Why People Supported And Opposed the Iraq War

So, as you probably have seen discussed on at least one other blog by now, Kevin Drum wants to know why progressive bloggers who opposed the war before it began held that opinion. I actually hold a similar desire, and have for some time. However, instead of caring what pundits thought four years ago, I have always wanted to know why the American people either supported or opposed the war before it began.

I am not referring to opinion polls on whether or not people think the war was a mistake, whether or not we should withdraw troops, or whether or not people think the war is going well. Instead, I have longed for something that pollsters often appear loathe to do: ask the general public why it supports or opposes the war, why it thinks the war is going well or poorly, and why people think we should escalate or withdraw. There have been hundreds of public polls asking the general public if it supports something, but basically nothing asking people why they support or oppose something.

The absence of polling on public rationales is stunning, and it goes beyond Iraq. Outside of exit polls, people are hardly ever asked why they support or oppose anything, just if they support or oppose something. Wouldn't a richer view of public opinion take into account rationale, instead of just support or opposition? Since many other factors could be involved, such as the cost of a poll, I hesitate to immediately label the absence of polling on public rationale as "elitism." However, the lack of interest large news organizations show in commissioning polls (and large news organizations commission most polls) that ask the public why they hold position x, y or z, certainly makes me wonder if they even care why the public holds position x, y or z. Perhaps they would simply have their highly paid opinion journalists declare why the country holds opinion x, y, or z, rather than actually ask the public the public at large.

More in the extended entry.
Last year, when we conducted the first MyDD polling project, I tried to rectify this situation and fill in an important gap on our knowledge of public opinion and Iraq. Thus, after question number twelve in our survey ("turning to the war in Iraq, did you support President Bush's decision to invade that country in March of 2003?), we asked an almost unheard of, open-ended follow-up question: "and why was that?"The results were all over the map:Support: 47.4%
1. Remove dictator Saddam Hussein / free Iraq: 7.4%
2. Sufficient information regarding weapons: 6.2%
3. We must fight terrorism: 5.8%
4. We are in danger / we have to protect ourselves: 5.1%
5. We were attacked first at the World Trade Center: 3.6%
6. Better there than in the USA: 3.5%
7. Support our President, G. W. Bush: 3.5%
8. Inevitable / someone had to do something: 3.3%
9. It is the right thing to do: 3.0%
10. Support - other: 2.2%
11. Support - don't know / refused: 1.1%
12. Support family / people in armed forces: 0.9%
13. Should have dealt with Saddam Hussein in 1991: 0.3%

Oppose: 46.8%
1. War is not the answer / should handle this other way: 8.2%
2. No weapons of mass destruction: 7.0%
3. We have no right to invade a sovereign country: 6.1%
4. No connection between Iraq and Al Qaeda: 5.3%
5. Bush and family's interest: 3.6%
6. Oppose - other: 3.3%
7. Too many deaths: 3.0%
8. Lack of information at the time: 2.7%
9. War for oil and money: 2.5%
10. Not warranted / generally oppose: 2.2%
11. War not necessary / we have more important concerns: 2.1%
12. USA should not have gone in alone / join: 1.7%
13. Oppose - don't know refused: 1.6%
14. Don't support Bush: 0.3%
15. Other: 0.4%

Don't know / refused: 4.1% Despite its flaws, this poll offers some important insights. First, most people who support / supported the war did not mention Iraqi freedom or WMDs. The most common rationale, making up nearly half of all responses, centered around the idea that invading Iraq was a form of self-defense against terrorism / appropriate reaction to 9/11 (see support reasons 3-6). Even the generalized, amorphous rationales of support reasons 7-11 are roughly equal to the WMD and Iraqi freedom rationales combined. This poll appears to indicate that most people who support / supported the war just wanted to do something in response to 9/11 to protect themselves from future terrorism, even if that terrorism didn't have WMDs. Even people who supported the war didn't buy into, or at least care quite as much about, either freedom in Iraq or any weapon stockpiles Hussein may or may not have had.

On the other side of the coin, people who opposed the war overwhelming did not do so just because they didn't believe there were WMDs, or because of the general paucity of allies in the invasion. In fact, the most common responses centered a general opposition to war, or at least pre-emptive war (opposition reasons 1, 3, 7, 10 and 11). Another common response was that people felt lied to, as seen in rationales 5, 8 and 9, where people felt the war was being conducted for reasons other than those most commonly stated. After that comes the idea that the war was either not being conducted properly, or at least was not connected to the "war on terror" and 9/11, as seen in responses 4 and 12. Only then comes the idea that there weren't actually any WMDs.

This poll is not ideal. For one thing, it was conducted in early 2006, not early 2003. Also, a better poll would have listed all of the major reasons given here, both for and against, and asked each poll respondent whether or not they agreed with every one of those reasons, since most people have multiple rationales behind their position. Alas, we did not have the money to ask all of those questions, or the organization to pull this off back in early 2003. This as the best we could do.

However, consider for a moment how the debate over Iraq would be changed if we knew not just what percentage of the American public supports and opposes the war, but if we knew what they thought of each of the reasons to support or oppose the war. If we knew that it wasn't a high priority even for most people who supported the war, would we have heard so many pundits bloviating about the need for a free Iraq? If Democrats knew that people wanted to feel protected, but didn't necessarily care about Saddam's supposed stockpiles in particular, I certainly think it would have made a lot more people argue that the war would make us less safe, ala Howard Dean. If we knew it was such a rarely held belief, would we have heard so many people, including Democrats, setting up a left-wing strawman that universally thought the war was about oil?

Who knows. Although we can never know exactly how the dialogue would have changed, having information on how many people supported or opposed each of the rationales regarding war would have significantly altered the debate on Iraq, both before and after the invasion began. It also would have demonstrated a higher level of respect for the American public, in that their reasons for holding opinions would be considered a relevant part of the national dialogue. Given this, I sincerely hope that, in the future, polling firms and the large news organizations who commission public polls from polling firms will find conducting public opinion surveys on the rationales behind people's beliefs something worthy of their time and money. While doing so might put a lot of pundits who claim to speak for the American people out of business, it is just as relevant to learn why people hold a position as it is to learn if they hold a position. We need to be ready to let not only the opinions of the American people, but their rationale behind those opinions, into the larger public debate.

