With news from Iraq bleaker than ever, a new poll shows a large bipartisan majority of Americans want to begin pulling out U.S. troops, and strongly oppose permanent U.S. bases in Iraq. The University of Maryland Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA) poll was conducted March 1-6.

A remarkable 71 percent said the U.S. should not have permanent military bases in Iraq, including 60 percent of Republicans along with 82 percent of Democrats.

This may explain why House Republicans with their fingers in the air, worried about losing control of Congress in November’s elections, declined to oppose an amendment introduced by California Democrat Barbara Lee barring permanent U.S. bases in Iraq, allowing it to pass on a voice vote March 16.

Poll respondents showed considerable skepticism about the Bush administration’s willingness to comply with either U.S. or Iraqi public opinion. Comparing results of this U.S. poll with one taken in Iraq in January, the poll report says, “Americans and Iraqis have a striking level of agreement in their perception that the U.S. plans to keep U.S. troops in Iraq permanently and in their opposition to this idea.”

In another indication that Iraq is a growing political liability for Republicans, the 68 percent who supported beginning to bring the troops home included 52 percent of Republicans as well as 80 percent of Democrats.

The number of U.S. casualties was not the main factor driving public opinion, according to the poll. Rather, the key factors appeared to be the perception that the U.S. military presence is “provoking more conflict than it is preventing,” and low confidence that U.S. involvement will “succeed.” These negative assessments reflected “a marked downward trend” from a year ago.

Illinois Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky (D), a member of the congressional Out of Iraq Caucus, commented, “Pressure is building for President Bush to begin withdrawing our troops from Iraq. Sectarian violence is spreading throughout Iraq and the presence of our troops is fueling the insurgency.”

Reacting to the president’s remark to reporters March 21 that ending the U.S. occupation would be a problem for “future presidents,” Schakowsky said, “President Bush led Americans into this misguided war with false information and no plan to win the peace. Now, after over 2,300 Americans have died and hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars have been spent, he announced that he plans to leave this disaster for someone else.”

Bush’s comment, indicating he has no intention of bringing troops home, has apparently made a lot of people nervous. Nebraska Sen. Ben Nelson, a “red-state” Democrat who often votes with the Republicans, told a local reporter it was unfortunate that Bush gave the impression the U.S. will stay in Iraq indefinitely.

Schakowsky said support is growing for “a strategic redeployment of our troops from Iraq, so that our military can focus on real, immediate threats to our security.” Rep. John Murtha’s (D-Pa.) “strategic redeployment resolution,” H.J. Res 73, has 99 co-sponsors, she noted.

Bush “will not be able to ignore the will of the American people for much longer,” Schakowsky said.



Susan Webb
Susan Webb

Susan Webb is a retired co-editor of People's World. She has written on a range of topics both international - the Iraq war, World Social Forums in Brazil and India, the Israel-Palestinian conflict and controversy over the U.S. role in Okinawa - and domestic - including the meaning of socialism for Americans, attacks on Planned Parenthood, the U.S. as top weapons merchant, and more.