San Diego Union Tribune

October 17, 2004

Military backs handling of war
Poll: 40% say reserves, guard role is too heavy

By Otto Kreisher

WASHINGTON – Although nearly two-thirds of service personnel and their family members support President Bush's handling of the war in Iraq, similar numbers think the administration underestimated the number of troops needed and is putting too heavy a load on the National Guard and reserves, a new survey found.

Forty percent of the surveyed military members also thought the guard and reserve troops sent to Iraq were not adequately trained or equipped, while 62 percent believed the regular forces were properly prepared.

Polling results released yesterday by the University of Pennsylvania's Annenberg National Election Survey showed that the military personnel overwhelmingly believe the individuals involved in the Abu Ghraib prison abuse and their immediate superiors should be punished. Half think the higher commanders in Iraq also deserve punishment, but only 29 percent said that about the Pentagon civilian leadership.

So far, only the prison guards and interrogators directly implicated in the abuse of Iraqi prisoners and some lower-level officers assigned to Abu Ghraib have been subjected to military criminal proceedings. Some more senior officers have received administrative action that will damage or end their careers.

A majority of the military members surveyed believe that allowing the publication of photographs of the coffins of dead service personnel arriving at Dover Air Force Base would increase respect for the troops, while only 8 percent felt it would decrease respect.

The White House and Pentagon leaders strongly oppose use of photos of the flag-draped caskets arriving from Iraq or Afghanistan.

The survey results followed release of other Annenberg polling data Friday that showed the service members and their family members preferred Bush over Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., as commander in chief by 69 percent to 24 percent.

The new data said 63 percent of the surveyed members of the military community approved of Bush's conduct of the war in Iraq, but 62 percent felt he sent too few troops to do the job, 59 percent thought the guard and reserve were bearing too heavy a load and the active military should have been increased.

Nearly two-thirds of those surveyed thought the regular military was trained and equipped for the war, but only 38 percent said that about the guard and reserve troops, which now constitute 40 percent of the total force in Iraq.

Bush and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld have said they relied on the military leadership to determine how many troops were needed in Iraq and what equipment was required. Rumsfeld has argued that there are enough active duty troops but has agreed to a "temporary" increase of 20,000 soldiers and ordered a realignment of active and reserve forces to reduce the burden on the part-time warriors.

Asked about female service members, 74 percent of those surveyed said the women performed the same as men, 7 percent thought they were better and 10 felt they performed worse.

The polling results also showed that the military community is almost evenly divided over whether homosexuals should be allowed to serve openly in the military, with 42 percent saying "yes" and 50 percent saying "no."

Junior enlisted personnel were much more supportive than officers and senior enlisted personnel of ending the "don't ask, don't tell" policy that allows the military to discharge openly gay individuals, the survey said.

The survey was based on responses from 655 people who said they were serving in the active or reserve military from Feb. 13 through Sept. 29 or from a family member if the service member was not available.

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