Why did only a few of us oppose the Iraq invasion?

December 30, 2006 | By | 2 Replies More

This question is misleading.  In 2003, approximately 40% of us opposed the invasion.   But it felt like there were only a handful of us.

I was looking through my 2003 writings to recall my rational for opposing the Iraq invasion.  I don’t see that I wrote anything much about Iraq back then.  I do remember thinking the invasion was a big mistake.  I do remember thinking that Colin Powell was blowing smoke at the U.N. 

Though I didn’t find much in writing from 2003, I found this 2004 email I wrote to a friend who was very much in favor of the war:

I’ve been working a lot of hours lately, but I can’t help but feel deep gnawing need to pry myself away periodically to do my small part to stop this insane movement that goes in the name of “conservatism.”  Squandering the budget is only one part of it for me.  Every day, this lunatic’s rhetoric and actions are causing 100 talented young men from the Middle East to dedicate their entire lives to lighting a nuclear fire so as to melt New York.  I truly believe that the short term temporary good that Bush has accomplished in the Middle East is far outweighed, not only by the blood spilled to accomplish it, but by the horrors we will be facing 10 and 20 years from now.  This country would never have gone to war had Bush and his team not bald-faced lied about the alleged urgent need to start this war. 

And now, a year later, he has no exit plan, and Rumsfeld is currently on TV denying that the administration ever claimed that the threat from Iraq was imminent.   We’re pouring huge amounts of money into Iraq’s infrastructure, material goods that, a few years from now (if not sooner), will be controlled entirely by zealots congealed into dysfunctional action by their hatred of the United States. 

Bernard Lewis’ book “What Went Wrong” details the ancient history of the Middle East:  there never has been a distinction between politics and religion there (except for Turkey, for which Turkey has been despised by most other Middle Eastern countries).  The current administration, in deep denial of the obvious social history of the region, lashed out to change all that by imposing a paper constitution on those angry folks, along with dozens of billions of dollars.  I’ve read enough history to know that this approach is fruitless and destructive to our own efforts.  The money we’re spending could have done great things in this country.

Re-reading this letter made me wonder how much of the country was actually in favor of the war in the months preceding the war.   I discussed this question with two co-workers today.  I thought I had read that 40% of U.S. citizens were against the invasion, but that seemed too high to us, in retrospect.  Back in 2003, people against the war seemed to be a rarity.  Were we actually so rare?

Wikipedia has an article pertaining to the changing attitudes of the U.S. public from 2003 to the present, though the article lacks citations to some key statistics.

  • According to Wikipedia, at about the time Bush gave his 2003 State of the Union address “Most polls showed that support for the invasion, depending on how the question is phrased, was at between 55-65% (58% according to CNN/USA Today, 57% according to the LA Times, and 67% according to Fox).”
  • A Gallop poll taken after the war began “showed a 62% support for the war.” 
  • In May 2003, “79% of Americans thought the Iraq War was justified, with or without conclusive evidence of illegal weapons.”
  • Fast forward to November, 2006.  At that time, “When asked if the U.S. did the right thing by going into Iraq, 41% responded yes, 54% responded no, with 5% unsure.”

It still boggles my mind that 40% (more or less) of the U.S. was opposed to the invasion in the months preceding the invasion.   It certainly seemed like there were only about a dozen of us out there.

One reason it seemed so lonely was the slanted coverage by the mainstream media.  Amy Goodman of DemocracyNow.org nails this issue in her documentary, “INDEPENDENT MEDIA IN A TIME OF WAR.”

You have not only Fox, but MSNBC and NBC, yes owned by General Electric, one of the major nuclear weapons manufacturers in the world. MSNBC and NBC as well as Fox titling their coverage taking the name of what the pentagon calls the invasion of Iraq. Operation Iraqi Freedom. So that’s what the pentagon does and you expect that, they research the most effective propagandistic name to call their operation. But for the media to name their coverage what the pentagon calls it. Everyday seeing Operation Iraqi Freedom you have to ask, if this were state media how would it be any different?

