Troops to Bush: Get Us Out of Here!
- Troops to Bush: Get Us Out of Here!
By DAVE LINDORFF
Well, now we have it.
If you're one of those people with a yellow "Support the Troops"
magnet on your car, you might consider doing what 72 percent of those
troops in Iraq want, which is to go home.
You might not know it if you get your news from TV or your local
paper--or even if you read the New York Times but skip the opinion
page--but Zogby International, a leading polling organization, just
did a major poll of 944 American soldiers and marines in Iraq and
found that nearly three quarters of them thought the US should exit
Iraq within a year. More than half thought the US should leave within
six months, and 29 percent said the US should leave "immediately."
(That's what the Commander in Chief and the vice president, both of
whom avoided having to fight in Vietnam, like to call "cutting and
The Zogby poll results should be big news, but it didn't make most of
the mainstream papers or the major TV news programs.
A spokesperson at Zogby said, philosophically, "This is the kind of
story that has a long shelf life. These are not the kinds of opinions
that shift up and down rapidly; they are strongly held opinions being
expressed by the troops who were interviewed. We find that these kinds
of polls don't get covered as news in themselves in today's media.
They tend to get picked up and used to illuminate other stories, over
The spokesperson, Communications Director Fritz Wenzel, said that the
48 hours following Zogby's release of the new poll, with its startling
results, were "the busiest days I've had in this job," with over 50
reporters contacting him for interviews. Oddly though, this busiest
day of calling didn't produce much in the way of stories.
A likely explanation for this seeming paradox is that reporters
clearly recognized the news value of a poll finding that the vast
majority of American forces in Iraq believe that the war is a fiasco
and that it's time to get the hell out, but senior management wouldn't
let them go with the story. That's why the poll results, instead of
being reported as the breaking news that they are, will end up being
tucked discretely into broader pieces, as the Washington Post did,
putting the information midway through an article on President Bush's
falling approval rating (now at 34%). That's why the New York Times
ignored the story in its news pages, and let it be covered in an op-ed
column by Nicholas Kristof.
The poll, conducted between mid-January and mid-February, asked the
troops other questions besides just the one about staying and fighting
on or going home.
Among the other startling things Zogby discovered:
* While the administration keeps going on about "foreign fighters"
being the problem in Iraq, only 26% of the troops questioned thought
eliminating foreign fighters would weaken the insurgency.
* The strongest opposition to "staying the course" in Iraq came from
reserve and National Guard troops, but even among active-duty Marines,
the most gung-ho of troops in Iraq, 58% favored a pull-out within a
year. Nearly half of reserve and guard troops favored an immediate
* While the president talks about starting to reduce the number of US
troops in Iraq, currently at a peak of 136,000 (a political imperative
with congressional elections coming up this November), a majority of
troops in the country say it would take a doubling of troops and a
stepped up bombing campaign to control the Iraqi insurgency.
* A clear majority of the troops oppose torture and aggressive
interrogation techniques and four out of five polled oppose the use of
such banned weapons as napalm and phosphorus bombs, such as US forces
employed in the assault on Fallujah in November 2004.
* This kind of information, which runs counter to the prevailing
wisdom about attitudes of soldiers in the field, should be big news
based upon the standard "man-bites-dog" theory of what constitutes
news, but so far, the major media are for the most part ducking it,
treating it as a "dog-bites-man" non-story.
A good illustration of how this kind of journalistic cowardice
undermines effective political discourse in America is provided by the
continuing ignorance about the causes of the war. Even in America
itself, a large percentage of people still believe, against all the
evidence, that invading Iraq made sense because Saddam Hussein was
behind the 9-11 attacks. He was not, as even the president has been
grudgingly forced to admit. Yet the media have done such a bad job of
making this clear that Zogby reports 85 percent of troops in Iraq
still think they're fighting "to retaliate for Saddam's role in the
The clearest message of the Zogby poll is that those who want to
"support the troops" now know what the troops themselves want, and
what they want is "OUT!"
Those Americans who want to do something significant to support the
troops beyond just displaying a meaningless yellow ribbon might start
by calling their local media outlets and asking why there hasn't been
a story about the latest Zogby poll.
That could be followed up by a few calls to local Congressional
delegations, calling attention to the poll, and demanding an end to
the war, in the interest of supporting our troops.
Dave Lindorff is the author of Killing Time: an Investigation into the
Death Row Case of Mumia Abu-Jamal. Lindorff's new book, "The Case for
Impeachment", co-authored by Barbara Olshansky, is due out May 1. He
can be reached at: dlindorff @ yahoo.com
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