Polling the Troops

Zogby International will get a ton of publicity for its new poll on how members of the U.S. armed forces in Iraq feel about serving there. The headlines so far focus on the poll’s finding that 72 percent of those surveyed — 944 people serving with various branches, a survey size Zogby says gives a 3.5 percent margin of error for the full sample — think the U.S. should withdraw sometime in the next 12 months. Twenty-three percent go along with the commander-in-chief’s suggestion that the forces should stay in Iraq “as long as they are needed.” The Marines are most gung-ho on staying — only three in five think we should be out within a year; four out of five National Guard members and reservists think it’s time to be winding things up.

More interesting numbers, to me: Three in five say they know why they’re in Iraq; two in five say they’re unclear on the reason. Nine out of ten reject the presence of weapons of mass destruction as a reason for invading. So why did we go in? Five out of six say it’s payback for Saddam Hussein’s role in the 9/11 attacks. Three out of four also think we wanted to make sure Saddam didn’t protect al Qaida in Iraq.

It’s another black eye for the reality-based community, which has insisted for years that a) Saddam had no role in 9/11 (even Cheney, the promoter-in-chief of that myth, was eventually forced to concede the point) and b) Saddam had no substantive relationship with al Qaida. At the same time, though, the troops don’t seem to be buying one of the substitute rationales for the war: that it’s all about creating a model democracy for the Arab world. Only one in four respondents named that as a reason for the war.

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