Editorials

Iraq: Americans want to believe their leaders

TRUST IN LEADERS

Americans want to believe

Wasn’t the United States once known as a peace-loving country that hesitated before rising to arms? It had to be a serious matter with good, solid reasons before a president would risk the lives of America’s young warriors.

Have we changed? Was there a shift in our thinking that convinced a majority of Americans to support an unprovoked attack on Iraq?

Support was fueled by the Administration’s constant repetition that Iraq posed an imminent threat. That large stocks of biological and chemical weapons were poised for use against us. That nuclear weapons were being developed.

That direct ties to terrorists existed. The threats were repeated often enough that the majority of Americans believed them to be true. As of today, none of those threats has proven accurate.

Recent polls indicate that 40 percent of Americans still believe Saddam Hussein has ties to Osama bin Laden. Nearly a quarter of those polled believe Iraq used chemical weapons against American troops. Almost a third of the population believes that the elusive weapons of mass destruction have been found, and why not? Splashy media reports have made that statement often, followed later by quieter stories saying, “Sorry, it was a mistake.”

The President does no better when he repeats the party line rather than checking the facts. When he visited Poland earlier this month, he made this statement: “We’ve found the weapons of mass destruction.” This turned out to be yet another incorrect statement. The two wagons in question were sold to Iraq by the British in the 1980s and contained equipment to produce hydrogen for weather balloons.

The lack of outrage over the events that led to war is surprising to many Americans, although skepticism is

growing stronger. Now, half of those questioned in a national poll expressed a belief that the American people might have been misled in the rush to war.

Americans sat at home with their televisions and watched the bombs fall on Baghdad. Many people cheered as huge flashes of light appeared on the screen,

but on the ground, a different story was told. There, a child was left blinded or missing a limb. On the streets, a child’s father lay with his head ripped open. Those are the pictures of war that we didn’t see. The latest estimate of civilian casualties now exceeds 5,000 and continues to climb.

Dozens of American troops have also been killed since the President declared an end to combat, and many more are likely to follow. Six British soldiers died in an ambush Tuesday—a half dozen of the thousands of soldiers who are now little more than sitting ducks for terrorists.

The conflict in Iraq appears to be far from over.

There’s no end in sight and there’s really no way to claim victory. This battle lacks definition and scope, just like the President’s overall “war on terror.”

Americans want to trust their elected leaders. They want to believe in them so much they’re willing to forget the deceptions of the past, such as those associated with Vietnam and the Iran/Contra affair. Instead, they unconditionally accept at face value whatever Washington says.

In international affairs, there’s always some deception regarding national security details, but the fundamental reasoning for action must be based on fact. Many people never believed the Administration’s case for war from the start; for others, the doubts are just starting to arise.


 – DGG, June 25, 2003