Military family members share public's division on Iraq war, Bush
Polls: Almost half say invasion was a mistake
By Gregg Zoroya
Close family members of U.S. troops are split on whether the Iraq invasion was a mistake, and 55% disapprove of President Bush's job performance, according to USA TODAY/Gallup Polls focusing on immediate relatives of servicemembers.
"They've maxed out on the troops. You've got guys who are over there on their fourth or fifth tours. It's ridiculous," says Jeanette Knowles, 40, of Mountain Home, Idaho, whose brother, Jeff, served a tour in Iraq with the Oregon National Guard.
Knowles, who calls herself a Democratic-leaning moderate, says her disapproval of Bush stems from his handling of the war.
Military families are more supportive of the war than Americans without immediate family members in the military, the polls show. Among Americans without military relatives, 59% say the invasion was a mistake, compared with 49% of immediate family members.
The data on close relatives of troops were gleaned from four national polls between Sept. 7 and Dec. 2. The polls identified 548 people as wives, children, parents, siblings, grandparents or a close in-law of a servicemember. Among them are 301 people whose loved ones served in Iraq or Afghanistan.
Previous military family polling was largely of people who identified themselves as related in some way to a servicemember.
"I don't want to see another Korea. I don't want to see us stay there (in Iraq) forever. And you don't want to be in a country if they don't want us there," says Bruce Bartley, 65, of Fredonia, N.Y., whose son, Army Capt. Steven Bartley, is on his second tour in Iraq. The elder Bartley, who describes himself as a conservative, disapproves of Bush's job performance and says the invasion was a mistake.
Among military families, 55% disapprove of Bush's performance compared with 64% of Americans without relatives in the service in the latest USA TODAY/Gallup Poll. Men in military families are more approving of Bush (47%) than female relatives (36%).
"The numbers really aren't much of a surprise," says Joyce Raezer, executive director of the National Military Family Association. "They show that the military is in many ways a reflection of the country as a whole, not an isolated subculture, as some would portray it."
Bush considers families' support important, White House spokeswoman Emily Lawrimore says. "But he believes that it's important to continue to base his decisions on the advice he receives from commanders on the ground," she says.
More than 1.5 million servicemembers have been sent to Iraq or Afghanistan since Sept. 11, 2001, and Army combat tours last up to 15 months. Bush meets in private with grieving families, visits the wounded and frequently speaks to gatherings of military families.