Politics and Public Opinion

Iraq ten years later

Hunt for Saddam

Opinions in Iraq: One way to assess the Iraq war on the 10th anniversary of U.S. involvement is by examining the opinions of Iraqis themselves. In October, Gallup was in Iraq and asked people about five different areas. Forty-two percent of Iraqis said the security situation there was better as a result of the U.S. departure; 19% said it was worse. People there are divided evenly at 30% about whether freedom from foreign influence was better or worse after American forces withdrew. Iraqis were pessimistic about political stability (20% say it is better, 37% worse since our departure), corruption (11% better, 46% worse), and jobs (9% better, 55% worse).

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Getting in: Americans made up their minds about Saddam Hussein long before the 2003 decision to go to war. In 1990, after Iraq attacked Kuwait and the United States pushed its forces back, 79% of those surveyed by CBS News wanted the United States to stay in Iraq to drive him from power. That question was asked 9 more times between 1990 and 2001, and each time large majorities said we should have continued fighting until he was removed from power. While the possible presence of weapons of mass destruction was not unimportant, the first Iraq conflict prepared the ground for American involvement in 2003.  

The drums of war: Because any decision to go to war is consequential, Americans want presidents to consult fully with Congress and with our allies, working to the best of our ability to bring other nations along. The polls from 2003 show that the Bush administration met those tests. For example, 68% told Gallup/CNN/USA Today in March 2003 that the United States had done it all could to solve the crisis with Iraq diplomatically.

The course of war:
Americans support military action when its purpose is clearly defined and when the prosecution of the conflict is successful. Throughout the Iraq war, Americans understood what Bush wanted to do, but they didn’t think the war was being waged successfully. The surge helped to move opinions in a more positive direction, but the level of support for the war never again reached the level it had reached in the early days.

Worth it?: CBS News changed their question after Saddam Hussein was captured in 2003. In November 2011, the last time they asked it, 41% said removing Saddam Hussein from power was worth the loss of American life and other costs of attacking Iraq. Fifty-percent said it was not worth it. Partisans differed dramatically, with 59% of Republicans, 32% of Democrats, and 36% of independents saying the removing Saddam was worth it. But even with those negative assessments, 55% told NBC/Wall Street Journal pollsters in January 2013 that the war had been successful.

Worth it

Getting out: The way the war was waged also explains why 75% told the Pew Research Center in November 2011 that they approved of Barack Obama’s decision to remove all combat troops from Iraq.

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The legacy: In October 2012, 28% of Americans told the Chicago Council on Global Affairs in October 2012 that the Iraq war had reduced threat of terrorism. The same number said it would lead to the spread of democracy in the Middle East. Seventy percent said the war had worsened America’s relations with the Muslim world.

Democracy building: Americans believe the world would be safer with more democracies. They just don’t believe that we know enough about how to achieve this goal. In a 2012 Chicago Council survey only 14% said that helping to bring a democratic form of government to other nations should be a very important foreign policy goal.

12 thoughts on “Iraq ten years later

  1. The war was based on lies. It never should have taken place. A decade after it began the US is a lot poorer, has lost some good men and women, and has become the most hated country in the world. It is time to leave Iraq and time to leave Afghanistan. Anything less will weaken American economically and will lessen American security.

  2. $2 Trillion US Taxpayer money wasted and 180,000 killed all for what? We have managed to turn the country over to Shittes and they have murdered all minority groups from Christian & Jews to Sunni Muslim. Big win their AEI you fools!

    • It is about time the Sunni’s received some deserved justice. We lost 4,000, a bad month in Vietnam.
      The war was not based on lies, and the congress, our house and Senate voted for war overwhelmingly. Then Bush and Rummy screwed it up.
      Wars are won! That is the exit strategy. The first goal is to defeat your enemy until the leader (civilian, or military) is standing in front of our commanding general.
      Our General is dictating the terms of their unconditional surrender…to THEM!

      • The war was not based on lies, and the congress, our house and Senate voted for war overwhelmingly.

        The Bush administration lied about Saddam and 9/11, about the WMDs, and about all kinds of other factors that were important in convincing the UN to go along. Congress knew that the lies were obvious but was too scared to oppose Bush on Iraq. The country went to war and the war’s supporters got exactly what they wanted.

