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Bush, Iraq And Terror

File photo: US President George W. Bush greets American soldiers in Iraq. Photo courtesy of AFP.
by Martin Walker
UPI Editor Emeritus
Washington (UPI) Nov 02, 2006
With less than a week before the mid-term elections for the United States Congress, the most intriguing question arising from the UPI-Zogby poll is how to define the difference between Iraq, terrorism and foreign policy. In this massive poll, over 8,000 U.S. voters were asked to specify which two from a list of 11 policy issues would be most influential in deciding their vote.

More than one-in-four selected Iraq (27 percent), ranking it third in importance behind only terrorism (36 percent) and the economy (28 percent). But the fifth most cited issue, selected by 21.9 percent of voters, was foreign policy in general (the fourth was immigration, chosen by 22.5 percent).

Add these three closely related concerns of Iraq, terrorism and foreign policy and a total of 88.5 percent of voters picked them as one of the most critical issues that would decide their choice.

The challenge is to decode the difference between these three concerns. The conventional wisdom says that President Bush holds a lead among voters who say terrorism is the dominant challenge facing America, while Democrats tend to pick Iraq as the defining issue.

The UPI-Zogby poll, with its massive sample and one of the most detailed surveys of the popular mood, found that "the Iraq war is the top issue among Democrats, Progressives and Liberals and second among Females and Moderates."

"Republicans, Conservatives, Very Conservatives and Libertarians, on the other hand, list the war in Iraq between 6th and 7th and place much higher importance on terrorism," the Zogby analysts noted.

But at a rally Monday in Statesboro, Georgia, President Bush combined the two in a way that suggested there was little or no difference. Iraq, he said, was "the central front" in the war on terror.

"The best way to fight the terrorists is to stay on the offensive and defeat them overseas so we don't have to fight them at home," Bush added.

A year ago, in the seminal speech to the National Endowment for Democracy in which Bush first defined "Islamo-fascism" as the enemy, he made it clear he agreed on one thing with Osama bin Laden, that Iraq was the key to the war on terrorism.

Bush said: "Now they've set their sights on Iraq. Bin Laden has stated: 'The whole world is watching this war and the two adversaries. It's either victory and glory, or misery and humiliation.' The terrorists regard Iraq as the central front in their war against humanity. And we must recognize Iraq as the central front in our war on terror."

Other top Republicans say the same thing. In an interview published in the Chicago Daily Herald Sunday, Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert said: "Iraq is the front-line in the war on terror, and our nation must do whatever is necessary to ensure victory, as that is the only acceptable outcome. If we abandon this mission, if the American people lose their will and our troops are removed prematurely, Iraq will become a haven for terrorism and a threat to our security for generations to come."

"We have a decision to make in Iraq," Hastert went on. "To complete our mission and establish a foothold for democracy in the Middle East, or allow the nation to become an epicenter for terrorism. In my mind, there is no choice."

So are the Iraq war and terrorism different, and are they different again from foreign policy (which has clearly been made more problematic by the Iraq war)? Or are they are part of the same issue in the mind of the president and of the public?

There is one clear way in which Iraq and terrorism are clearly linked in the public mind. The UPI-Zogby poll asked whether the war in Iraq has increased or decreased the threat of terrorist attacks in the United States. One in three respondents (33 percent) believe that the war has reduced the threat. But nearly half (48 percent) believe the war has increased the threat and 16 percent feel that it has not made a difference.

The poll also points to a further confusion. The Zobgy analysts note that "wide discrepancies are found when respondents are asked what they believe the President means when he says 'stay the course' or 'finish the job.' Most (43 percent) believe that he is referring to Iraq's ability to handle their own security. One in five are not sure what the President means and most of the 15 percent who responded 'other' questioned or doubted whether the President himself knew what the phrases meant."

One thing is clear. Most Americans think the Iraq operation has been mishandled. More than two-thirds (70 percent) of all respondents disagree with the statement that the U.S. government's pre-war planning for the post-war phase was adequate. Among Independents and Moderates that number rose to 74 percent and 84 percent respectively. And almost two-thirds (63 percent) disagree that the U.S. conduct of the occupation of Iraq was handled competently. Almost four out of five Moderates (79 percent) hold the same opinion, while 69 percent of Independents also disagree.

Americans are torn over what to do. Over half (55 percent) say their forces should remain until certain goals are achieved. Two out of every five respondents (39 percent) believe U.S. troops should be pulled out immediately, but almost half of self-defined moderates, 48 percent, want an instant withdrawal.

When asked how long it might take to "finish the job," only 18 percent believe that the job will be complete in less than 2 years. The largest group of respondents, 37 percent, believe it will take longer than two years and one-third of all respondents (34 percent) believe the job will never be finished. If that is so, than the next presidential election in 2008 could be just as dominated by the tangled issues of Iraq and terrorism and foreign policy as this one promises to be.

Source: United Press International

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White House Dismisses Chart Of Iraq Sliding Toward Chaos
Washington (AFP) Nov 01, 2006
The White House Wednesday dismissed a leaked military chart that shows Iraq sliding toward "chaos" as an outdated snapshot of sectarian violence at the height of Ramadan that has since dropped sharply. The US Central Command prepared the color-coded bar chart as part of a slide presented at a classified briefing on October 18, according to the New York Times, which ran the slide on Wednesday with a story about it.

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