In a new Zogby poll of the troops, there seems to be some disconnect between the reasons the administration/media/Congress gave for going to Iraq and the reason the troops believe we are there.
The administration's rationale (at least what the White H said at the war's outset) was the "disarmament of Saddam Hussein," which we must infer means getting rid of his biological and chemical weapons, as Fleischer's press conference on March 3 makes clear. Biological and chemical weapons are often referred to as Weapons of Mass Destruction. Sorry for all the links, but I don't want anyone contradicting me.
According to Zogby (with a margin of error of +/-3.3 percentage points), ninety-three percent of the troops said that "removing weapons of mass destruction is not a reason for U.S. troops being there." 68% said the real mission was the removal of Saddam Hussein. This is not entirely wrong, I suppose, since if you read Fleischer's responses we often find him talking about getting rid of Saddam, although the W.H. said for a while that exile was a possible solution. 24% said that establishing a democracy for the Arab world was a reason, 11% said oil supplies, and 6% said we needed to have long-term bases there. I am troubled by this disconnect between the administration's rationale and the troops' reasons. Perhaps the 93% understood the question as "Why are troops in Iraq now?" but that wouldn't account for the Saddam Hussein removal statistic.
The Saddam removal statistic is interesting, though, because it can account for more than just the fact that he was an aggressor. Many of the troops might take that to mean that we wanted to get him out of Iraq to take the burden of his power and ruthlessness off of the Iraqis, while others might see it more as a pre-emptive strike on an enemy.
The most troubling statistic, however, was the troops' overwhelming belief (85%) that the reason we went to Iraq was mainly "to retaliate for Saddam's role in the 9-11 attacks." No reputable news source believes this, Bush himself has denied it, and the 9/11 Commission said there was no "collaborative relationship" between Iraq and al Qaeda, which makes the 77% of troops who believe that we were there to stop Saddam from protecting al Qaeda in Iraq troubling as well.
The question I ask is this: How did so many people who were fighting over there come to believe exactly the opposite (the 93%) of what the administration said? Is it coming from the higher-ups, or is it mostly just a matter of second- and third-hand information getting spread and disseminated among a large group of people?
I'm not sure if any of you have seen the Midwest Heroes commercials on TV. They actually seem to link up pretty well with the poll, though, because al Qaeda and 9/11 are mentioned, and Saddam is alluded to, but there is never a mention of weapons of mass destruction. The focus of the commercial, though--if we are to believe the Zogby poll--is all wrong. It says we should stay the course and the soldiers want to finish the mission. The poll says otherwise, as 72 percent of troops say that the US should be out of Iraq within the year. There is a difference among different branches, predictably, as only 58% of Marines think so while 89% of reservists do. Either way, the majority believe that we should be out soon and they should be home, though it must be noted that the poll took place before the Golden Dome was destroyed, and before the current week's violence.
Update: I didn't think about it before, but I wonder if the Saddam-9/11 link was part of the survey itself. If so, I suppose some soldiers--though I don't believe 85% worth, or even 20%--could be fooled into thinking that there was a link, since the question said there was. A lot of these soldiers are overworked, and a question like that could throw them. If anyone finds the actual questions asked, please post about it in comments.