Poll: Signs of Doubt Cloud War on Terror

The Associated Press
Friday, September 1, 2006; 1:47 AM

WASHINGTON -- Doubts about the war on terrorism are growing. Most people worry that the cost in blood and money may be too high, and they don't think al-Qaida kingpin Osama bin Laden will ever be caught, an AP-Ipsos poll found.

Five years after the attacks of Sept. 11, fully one-third of Americans think the terrorists may be winning, the poll suggests. Worries fed by the war in Iraq have spilled over into the broader campaign against terrorists who directly target the U.S.

Half in the poll question whether the costs of the anti-terror campaign are too great, and even more admit that thought has crossed their mind.

Those costs are already high:

More than 2,600 U.S. troops dead in Iraq, more than 270 dead in Afghanistan and roughly 20,000 wounded in both countries. More than $430 billion for wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and other costs overseas, and more than $250 billion for domestic security.

Increasing skepticism is not surprising to Lee Hamilton, co-chairman of the Sept. 11 commission.

"I think what you're seeing now is a pushback," said Hamilton, who noted he still considers the terror threat an urgent problem. "Since 9/11, the security folks have won all the arguments. People are beginning to see that security is a very expensive business. ... We're seeing some rebalancing of the scales."

But that shift may be unrelated to any reduction in the threat.

Bin Laden is believed to be hiding out somewhere in the mountains along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, the conflict in Iraq is edging toward civil war and terrorists are still attempting attacks, as evidenced by the alleged plot, recently foiled by the British, to blow up airliners in the sky.

The AP-Ipsos telephone polling of about 1,000 people found:

_Less than half, 46 percent, are confident that bin Laden will ever be caught _ down from 67 percent in December 2003.

_More than four in 10, 43 percent, say they're embarrassed by the U.S. image overseas.

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