Monday, June 20, 2005

A War Hawk Circles Back

(LA Times) JACKSONVILLE, N.C. — With its sprawling military bases and huge population of military retirees, eastern North Carolina has believed in the Iraq war, but new doubts and divisions have come into view.

Service members' families, watching violence surge, fear it will drag on indefinitely. Others worry it is damaging the military — or that it has been prosecuted foolishly.

The debate is occurring in a place where support for the military is apparent to the most casual visitor. The highways around Jacksonville, near the entrance to the Marines' huge Camp Lejeune, are lined with car dealerships, military surplus stores, barber shops and other businesses festooned with American flags. Signs urge Americans: "Honk for the Troops" and "Pray for Our Heroes."

Kerri Hassell of Jacksonville, a 32-year-old single mother of three, said she was worried about the effect the war had on a number of close friends who were Marines, including one who was godfather to her children. She said she knew three young Marines who were about to leave the service. All have doubts about continuing the war, she said.

"Every one wants it to end," said Hassell, a community college student with a hairdressing business. "They don't know why they're over there."

In her view, "the government uses the word 'terror' and it just sends us all into a frenzy."

Andrew Kohut, director of the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, said polls were showing that people were paying close attention to developments in Iraq, and that the number of people who preferred withdrawal was steadily rising.

"What I see in Iraq is a steady drip, drip, drip of eroding support for the war as the casualties mount and the instability continues," Kohut said.


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