Do Americans Know What Happened in Iraq?

A Fox News poll released last week indicates the majority of Americans feel the Iraq war was a success. It also suggests they want to get past it and focus on other things. This is good and bad. It is good that average Americans can put our invasion of Iraq in 2003 out of their minds. It is bad because it indicates they don’t know what happened, or don’t care.

According to the Fox News article, 900 people were surveyed by telephone and asked questions such as “Do you think the war was a success?” “Do you think the Iraqi people are better off now than before the war?” However, the survey didn’t ask some very important questions. For example, it didn’t ask the respondents questions such as “Have you ever been to Iraq?” “Have you ever read a book about the Iraq War?” “Do you know the number of Iraqis who died in the war?” These would be very interesting questions to ask along with the others. They would gauge the level of knowledge and awareness of the respondents to judge the veracity of the answers they gave. According to the Fox News article:

“Despite its contentious history, most American voters appear to have made a positive judgment about the country’s efforts in Iraq. Almost six in 10 (58 percent) voters think, overall, the United States ‘did the right thing’ by going to war, according to the latest Fox News poll.

“A little over one-third of voters (35 percent) take the opposite view – that the U.S. “did the wrong thing” by becoming involved militarily in Iraq. From a partisan perspective, there is still division – as 54 percent of Democrats think the U.S. did the wrong thing in Iraq, while only 14 percent of Republicans feel the same way. A slim majority of independents (52 percent) think the U.S. did the right thing in Iraq.”

Did the United States do the “right thing” when we invaded Iraq in March 2003? I look at things as opposites. For example, what would Iraq be like today if we had not invaded in 2003? Chances are Saddam would still be in power, and the life of the typical Iraqi would be pretty much the same today as it was then. I was in Iraq for 14 months, and the Iraqis I worked with told me what their lives were like before we invaded. If they kept out of trouble, they got by. For many Americans, it was right for us to go there and change the Iraqi form of government, even if they didn’t ask us to, and even though thousands of Iraqis died in the effort. The Iraqis I worked with would say to me, “Mr. Mike, we understand Mr. Bush wants to fight the War on Terror, but why did he pick Iraq to do it?” What could I say to them?

“An even larger share of voters (71 percent) expresses some level of agreement with the view that the Iraqi people are better off today because of the U.S.-led action, while 19 percent disagree.”

So, the question remains, are the Iraqi people better off after our invasion? Many Americans say we went there to defend our freedom, to take the war to the enemy. If so, why didn’t President Bush give that as his reason for invading, instead of going after Saddam’s WMDs? What threat was Iraq to the United States in 2003? Were we about to be attacked by Saddam Hussein? Was he on his way? Obviously, the answer is no, and he was no more a threat to our national security than Belize. If we went there to export democracy, why weren’t we given this as a reason as well? The fact is, we weren’t given any of these reasons, which puts the entire rationale for invading Iraq into question. We invaded a country that posed no threat to us, or even to any of its neighbors. Iraq’s sin was having a bad actor for a dictator who had made an assassination attempt on President Bush’s father.

Therefore, how can a majority of Americans think the war was the “right thing?” By saying this, they are also saying they’re OK with being misled, with being lied to. That may be OK with them, but it’s certainly not with me.

“If Iraq is considered a success, who deserves the credit? Voters are pretty clear, as a 54-percent majority names former President George W. Bush as the person who should be acknowledged as most responsible for the success in Iraq. Some 19 percent think President Obama deserves the most credit. Some 14 percent volunteer the view that neither of the presidents, but instead the Iraqi people are most deserving of this accolade. Interestingly, Democrats are evenly divided on this question (34 percent Bush, 34 percent Obama).”

I find this part of the survey especially disturbing, for it is assigning credit for the successful invasion of Iraq. Not only is it interesting that a majority of Americans think it was successful, it is also interesting that Fox wants to assign credit to Bush or Obama for the success. Who gets the credit for all of those dead Iraqis who would be alive today if we had not invaded in March 2003? Who gets the credit for doing nothing for nearly four years while Iraq went down the drain as a result of our invasion? Who gets the credit for disbanding the Iraqi army and national police, thereby leaving the country totally defenseless against the growing insurgency? Who will get the credit for dismantling the Ba’ath Party, which included all government officials and bureaucrats who knew how to keep the basic functions of government operating? Who gets the credit for losing 190,000 AK-47 rifles that the U.S. purchased for issue to the Iraqi army and national police, many of which ended up in the hands of insurgents? Did the Fox poll ask these questions too?

“All in all, voters seem to have moved past the divisions that formerly characterized the Iraq War debate and now judge the enterprise to have been – overall at least – a success.”

It’s nice the average American feels our invasion of Iraq in March 2003 was a success. Do they feel this way because America is always right, even if we’re wrong? Do they feel this way because of the “surge,” even though it was executed four years after the invasion, and was done because the previous four years were a disaster? Do they feel this way because they have never been to Iraq or seen bodies of dead Iraqi civilians lying in a pile on the sidewalk? Would they feel this way if a house half a mile from where they worked in Baghdad was found with 60 decapitated bodies in it while Gen. George Casey, the U.S. commander in Iraq, was telling everyone the war was going great?

Polls like this give the American people a very slanted view of reality. But they can sleep soundly at night knowing that we killed at least 100,000 Iraqis to defend our freedom. 

Author: Michael O'Brien

Michael O'Brien is the author of America's Failure in Iraq. He was a Department of Defense contractor in Iraq from 2006-2007. He was on the national headquarters staff of the Bush-Cheney 2000 campaign in Austin, Texas, and served in the administration of George W. Bush at the State Department and the Office of Homeland Security. Michael O'Brien is a graduate of West Point and was an infantry officer, an Army Ranger, and a paratrooper. He lives in Arlington, Va.