Growing weary of the war

A new poll shows American support for the war in Iraq at its lowest level ever -- and that was before today's suicide bombing.

Published May 4, 2005 12:26PM (EDT)

With each milestone -- the fall of Baghdad, the end of major combat operations, the capture of Saddam Hussein, the turnover of sovereignty last June, the elections in January -- there comes hope for Americans that the end is maybe near in Iraq. It isn't, a point the insurgency underscored today: One day after members of Iraq's new government were sworn in, a suicide bomber blew himself up outside a police recruiting station in the Kurdish city of Irbil. At least 50 people were killed, making it the deadliest attack in more than two months.

Are Americans growing weary of the war? A USA Today/CNN/Gallup Poll -- released Tuesday, before the latest explosiong of violence -- certainly suggests so. The poll shows that Americans' support for the war in Iraq has dropped to its lowest level ever. Was the war worth it? Forty-one percent of those polled say yes, but 57 percent say no. Was it a mistake to send troops into Iraq in the first place? Forty-nine percent of the respondents said that it was; 48 percent said it was not.

The numbers represent a significant shift since February, when support for the war ticked up amid the purple-fingered aftermath of the Iraq elections. In February, only 50 percent of the American public said the war wasn't worth fighting; 55 percent said it wasn't a mistake to send troops. In the ensuing months, however, Americans have seen first-hand -- or, at least, through the wonders of modern television -- that the elections neither put an end to the insurgency nor got a functioning government up and running in Iraq. It turns out that those things are hard work, and Americans are growing tired of a war they were told would take a few weeks, would cost $50 or $60 billion and would lead to a reconstruction that would all but pay for itself.

"The patience of the American public is beginning to get worn down a little bit by how long this is taking," Charles Pena, a military affairs analyst at the Cato Institute, tells USA Today. "While we have made progress . . . I think people are just tired of this and want it to be over."

By Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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