Tags: Iraq, Media, polling project, public opinion (all tags)

Comments

54 Comments

Why I opposed the war

1.) It was against International Law. The Bush Administration misinterpreted the various resolutions and badly bent their meaning to give legal cover to the invasion. The inspectors had not finished their work and the U.S. was, apparently, witholding information that could help them do it.

2.) The planning was terrible. Too few troops, to little actionable intelligence, and too much reliance on defectors and electronic surveillance for that intelligence. While ideas were flying about what to do with post-war Iraq, there really wasn't any sort of plan presented that looked reasonable at the time.

3.) Iraq was the wrong target. Al-Qaeda was and still is the main target we should be pursuing but we lack the foresight and leadership to do it.

4.) The war was sold as part of a broad ideological conflict that didn't exist. I don't believe in the Cold War sounding hype that we're in a new era with a new kind of war, blah blah blah. The epic overtones of the Bush Administration immediately raised a red flag; anyone who thinks of the world in those terms needs to be kept far away from the levers of government power. We would have been much better off if all of that "vision" were directed to figuring out how to handle post-war Iraq.

My rationales have changed a bit here and there since then, but those were my core reasons for opposing the war with Iraq. I think we've ignited something of a global struggle with terrorism inasmuch as Iraq has become a recruiting tool for extremist groups (on both sides of the conflict). However it nothing on the threat scale anywhere near what we faced during the Cold War.

by poserp 2007-01-17 01:16PM | 0 recs
None of those for me

I agree with all of these now (with the caveat that international "permission" was obtained, albeit grudgingly, and with rather transparent manufactured evidence.)

But at the time, for me, it boiled down to no credible nuclear threat.  Chemical and biological weapons from Iraq weren't a credible threat to Kuwait or Israel, much less the US.  No, nukes were the only legitimate worry, and I had no reason to believe they were on the brink of them (you could see right through the hype on this topic even back in 2002).

If there had been a credible nuclear threat to the US or the region, 1, 2, and 4 really wouldn't have been enough of an objection.

I almost agreed with 3 at the time, as I was sick of the Osamafication of Saddam.  But even there, you could make the claim that, post-9/11, a nuclear rogue state is a priority target.

I believe that Howard Dean has said that the nuclear threat was his litmus test for non-support.

by randompost 2007-01-17 01:36PM | 0 recs
Re: Why People Supported And Opposed the Iraq War

1. I opposed the war because, like Vietnam, it seemed to emanate from the exigencies and prejudices of Beltway politics rather than from an empirical consideration of the local situation. This suggested poor planning.

2. I believed that by invading Iraq, and by his general belligerence, Bush was, and remains, Al Qaeda's best recruiter, save for Cheney.

3. I believed General Shinseki that the US was not deploying sufficient numbers of troops for a successful occupation.

4. No one of conscience or good will liked Saddam, but the US can't and doesn't right every wrong in the world.  There was never a convincing case that he was a significant danger to the US or had participated in the attacks.  Cheney wanted this war because he saw Iraq as lowlying fruit ripe for the picking.

by TomSkidmore 2007-01-17 01:28PM | 0 recs
Re: Why People Supported And Opposed the Iraq War

I was against it at the time because I'm generally opposed to war.

That would have been good enough on its own absent a strong and compelling justification.  The fact that it was clearly ideologically driven, preemptive, premised on faulty information and obfuscation, unsupported by our allies or the international community, was lacking in a clear objective or end-plan, etc. only made my resolve that much more firm.

I will admit that I had a much greater fear at the time that it would escalate, drawing in other countries (Iran, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, etc.) in a way which really did not happen, and that I had less of a clear sense of why and how the civil war would emerge as the inevitable result of toppling Saddam.

by Baldrick 2007-01-17 01:36PM | 0 recs
Re: Why People Supported And Opposed the Iraq War

I think you have the right idea about why people aren't asked "why" in surveys: cost, borne of the fact that to ask that question you pretty much need an open-ended answer set. So-called "closed" questions offer every respondent the same set of answer choices, usually with captures for "don't know," "other," and simply refusing to answer. In order to ask people why, you pretty much have to let them talk and tell you why. Which becomes a nightmare afterwards, when you're trying to categorize responses. And that's if you hold them to only ONE answer, as opposed to multiples.

Open-ended questions are a mess, and are fraught with danger when trying to interpret the answers.

As for being against the war before it started--one of the key people who raised my consciousness before invasion was Scott Ritter, who told anyone who would listen that the WMD claims were full of shit. Primarily, I learned from him and through subsequent research that at BEST, the WMD still existing in Iraq were very old and poorly made in the first place--meaning that they essentially didn't have any WMD. And from the NIE excerpts we were privy to at the time, it seemed obvious that while maybe Saddam was hiding some chem-based production plans, there wasn't any real evidence of bio weapons--and as far as nuclear went, it had actually been determined with some authority that there was no nuclear program, period.

So the poor sell of WMDs was one thing. I'm totally against external regime change, for another, not even considering how we had no apparent plan to adequately fill Saddam's vaccuum, politically. I was also heavily skeptical of any al-Qaeda influence beyond the Al-Ansaar group, which was operating outside of Saddam's control.

Finally, there was no authorizing UN resolution.

by torridjoe 2007-01-17 01:36PM | 0 recs
Re: Why People Supported And Opposed the Iraq War

I was completely opposed from the beginning since war is bad and

1)Iraq was no threat to the US

2) We would get bogged down in an insurrection

3) It would lead to civil war.

My biggest surprise was the complete absence of WMD, I fell for the prewar propaganda on that one.  Also the insurrection and civil war developed more quickly than expected.

by syvanen 2007-01-17 01:38PM | 0 recs
"Why" is a hard question

Not because we don't know, but from the standpoint of data management, open-ended items really suck.  As a data management professional, I do ANYTHING to get away from them.  

