- The Washington Times - Monday, December 22, 2003

Americans believe 2-to-1 that going to war in Iraq was the right decision, rejecting Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean’s assertion that military action was wrong and should not have been taken, according to a national survey.

A poll of 1,001 adults conducted during three days last week for the Associated Press by Ipsos-Public Affairs found increasing support for President Bush’s decision to invade and occupy Iraq, suggesting that Mr. Dean’s antiwar views may be losing support just weeks before Democrats begin choosing their nominee.

The former Vermont governor has said from the outset he would not have voted for the congressional resolution that approved military action, and in a major address last week to explain his foreign-policy views, Mr. Dean said his “position on the war has not changed.”

“The difficulties and tragedies we have faced in Iraq show that the administration launched the war in the wrong way, at the wrong time,” he said.

The AP poll found that Americans by a substantial margin believe war was the right course of action. Sixty-seven percent said the Bush administration made the right decision in going to war with Iraq.

Sixty-three percent of respondents said they approved of the president’s handling of foreign policy and the war on terrorism, a jump from the 54 percent who expressed such views earlier this month. The poll’s margin of error was plus or minus three percentage points.

Notably, seven in 10 Americans said they believed the war was an important part of the battle against terrorism, and not a distraction from that effort, as Mr. Dean and other Democratic critics have charged.

The poll also found that 49 percent believed the war in Iraq had made future terrorist attacks in the United States less likely, compared with 40 percent who said more likely.

This finding seems to run counter to Mr. Dean’s belief, expressed in his foreign-policy address, that “the capture of Saddam [Hussein] has not made America safer.”

Jay Carson, Mr. Dean’s chief spokesman, dismissed the AP poll, saying that “the governor has never based his foreign policies and decisions on polls.”

“He believes, as do many, many others, that the United States is not safer today than we were before Saddam Hussein was captured.

“Let’s not forget the reason that we went to war: stopping an imminent threat of weapons of mass destruction that have not been found or proven,” Mr. Carson said.

Mr. Dean drew support from the liberal wing of his party earlier this year when he began attacking Democratic rivals who had voted to support Mr. Bush’s intention to go to war.

Sens. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, John Kerry of Massachusetts, John Edwards of North Carolina and Rep. Richard A. Gephardt of Missouri, who backed the war resolution, are all trailing Mr. Dean in the Iowa and New Hampshire contests and in the national party’s preference polls.

Mr. Dean’s opponents have been attacking his opposition to the war, saying it raises doubts about his judgment on national-security issues. Mr. Lieberman has taken to calling Mr. Dean “Dr. No” and is telling Democratic audiences that if “Howard Dean had his way, Saddam Hussein would be in power today, not in prison, and the world would be a much more dangerous place.”

The Democratic Leadership Council, one of Mr. Dean’s most vociferous critics, also has been attacking Mr. Dean’s statement that Saddam’s capture was unimportant in the war on terrorism.

“As the details of Saddam’s reign are systematically recounted in the days ahead, we should all be reminded that his removal from power was, and remains, a sufficient reason for coalition military action in Iraq,” the DLC said in a memorandum last week.

“Saddam Hussein was Iraq’s No. 1 weapon of mass destruction, and his arrest represents a major victory for human rights and international law,” the centrist-leaning group said.

Saddam’s capture “vindicates those Democrats … who took the politically difficult course of supporting military action to topple the tyrant.”

“Lest we forget, had those who opposed the war gotten their way, Saddam would still be in power, would still be tormenting the Iraqi people, would still be financing Palestinian terrorists, and would still be threatening peace, human rights and democracy along with America’s vital interests in the Middle East,” the DLC said.

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