Most say Iraq war not worth it
The Australian, May 4, 2004
JOHN Howard will embark on a lightning trip to Washington, London and Paris to map out the next stage in Iraq, despite most Australians now believing it was not worth going to war. For the first time, more people believe Australia should not have joined the US-led invasion of Iraq last year, according to a Newspoll conducted exclusively for The Australian.
However, Australians are split over when to leave Iraq - 47 per cent backing Mark Latham's promise to bring the troops home by Christmas and 45 per cent favouring the Prime Minister's proposal to leave them until the middle of next year.
Mr Howard last night confirmed his plans to travel to Washington, London and Paris as part of the 60th D-Day anniversary celebrations next month. He intends to meet US President George W. Bush in Washington and Paris, British Prime Minister Tony Blair in London and Paris, and French President Jacques Chirac and Russian President Vladimir Putin in Paris.
The latest Newspoll came as the Australian Defence Force contingent in Iraq was bolstered by 40 army trainers, 13 security soldiers and two light armoured vehicles leaving Darwin. The Newspoll survey has shown that support for the war has dropped in recent weeks, although the political backing for the Coalition and Labor has remained virtually unchanged over the past two weeks.
While the Liberal and National parties' vote has been unchanged since before the Prime Minister's 54-hour round trip to Iraq last week for Anzac Day, the sentiment against the war has hardened. But Mr Latham's satisfaction rating has dropped to a two-month low.
According to a Newspoll survey, taken last weekend, 50 per cent of Australians now believe it was not worth going to war while 40 per cent believe it was justified. This compares with 46 per cent believing it was worth going to war in February this year compared with 45 per cent who said it was not worth going to war.
Men, people over 50 and Coalition supporters are the strongest supporters of the Government position. While Mr Latham's strongest support is among women, people aged between 18 and 34, and Labor voters.
A vast majority of Australians do not believe a democratic government will be established in Iraq within the next few years, with only 24 per cent believing it is likely within the next few years and 64 per cent believing it is unlikely in the next few years.
Mr Howard also said the trip to the US would allow him to press the case for the trade deal with the Bush administration. "I will lobby key congressional leaders for early passage through the Congress of the Free Trade Agreement," Mr Howard said.
"A key focus of our discussions will be on our shared commitment to the future of Iraq less than one month to go before the transfer of sovereignty," Mr Howard said.
"With key congressional votes on our free tree trade agreement with the US likely in June, I will meet senior Congressional leaders to advocate the strong mutual gains as a result of the Free Trade Agreement," he said.