The Bush Gang would have us believe that every member of the US armed forces – the dreaded Death Brigade – is all for the invasion and occupation of Iraq. I don’t dispute that many among the troops are pro-Bush. Absolutely, there are committed soldiers who support their “president” and his policies and who believe their seemingly interminable uninvited visit to another sovereign nation is justified. But there are far fewer than the White House would have us believe.
On Feb. 28, Le Moyne College’s Center for Peace and Global Studies and independent pollster Zogby released the first-ever survey of ground troops in Iraq. Get this: According to the poll, a whopping 72 percent of US soldiers surveyed say troops should leave Iraq within the next year – and 29 percent say the US should send the soldiers home right now.
The wide-ranging poll also shows that 58 percent of those serving in that country say the US mission in Iraq is clear in their minds, while 42 percent said it is either somewhat or very unclear to them, that they have no understanding of it at all, or are unsure. Nearly nine of every 10 — 85 percent– said the US mission is “to retaliate for Saddam’s role in the 9/11 attacks,” while 77 percent said they believe the main or a major reason for the war was “to stop Saddam from protecting Al Qaida in Iraq.”
Ninety-three percent said that removing weapons of mass destruction is not a reason for US troops being there. Instead, that initial rationale went by the wayside and, in the minds of 68 percent of the troops, the real mission became to remove Saddam Hussein.
Just 24 percent said that “establishing a democracy that can be a model for the Arab World” was the main or a major reason for the war. Only small percentages see the mission there as securing oil supplies (11 percent) or to provide long-term bases for US troops in the region (6 percent).
Eighty-five percent believe they are in Iraq to retaliate against Saddam Hussein for his role in the Sept. 11 attacks? Now, that’s scary.
On the question of dissent at home, it appears most of the soldiers understand the concept that people can have different opinions. It’s true that 37 percent of those polled consider anti-war people to be unpatriotic (and most of them are National Guard reservists), but 20 percent believe Americans don’t believe a continued occupation will work, 16 percent think those favoring an immediate pullout oppose preemptive war, and another 15 percent say they do not believe dissenters understand the need for having US soldiers in Iraq.
Overall, it appears to me that most soldiers are deluded on the subject of recent history. And a majority, whether or not they respect us, agree with dissenters: The best way to support the troops is to bring them home soon.
The LeMoyne/Zogby survey was conducted through face-to-face interviews with 944 soldiers in Iraq. Do check it out and see for yourself how the guys and gals in harm’s way view the “war.”