Polls, and Reports from Iraq, Reveal Pessimism on War

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By: E&P Staff

A flood of pessimistic articles in major newspapers this weekend, calls by some in Congress for a timetable for withdrawal, and now a new Gallup poll suggest to at least one military historian that the American public has reached a “tipping point” on Iraq.

The new Gallup survey finds that 59% of Americans say the United States should withdraw some or all of its troops from Iraq, the largest number in that category ever. Nearly half of that number, 28%, want all troops out. And, for the first time, most Americans say they would be “upset” if President Bush sent more troops.

Accounts from the field in Iraq this weekend and today in The Washington Post, The New York Times, and Knight Ridder newspapers, among others, all painted a picture of an Iraqi army unable (and to some extent, unwilling) to take over the lion’s share of military activities for at least two years and perhaps much longer.

Tom Lasseter, longtime Knight Ridder correspondent in Baghdad, wrote for today’s papers: “A growing number of senior American military officers in Iraq have concluded that there is no long-term military solution to an insurgency that has killed thousands of Iraqis and more than 1,300 U.S. service members during the past two years. Instead, officers say, the only way to end the guerrilla war is through Iraqi politics, an arena that so far has been crippled by divisions between Shiite Muslims, whose coalition dominated the January elections, and Sunni Muslims, who are a minority in Iraq but form the base of support for the insurgency.”

“We have reached a tipping point,” Ronald Spector, a military historian at George Washington University, told USA Today’s Susan Page. “Even some of those who thought it was a great idea to get rid of Saddam [Hussein] are saying, ‘I want our troops home.'”

The pattern of public opinion on Iraq is reminiscent of the Korean and Vietnam conflicts, he said. A different poll last week found that 42% now liken the Iraq war to the Vietnam experience. Even Rep. Walter Jones, the man behind the “freedom fries” campaign, came out for withdrawal over the weekend.

Gallup also found that 56% of Americans now feel the war was “not worth it.” An ABC News-Washington Post poll last week found that nearly three-quarters called the casualty level unacceptable. The count reached 1,700 over the weekend.

Of those who say the war wasn’t worth it, the top reasons cited were: false claims and no weapons of mass destruction found; the casualty count; and belief that Iraq posed no threat to the United States.

In today’s New York Times, a field report on Iraqi performance by John F. Burns and Sabrina Tavernise concludes: “Despite the Bush administration’s insistent optimism, Americans working with the Iraqis in the field believe that it could be several years, at least, before the new Iraqi forces will be ready to stand alone against the insurgents….

“Earlier this year, the Pentagon suggested that an initial drawdown of the 140,000 American troops in Iraq might begin by the end of this year. Now, American generals are saying it could be two years, perhaps longer.”

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