Partisan Gap on Iraq War Widens (Not a Good Thing)

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A new New York Times/CBS poll shows that the partisan divide over the war is growing, and is already far greater than it was over the height of America’s conflict over the Vietnam War. According to the Times:

Three-fourths of the Republicans, for example, said the United States did the right thing in taking military action against Iraq, while just 24 percent of the Democrats did. Independents split down the middle.

It is tempting to take self-righteous satisfaction in such trends, and each party/side is formulating a way to exploit what a pollster quoted by the Times cites as a “growing chasm” to their own advantage. But if one can step back a moment from 2006/2008 tactics, this is not good news.

For one thing, ignorance of the facts still abounds. As Brad blogged earlier this week, a Harris poll finds:

Half of Americans [STILL!!] now say Iraq had weapons of mass destruction when the United States invaded the country in 2003 — up from 36 percent last year….In addition, 64 percent say Saddam had “strong links” with al Qaeda…Fifty-five percent said that “history will give the U.S. credit for bringing freedom and democracy to Iraq.”….American confidence in the Iraqis has improved: 37 percent said Iraq would succeed in creating a stable democracy, up five points since November.

Meanwhile, as the Times reports,

An analysis by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press found that the difference in the way Democrats and Republicans viewed the Vietnam War — specifically, whether sending American troops was a mistake — never exceeded 18 percentage points between 1966 and 1973. In the most recent Times/CBS poll on Iraq, the partisan gap on a similar question was 50 percentage points.

Thankfully, as of yet, this divide has not resulted in the vilification of the kids sent off to fight this war. But my worry is that on this issue, as on so many others confronting us these days, the country, and the families that compose this country, will be unable to do anything other than malign each other. That may fit into the strategies of politicians on either side of the Iraq War debate, but will it help us figure out a solution?

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FACT:

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Today, reader support makes up about two-thirds of our budget, allows us to dig deep on stories that matter, and lets us keep our reporting free for everyone. If you value what you get from Mother Jones, please join us with a tax-deductible donation today so we can keep on doing the type of journalism 2020 demands.

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