There are a whole bunch of other really fucked-up, truly sucky methods for data collection:

1) Rank-ordering: Idiotic

  1. "Select your most important": OK for 2 year olds, no one else

What I suggest here is:

1) "Select the three most important"
2) "Select the five most important"

My current interest lies in the following

3) Select all reasons WHICH YOU DO NOT AGREE WITH

by dataguy 2007-01-17 01:39PM | 0 recs
Re: Why People Supported And Opposed the Iraq War

We oppose the the war because War Is Ugly.

Perhaps it was winnable if only the experts had been allowed to execute the war with realistic goals rather than the ideo-illogical efforts to pillage the place.

But everything this bunch does turns to shit...

by Himself 2007-01-17 01:40PM | 0 recs
Re: Why People Supported And Opposed the Iraq War

I opposed the Iraq War because I began to suspect we were being lied to about the reasons for the war.  I could not understand why the WMD inspectors in Iraq could not be given more time to look for WMD, given the high cost in lives and treasure that war would bring.  I looked for answers on the internet.  My search brought me to the group "Project For A New American Century."  Many of the members of this group, who had been agitating for war against Iraq for years, had become members of the Bush Administration.  I then knew that the fix was in.

by IMPOSSIBLEDREAMER 2007-01-17 01:44PM | 0 recs
Re: Why People Supported And Opposed the Iraq War

I could not understand why the WMD inspectors in Iraq could not be given more time to look for WMD

Thank you!  I'm always amazed how little this point is brought up.  Personally, I still think the vote to authorize the war would have been correct on the assumption Bush was a competent and morally honest human being.  (At the time, still a reasonable belief for those willing to give the benefit of doubt.)  That vote helped get the weapon inspectors in and keep them there.

But they weren't finding anything!!

So who cares what the evidence was before the inspectors got in, by the time Bush (and only Bush) choose to invade we already knew better.

This was the main reason I was against the war.  Even if they found WMDs I would have been against the war, but would have favored forcing Iraq to get rid of them.

The only military action I would have supported would have been to the minimum amount to get the inspectors in or to actually remove WMDs.  Occupation was just a bad idea all the way.

by Mark Matson 2007-01-17 02:19PM | 0 recs
That sums it up

I initially opposed the war because it was reasonably certain that Saddam did not have nuclear capability, the IAEA had had enough access to conclude that, and that anyone who read up at all on chemical and biological weapons understood that one, they are not 'Weapons of Mass Destruction' and two, even a fully chemically and biologically armed Saddam was not a threat to the United States.

I could expand on this point, at the time we were in a hysteria about balsa wood drones and canvas sided biological labs. The lack of understanding about what you can and can't do with these weapons was stunning, but there you go.

I was ultimately opposed to the war because against all expectations by me or others Saddam blinked and let Inspectors in, and even more surprisingly let them have full access to the Presidential compounds (previous inspection rounds fell apart over that issue) and by December it was clear there was nothing to find.

It was equally clear that Bush fully intended to get his war on, that is I never for an instant fell for "the assumption Bush was a competent and morally honest human being." There was clear official documentation that Bush was lying about his military record, that he was in fact a deserter and actually was punished as such. That CBS News fell for a fabricated set of documents designed and delivered by Republican operatives in a hugely successful effort to hide the very real documents that had been collected is a goddamn tragedy. The blogosphere had Bush pinned to the wall, CBS screwed up the whole thing by insisting on using the new fabricated documents rather than the perfectly documented FOIA ones at Coldfeet. Didn't want to lose the exclusive by having to credit people who actually used due diligence in collecting documentation.

Bush is, was, and remains a serial liar. AWOL Bush just highlighted that. He lost my trust even before he ran the first time.

Shinseki's testimony and the response to it by Cheney/Wolfowitz was just the capper.

by Bruce Webb 2007-01-17 02:46PM | 0 recs
Re: Why People Supported And Opposed the Iraq War

These are terribly depressing results. Apparently the majority of Americans cannot think logically and so decided that it's wholly proper to invade country X because unrelated group Y attacked us a couple of years earlier.

Education reform is needed more than ever in this country. Standardized testing is not the solution.

by Populism2008 2007-01-17 01:44PM | 0 recs
Re: Why I Opposed the Iraq War

Because we were attacked on 9/11 by the growing threat of Al Qaeda and all resources should have been focused on capturing Osama Bin Laden and demolishing Al Qaeda.

A preemptive attack and invasion of a nation which had nothing to do with the attack upon our country seemed as logical as attacking Mexico after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor.

by Benstrader 2007-01-17 01:48PM | 0 recs
The difficulty with polling

this question is the complexity of the answer. Th easy answer is:

It was wrong.

The hard part is that is was wrong for so many reasons that it becomes difficult to quantify.

But we'll start here...

1.They didn't attack us and there was no evidence that they were going to attack us therefore it was wrong for our defense department to engage in offensive actions towards them.

See... I've already gotten into a two pronged answer there. Our military is not suppossed to be an offensive weapon. Their job is to defend our nation. It was a betrayal of long standing American principal to attack Iraq.

2. Iraq was cornered. We had them boxed in already. Saddam wasn't going to do jack. He'd been nailed to the ground for 12 years. However...

... I was really pissed at Daddy Bush for stopping back during GWI. The blockade was not sustainable and it was a guarentee that we would eventually fight GWII. Doesn't mean I think it was right, just inevitable.

If you are gonna fight a damn war, fight the damn war and get it over with. Don't drag it out. Don't minimize it. Don't do it on the cheap. If your standing principle is to not fight unless you have no other choice then when you fight you kick ass as hard and fast as you can. Win it. End it. And move on to reconstruction and a peaceful life for everyone again. Half-assed war is the worst possible scenario for everyone but the defense contractors.

3. Afghanistan was our opportunity to do the right thing. Not only was that where bin Laden was but going in heavy, defeating the Taliban, defeating al Queda, disarming the warlords, and then going in even heavier with security and reconstruction to rebuild Afghan society would have done more to solve the problem of islamic terrorism then anything else we could have done.

