Residents support U.S. role in Iraq

By Michael Davis

After President Bush addressed the United Nations General Assembly Tuesday, many local residents appear to be behind the president and continued operations in Iraq, though his approval rating has slipped to its lowest level ever, according to a recent poll.

"I agreed with Bush a year ago," said Sarah Schantz, who grew up in the Jonesboro area.

"I think we need to find Saddam first before we pull out."

Schantz, whose brother recently came back from duty in Iraq, said, "I feel like the Iraqis need us right now."

While many countries in the United Nations are asking the United States to relinquish control of Iraq and return rule to the Iraqi people within weeks, Bush said, "We must stand with the people of Afghanistan and Iraq as they build free nations."

"Across the world, nations are more secure because an ally of terror has fallen," he added.

Cedric Wilkinson agreed that the U.S. should maintain its role in rebuilding Iraq.

"For us to have some kind of foothold there, it can only be good for us in the future," said Wilkinson of Jonesboro.

Until recently a New York resident, Wilkinson said his views are different from most of his family, who don't support the president.

"I might be the odd-ball in the family," he said, "but certain sacrifices need to be made."

Afraid that if the U.S. bows to pressure to turn over rule of Iraq, "there's going to be a vacuum, a void," he said, where terrorist groups could come to power and "become entrenched."

U.S. Congressman David Scott, D-Atlanta, shared the same sentiment Tuesday. "In the void (left by American withdrawal) there could be circumstances that could arise that make Saddam look like a saint," the congressman said.

Of the request to withdraw forces in the next few weeks, Scott said, "You set a timetable, it can be the most damaging thing you can do."

By announcing when forces would be pulling out, he said, "It undermines the faith and confidence of a very wary Iraqi people who went down this road with the other Bush."

Senator Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga), said the United Nations "as a whole has not yet risen to the challenge but it's not too late."

He encouraged member nations to contribute to the U.S. efforts and "recognize we're on the same side."

But not everyone agrees that continued American presence in the Middle East is best for the country.

"I think we should pull out," said Tara Neely of Hampton.

"Ever since he (Bush) announced that the war was over, we've had more of our soldiers killed," she said.

Because of the lack of support in the international community, Neely feels that the U.S. efforts should halt in the next couple of months, with or without support of other nations.

Neely said she feels like Bush's continued focus on Iraq is due to "a personal vendetta because of Saddam and his father."