Views vary as Americans digest Iraq-related developments

Sunday, July 27, 2003

The changing news from Iraq comes daily: Saddam Hussein's two sons killed. More U.S. soldiers dying. Part of President Bush's State of the Union address questioned.

So much has happened recently, Americans across the country say they aren't sure what to think. Did President Bush lie when he said Saddam was uranium-shopping in Africa? Why are soldiers still dying when major combat was declared over in May? And where are the weapons of mass destruction?

"There's a lot going on," said Iva Bray, a 66-year-old change attendant for video poker machines at a Las Vegas Sav-On Drugs. "Our guys are going down like flies. Where's Hussein, though?"

Opinions gathered this week by The Associated Press are as varied as the news from Iraq. Americans are speaking up -- writing congressional leaders, calling for an investigation into questionable intelligence, but mostly, just trying to sort out all the developments.

As for the deaths of Saddam's sons on Tuesday, attorney Jeff Silver, 57, said he was only sorry they weren't tortured first.

"There's two of the biggest pieces of human garbage that got what they deserved," he said over a tamale and beans at Dona Maria Tamales restaurant in Las Vegas.

Bad intelligence

Despite that administration victory, the failure to find weapons of mass destruction has people questioning whether the country was justified in going to war in the first place.

The White House has said Bush shouldn't have made the Jan. 28 uranium statement because of questionable intelligence behind it. But while some Americans say the bad intelligence was unfairly used to justify the war, others say the discredited claim is irrelevant.

Democrat Jack Rodgers, 53, of Philadelphia, believes it's only a matter of time before weapons of mass destruction are found, and said even if the intelligence behind Bush's uranium statement was wrong, the president had reason enough to go to war.

"Everyone knows Saddam Hussein was a terrible person," said Rodgers, a civil engineer. "Now he's not there, and that's a good thing for everybody."

But in the past few weeks, more than 400,000 people have signed an online petition sponsored by activist group, said Eli Pariser, campaign director for the group. The petition asks Congress to establish an independent commission to investigate prewar intelligence.

"I think people are feeling very distrustful about how we got into this war," said Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif..

Democrat Sharyn Smith, 49, of Sanford, Fla., said she initially supported the war.

'Getting beat up a lot'

"After all, Saddam had the weapons to blow us all to kingdom come and he was crazy as a loon," Smith said. "As it turns out ..." Bush "was manipulating the facts to make us support an unjustified war."

Hair stylist Carol Sauer, 61, couldn't disagree more.

"He's getting beat up on a lot," she said while shopping at a Linens 'N Things in Columbus, Ohio. "I think the president is doing what he has to do."

Republican Judi Rabel, 58, of Atlanta said if the intelligence was false, Bush should have thought longer about going to war.

Albuquerque, N.M., teacher Dana Richardson, 38, said each time she hears about another U.S. casualty, she knows the United States needs to find a way out of Iraq.

"But if we leave too soon, we're defeating the purpose," she said. "Saddam Hussein could march right back in."

Associated Press writers Melanie Dabovich in Albuquerque, N.M., Caryn Rousseau in Little Rock, Ark., Jennifer Kay in Philadelphia, Lisa Rathke in Burlington, Vt., and Casey Laughman in Columbus, Ohio, contributed to this report.

EDITOR'S NOTE -- Angie Wagner is the AP's Western regional writer, based in Las Vegas.

Recent poll figures seem to echo that opinion.

While the president's job approval remains high -- 55 percent, according to a CNN-Time poll released July 18 -- just four in 10 said the U.S.-led military campaign in Iraq has been a success. That's down from 52 percent who felt that way in late March.

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