Hearts and minds. Stomachs, heads, and feet.

We had the opportunity to show the Muslim world that we were not the great Satan but rather a friend of the Muslim people. The America that is heard of in myth and legend. The one that helped rebuild Germany and Japan and bailed out France and gives generously to NGO's.

It would have ripped the rug right out from under the al Queda argument but instead we got Iraq and strengthened al Queda and fueled anti-America hatred more then they ever could have done on their own.

Iraq was the worst possible action we could have taken.

No, I take that back. Iraq is the second worst. Abandoning our civil liberties here at home is the worst possible action we could have taken.

by Andrew C White 2007-01-17 01:49PM | 0 recs
Re: fight the damn war and get it over with

I'm going to have to disagree with you on this one as the reason why Bush Sr. didn't take down Hussein is one of the main reasons why I was against the war from the start - there are only 2 possible outcomes to removing Hussein:

  1. He's replaced with an equally despicable despot

  2. civil war (absent Shinseki's 350k troops)

Bush Sr. did the right thing and his son was either too stupid, or my belief, just didn't give a damn about what would happen to listen to his dad.

While I'm here, my other reasons:

  1. Extremely high probability of no WMD

  2. Zero chance of any al Qaeda link (Hussein 100% secular, Bin Laden 100% religious fruitcake)

  3. Pre-emptive war in the absence of a clear and present danger is illegal and immoral and Iraq wasn't even in the pee-wee league when it came to imminent threat.

by Joe in Wynnewood PA 2007-01-17 05:40PM | 0 recs
Re: fight the damn war and get it over with

You and I aren't in disagreement here (except that your last #3 ought to be #1 as #'s 1 and 2 are supporting evidence for your conclusive #3).

The reasons for Bush Sr not to complete the conquest of Iraq were real and valid. But a blockade of the sort he put in place instead was unsustainable in the long run. Eventually something had to give.

I'm not arguing it was right or wrong, simply that it was inevitable that a second war would be fought.

by Andrew C White 2007-01-20 07:43AM | 0 recs
Me.

It was a waste of resources.

Bush fucks everything up.

by MNPundit 2007-01-17 02:07PM | 0 recs
You'd have to ask before the war

for it to be meaningful.

Hindsight folks tend to change what might have been their real reason for supporting the war to match events.

by BrionLutz 2007-01-17 02:11PM | 0 recs
Why Gov Dean opposed the War

http://www.gwu.edu/~action/2004/dean/dea n021703sp.html

Gov Dean articulated many of the reasons I opposed the war.  This speech was given 1 month before the invasion.

Things he did not mention in the speech but in other interviews are:

Other possible consequences  of invading Iraq--66% are Shiites therefore--- possible Islamic Theocracy friendly to Iran.

by jasmine 2007-01-17 02:25PM | 0 recs
Why anti war are not given respect?

They are not given respect because the media is corporate owned and  afraid to rile the powers that be in Washigton.  

How can they give respect to the people who were right when they were so wrong?

by jasmine 2007-01-17 02:29PM | 0 recs
Re: Why People Supported And Opposed the Iraq War

Trying to remember back, and not putting into my thoughts what I know now, but did not know then:

1.  I semi-believed that they had WMD (not because Bush said so, but because Powell said so), and remember thinking, why would we put our troops in a situation where they would be poisoned?

  1.  Much of the rest of the world was opposed, and it didn't feel like something we should take on alone.
  2.  Iraq society was nothing like the Taliban society, and people in Iraq were educated. If they wanted to get rid of Saddam, surely they were capable of asking the rest of the world for help.
  3.  We already had one war going, and I remember wanting to see Afghanistan freed.

Terry Olson

by USAagain 2007-01-17 02:30PM | 0 recs
I have a question

One of my major reasons -- probably the top one -- was that I thought we would be stuck there for years with truck bombs going off (i.e., the reason G.H.W. Bush said he did not go to Baghdad in his book).  Yet I'm not sure how that would be classified above... is that reason 1?  

by John DE 2007-01-17 02:35PM | 0 recs
none of the above

Unlike everbody else in the world, I don't remember with crystal clarity why or how much I opposed the war at its initial stages (that was a lifetime ago for some!).

But my number 1 reason for opposing now is incompetence at the very top...not Condi..not Cheney...not (formerly) Rummy...but the incompetent Legacy Pledge in Chief himself, George Bush.  

The category 'DOESN'T SUPPORT BUSH' doesn't really cover my position.  I could support him til the cows come home but that wouldn't help the fact that the cows would probably come home in flag draped caskets.

by cargocult 2007-01-17 02:38PM | 0 recs
Re: Why People Supported And Opposed the Iraq War

I understand and agree with most of what's above, but must add one thing:

There was never any real or honest public discourse about this war, not really.  I "got that" very early on when the drum beats began.  Instead of discourse, anyone who objected was instead attacked.  I remember saying to myself, "Oh! It doesn't matter what I or anyone things about this ... We're going to war anyway!!!"

It was in essense shoved down everyone's throats.

Anyone else have this feeling?  It was as if I (i.e., we the people, the public) were not relevent at all.  

by Keithb7862 2007-01-17 02:39PM | 0 recs
Why I opposed the war

The default position should always be to oppose war.  The people who started this war disagree with this fundamental premise.  So, not only did they fail to make a convincing case as to why the war should be started, their basic immorality about whether war should be an option casually considered makes me think they should be opposed in pretty much any decision regarding warfare.  

All of the pre-war discussions were conducted at a infantile level of fear-mongering.  That alone was reason to oppose the war.  

by RickD 2007-01-17 02:43PM | 0 recs
Incidentally

A lot of people, and the vast majority of the American public, bought into the logical implication
(Iraq hiding WMDs) => We should invade

I categorically reject that implication.  It fails on both accounts: the presmise was easily shown to be false, but even if the premise were true, the idea that the consequence naturally followed was also false.  

