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Poll: Americans less positive on Iraq

Conflict doesn't resemble Vietnam, Rumsfeld says

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld:
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld: "Battles [in Iraq] will go on for some time."

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Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is on the defensive over the continued violence against U.S. troops in Iraq. CNN's Jamie Mcintyre reports (July 1)
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- As a new poll shows fewer Americans believe things are going well in Iraq, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said Monday that the fighting there would continue "for some time."

Only 56 percent of Americans think current U.S.-coalition efforts as going well, according to a new CNN/USA Today Gallup poll. That is much lower than the 70 percent in late May and the 86 percent in early May who thought things were going well.

The poll of 1,003 adult Americans, which was conducted last week, has a margin of error of plus-or-minus 3 percentage points.

U.S. troops in Iraq have been conducting raids north of Baghdad since Sunday in a sweep known as "Operation Sidewinder." The raids are the latest effort to stop hit-and-run attacks that have killed 23 Americans and six British soldiers since President Bush declared the end of major combat May 1. (More on crackdown)

Forty-nine percent of respondents are not confident that the United States can stop such attacks on U.S. forces, but three-quarters believe the number of combat deaths since April were to be expected given the dangers in Iraq.

Although the percentage of those who believe going to war in Iraq was worthwhile has fallen to 56 percent from 73 percent in April, more than two-thirds believe having U.S. troops in Iraq now is worthwhile.

Rumsfeld criticized reporters' questions about the terms "guerrilla war" and "quagmire," saying they drew too heavily on the U.S. experience in Vietnam, a conflict marked by high U.S. casualties.

"There are so many cartoons where press people are saying 'Is it Vietnam yet?' hoping it is, and wondering if it is, and it isn't," Rumsfeld told reporters at a Pentagon press briefing. "It's a different time, it's a different era, it's a different place."

He said U.S. forces face threats from a variety of groups -- including remnants of Saddam Hussein's ruling Baath Party, looters, criminals released from Iraqi prisons before the U.S.-led invasion that deposed Saddam, and "foreign terrorists" who have gone to Iraq to fight the U.S. occupiers.

"We are dealing with those remnants in a forceful fashion, just as we have had to deal with the remnants of al Qaeda and Taliban in Afghanistan and tribal areas near Pakistan," he said. "Those battles will go on for some time."

But to characterize the attacks as a guerrilla war would be "a misunderstanding and a miscommunication to you and to the people of the country and the world," he said.

"[Hostile forces] are all slightly different in why they are there and what they are doing. That doesn't make it anything like a guerrilla war or an organized resistance," he said. "It makes it like five different things going on that are functioning much more like terrorists."

He also said the fighting will continue.

"How long or how successful the remnants of the Saddam Hussein regime will be in attacking coalition forces and attacking Iraqi infrastructure, I don't know," Rumsfeld said. "We're going to try to find them. We're working very hard at it. We've got good people doing it. We're either going to capture or kill them, or run them out the country."

Falling confidence

Less than half of Americans said they were confident that U.S. forces would capture or kill Saddam, down from 70 percent in March. About 45 percent said they lacked confidence that Iraq's alleged weapons of mass destruction would be found, up from 15 percent in March.

The poll also found little difference in the number of those who believe the Bush administration deliberately misled the public about Iraqi weapons -- 37 percent now, up from 31 percent earlier in June. More than half said it would matter a great deal if they were to become convinced that they were mislead.

About 146,000 U.S. troops are in Iraq, along with about 12,000 British troops. Rumsfeld said the Pentagon would decide whether some units could come home -- or whether more would be sent -- after a review by U.S. Central Command in July.

Sunday, Sens. Joseph Biden, a Delaware Democrat, and Chuck Hagel, a Republican of Nebraska, called on the Bush administration to invite NATO troops to help keep the peace in Iraq. The senators, both of whom visited Iraq recently, argued such a move would give the U.S.-led occupation more international legitimacy and make U.S. troops less of a target.

A division from NATO ally Poland is scheduled to arrive in late summer, and contingents from other countries will be posted among troops already there, said Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

But Rumsfeld -- who dismissed NATO allies France and Germany as "Old Europe" when they voiced opposition to the U.S.-led invasion -- said he didn't know whether the alliance would contribute troops "as a single entity."

"That would be a matter for the 19 NATO nations to sort through," he said.

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