        Then Bush and Rummy screwed it up.

        No. The war is won long before the first shot is fired. The screwup was going into Iraq in the first place.

        Wars are won! That is the exit strategy.

        When was the last time the US actually won a war? When was the last time it actually fought a war that was declared by Congress?

        The first goal is to defeat your enemy until the leader (civilian, or military) is standing in front of our commanding general.

        Our General is dictating the terms of their unconditional surrender…to THEM!

        How did that work out? You are wasting trillions to destroy and rebuild other countries as the guy on Main Street is so strapped that one in five people are on food stamps. It is one thing to talk big. It is another to accomplish what you set out to do.

      • Nonsense- the war WAS based on lies, and even today, people gullibly swallow the “Intel failure” excuse- they all knew they had no evidence, but Bush wanted Saddam removed for ANY reason, so they phonied it up.

        Not one of them, of course, apologized, but that’s the AEI way: Hubbard, Mankiw, Fama, Pinto and Wallison rant on, as if they were always right, even as the facts hang in front of their faces.

        May God damn all of them.

  3. The war in Iraq was premised on the legitimate fear that Sadaam, who had already violated numerous cease-fire agreements from the Gulf War, and who was playing a game of cat and mouse with WMD inspectors, was in the process of building nuclear weapons, and probably still had other WMDs (esp. chemical weapons). Far from the “Bush lied, thousands died” leftist propaganda, not only Bush, but Ted Kennedy, Bill and Hillary Clinton, John Kerry and many other leading Democrats also believed he had such capabilities (and they had access to much of the same intel). Further, the UN, and most foreign intelligence agencies – including those not our allies – also believed he had WMDs. And they all thought this both BEFORE and after Bush became president. To his credit, and because of the fear of Sadaam passing on WMDs to terrorists (some of which he already financially supported), Bush made the decision not to pass the buck to the next president, but instead to do something which a majority (somewhere around 70+%) of the American public supported: overthrow Sadaam. I think he made the best decision under the information we had at the time. While we all want an air war that’s safe for us, the reality is that most wars have to have a ground component to finish the job – and unfortunately, that always leads to taking casualties. And let’s be honest: if everything went well with the occupation, most of the critics today would be reminding us how they voted in favor of the war.

    • The war in Iraq was premised on the legitimate fear that Sadaam, who had already violated numerous cease-fire agreements from the Gulf War, and who was playing a game of cat and mouse with WMD inspectors, was in the process of building nuclear weapons, and probably still had other WMDs (esp. chemical weapons).

      Saddam was contained by an embargo and by no-fly rules. If he wanted something that was questionable he had to go through Western governments or their intermediaries to get it. There were weapons inspectors in Iraq who found nothing that would be considered a threat to the United States. So please do not go through this crap again. Even people who tend to read AEI are smart enough to see through the propaganda and tend to not like being though of as useful idiots.

      Far from the “Bush lied, thousands died” leftist propaganda, not only Bush, but Ted Kennedy, Bill and Hillary Clinton, John Kerry and many other leading Democrats also believed he had such capabilities (and they had access to much of the same intel). Further, the UN, and most foreign intelligence agencies – including those not our allies – also believed he had WMDs.

      Who ever said that the Democrats were any better than the GOP on the issue of war? Both sides lie and both sides were too cowardly to tell Bush to shove his lies where the sun did not shine. Powell, who told the lies to the UN, said that they were lies and that he had been lied to. Do you consider him a lefty or a Democrat?

      And they all thought this both BEFORE and after Bush became president.

      Nonsense. Those who knew the facts understood that Saddam was not a legitimate threat to the US. Those who didn’t believed what they wanted to believe.

      To his credit, and because of the fear of Sadaam passing on WMDs to terrorists (some of which he already financially supported), Bush made the decision not to pass the buck to the next president, but instead to do something which a majority (somewhere around 70+%) of the American public supported: overthrow Sadaam.

      The public did not know the facts. Had it known you would not have had 70%+ vote to spend trillions on destroying and rebuilding Iraq just to overthrow a secular tyrant whose biggest concern was how to destroy the Islamic fundamentalists who wanted him out of power.

      I think he made the best decision under the information we had at the time.