Why did the networks let the Pentagon choose the label for this tragic invasion?   If there were truly an independent media, at least one or two of the networks would have called the invasion “Operation Kill Lots of Civilians to See if There Really Are Any WMD’s in Iraq.”  But the media slant was furiously to the right.  Anyone who criticized the war effort was belittled.  Goodman sites a media survey conducted during the frenzied run-up to the war:

FAIR [Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting]did a study. In the week leading up to General Colin Powell going to the security council to make his case for the invasion and the week afterwards, this was the period where more than half of the people in this country were opposed to an invasion. They did a study of CBS evening news, NBC nightly news, ABC evening news and the NewsHour with Jim Lehrer on PBS. The four major newscasts. Two weeks. 393 interviews on war. 3 were anti-war voices. 3 of almost 400 and that included PBS.

[Emphasis added].  This is why it felt so lonely to oppose this war.  What’s really amazing about these numbers is that the talking heads presented by the FOX network were not considered.

Because there was no consistent national media presenting the viewpoints of the 40% of us who opposed the war.  This slanted national news coverage was picked up by local newscasts and local newspapers, the outlets where most Americans get their news. 

Yet, in 2006, the administration was still whining that it was the victim of the “liberal media.” On March 30, 2006,

Rumsfeld made clear that he believes the real problem in Iraq is simply the coverage:  “Much of the reporting in the U.S. and abroad has exaggerated the situation . . . Interestingly all of the exaggerations seem to be of a nature to inflame the situation and to give heart to the terrorists.” 

[From “The U.S. Propaganda Machine:  Oh What a Lovely War,” The Independent (UK), March 30, 2006 (cited by Amy Goodman and David Goodman, in Static:  Government Liars, Media Cheerleaders, and the People Who Fight Back (2006)]

Why was the coverage so slanted?  Books will be written about this complex topic for a long time to come.  There seem to be ,many influences.  The main problem is that the government worked hard to scare the public and to manipulate the news, as Amy and David Goodman carefully substantiate in StaticA deeper “why” is explored here.  I also suspect that the media doesn’t mind having a war to report on: having a war is a lot more interesting than not having a war.  It sells a lot of newspapers.   For a country that lacks a military draft, where most people are obsessed with shopping for things it doesn’t need, the war serves as a great antidote for boredom.

Was I almost alone in my attitudes toward the Iraq War in 2002-2003?  The statistics would say no.  But it certainly did feel like there were only a handful of us.  The government spin machine dovetailed incredibly well with the mainstream media to put on a fantastic show.   A show that killed hundreds of thousands of people and accomplished nothing at all.   Whether or not we opposed the invasion of Iraq, we will all be cleaning up the aftermath of that show for decades.


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Category: American Culture, History, Iraq, Media, Military, Politics, The Middle East, War

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

Comments (2)

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  1. Ken Larson says:

    There are good points in your article. I would like to supplement them with some information:

    I am a 2 tour Vietnam Veteran who recently retired after 36 years of working in the Defense Industrial Complex on many of the weapons systems being used by our forces as we speak.

    If you are interested in a view of the inside of the Pentagon procurement process from Vietnam to Iraq please check the posting at my blog entitled, “Odyssey of Armaments”


    The Pentagon is a giant, incredibly complex establishment, budgeted in excess of $500B per year. The Rumsfelds, the Administrations and the Congressmen come and go but the real machinery of policy and procurement keeps grinding away, presenting the politicos who arrive with detail and alternatives slanted to perpetuate itself.

    How can any newcomer, be he a President, a Congressman or even the new Sec. Def.Mr. Gates, understand such complexity, particularly if heretofore he has not had the clearance to get the full details?

    Answer- he can’t. Therefore he accepts the alternatives provided by the career establishment that never goes away and he hopes he makes the right choices. Or he is influenced by a lobbyist or two representing companies in his district or special interest groups.

    From a practical standpoint, policy and war decisions are made far below the levels of the talking heads who take the heat or the credit for the results.

    This situation is unfortunate but it is absolute fact. Take it from one who has been to war and worked in the establishment.

    This giant policy making and war machine will eventually come apart and have to be put back together to operate smaller, leaner and on less fuel. But that won’t happen until it hits a brick wall at high speed.

    We will then have to run a Volkswagen instead of a Caddy and get along somehow. We better start practicing now and get off our high horse. Our golden aura in the world is beginning to dull from arrogance.

  2. K says:

    It seemed lonely if you didn't put yourself in a place to really see how many people were actually against the war before it started. Remeber February 15, 2003 which holds the Guinness Book World Record for largest anti-war rally in history. You're absolutly right that the media did a piss-poor job of covering the anti-war movement/view, but if you looked the evidence was there, marching down the street, more then once.

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