Senior officials are being dispatched across a broad front to explain White House goals and warn of the perils faced by US pilots and Iraqi civilians on the ground. Mr Clinton has ordered Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, Defence Secretary William Cohen and national security adviser Sandy Berger to travel to Ohio on Wednesday on a mission to reach out to Middle America and secure support for a massive air strike against Iraq.
In a presentation to be broadcast live on national television, the top three foreign-policy heavyweights will "talk to the American people about the stakes in the Iraqi crisis", a State Department spokesman said.
"The truth is, war is a dirty thing," said General Henry Shelton, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, firing the opening volley in what may evolve in the coming days into a barrage of Hollywoodesque cliches.
On Friday he said the US would not be deterred by Russian opposition to military action. "'Nyet' is not 'no' for the United States in these circumstances," he said. Nyet, however, has been the word so far from Congress, which refused last week to vote on a resolution unanimously supporting war in Iraq.
Kofi Annan, the UN Secretary-General, is still hoping to go to Baghdad in what may be the last try at a diplomatic solution.
Britain also stepped up its propaganda offensive against Saddam Hussein at the weekend, issuing a dossier on alleged abuses perpetrated by his regime.
US attempts to build up international support faltered yesterday after the US ambassador to the UN failed to persuade China to reconsider its opposition to air strikes. On a visit to Peking, Bill Richardson delivered a letter from President Clinton.
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