Published on Monday, June 13, 2005 by USA TODAY
Poll: USA is Losing Patience on Iraq
59% Support Troop Cuts — A New High
by Susan Page
WASHINGTON — Nearly six in 10 Americans say the United States should withdraw some or all of its troops from Iraq, a new Gallup Poll finds, the most downbeat view of the war since it began in 2003.
Patience for the war has dropped sharply as optimism about the Iraqi elections in January has ebbed and violence against U.S. troops hasn't abated. For the first time, a majority would be “upset” if President Bush sent more troops. A new low, 36%, say troop levels should be maintained or increased.
The souring of public opinion presents challenges for the president, who has vowed to stay the course until democracy is established and Iraqi forces can ensure security. He hasn't suggested sending more U.S. troops.
“We have reached a tipping point,” says Ronald Spector, a military historian at George Washington University. “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 — strong support for the first two years that then erodes — is reminiscent of the Korean and Vietnam conflicts, he says.
White House spokesman David Almacy, asked about the poll, said it was “vital” for U.S. peace and security that “we complete the mission by training Iraqis to provide for their own security, and then our troops can return home with the honor they have earned.”
Bush's approval-disapproval rating was 47%-49%, a tick worse than it was two weeks earlier but in the same range it has been for a year.
The poll is consistent with other recent surveys that show growing concern about the war. In an ABC News-Washington Post poll last week, two-thirds said the U.S. military was bogged down in Iraq, and nearly three-quarters called the casualty level unacceptable.
Bush says progress has been made in fighting the insurgency and training Iraqi forces, but the administration hasn't set a timetable for the withdrawal of nearly 140,000 U.S. troops. The Defense Department said Friday that 1,293 Americans have been killed in hostile action.
In the Gallup Poll, 56% say the Iraq war wasn't “worth it,” essentially matching the high-water mark of 57% a month ago.
Of those who say the war wasn't worth it, the top reasons cited are fraudulent claims and no weapons of mass destruction found; the number of people killed and wounded; and the belief that Iraq posed no threat to the United States.
Of the 42% who say the war was worth it, the top reasons cited are the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States, the need to stop terrorism and a desire to end the oppression of the Iraqi people.
Delaware Sen. Joseph Biden, the top Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee, said on NBC's Meet the Press on Sunday that an “incredible gap between the reality on the ground and the rhetoric back here” is costing Bush support on the war.
On ABC's This Week, Rep. Walter Jones, R-N.C., an ardent supporter of the invasion, called on Bush for a timetable for withdrawing troops. “I feel that we have done about as much as we can do,” he said.
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