The fighting in Iraq is raging more than 6,500 miles from Ohio, but the war is close to the hearts and heavy on the minds of the people in Toledo and surrounding areas.
In an informal survey conducted by The Blade, area residents proved to be painfully divided between the desire to preserve freedom around the world and the agony of seeing Americans die on foreign soil.
And in an online poll at www.toledoblade.com, about 52 percent of the 1,080 participants said the United States should stay "until the job is done," while 48 percent called for American troops to leave by the end of June with 19 percent of those wanting the troops out immediately.
The in-person surveys - conducted Friday with more than 60 people in Toledo, Sylvania, Perrysburg, and Bowling Green - revealed that a large number of people who supported the initial invasion to oust Saddam Hussein are now wondering if the mounting casualties mean it's time to leave.
"I don't know that we're doing any good anymore over there. I think it's probably about time to pull out and say we've done all we can do,'' said Lisa Boyer, 38, of Pemberville.
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"It's going on too long. They did their job. Now the Iraqis should do their job and take over their country," said Mary Ann McNamara, 57, of Bowling Green, whose daughter is in the Air Force.
"I was in support of it at first, but as of right now it's kind of a failure what we've done," said Patrick Kwasniak, 32, of Toledo. "It's time to get out of there."
Many local residents who opposed President Bush's decision to invade Iraq pointed out that they fully support America's fighting men and women.
"I'm really supportive of the troops that are there but not of the administration and the policies that have led us there," said Barry Burk, 57, of Toledo, who was taking a bike ride in Wildwood Park.
"I definitely support our troops," said Ray Gromacher, 58, of Toledo. "However, I don't think we have an exit strategy, and if we're not careful, we could be in another Vietnam quagmire."
Bob Newsted, 19, of Bowling Green, said, "It's pretty out of control. I don't think we need to have our hands in so many people's business."
Some backed President Bush, but others questioned the political motives behind the attack.
If Iraq did not have huge oil reserves, "we wouldn't have gotten into it as far as we have," said Elizabeth Allgeier, 63, a professor of psychology at Bowling Green State University.
"War is a tool the state uses to disempower people," said Jason Zeb, 23, of Bowling Green.
"I think it's a waste of taxpayers' money," said James Savage, 48, of Toledo, standing on the steps of the Martin Luther King Center Kitchen for the Poor. "It's money our people should be getting here, but instead they're getting killed over in Iraq. Bush
made a poor judgment."
But while the President has his critics, he also has his loyal backers.
"I support the troops. I support the President. I think it was a necessary evil," said Claire Koz
lowski, 41, of Sylvania, whose husband is in the military.
"I still think it was a good idea to go in," said Bill Fisher, 42, of Perrysburg.
"You have to meet certain situations head-on. It's better to do it now than later."
"Right now everybody is talking about Bush pulling all the troops out, but if you pull the troops out now, the enemy has won," said Jack Meade, 48, of Toledo.
"I totally support the President," said Jewell Szczesniak, 34, of Sylvania. "I think he has reasons, maybe some that we don't even know about."
Some said they are hoping American troops will pull out by the June 30 deadline President Bush has imposed for turning over the reigns of government to Iraqi officials.
"I would like to see our people come home. The June 30th deadline is good. I want our boys and women home," said Kelly Hamlin, 42, of Toledo.
In the online poll, 28.7 percent of those who voted called for troops to withdraw by June 30, while 19.1 percent called for an immediate troop pullout.
Many people who were questioned - from the suburbs to Toledo's inner city - called for a quick troop withdrawal to avoid more bloodshed.
"I think they need to bring our boys home before they all come home in a coffin," said Charnetta Moss, 26, of Toledo.
"I don't know that we're doing any good anymore over there," said Lisa Boyer, 38, of Pemberville. "I think it's probably about time to pull out and say we've done all we can do."
"We should get out of there and leave them people alone, let them live their own lives," said Clifford Russell, 52, of Toledo.
"Big Mac" Coleman, 36, of Toledo, cooking chicken at his barbecue stand on Broadway, said it is distressing to see young American soldiers losing their lives in battle.
"They ain't even had a life yet," he said. "Some have got kids. They'll never see their daddy again. It's rough, man. It could be one of our kids."
A few were so angry over American casualties that they called for the U.S. military to annihilate Iraq.
"We should go over there and wipe that country off the map," said Cordell Tso, 35, of Toledo. "We need to use those bombs we made - those MOAB 'Mother of all Bombs.'●"
"I just think we should nuke 'em," said Robin Cutcher, 43, of Toledo, walking with her grandson in Walbridge Park. "Get our men out of there and just get rid of them or it's going to be another Vietnam."
"They should use one of those big bombs like they used in Japan," said Bernie Reinink, 75, a former Marine from Brooklyn, Mich. "They got a mess over there, gosh darn it."
Blade staff writers Jennifer Feehan and Erica Blake contributed to this report.
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