In Retrospect, Everything Seems Simpler
In a matter of seconds, the American public’s opinion was immediately altered. But how? And its opinion on what? To put it quite simply, all Americans capable of conscious thought remember the events that terrified the nation on September 11th, 2001 when two hijacked flights demolished the World Trade Center. Certainly images of billowing smoke clouds and raging fires race to the minds of Americans whenever the topic is discussed. But what else does the mere concept of 9/11 bring to the mind of the typical American? Anger, rage, loss, vulnerability, hostility, and change. Yes change. Not Obama’s idea in change. This change refers to a rather fundamental emotion that pervaded society. Americans rallied behind a communal hatred for those who terrorized them through the vulnerability of security system. These “attackers” were dubbed “terrorists” and according to many Americans, terrorists hailed from one place: The Middle East. Previous altercations and executive “research” hinted that the terrorists were associated with the terror group Al-Qaeda. Therefore, when President Bush asserted that Al-Qaeda may be active in Iraq and may be stockpiling weapons of mass destruction (WMDs), the American public blindly accepted his word in order to secure its own safety. After the 9/11 attacks, Americans greatly supported Bush’s decision to invade Iraq to discover WMDs, but after several years had passed, with mounting economic and human tolls without the realization of any WMDs, the American public slowly began to regret their instinctive support for the invasion.
Although the inhumane acts of dictator Saddam Hussein initially sparked the government’s interest in invading Iraq several years before, the true event that triggered the public’s support for the invasion was the horrific incident on 9/11. While it is true that before 9/11 52% of Americans supported an invasion of Iraq, they supported the effort mostly in order to spread democracy to Iraq and remove Saddam from power (Battle, “The Iraq War”). However, 9/11 truly engaged the public’s opinion because it forced citizens to internalize the inherent danger posed by rampant terrorist groups. Many citizens did not know exactly what to do in order to protect themselves, so they turned to the power of the national military for security against the common enemy as 60% of Americans supported an invasion of Iraq, according to a Gallup poll (“Iraq”). Again though, a general lack of knowledge on the terrorist issue amongst a great number of citizens led to a rather hasty and unfair assumption that Al-Qaeda was responsible for the attacks in cahoots with Saddam (Benedetto, “Poll: Most Back War”). Americans willingly blamed Al-Qaeda and Iraq because they yearned for a place to focus their revenge and retaliation against their “attackers.” This pure act of fear would eventually lead to an incredible support for any measure taken to prosecute the suspected guilty party.
The allocation of hatred towards Al-Qaeda developed an extreme form of domestic patriotism throughout America. Vulnerability united the nation, the nation of white Caucasians, against fellow Americans that bore a Middle Eastern heritage. There was simply no escaping the patriotism that exuded the American public. Streets were lined with American flags. Countless mailboxes donned a brand new red, white and blue skin. Flags all across the land wavered proudly in the high blue sky, whether on poles or car tops. In fact, 9/11 may have served the nation in a positive light in the realm that it charged the nation with a powerful feeling. However, the excessive patriotism permitted an “accepted” form of hatred against “foreigners” to develop. Throughout schools, many Middle Eastern students were discriminated against by their peers as authorities seemed to turn the other way as it is possible they secretly despised Middle Eastern Americans (Daraiseh, “Effects of….Education”). It is possible that the discrimination of Middle Eastern Americans occurred out of fear of the rest of American society. Either way, the out-casting of the Middle Eastern demographic produced a sense of entitlement and power to the American public as they continued to desire increased security against any global terroristic threat, which they imagined grew stronger everyday by the mere presence of the Middle Eastern population.
