Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Why Don't Our Troops Support the Troops?

I don't want to turn this beautiful blog into an all-polls, all-the-time deal, but this new survey from Zogby is a real eye-opener:
An overwhelming majority of 72% of American troops serving in Iraq think the U.S. should exit the country within the next year, and nearly one in four say the troops should leave immediately....

The poll ... showed that 29% of the respondents, serving in various branches of the armed forces, said the U.S. should leave Iraq “immediately,” while another 22% said they should leave in the next six months. Another 21% said troops should be out between six and 12 months, while 23% said they should stay “as long as they are needed.”
That part of the poll is getting wide play in the blogosphere, as evidence that not even the troops themselves buy into the administration's arguments for the Neverending War Story. Those are stunning numbers, of course, but I was even more surprised by this aspect:
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%).
So the troops don't buy the "freedom on the march" rationale of the administration, but they seem to be clinging to the now widely discredited idea that Saddam had a connection to al-Qaeda. Not even the president is sticking by that whopper anymore, but the troops are still holding tight. I'm not sure if that's a result of their isolation from homefront media reports, or if it's a product of wishful thinking, a need to believe that this is part of a just retribution for the 9/11 attacks.

Regardless, it does help explain why the majority wants to go home. They thought their mission was to topple Saddam's regime and bring him to justice, and that part of the job was over a long time ago.

Hmm. I wonder where they got the idea that their mission had already been accomplished?


Thrillhous said...

Great headline. I guess the Ann Coulters and Rush Limbaughs of the world will have to expand their enemies list to include the military now. Well, the Army, at least; those Marine guys are okay. The U.S. Army clearly hates America more than the other branches of the military.

You know, we may be on the brink of another revolution in republican ingenuity.

Used to be, they'd wait til a vet got back from a war before they'd piss all over him, both in the political arena (Cleland, Kerry, Hackett) and in other areas (constant cutting of military benefits, underfunding VA programs, etc).

But, as evidenced by Bill Kristol's declaration that the military is to blame for the failures in Iraq, the long, painful wait for the actual physical presence of a vet upon which to shit is no longer necessary. Why not take shots at them while they're being shot at by al Qaeda? Why not cut VA funding now, and why not cut those overly generous military benefits while we're at it?

Mr Furious said...

We're blaming the military over there so we don't have to blame them when they're back here...

Smitty said...

I gotta say...the poll doesn't convince me much in terms of slipping support amongst troops, for a couple of reasons.

First, "bitching" is something you learn in boot camp. A huge part of a grunt's life is bitching about being a grunt. Tongue-in-cheek indeed, but it's true: bitching serves as a common thread amongst troops. In war, life sucks, food sucks, your boots suck, this fucking war sucks, you suck, our commanders suck...etc. It's how we cope with rampant unpleasantness.

Next, you have a contingent of troops that never thought they'd end up in war anyway, which is something that confounds me. You signed up in the military...what the Hell did you expect? Even Clinton committeed troops. It's the military.

What this poll shows is the vocal minority. I am not sure that 25 or so % of troops confuse the reasons we're there or think it's crap and wanna go home. More telling is that the majority of troops, 75 or so %, are there and are dealing with it. If the numbers were the other way, or even close to 50/50, you'd really have something. But 1 guy out of every 4-man Fire Team saying it sucks is not a shocking revelation.

A more telling poll would be what the higher-grade field officers and staff officers think; Major on up. If the leadership is losing faith, then we're in real trouble. But grunts baeing pissed off? Every day.

Otto Man said...

We're blaming the military over there so we don't have to blame them when they're back here....


Great points, Smitty, and I do think you're right to take this with a grain of salt.

I think a big problem with the polling sample is that there are so many Nat'l Guard and Reserve troops over there who have resented the long call-ups from the get-go. They just want to get home to their families and jobs.

Thrillhous said...

I second OM's "Zing" call, Mr. F.

Thanks for your insights, Smitty. "Biloxi Blues" is about as close as I've personally been to the military, so it's good to hear thoughts from someone whose words weren't written by Neil Simon - or is that Neil Diamond? I always get them confused.

Pooh said...

A more telling poll would be what the higher-grade field officers and staff officers think; Major on up. If the leadership is losing faith, then we're in real trouble.

I don't have a link handy, but aren't officers leaving the service at an alarming rate? Is that a sign of the above?

That being said, good points smithy.

sideshow bob said...

You can use polls to prove anything...14% of all people know that!

I'm sure that much like in civilian circles, you get a slightly different answer for the rationale of the war with each soldier you ask.

It seems like every time I hear a soldier interviewed on NPR, they make the point that the media only focus on the negative stories and that there's much going right in Iraq. But then I read blogs like this one, that say that things, in fact, absolutely aren't going well at all...

I guess the one thing you can be sure of is that no one really seems to know what is going on, or if what is going on is in fact good or bad.

sideshow bob said...

Hmm...for some reason, that link isn't working, at least not on my computer, so I'll try again..


S.W. Anderson said...

"I'm not sure if that's a result of their isolation from homefront media reports, or if it's a product of wishful thinking, a need to believe that this is part of a just retribution for the 9/11 attacks.

I don't think isolation is much of a factor. Our troops over there are largely ones who've rotated in and out of Iraq, some as many as three times. Few if any have just been there the whole time. People rotating in bring news and attitudes from home with them — which probably has some implications going forward.

The retribution notion is much more likely to be in play.

Smitty's point about GI's griping is dead on. They'll do it and do it, and you can easily get the idea they've got a rotten attitude that must carry over into how they do their jobs. But watch them and press them about what's going on and you'll usually find that's not the case at all. It's just cathartic. What's really going on is that they're venting their annoyances and frustrations.

Been there and done that, as they say.

S.W. Anderson said...

Reading the post, which is a good one, I had a sort of flash.

I could just see Clint Eastwood in uniform being questioned by a pollster. He looks at the guy with that bemused, slightly annoyed look of his. He speaks in a flat, matter-of-fact, reflective way.

You want me to tell you why we're here doing what we're doing?

Mister, I don't get paid to figure out where to go and what to do. They tell me to invade the place, I invade. They tell me to take the hill, I take the hill — or die trying.

I'm a soldier; that's what I do. If you want to know why I'm doing it or whether it should be done, you need to talk to the people who sent me here. They get paid to figure those things out.

RightWing said...

If they want out so bad why are the majority of service people re-enlisting? If I didn't want to be there I'd get out of the service.

Maybe they just polled those 300+ gays they thru out of the military?

I don't know where they get the statistics but I can hear the pollsters now "...all you that hate being here step on over I want to ask a few questions..."

Otto Man said...

Not sure where you're getting the idea that most of them are reenlisting. The stories I've seen note that the re-up numbers are down across the board. Got a cite?