But let's be honest here.  The truth of the story is that the war started with people with the following logical framework:

(empty set) => We should invade

They then picked and chose whatever possible premise could be sold to the public, because they had already agreed on the conclusion.  

by RickD 2007-01-17 02:46PM | 0 recs
Why I Opposed The War

 1. Pre-emptive war is WRONG and flies in the face of American values.

 2. George W. Bush was neither trustworthy nor competent -- and this was obvious from before the 2000 election.

 3. Saddam Hussein had been successfully muzzled and contained for a decade. He was no threat.

 4. The White House rhetoric supporting the war was empty, slogan-driven, and condescending, revealing no clear thought and analysis -- "we need to free Iraq"? Why not free Equatorial Guinea as well? They're also under a horrible dictatorship. Not to mention that Saudi Arabia's government was (and is) more repressive than Iraq's.

 5. An already established pattern of administration evasiveness and truth-bending -- Cheney's secret meetings with oil executives, the Enron meltdown, the reckless tax cuts even as we were about to mount a major military operation -- it was obvious the Bushies had an agenda in mind that had nothing to do with "freeing" the Iraqi people.

 And about ten more. The common thread: Bush and Cheney were just not credible.

by Master Jack 2007-01-17 02:52PM | 0 recs
To my everlasting shame

I supported the Iraq war.  That mistake motivates every ounce of political activism I engage in now.

Here's part of a diary I posted on Blue Hampshire responding to why I oppose escalation:

I lost two high school friends on 9/11, and a skyline I had grown up with.  Watching the tragedy unfold up here in NH, I wrongly assumed that the collapse of the first building meant that blocks and blocks of the Wall Street area had been wiped out.  As a former resident of old Manhattan town, this promptly made me hysterical, thinking about all the people I knew who were to die.

My mother lost her former neighbor, the suburbs outside of New York City where I grew up lost scores of policemen, firefighters, port authority workers, and businesspeople.  Just before 9/11, a very close person in my family signed up for the army.

I write that not because it gives any more credence to my beliefs than anyone else; it just provides some context.

Both before and after 9/11 I believed Bush to be stupid, embarrassing, and venal, but despite that impression, I also felt that it is a natural and healthy instinct to trust what our government tells us on matters of great importance.

When the drumbeat for the Iraq war began in the summer of 2002, I listened carefully to what was being said.  As we got closer to March of 2003, I began to feel more and more uneasy at the prospect of going to war with a country that had not attacked us, and which had no relationship to Osama bin Laden.  I did not find Bush or Cheney or Rumsfeld convincing enough to support action.  I did find both Powell's UN presentation, and Tony Blair's eloquence, persuasive.

Just prior to the invasion, I reluctantly gave my support to it based solely on the supposed threat of weapons of mass destruction, again based chiefly on Powell's presentation and the fact that the much smarter sounding head of another country was in support as well.

When it became clear by early June of 2003 that there were no immediate smoking guns of WMD, I felt as if I had been kicked in the stomach.  You know the feeling you get when you suddenly realize that you've casually made a very, very bad decision that will negatively impact you for some time? That was what it felt like. (It was also, incidentally, the time I started to notice the Governor to the west of me be the lone voice of doubt about Iraq I had heard).

How I got to this point in my political activism has that moment as its origin.  I literally wake up every single day feeling ashamed that I once supported the Iraq war (however tentatively and briefly), and I devote what I do towards making good on that terrible mistake.

by Dean Barker 2007-01-17 03:22PM | 0 recs
Re: Why People Supported And Opposed the Iraq War
I was opposed to the Iraq war because I was opposed to war except in clear-cut cases of self-defense--I was even ambivalent about the Afghan war. But (on the one hand) the Bush administration really became toxic for me at this point because of the way they so totally ignored everyone opposed to the war. On the other hand, I was convinced that the sanctions were killing thousands of Iraqi children, and thought that maybe war would be the only way to end that situation.
by whomever1 2007-01-17 03:23PM | 0 recs
I object to Pre-Emptive War

I opposed the war in Iraq from the moment it was mentioned, for many many reasons.

This was a pre-emptive war. We were not attacked. We attacked Iraq on the (demonstrably false) presumption that we needed to do so to protect U.S. interests.

Some more reasons I opposed the war in Iraq:

*no proof that there was a danger (the falsity of the 'weapons of mass destruction' claims)
*no opportunity for the U.N. inspectors to complete their investigations to see if there was a danger
*no imminent attack on the U.S. or vulnerability of the U.S. that could be prevented by a U.S. attack on Iraq
*suspicious of the Bush Adminisration claims for the war (oil always seemed a more likely reason behind the U.S. war in Iraq)
*Saddam Hussein was put in his position by the U.S. -- so it seemed unlikely that his U.S. facilitators had stopped being involved in his activities
*Iraq had no relationship to the 9/11 destruction, though the Bush Administration continued to make the false claim that the Iraq war was an outgrowth of 9/11
*seemed like a new opportunity to try out fancy war toys and contractors, which were touted as better ways to make war without impacting our U.S. soldiers

by MS 2007-01-17 03:36PM | 0 recs
Re: Why People Supported And Opposed the Iraq War

I was opposed to the war because there was no reason to invade Iraq other than to remove Hussein and the US isn't in the business of removing evil dictators just because they are evil dictators and if we were then Iraq would not be the first place to go.  Hussein was not a threat and was easily contained.  As far as the other reasons given for invasion at the time these were all demonstrably false.  In particular, WMD's were a non-issue since weapons inspectors were in Iraq weeks before the vote in Congress.

by msstaley 2007-01-17 03:39PM | 0 recs
Re: Why People Supported And Opposed the Iraq War

I opposed the war before the Powell Presentation. I examined the photographs published with it. I opposed the war after the Powell Presentation. Bush, Powell, and the other liars claimed that certain photo pairs several months apart showed new construction, but they showed the same buildings, in the same condition. Because one photo was taken in the morning and one photo was taken the afternoon, and one was closer to noon, the two showed different arrangements of shadows, but not of buildings.

