Monday, March 06, 2006

Propaganda works: the belief that Saddam was behind 9/11

A polling group surveyed US troops. It was widely reported that a large majority feel the US should leave within a year. The parts that weren't widely reported are more interesting (emphases mine):
Zogby International

The troops have drawn different conclusions about fellow citizens back home. Asked why they think some Americans favor rapid U.S. troop withdrawal from Iraq, 37% of troops serving there said those Americans are unpatriotic, while 20% believe people back home don’t believe a continued occupation will work. Another 16% said they believe those favoring a quick withdrawal do so because they oppose the use of the military in a pre-emptive war, while 15% said they do not believe those Americans understand the need for the U.S. troops in Iraq.

The wide-ranging poll also shows that 58% of those serving in country say the U.S. mission in Iraq is clear in their minds, while 42% said it is either somewhat or very unclear to them, that they have no understanding of it at all, or are unsure. While 85% said the U.S. mission is mainly “to retaliate for Saddam’s role in the 9-11 attacks,” 77% said they also believe the main or a major reason for the war was “to stop Saddam from protecting al Qaeda in Iraq.”

“Ninety-three percent said that removing weapons of mass destruction is not a reason for U.S. troops being there” said Pollster John Zogby, President and CEO of Zogby International. “Instead, that initial rationale went by the wayside and, in the minds of 68% of the troops, the real mission became to remove Saddam Hussein.” Just 24% 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%) or to provide long-term bases for US troops in the region (6%).

If there's one thing that all rationalists seem to agree upon, it's that there's no evidence Saddam played any role in the 9/11 attack and there's some evidence that he was no ally of al Qaeda prior to the invasion. So why do the vast majority of the troops believe in Cheney's propaganda? I'd guess it's partly that propaganda works very well, especially in a population selected for trust in their superiors. It's also probably partly 'cognitive dissonanance', the common behavior of reconciling oneself to an irrational situation by adopting a belief that makes the situation rational. Most of us would do the same thing in their place.

It's reasuring, however, that only 1/3 consider opposition to the war to be "unpatriotic". Considering the situation our troops are in, that's a sign of their wisdom.

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