From Tampa to Toledo, Americans are at odds on what to do next in Iraq
Jeannie Robinson, a bartender at the Hub in downtown Tampa, Fla., hadn’t finished pouring the first drink of the day shortly after opening at 10 a.m. on May 2 before a handful of regulars were griping about President Bush’s handling of the Iraq war.
“Ninety-nine percent of the people who come in here want the U.S. out of Iraq — including me,” said Ms. Robinson, who has worked at the Tampa watering hole for 20 years. “People boo here when they show Bush on TV.”
So she said she was disappointed but not surprised when Mr. Bush on May 1 vetoed a Democratic-crafted emergency spending bill for the war that included a timeline for withdrawing troops as soon as July.
“I’m not anti-Republican, but there’s been enough killing,” she said.
A majority of Americans share Ms. Robinson’s dissatisfaction about the war, according to several polls released in recent days. Yet the public remains split on how best to leave Iraq.
A Rasmussen Reports poll last month found that 52 percent of Americans did not want President Bush to veto the Iraq bill that contained a timetable for withdrawal. Thirty-five percent said they supported a presidential veto.
Meanwhile, a Gallup poll released two weeks ago found 57 percent of respondents favored a timetable for withdrawal from Iraq, with only 39 percent saying troops should remain in the country, “as long as necessary.” And an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll found 56 percent of respondents supporting the congressional deadline for withdrawal, with 37 percent opposed.
At the Metro Coffee House in Augusta, Ga., on May 2, few customers spoke openly of the Iraq war, manager Josh Pierce said. But with the Army’s massive Fort Gordon complex only a few miles outside town, he said the war, and how best to end it, is never far from people’s minds.
“I know some people who are about to go to the war, and they say, ‘Let’s just go and get it done,’ ” Mr. Pierce said. “I think we’ve got to be there, but at the same time a timetable [for withdrawal] would be nice. It has to be understood that we can’t be there forever.”
But Mr. Pierce says Mr. Bush was correct in vetoing the emergency spending bill.
“A timetable has to be long — like two or three years,” he said. “If we pull out now, it’s going to turn into something bad. It’ll be all-out civil war.”
Salt Lake City resident Christa Ekker said Mr. Bush’s veto shows stubbornness and an inability to compromise.
“The war is a disaster and it is in his — and only his — power to do something about it and take care of our troops,” she said. “I know we can’t cut and run, but it is past time to cut our losses and make an effort to get out of there.”
But setting timetables in any war is utterly impractical, said Robert Jicha, who works at Real Chili, a downtown Milwaukee restaurant.
“Setting a timetable would be ridiculous — you don’t now how the war will be going in the future,” he said. “This is something we need to fight on.”
Mr. Jicha said he approves of Mr. Bush’s handling of the war, adding that if Sen. John Kerry, Massachusetts Democrat, had won the presidency in 2004 that Iraq “would’ve fallen apart.”
Mr. Jicha, 18, added he has considered joining the Marines because “I believe in the war so much.”
John Croghan, a patron of Bender’s Tavern in Denver, said he wasn’t surprised by the veto.
“We should organize a withdrawal plan but not one that throws Iraq, with broader implications in that region, into chaos,” he said. “The Democrats know that if they are going to take the presidency, they need to be forward thinking.”
Oliver Ruff, a patron of Jake’s Saloon in Toledo, Ohio, said he’s frustrated by people’s quick judgment of others based on their views of the war.
“I think it would be a major step forward if expressing support for the war didn’t automatically make you a pawn of the military-industrial complex, and if expressing disapproval didn’t mean you hate freedom,” he said.
War protesters gathered outside City Hall in Philadelphia on May 2. But not everyone needed a sign and a bullhorn to have an opinion on the president’s veto of timeline for withdrawal from Iraq.