This week, with General Petraeus in town and testifying to Congress, the Bush administration has been insisting that the surge has been a terrific success—despite abundant recent evidence to the contrary. In fact, the administration tells us the surge has been so successful that now we can stop withdrawing troops! It’s truly an Alice in Wonderland world in this White House.
The public must be wondering: What part of “get out of Iraq” don’t they understand? The latest CBS/New York Times poll has the lowest number ever (34 percent) saying the United States did the right thing taking military action in Iraq, and the highest number ever (62 percent) saying we should have stayed out.
What’s more, as I reported in my recent report, “What the Public Really Wants on Iraq,” the public has confirmed over and over again that its view on troop withdrawal from Iraq is that we should set and follow a timetable for withdrawal.
A late February Gallup poll asked the question this way: “If you had to choose, which do you think is better for the United States: to keep a significant number of troops in Iraq until the situation there gets better, even if that takes many years, or to set a timetable for removing troops from Iraq and to stick to that timetable regardless of what is going on in Iraq at the time?” The verdict, by 60 to 35, was that the United States should set a timetable for withdrawal and stick to it.
With the economy melting down, the imperative for withdrawal is greater than ever. The public sees a strong connection between the Iraq war and our current economic problems. The same CBS/NYT poll found that 67 percent think the war has contributed “a great deal” to U.S. economic problems, compared to 22 percent who think the war has contributed some to these problems, and just 6 and 4 percent respectively who believe the war has contributed not much or not at all to these problems.
The public’s opinion couldn’t be clearer. And stopping the drawdown of troops from Iraq couldn’t be more opposed to these views. Even for this administration, the lack of responsiveness to public opinion is astounding.