Americans offered a much more negative view of the Iraq war than President George Bush’s verdict on its fifth anniversary today.
Mr Bush said removing Saddam Hussein from power was the right decision, the war on terror is “a fight America can and must win” and Iraq is “the place where Arabs joined with Americans to drive al-Qaida out”.
But a poll published today found 54% of Americans viewed the war as a “total failure” or “mostly a failure”.
In its front page story, Karen DeYoung wrote in the Washington Post: “For a majority of Americans, today marks the fifth anniversary of the start of an Iraq war that was not worth fighting, one that has cost thousands of lives and more than half a trillion dollars.
“For the Bush administration, however, it is the first anniversary of an Iraq strategy that it believes has finally started to succeed.”
Across the river from where Mr Bush was speaking at the Pentagon, police arrested more than a dozen protesters who crossed a barricade and blocked entrances at the Internal Revenue Service.
The demonstrators said they were concentrating on the IRS at the start of a day of anti-war protests because it gathers taxes that are used to fund the war.
A marching band led protesters down the street near the National Mall and around the IRS building before dozens of demonstrators gathered at the entrance.
Protests were taking place across the US, including at the American Petroleum Institute in Washington, where dozens of protesters held signs which read “Out of Iraq” and “No war, no warming,” and chanted “No blood for Oil!”
College students from New Jersey to North Dakota have planned walkouts, while students at the University of Minnesota vowed to shut down military recruiting offices on campus.
The USA Today / Gallup poll published today showed 60% of Americans support setting a timetable for the withdrawal of US troops, with only 35% saying the troops should stay until the situation “gets better”.
And 30% of those who support withdrawal want to see the troops out as soon as possible.
But 65% of those surveyed said the US had an obligation to establish a reasonable level of stability and security in Iraq before pulling out.
Asked if Iraq would be better or worse in the long run after the US and British invasion, 23% said the country would be “much better off” and 44% said it would be “somewhat better off” while 12% said it would be “much worse off” and 14% “somewhat worse off”.
But Americans were split on whether history would judge the war as a success or failure.
The poll showed 18% thought it would be seen as a “total failure” with 36% opting for “mostly a failure”, 38% for “mostly a success” and only 4% for a “total success”.
A total of 2,021 adults were surveyed between February 21 and 24.