I assumed that since they were lying about the C/W 'evidence' they might not have any C/W evidence.  And when inspectors claimed the C/W weapons were destroyed, I believed them, and didn't believe Bush.

I assumed that Saddam Hussein would not repeat the mistakes of 1991, but had stockpiled supplies in the cities and would concentrate forces in the cities. I was wrong about that. The Iraqi army fought in the open and lost.

So the U.S. Army took Baghdad without the several thousand killed I had expected/feared, but without the gas attacks many war supporters and war opponents alike had expected/feared. It would have made sense to declare victory and go home. Instead came the long occupation, handing the country over to Halliburton, shooting some protesters in until-then-peaceful Fallujah, etc.

by Left for the Left 2007-01-17 03:47PM | 0 recs
Re: Why People Supported And Opposed the Iraq War
I remember when the war drums began and the first time I heard and thought of the possibility of them going to war against Iraq I got this lump in my stomach.
I knew it was so wrong.
I guess both of my senators felt the same way.  One was in the Senate (and now Majority whip) voted against it and the other made a speech against it at an anti war rally.
by vwcat 2007-01-17 04:06PM | 0 recs
Why I Opposed the War

1. I didn't see THE POINT. I knew that Iraq was the Arab Equivalent of Yugoslavia and that Saddam was its Tito. There was nothing to indicate that he was a threat.

2. We didn't finish the mission in Afghanistan which we COULD directly match to 9-11.

3. If we were going to invade an Arab country for 9-11, then it should have always been SAUDI ARABIA - which gave us 15 out of the 19 hijackers on 9-11.

4. I always thought it was about OIL, which meant hell no to me.

by rikyrah 2007-01-17 04:28PM | 0 recs
Re: Why I Opposed the War

I too didn't see the point.  I still don't know why we did.  I thought 15 of the 19 hijackers were Egyptian, which we were never going to hit.  Also I want to say that Tito, who had his problems was a whole hell of a lot better than Hussein.  But still.

by ruthhmiller 2007-01-18 09:09AM | 0 recs
Re: Why People Supported And Opposed the Iraq War

Since when have the American people needed a logical reason to attack a 3rd world country composed of people of color (especially if they have a different religion)?

All you need is a president capable of fear-mongering and demonizing. It's worked again and again. The majority only becomes antiwar much later, when the costs get too high.

Just ask Nicaragua, Panama, Grenada, Angola, Vietnam, Laos, and a few dozen other countries.

by aenglish 2007-01-17 04:29PM | 0 recs
What a ridiculous question.

Let me rephrase your question in a manner that might help people see how stupid it is:

Why did you want Peace?

by charlie dont surf 2007-01-17 04:33PM | 0 recs
Re: Why People Supported And Opposed the Iraq War
I watched Colin Powell's U.N. presentation where he showed slides of semi-trailers which "could be" mobile labs and other objects which "might be this" or "we think may be that", etc. His language said to me that he was not certain any of this story was true and that, probably, it was a snow job. The real shock, to me, was that Colin Powell was saying it, since I had previously held him in the highest regard and otherwise would have trusted every word he said. When he, and others, painted a verbal picture of an Iraqi nuclear attack on America, I thought it preposerous - Saddam shoots a missle from Baghdad and hits Chicago! How silly can you get?  Whether nuclear, biological, or anything else, I could not imagine any circumstance in which Iraq could present an imminent threat, to the United States.
I believed the real story involved Bush paying back his contributors - doing something like making it possible to complete the ill-fated oil pipeline into Afghanistan or otherwise groveling to the military-industrial complex.
by Sweet Sue 2007-01-17 04:49PM | 0 recs
Re: Why People Supported And Opposed the Iraq War

War is bad. People are killed, people's bodies and minds are maimed, people's lives are ruined or disrupted, huge sums of money are wasted that could have gone to, say, no-tuition higher education for all. So you avoid war when you can. That's just my moral bottom line, probably instilled by my liberal Christian upbringing.

I was ambivalent about the Afghan war and thought more time and bullying might have made the Taliban cough up bin Laden and company. I figured the administration had a little blood lust to get out of its system. Hah.

I had read about the Middle East in a long travel series in the New Yorker by Milton Viorst. Iraq was quite a modern place by some standards 20 years ago, city people looked Western, lots of women professionals, lots of Christians and a few Jews in good standing, very secular--bin Laden's nightmare! Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden were polar opposites, and it seemed insane to me to attack Iraq on account of al Qaeda--as someone else put it, like attacking Mexico on account of Pearl Harbor.

And then I had a whole lot of other reasons, including most of what everyone else has listed, starting with our need to follow through on Afghanistan, devote resources, and make a good job of patching up the country and getting it going in the right direction.  

by joyful alternative 2007-01-17 04:55PM | 0 recs
Why dont anti War get respect?

Kevin Drum asked that question?

Yes why?  Those Washington pundits are 100% wrong but they get the respect and big bucks and promotion.

And media still consults them for their opinions.  Why?

by jasmine 2007-01-17 05:01PM | 0 recs
Re: Why People Supported And Opposed the Iraq War

HIGHEST RESPECT FOR SCOTT RITTER AND BLIX.

by USAagain 2007-01-17 05:05PM | 0 recs
Re: Why People Supported And Opposed the Iraq War

Actually, one of the easier decisions in my lifetime.

1. WMD. After all the inspections by the UN inspectors and, knowing that there had to be covert ops ongoing to make the administration's case, the fact there was nothing ever found leads to one of two conclusions:
a) The WMDs didn't exist
b) The Iraqis had done such a marvelous job of burying things that they should be awarded clean-up contracts on our superfund sites.

2. Ties with AQ. The last thing that a dictator like Saddam wants is the presence of a destabilizing force like AQ. I mean, good grief folks, Survivability 101!

