A Fickle American Public Could Change Its Mind Again On Iraq

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The Fact Is, That Facts Change From Time To Time

Over the course of time, an individual's perspective can change. This doesn't necessarily mean a flip -flop: it’s circumstances that compel a different way to look at things.

March 2003 was well into the era of heady post 9-11 nationalism. At the time, opposing the Iraq invasion and occupation was considered by some as treason. War opponents were branded “America Haters” by pro-invasion voices.

Most Americans are now against the occupation and want the US to pull out. Considering the current circumstances, let’s follow the divisive nationalist rhetoric to its logical end: the majority in the country are now America Haters!

In 2002, the Bush administration enjoyed an 80 percent approval rating. At the time someone asked me, “Aren’t you glad it’s the Bush folks, and not Gore, that are in charge now?” I replied, “No, I don’t trust Bush.” They were shocked to hear me say such a thing.

Token Americanism was as easy as placing a bumper sticker on your car. One popular slogan read, “Freedom Isn’t Free”. This could evoke some kind of national sacrifice: but there really was little of that during the Bush II years. The slogan was only implying support for the Iraq invasion and occupation.

Like the ubiquitous car antenna flags, yellow ribbons and other dime store expressions, nationalist euphoria eventually started to fade and peel off.

The post 9-11 fever dream started to break during the Hurricane Katrina catastrophe of August, 2005. A major U.S. city was lost, not to terrorists, but to nature and a neglected infrastructure.

By August of 2005, it was also clear that the occupation of Iraq was going to be a long and difficult fight: a far cry from the cakewalk promised by invasion supporters. Trying to lighten up the bleak situation, pro-war voices started to tout how the US was building schools, roads and other infrastructure in Iraq. Considering the disturbing images from the Gulf Coast, this rationale was striking.

Not only did support for the occupation start to wane, but Bush’s approval rating has hovered below 40 percent ever since.

Bush leaves office in January. I doubt there will be a withdrawal from Iraq before his term ends.

The Iraq issue is politically treacherous. That's why Republicans and Democrats in congress are doing little to change things. Polls show Americans wanting out. But popular attitudes could change again if the US pulled out and the perception was the country did so in defeat. If this occurred under a Democratic president, he/she would especially be accused of Dolchstoss, or back-stabbing the war effort. The pro-war chorus would unrelentingly accuse the president of selling out America. Democrats could lose national security credibility and have voters turn on them in the 2010 elections.

The so-called “surge” of US troops needs to work at least until January. With Bush gone, the new president could reap goodwill and assemble a true multi-lateral effort to try to bring lasting security to Iraq.

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