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Last Updated: Wednesday, 24 September, 2003, 18:21 GMT 19:21 UK
'My son didn't want to go to war'
US troops surround the body of a dead soldier
More troops have been killed since the end of the war than during it
Ahead of the US elections in 2004, President Bush will need to convince voters that he was right to go to war in Iraq, and that the cost, in both lives and dollars, can be justified.

A recent opinion poll has suggested that over half of Americans believe he does not have a good enough plan for post-war Iraq and does not have a plan for bringing troops home.

BBC World Service's Newshour programme spoke to one woman, Lynn Bradach, whose 21-year-old son, Travis, was killed in Iraq while serving in the Marines. He was one of more than 150 Americans who have died there since the end of the war.

"The war is such a mess," said Ms Bradach, who lives in Portland, Oregon.

"My son's life was not wasted - I will not say that. He was cleaning up a mess that had to be cleaned up."

Travis had stayed on after most of the rest of his unit was sent home in June. Ms Bradach said he had not wanted to fight in the first place, but had gone out of a sense of duty.

"He knew he had to go but he didn't want to go - he truly did not want to go to war," she said.

Poll data on the US and Iraq
58% say Bush does not have a "clear plan"; 32% say he does
Significant UN role -
70% favour; 22% against
US should keep troops in until stable government formed -
64% favour; 32% against
Bush's $87bn funding request -
36% favour; 59% against
Iraq war was justified -
63% favour; 31% against
15% believe military effort going "very well"
Source: Pew Research Center, 23 September

"Before they knew for sure that they were going to war, he wrote saying: 'I don't understand it, I don't want to do it.'"

After President Bush declared an end to major combat operations, Travis stayed behind with friends to do mine clearance.

His mother had initially been distraught at the decision.

"At first I didn't understand at all - I was so upset. It seemed like we'd been through way too much," she said.

"He said: 'Don't worry, nothing's going to happen.' Every time we talked, I said: 'You have to swear to me that nothing will happen.'

"He said he knew what he was doing, everybody knew what they were doing. I truly believed that."

Conflicting feelings

"Once the war stopped, I almost felt like they were killing more of the soldiers than they were before. Now they have," Ms Bradach said.

"You'd read about these kids who would go to the shop for a pop or a soda, and be shot in the neck.

Burned-out jeep in Baghdad
If they could show me this would end terrorism I would be on their side
Lynn Bradach
"It was weird because he'd call me on the days that I'd hear terrible things that would send me into panic attacks, and then I'd think: 'Thank God it isn't him.

But on 2 July, Travis was killed in a landmine incident.

"I haven't read the official report, because I can't bear it," Ms Bradach said.

"I pictured that it was one moment where he knew - for just a second - that that was it.

"And I got to thinking at that moment, he thought: 'Momma, I'm so sorry.'"

Lynn Bradach is a patriotic woman. She has a flag outside her house and wears a stars and stripes bracelet.

But she said she did not have confidence in the politicians making decisions over what US troops did.

"I'm very conflicted because I don't want people to think I do not believe in our military," she said.

"If a mother brought her son to me today and said: 'My son is joining the Marines, will you please talk to him,' I would say to him: 'You will become a fine young man.'

"But what I will say too is: 'It is up to me to see that the politicians who make the decisions to deploy you know why we're deploying you, and that you truly are there for the good of this country and the good of humanity in general.'"

Questioning the war

At the United Nations on Monday President Bush requested that more international assistance be given to help in dealing with the post-war situation in Iraq.

Ms Bradach said that - like seven in 10 Americans - she believed the UN should be given a greater role.

US troops under fire
US troops are regularly coming under attack
"I don't believe there were weapons of mass destruction [in Iraq]. We're not even searching for those weapons as far as I can tell, but we're trying to protect our soldiers who are there.

"They are in the middle of a mess now, and as much as I wonder if the UN will ever join us I do hope that they will help us out."

She said, however, that she thought some US presence needed to be retained.

"I don't think we can just pull out. I'm very conflicted about what can be done at this point."

But she said she was not surprised more people were questioning the war.

"I'm in a very liberal environment, however I know some people in other parts of the country are in such a different environment. I guess I owe them the respect of looking at what they're looking at.

"If they could show me this would end terrorism I would be on their side.

"Terrorists aren't a country - they're fanatics. They're willing to die for their cause - they believe in their cause.

"How do you weed out these people? You don't do it this way, you don't fight terrorism with what I believe is another act of terrorism itself."

Lynn Bradach
"Once the war stopped, I almost felt like they were killing more of the soldiers than they were before"


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