The Iraq War Four Years Later

It was four years ago tomorrow night, early in the morning on March 20th Baghdad time, that the Iraq War finally began. After more than a year of build-up, accusations of links between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda that were later proven to be false, and stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction that never existed, it all started with a bomb attack on a bunker where Saddam was believed to be hiding. As would prove to often be the case as the war went on, it turned out that the intelligence indicating that Saddam and his cronies was in the targeted bunker was, in fact, false. In retrospect, it makes you wonder if anything we thought we knew about the Iraqi regime in the days, weeks, and months before March 2003 was even halfway true.

The reasons for going to war, however, are mostly irrelevant at this point. We went there, we’re still there. Now the question is what happens next. According, to the latest CNN poll, the answer the American public wants to hear is that we’re getting the heck out of there:

WASHINGTON (CNN) — Americans are starkly less confident and proud of their country’s involvement in Iraq, according to poll results released Sunday.

However, the poll — results of which were released on the eve of the Iraq war’s 4-year anniversary — also indicated that Americans are no more worried about the conflict than they were when it began in March 2003.

The CNN poll of 1,027 adults was conducted March 9-11 by Opinion Research Corp. The sampling error for the poll is plus or minus 3 percentage points.

According to the results, 35 percent of Americans are confident about the war, the poll said. When the war began, 83 percent of Americans expressed confidence in the campaign.

Similarly, 30 percent of those polled this month said they were proud of the war, as opposed to 65 percent who expressed that sentiment in 2003.

The poll also showed that 33 percent of Americans are afraid of the war and 55 percent are worried by it. Those percentages are roughly the same as they were four years ago.

Sunday’s results came on the heels of a Saturday release indicating that years of war had whittled away at Americans’ support for the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

When the Iraq war began, 68 percent of Americans said they felt the situation in the country was worth fighting over. Now, 61 percent of those surveyed say it was not worth invading Iraq, according to the poll.

That survey of 1,027 adults by Opinion Research Corp. was conducted by telephone March 9-11 as well. It has a sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

The poll showed that support for the Iraq war had dwindled to 35 percent. In 2004, support for the war was about 56 percent. Last year, the number dipped to 37 percent, and today about 35 percent of Americans say they support the war, according to the poll.

There will be much debate between now and the 2008 election over what the proper course of action in Iraq should be and what happens on the ground between now and then is anyone’s guess.

What seems unlikely at this point, barring a miracle that seems unlikely, is that the war, or at least the Bush Administration’s war policy, will ever regain the support it had when the bombs started falling four years ago. The Bush Administration has nobody to blame for that but itself. Not only was the planning for the war nearly non-existent, which led to the problems we’ve experienced since the troops start movement, but the public was never really prepared for the kind of war that this turned out to be.

In the beginning, most Bush Administration officials, most notably including Paul Wolfowitz and Donald Rumsfeld, were telling the public that American troops would be welcoming by the citizens of Iraq and that there would be no need for a long, bloody occupation. Now, it’s entirely possible that they actually believed this, but reports that have come out over the past four years make it clear that there were people in the military warning that the invasion plan itself was flawed and that the planning for a post-invasion occupation was inadequate. Those people were ignored, and the men wearing the rose-colored glasses remained in charge.

In the end, it’s hard to see how things could have turned out any differently than they did.