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Troops say U.S. should leave Iraq, poll shows 72% favor departureof forces within year

Some 72 percent of American troops surveyed in Iraq think U.S. forces should leave the war-torn country within a year.

According to a survey released Tuesday that is believed to be the first of its kind, only 23 percent of the troops questioned said U.S. forces should stay in Iraq as long as they are needed. That's the position the Bush administration has maintained since the March 2003 invasion.

The survey conducted by Zogby International in conjunction with LeMoyne College found that 29 percent of U.S. troops in Iraq said American forces should withdraw immediately. Some 22 percent said they should withdraw within six months, and 21 percent said they should pull out within six to 12 months.

"I don't think this means people are rejecting the mission," said Barron Boyd, of the Center for Peace and Global Studies at the Syracuse-based college. "I think it means people have been there a long time and are tired."

But John Zogby, the pollster who did the survey, stressed that troops were not asked if they personally wanted to go home. Instead, they were asked if all U.S. troops should withdraw.

He said many troops probably said yes because of a sense that the Iraq mission had accomplished much of what it could accomplish.

"There's a sense that the law of diminishing returns has come into play here," Zogby said.

Zogby noted 42 percent of troops said they were unclear of their mission, which could contribute to the sense that the troops should come home.

Zogby surveyed 944 American troops -- from the Army and the Marine Corps, the active-duty forces, the Reserves and the National Guard -- be tween Jan. 18 and Feb. 14. That was before the latest wave of violence in Iraq.

Nevertheless, the poll shows American troops especially those from the Reserves and Guard want the Iraq mission to end relatively quickly.

While 89 percent of reservists and 82 percent of those in the National Guard want U.S. troops to leave Iraq within a year, about 70 percent of active-duty Army troops and 58 percent of the Marines said that.

Most Reserve and Guarrd troops never expected to be deployed to Iraq so long or so often, and Boyd said that might explain why they're more anxious for their mission to end.

While a majority of troops favor a quick end to the war, many are not especially happy with the antiwar movement. When asked why some Americans favor a rapid troop withdrawal, 37 percent said it was because those Americans were unpatriotic.

Far smaller percentages attributed the antiwar movement to concerns that the occupation isn't working, to opposition to pre-emptive wars, and to the idea that people don't understand the need for troops in Iraq.

The poll also found that while a strong majority of troops wants U.S. forces home within a year, 53 percent said the United States should double the number of troops and bombing missions in Iraq to control the insurgency.

"When you talk to people on something like this, you can't expect consistency," Boyd said. "It's a very emotional issue."

Perhaps that explains why 85 percent of troops surveyed said a major reason for the Iraq War was to retaliate for Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein's role in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Meanwhile, 77 percent said another major reason was to stop Saddam from protecting al-Qaida in Iraq.

"These two things are demonstrably false," Boyd said. "Yet overwhelmingly, that's what the troops see as our rationale."

"It's just a puzzle," Zogby said.

At the same time, the troops reject the Bush administration's first rationale for the war and its more current rationales.

"Ninety-three percent said that removing weapons of mass destruction is not a reason for U.S. troops being there," Zogby noted.

But only 24 percent said establishing a model Arab democracy was the reason for the war.

In other findings:

* A majority of the troops said they were satisfied with their war provisions, but 30 percent said the Department of Defense had failed to provide adequate body armor and other protections.

* More than 80 percent said they did not hold a negative view of the Iraqi people.

* The survey was conducted in face-to-face interviews in undisclosed locations throughout Iraq.


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