second one, if ever.

Khan (pronounced "han") entered the U.S. illegally from Canada, it's acknowledged. He was politically active in Pakistan in opposition to the then-ruling party of Benazir Bhutto, and found himself the subject of an arrest warrant. So he fled, ended up in New York City driving a cab, and came to Raleigh in 1996 to buy the gas station-convenience store he still runs on Garner Road. Is he still, um, political? At that question, Nooe snorted and Khan smiled. "No," he said. "I am working hard. To live good."

Nooe was headed for Pakistan with him, planning to travel back and forth while working to get Khan re-admitted. But just as we were going to press Tuesday night, she called to say they'd finally gotten an Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) officer to recognize their marriage, which led to the deportation being postponed for 60 days. So the whole thing's now up the air. The deportation issue is up to the Board of Immigration Appeals, which is part of Attorney General John Ashcroft's Justice Department. The INS, having recognized the Khan-Nooe marriage, can now entertain his application for permanent residency status.

Will that decision be political? Who knows. But as Nooe remarked on Monday, though they were married in a Unitarian ceremony, Khan remains a Muslim, which makes him a suspect as far as the feds are concerned. Nooe said she was told by an official of Pakistani International Airlines, as she was making arrangements for their departure, that PIA had just just shipped 400 deportees out of RDU International and was being told by the INS to arrange for 700 more, also from RDU. "They're in jail around here somewhere," Nooe said. EndBlock

Contact Bob Geary at rjgeary@aol.com.

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