For me, opposing the war was not a hunch, or a "gut feel." It was, as Spock would say, "Logical."

by Bob Miller 2007-01-17 06:46PM | 0 recs
Re: Why People Supported And Opposed the Iraq War

After serving 20 years (retired) in the US Navy during the 'cold war', I believe that armed conflict is bad, and should only be used to defend 'direct attacks', either on our country or our allies, by uniformed armed forces directed by foreign governments intent on invasion.  Almost any other scenario should be delt with as a law enforcement matter.  Governments should be delt with diplomatically.

by viperlmw 2007-01-17 07:13PM | 0 recs
Why I Opposed the Iraq War

My reason is summed up in my dKos sig line:

"To initiate a war of aggression...is the supreme international crime" - Nuremberg judgment, 1946

If you examine the reasoning of Justice Jackson, you see the reason agressive war was "supreme" among crimes is that it unleashes all the other crimes of war -- murder, rape torture, theft -- when not a last resort.  And once the horrifying forces of modern war are set in motion, no one can predict where they will lead.

Bush's crime of aggressive war against Iraq has demonstrated all this with dismal clarity.

by grassroot 2007-01-17 07:15PM | 0 recs
Re: Why I Opposed the War

I opposed the whole "war on terror" from 9/11/2001 on -- we were and are confronted by something that needs international cooperative law enforcement and adoption of policies that undermine the impetus that some people feel to commit terrorist acts. A good start would be to FORCE Israel to retreat its 1967 borders, internationalize Jerusalem, and compensate the Palestinians it displaced. Snatching up Bin Laden and trying him is the International Court of Justice wouldn't be a bad idea either. Conducting "targeted killings," assasinations of people somebody says are terrorists, merely makes the problem worse.

I opposed the "war" on Afghanistan which was and is merely mucking around with "our" warlords in preference to Bin Laden's warlords.

I opposed the Iraq war which had NO rational justification that benefited the American people and  which was unequivically an aggressive war under the Nuremberg definitions (despite a coerced UN fig leaf.) As far as I can figure out, we invaded Iraq in order to prove the Dick Cheney and  little boy Bush are unbounded to both national and international rule of law.

It is all very depressing.

by janinsanfran 2007-01-17 07:49PM | 0 recs
Re: Why People Supported And Opposed the Iraq War

Many of the reasons stated above motivated my opposition to this war from Day One.  It seemed glaringly obvious that, in the face of imminent findings by the UN inspection teams that the Hussein regime had no WMDs and did not pose anything even remotely resembling an imminent threat to anyone, Bush's rush to bomb Baghdad was the most transparent of maneuvers.  It seemed obvious to anyone with even a partially-functioning brain that the war was being waged solely to boost Bush's sagging poll numbers and distract the American public from his failures to (a) find and capture those responsible for 9/11 and (b) work on actual measures to make America and the world safer from such attacks.  And yet, we had allegedly intelligent people like John Kerry voting in favor of the AUMF, only to claim later that "we were lied to."  Bullshit!  The complicitors in Congress knew damn well that Bush was lying before they voted--it just wasn't politically expedient for them to oppose the war then.  I don't buy for a second any excuses for supporting this goddamn abomination.  To all latecomers, better late than never, I guess.  Try explaining to your grandkids how you really thought that Saddam was an imminent threat, or how "we all" supported the war at the start.  Sounds a goddamn awful lot like the "good German" defense to me.  Explain to them how you were too busy to learn the truth, how it was too much for you to lift the phone to call your Congressperson to tell them "Hell no!"  Oh well, what's a few thousand dead American troops?  What's a few hundred thousand dead Iraqi civilians?  What's 10,000 or 20,000 orphaned and maimed Iraqi kids?  Weren't they just future "Qaeda" anyway?

Yeah this is a screed.  Sorry.  Ban my ass.  I don't care much at this point, because we're still sitting on our asses, about to let the slaughter get bigger and better, about to be "duped" again--this time with Iran.

by leveller 2007-01-17 08:03PM | 0 recs
Re: Why People Supported And Opposed the Iraq War

One reason that I opposed the Iraq war was my support for the Afghan war. I felt like going to Iraq would be a major distraction from what needed to be done in Afghanistan.

I also thought that the Iraqi people would be much worse off after we decimated their country.

With Afghanistan I thought we were doing the right thing, but in a completely wrong way. The Afghan invasion on the cheap was complete folly. We had a chance to really do some good there. I thought invading Afghanistan was the appropriate respond to Sept 11. Shame that we left it to rot.

by carrieboberry 2007-01-18 01:08AM | 0 recs
Re: Why People Supported And Opposed the Iraq War

There are so many good reasons given here for opposing the war. I opposed it from the first instant because my liar radar was pinging off the scale everytime I heard a talking head saying 'Weapons of Mass Destruction.' I also took a couple of hours to do research on the web about Iraq (including the CIA Factbook) and came to the conclusion that a country with 67% of the population unable to read or write and the number of fighting age men less than the population of Greater New York area was no threat to us. Maybe a deadly nuisance, but not a threat. There was no Iraqi economic base to support any aggression against the US. They had no navy or air force of substance. It didn't add up to anything remotely requiring the US to go to war while the fact that Saddam had announced his intention to switch to Euros for oil surely indicated why the mis-administration was so eager for one. When France and Germany said Thanks, but no Thanks, that sealed the deal.

by utahgirl 2007-01-18 02:59AM | 0 recs
Re: Why People Supported And Opposed the Iraq War

It was perfectly obvious that the whole thing was 'on the nose' from the start.

I never trusted the Bush administration and the shift of attention to Iraq after 9/11 seemed to have a definite ideological and geopolitical agenda.  I still believe that the war on Iraq was preceded by a 'war' on the UN, and international diplomacy in general, following the mistaken calculus that after the fall of the Soviet Union the US was free to pursue unilateraly whatever international objectives it saw fit - that naked power was a 'morality' in itself.  This was all well understood neo-conservative stuff at the time.

I still believe this war had more domestic than geopolitical purposes; part of an intentional attempt to broaden the powers of the executive branch and then use that power in unprecedented ways.  This seems reinforced by the incompetence of the notion of exporting Western style democracy to Iraq, of all places.  These were not foreign policy experts making these choices; what possible gain could a democratic majority Shi'ite state, even a pliant one, yield when neighbouring Shi'ite Iran was a likely emerging regional power.

