Never underestimate the power of war propaganda. Don’t forget the danger to democracy posed by the existence of a separate mercenary military caste within an ostensibly democratic society.
"WE INVADED IRAQ TO AVENGE 9/11"
Those are two lessons I take from two recent opinion polls. The first poll in question, a Zogby survey of 944 military personnel in Iraq, finds that 85 percent of U.S. troops in illegally and disastrously occupied Mesopotamia think they are there to avenge Saddam Hussein’s role in the 9/11 jetliner attacks. Seventy-seven percent think the U.S. invaded to stop Saddam from helping al Qaeda (see www.zogby.com/news/ReadNews.dbm?ID=1075)
The problem with all this of course is that neither belief is remotely rooted in historical reality.
It would have been interesting to poll soldiers on the source of these beliefs. Beyond the preposterous war-mongering statements of the petro-imperialist president, vice president, secretary of defense, and Fox News, the leading sources undoubtedly include the military command hierarchy all the way down to the drill sargeants. The military logically deploys every possible motivating angle to push troops into the murderous and maddening work of "forward global force projection."
I’ve been saying for exactly three years that most of the troops in Iraq have been told —and that many of them believe — they are "avenging 9/11" (I’ve also been saying that racism is a critical component of this absurd belief insofar as it has richly enabled the false conflations of Iraqis with the mainly Saudi hijackers with Afghans/Pashtuns, etc.). But I wouldn’t have guessed 85 percent – especially this late in the game.
"MOST SAY WAR HAS HURT USA BUT WILL HELP IRAQIS"
The other poll, released this week by USA TODAY, CNN, and Gallup, finds that while most Americans say that Bush’s war on Iraq has had a negative impact on the U.S, fully two-thirds of Americans say that Iraq is "better off." The poll did not ask people to elaborate on how the Iraqis are "better off" in the wake of an imperial campaign that devastated further an already severely weakened society and killed more than 100,000 Iraqi civilians.
Thanks to the power of war propaganda, richly disseminated by dominant war media, a significant number of Americans have been convinced that their government’s criminal and murderous assault on Iraq is "hurting us" but "helping them."
It’s kind of like how millions of Americans have been conditioned to think about the Vietnam War: we killed 2-3 million Southeast Asians (compared to 58,000 U.S. deaths) and then wallowed in decades of self-pity over what Vietnam did to US and our national self-confidence.
THE GOOD NEWS
There is some good news in the polling data, however, testifying to lived experience’s ability to check the power of even U.S. war propaganda. Half the U.S. populace now says that the war is NOT "morally justified," down from 75 percent in March 2003. A record 60 percent say the war "hasn’t been worth it" (Susan Page, "Most Say War Has hurt the USA But Will Help Iraqis," USA Today, 17 March 2006). And even in the captive overseas military ranks, 72 percent of the troops in Iraq say that the U.S. should get out of Iraq within a year and only 23 percent support Bush’s "stay the course" line.
And that’s something to write home about.