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Poll: Fewer than half think U.S. will win in Iraq
September 22, 2005

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll released Thursday indicated fewer than half of Americans believe the United States will win the Iraq war, and 55 percent of those surveyed said it should speed up withdrawal plans.

Only 21 percent said the United States definitely would win the war in Iraq, which began when a U.S.-led coalition invaded in 2003 to topple Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. Another 22 percent said they thought the United States probably would win.

Twenty percent of respondents said the United States was capable of winning in Iraq -- but probably would not. And 34 percent said they considered the war unwinnable.

The survey of 818 adults was conducted Friday through Sunday and had a sampling error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

The results followed others this week that found only 32 percent of those interviewed supported President Bush's handling of the war, 63 percent supported a full or partial withdrawal and and 54 percent favored cutting spending on the conflict to pay for rebuilding the Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina.

With a large anti-war demonstration planned outside the White House this weekend, Bush said Thursday the United States can lose in Iraq only "if we lose our nerve and abandon the mission."

"Some Americans want us to withdraw our troops so that we can escape the violence," Bush said. "I recognize their good intentions, but their position is wrong. Withdrawing our troops would make the world more dangerous and make America less safe."

More than 1,900 American troops have been killed since March 2003, most of them battling a persistent insurgency that followed the collapse of Saddam's government.

With the number of deaths nearing 2,000, 55 percent of those surveyed said they wanted to see the United States intensify efforts to withdraw from Iraq, while 41 percent said they wanted no change in policy.

The increased support for an American withdrawal from Iraq contrasts with the more than two-thirds of those polled who said they believed U.S. troops would leave behind a chaotic situation -- or even civil war.

Only 27 percent said they believed Iraq's fledgling government would be able to maintain order after a U.S. withdrawal, while 68 percent said they believed chaos or civil war would result.

By comparison, as the U.S. death toll in Iraq neared 1,000 in August 2004, only 37 percent favored an expedited withdrawal, and 58 percent supported staying the course.

On Thursday, Bush tried again to portray Iraq as a front on the global war on terrorism that began with the attacks of September 11, 2001, saying a U.S. withdrawal would only embolden terrorists.

He said the United States would pull its troops out only when Iraqi forces were capable of taking control of their own country.

The number of people who said they understood what Americans are fighting for in Iraq has remained nearly steady in the past year.

Of those polled, 67 percent said they understood what the war was all about, and 33 percent said they did not.

The last time the question was asked, in October 2004, 70 percent said they understood what was at stake in the conflict while 28 percent said they did not.

Bush and other officials argued that the invasion was necessary to strip Iraq of chemical and biological weapons and efforts to develop a nuclear bomb.

U.S. inspectors later concluded Baghdad had disarmed after the 1991 Persian Gulf War, as required by U.N. resolutions that ended the conflict, though it had concealed some weapons-related research from U.N. monitors.

The president and his allies now argue that U.S. troops are needed to foster the establishment of a democratic government in Iraq and keep the country from becoming a haven for terrorism.

"Together, we'll help Iraq become a strong democracy that protects the rights of its people and is a key ally in the war on terror," Bush said.

A report issued this month by a United Nations panel established to monitor al Qaeda and its associates said the terrorist group is exploiting the situation in Iraq, bringing in recruits from around the world and training them in urban warfare, bomb-making and other terrorist skills.