White House dismisses polls showing more Iraq terror fears


WASHINGTON, Reuters

The White House on Wednesday dismissed opinion polls showing that many Americans feel the war in Iraq has increased the danger of terrorism instead of reducing it.

Several surveys this month have shown growing public concern about the U.S.-led occupation of Iraq and its potential for fueling Moslem anger against the United States.

Asked about polling data, White House spokesman Scott McClellan told reporters that Americans understood administration policy was “making the world a safer and better place”.

“First of all, I don’t know that all polls show the same thing on that very subject,” he said.

“Because of the action that this president is taking, we are making the world a safer and better place and making America more secure.”

President George W. Bush, who has portrayed himself as a war president in his closely fought election-year contest with Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry, routinely uses his public appearances to assert that the ouster of Saddam Hussein enhanced U.S. security.

But at least three major U.S. polls this month suggest many voters disagree.

A New York Times/CBS poll published on Wednesday showed 28 percent of Americans feel less safe from terrorism, up from 15 percent in January. Over the same period, the number who said they feel more safe fell from 68 percent to 53 percent.

A Gallup/CNN/USAToday poll released on Friday said 55 percent of respondents believed the war in Iraq had made the United States less safe from terrorism.

And a June 17 Pew Research Center poll said 44 percent of Americans believe the Iraq war has hurt the broader war on terrorism. That was double the 22 percent who had similar feelings in May 2003, when Bush declared major combat operations over.

The Pew poll also said 25 percent of Americans were “very worried” about an imminent terror attack in the United States, the highest level recorded by Pew since before the Iraq war began in March 2003.

Critics of the Bush administration say the war in Iraq diverted resources from the campaign against al-Qaida, which carried out the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. They reject administration assertions that al-Qaida had links with Saddam.