President George W. Bush certainly played a role in persuading Americans to support an invasion of Iraq. Immediately after 9/11 Bush seemed to connect Saddam Hussein with the Al-Qaeda attack, an action that made a military invasion of the entire nation rather necessary in the eyes of the public. In addition, he eagerly endorsed the excessive patriotism as he is a Texas native, known for their desire to defend the nation. The President’s support of such actions motivates the public to continue its demands for security. Finally, Bush and Powell’s UN addresses in early 2003 appeared to offer significant evidence that Iraq did in fact possess dangerous WMDs which needed to be dismantled immediately to secure the safety of the nation (Milwork, “Policy of Evasion and Deception”). Although these facts were later proven faulty, the American public failed to do any substantial research and quickly supported the invasion effort to procure their personal safety. The combination of the emotional response to 9/11, the numbing effect of patriotism, and the misinformation given by President Bush, led to an overwhelming 79% support rate amongst the American public in the beginning of March 2003, according to a Gallup poll (“Do…Iraq”). On March 20th, America invaded Iraq to dismantle WMDs and to remove Saddam Hussein to supposedly provide freedom for the citizens of Iraq.
However, the public’s support for the invasion quickly deteriorated as the economic and human tolls rose. Shortly after the invasion, media began to report a greater number of military setbacks rather than the few social progressions the invasion procured. The media easily persuaded the public as citizens realized that their families and neighbors were dying off for a seemingly unsuccessful invasion. Immediate reports indicated that the hasty invasion led to an oversight in military equipment as the Humvee appeared to be a death trap for American soldiers. The government’s ignorance of this fact further infuriated the public and led to higher death tolls as well as a greater call to bring the troops home (Walker, “Public…Iraq”). As if the human toll wasn’t enough, Americans realized the invasion certainly hit their wallets quite heavily. The government naturally funded the invasion with taxpayer money. However, at this point, few citizens were pleased to know that their hard earned money, in fact $6,300 per citizen (Watson, “Cost of War”), was being spent on sending troops to their deathbed in Iraq. The emotional toll of human loss and the simple necessity to conserve money served as an effective measure to reduce support for the invasion. These tensions were represented in the 2004 election as President Bush snuck by John Kerry, winning only 50.74% of the popular vote (Thomas, “Federal Elections 2004”).
Support for the invasion continued to plummet as President Bush expanded the operation to Afghanistan, once again, without any hard evidence. This additional expenditure compounded the economic and death tolls that Americans experienced every day, which only further reduced support for the effort. After the invasion of Afghanistan, many citizens recognized that not only did the Afghanistan invasion lack any legitimate evidence, but so did the initial invasion of Iraq (Vick, “U.S. Troops…Yet”). This truly triggered Americans to feel deceived by their own federal government. The feeling of deceit angered Americans beyond belief and once again led them to protest any further increased activity in the invasion as they felt pitted against the government. In addition, the public generally felt rather unintelligent because they didn’t realize such an important fact. Therefore, the public required a place to focus its anger, and the unfortunate recipient happened to be President Bush. Although Bush was in the middle of his second term and didn’t have to face an additional election, the public discontent with his actions became rather obvious. Citizens were constantly found discussing how “stupid” or “dumb” Bush seemed. Even to this day many Americans view Bush as one of the most unintelligent presidents of all time. By the end of Bush’s time as President, the public’s opinion about the invasion of Iraq had become rather clear after a roller coaster ride. To put it simply, by the end of Bush’s stint in 2008, 67% of Americans believed America invaded Iraq based on incorrect assumptions and should have never done so (Sussman, “Poll…Start”).
The American public initially supported an invasion of Iraq out of a natural instinct to retaliate against a common enemy, a flowing patriotic sentiment, and the careless, yet persuasive actions of President Bush. However, shortly after the invasion in 2003, the public quickly began to denounce the invasion as they realized the economic and human tolls, the lack of legitimate evidence, and the compounded mistake of invading Afghanistan. Admittedly the public was rather sporadic with supporting the invasion effort, yet, can one truly blame them? After being lied to by the federal government and feeling vulnerable many people in today’s society would have taken a very similar course of action. Looking back on the events, the proper course of action seems rather evident doesn’t it? Yet, sometimes in the heat of the moment, it is necessary for the public to make a large mistake in order to truly learn from what they’ve done.
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