But more than anything I was dumbfounded to see the Bush administration playing into the hands of Islamist extremists by polarising the conflict itself. Wasn't that obviously the intention of their movement, to undermine moderate Islamic states by weakening their position of engagement with the West?  When Bush wrapped himself in the flag and announced his 'crusade' I felt the US had reached the nadir of good sense and international relations.

Frankly I was shocked that the MSM and leading Democrats did not stand up to this, or even provide a credible dissenting opinion; one of the reasons I have little sympathy for the discomforture of those now seeking office who are in this category.

I must stress that this all seemed perfectly obvious at the time; there was plenty of contemporary evidence that the WMD and terrorism accusations against Iraq were fabrications.  Remember Scott Ritter? The abuse hurled at France for refusing to support us?

I feel that this remains a litmus test for integrity and have nothing but respect for the few individuals and institutions which did stand fast;  there were precious few of them at the time.

by Shaun Appleby 2007-01-18 03:46AM | 0 recs
Re: Why People Supported And Opposed the Iraq War

Thanks for asking for my 25 cents:

It is pretty obvious that the roots of terrorism are poverty, ignorance, and general machismo of the dis-enfranchised. The war in Iraq promised to do the wrong thing in all of these dimensions.
 - Make 'em poor by blowing up their infrastructure
 - Keep 'em ignorant by destroying their economy some more
 - Keep them ashamed by being a bigger badder bully.

There was no way that doing the exactly wrong thing would somehow come out right. Also, the sense that the Iraq war was somehow connected with some kind of spirit of revenge, in addition to oil greed, should have given everyone pause.

by pwax 2007-01-18 04:26AM | 0 recs
Re: Why People Supported And Opposed the Iraq War

I helped plan No Iraq War protests daily and weekly.

Major reasons given by our neighborhood group that met weekly to plan neighborhood walks and vigils and watch Bill Moyers Friday TV show together: (All were furious readers about war plans, constitutional law, and Iraq & U.S. social political economic history.)

1) It's wrong to invade and occupy another country. International treaties that we have signed forbid it. Iraq was not engaging us in a border skirmish, was not parking battleships off our coast.  (We didn't invade and occupy the USSR because they had submarines off our coast).

2) Any treaties ratified by the Senate have the force of law and can't be abandoned by a president's desire. Bush would have to break the law to invade Iraq.

3) Bush was lying and hiding his reasons for wanting to invade Iraq. He didn't make a legal case for war. Bush had no respect for the law or the people's will. The majority of the populous at the time opposed the invasion of Iraq but Bush had no respect for the will of the people.

4) Whatever his reasons, he didn't have the authority to invade and occupy another country. The united Nations didn't support invasion and the congressional resolution in October didn't give it, we believed. Many in our group began working on inpeachment issues. Other went ot work on presidential campaigns of Dean or Kucinich or Clark.

by mrobinsong 2007-01-18 06:42AM | 0 recs
Re: Why People Supported And Opposed the Iraq War

Why I opposed the war:

two words
Scott Ritter

He continually called it.

When he mentioned that the Marines were being forward deployed he said there was no doubt we were going into Iraq.

Until proven otherwise he's been the gold standard.

v.

by ivictor 2007-01-18 06:58AM | 0 recs
Re: Why People Supported And Opposed the Iraq War

Interesting topic. I was against it in the first place mainly for the following:

I believed Saddam was contained. He had no capability to threaten any nation because of a decade of inspections and air strikes.

I believed it was a diversion from Afghanistan (which I supported) and the wider terrorist threat. Indeed I thought we would be playing directly into the hands of OBL by creating more terrorists.

It was against international law. I would have grudgingly accepted it if the UN had agreed.

I didn't and do not trust George W. Bush and his neo-con cohorts.

I am quite frankly bewildered that we on the left are still considered by many as being 'weak' on National Security when events have proved us right at every step of this mess while the Bushies have continued to screw it up at every turn. How can they continue to say that we don't care about the troops when rather than add more sitting ducks to be shot at and blown up we would actually get them out of harms way?

by conspiracy 2007-01-18 07:02AM | 0 recs
Re: Why People Supported And Opposed the Iraq War

Lots of good comments on the "whys and why nots" of support for the war.  I'd like, though, to make a couple of observations about your general interpretations of the poll results.

"This poll appears to indicate that most people who support / supported the war just wanted to do something in response to 9/11 to protect themselves from future terrorism, even if that terrorism didn't have WMDs. Even people who  supported the war didn't buy into, or at least care quite as much about, either freedom in Iraq or any weapon stockpiles Hussein may or may not have had."

I think this pretty well sums up the general attitude of people here in my little red corner of Ohio.  People here were, and still are, pissed as hell about what happened on September 11 (who isn't??) and just wanted "to do something".  To them it doesn't have to be logical, make sense or be even legally justifiable to anyone.  It doesn't really even need to be the actual party involved in the attacks.  They just want to kick some ass.  And who better than those dark skinned,  fanatically religious, prayer chanting foreigners who "hate our way of life".
That is truly the attitude of whole lot of people down here.  It is a "soft bigotry" that exists here but it is very evident all the same.  They like it and truly believe that we're "killing them in Iraq so we don't have to kill them over here".  

So I think your conclusions are pretty accurate, especially as relating to this part of the country.  It really didn't matter to them who we hit, as long as it was somebody we already have a subconscious dislike for.  Somebody different, preferably Middle Eastern.  So that's what they got, right or wrong, and here we are today.  A party to the killing of tens or hundreds of thousands of people in a country which had nothing to do with September 11.  All to satisfy our testosterone saturated impulses developed through all those years of cultivating the "white hat/black hat" cowboy mentality we Americans love so much.

A truly American psychosis.  We are a better people than this.  We have proven it in the past  and I hope we have a future in which we can make amends for our recent flirtations with this madness.  

by MikeInOhio 2007-01-18 08:29AM | 0 recs

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