      Most fools do.

      While we all want an air war that’s safe for us, the reality is that most wars have to have a ground component to finish the job – and unfortunately, that always leads to taking casualties. And let’s be honest: if everything went well with the occupation, most of the critics today would be reminding us how they voted in favor of the war.

      You may not be aware of this but there are some people, even in Congress, who are principled. Some of them remind of how they voted because they knew that voting for war was a bad thing for the United States and knew that waging a long war would lead the country towards bankruptcy. It took courage to stand on principle when 70%+ of voters wanted war because they bought into the lies that Bush told and both the left and the right were out for blood and supported another foreign adventure. Only cowards and hypocrites abandon their principles when convenient or when their side is doing the things that they would oppose if the other side were doing them. Sadly, that includes most Democrats and Republicans who have yet to abandon the parties.

      • The WMD thing was a deception from beginning to end. THE ADMINISTRATION WAS TOLD THEIR WAS NO EVIDENCE, so Cheney outed Valerie Plame- and did a lot of other bad things- to justify the invasion.

        The repeated linkage of 9/11 to Iraq was also a key lie the Bush Administration pushed.

        By the way, SPECIAL THANKS to Ms. Danielle Pletka for being one of Achmed Chalabi’s biggest cheerleaders. Naturally, she’ll never admit her complicity in this massive blunder and this blot on our national prestige and honor, but this is who we are dealing with.

        • Danielle Pletka does what is good for Danielle Pletka. She is paid to be a shill and does her job very well. If she believes what she says she may not be too bright but at least she can sleep well with a clear conscience. The problem is not her but the useful idiots who take everything that is fed to them as truth because they prefer to live in a faith based system rather than be mindful for as much as possible.

          • Remember the murdered sons and daughters of America, and the thousands more who suffer with mental stress and dysfunction who were sacrificed for Ms. Pletka’s lust for blood, and need for hatred.

  4. Regarding the claim that some make that Colin Powell was sent out against his will to lie, I watched him being interviewed on a news program last month and he was asked about this. He was adamant and insisted that they all saw the same intelligence and they all agreed that Saddam had these weapons. Further, we all know for a fact that Saddam did possess WMDs – because he used them on the Kurds and in the war with Iran. It is still unclear exactly what happened to all of his stockpiles. A former Iraqi general, George Sada, claims in a book as well as in numerous interviews that his sources within the Iraqi military told him that Saddam sent the weapons to Syria prior to the start of the war. Isreali general Moshe Yaalon said the same thing in an interview in 2006. We know for a fact that he did have a nuclear weapons program. The debate was as to how close he was to building a nuclear bomb. Just prior to the start of the war, I watched in TV interviews the scientist in charge of Saddam’s nuclear program from a decade or so earlier claim that according to his sources and from what he knows about the process that he believed Saddam was within 2 years from completing this project. Other experts claimed they were a decade away. But that is the nature of intel gathering – sources seldom agree, they often have ulterior motives, etc. Intel agencies try to gauge the credibility and accuracy of the reports, and it is not an exact science! Even huge movements or well-coordinated attacks are often not given enough credibility, overlooked or completely missed (i.e. – 9/11, the collapse of communism!). Further, on the second day of the invasion of Baghdad, we discovered 600 tons of yellowcake (milled uranium oxide) in an underground facility at Tuwaitha. Some of it was low-grade, but a fair amount of it was weapons-grade, which would be used for making nukes. What do you think he was going to do with this stuff? The most likely answer is that at some point in the future (probably after things calmed down with us, and when an anti-war Democrat was in office) he was going to proceed forward in building nukes. I, for one, am glad he didn’t get the opportunity.

  5. All of these articles suggesting the US war on Iraq began 10 years ago are shamefully ignorant of history. Clinton bombed Iraq incessantly throughout this administration. Not just enforcing the no-fly zone, but as retribution for slights real or imagined. Moreover, the US enforced the UN’s blockade of Iraq that destroyed the country economically and led to 500,000 Iraqi children starving to death before a US soldier ever crossed the border. Go back to the NYT for a real baseline against which to measure US actions during the W. administration: http://www.nytimes.com/2003/07/27/magazine/were-sanctions-right.html?pagewanted=all&src=pm .

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