Dooming Poll Numbers
How Bush Won His War and Defeated the Constitution
Pierre Tristam/Candide’s Notebooks, August 23, 2006
It could briefly be played up as a significant number, and the New York Times is certainly trying to headline it as such: 51 percent of Americans see no link between the terror war and the Iraq war. But it isn’t significant. It’s closer to pathetic, like taking heart from the fact that 51 percent of Americans don’t think the Apollo 11 Moon landing was staged, or that 30 percent don’t think angels exist. That 51 percent who see no link between Iraq and terror still means a proportion approaching half, half, still think there is a link. That’s the sort of proportion that also saw a link between 9/11 and Saddam, or that Saddam was ready to nuke the Empire State Building with drones. And you still have a 55 percent approval rating for the way President Bush is handling the terror war, which essentially nullifies that a majority that see no terror-war link with Iraq, since Bush’s entire focus of the terror war is on Iraq, and only—only—53 percent of those polled said it was a mistake to go to war in Iraq in the first place. Statistically, that means half the country still believes the war was justified from the start, and it renders irrelevant whether they think Iraq is linked to the war on terror or not. Definitions don’t change the pattern of the blood-spatter.
Those are astounding numbers, not for what they say about disapproval of the Iraq war and Bush’s terror shenanigans, but of how little the disapproval still amounts to, how large, after all these years of abject failure, the proportion of those still buying the whole charade remains. If after all this time basically half the country is still behind the Bush administration’s suicidal missions in Iraq, its utterly incompetent missions in the war on terror abroad, and its blatantly illegal handling of the war on terror domestically, then we have a more serious problem than Democrats realize or that the mid-term elections could possibly fix. We have a nation still wholeheartedly willing to be deceived, as if the possibility of a sham would be too much to bear—too implicating, in the end, of the public’s complicity, to not say stupidity.
That 62 percent say events are going “somewhat or very badly” in Iraq means nothing. It means that 62 percent are sitting in front of their television sets at evening news time and shaking their heads at the latest news of a mosque bombing or an American casualty, but in the same way that they shake their head at the latest “GS vic” on CSI: Miami (to use those abbreviations and acronyms for “gunshot victims” and such that make Americans feel so powerfully cool just for hearing them). It’s not an authentic head-shake or a sorrow of the heart, the kind that weeps at someone’s graveside even from half-way across the country, and without knowing the dead soldier (or the Iraqi man shredded by the latest cluster-bomb seven time zones away). It’s a sorrow barely different from the kind elicited by cop show violence. It lasts an instant. It doesn’t outlast the next commercial break about hemorrhoid medicine and sleep-time narcotics.
What little disapproval Americans are registering about any of those wars is not even intellectual, it’s not even thought-out: it’s a disapproval of habit, at best of impatience, at worst of disgust, but there’s nothing visceral about it. There’s nothing that impels anyone to get the hell out of their chair and vote differently, as 62 million Americans didn’t in 2004. It took a few clever news conferences and flashy fear alerts by the administration to tamp down whatever dust the opposition had managed two years ago.
Considering the extent of the administration’s fraud, how little effort it took to paint the fraud as something vaguely heroic and absolutely necessary, and how convincingly the administration pulled out its win (all electoral deceits and ballot crimes aside, as in Ohio), it’s a wonder we still have a Bill of Rights at all. I am convinced that if another half-wit terrorist attack were to take place tomorrow, killing a few thousand or even a few hundred Americans, and the administration declared the Bill of Rights “temporarily” null and void, no one would say a word. Or let’s just say that 53 percent would approve. That’s where we are today. That’s how successful the administration’s “war on terror” has been—not against Osama, not against Iraq’s insurgents, not against the Mideast’s brigades of regression or Islam’s Talibanic madmen, but against constitutional democracy as we knew it. That war is over, and the reactionaries have won it.