Yesterday, we found out that American support for U.S. participation in the Iraq war is rising.
One poll last week (Sept. 12-13) found that 51 percent of Americans back “the U.S. war in Iraq.” That’s the first majority for the war since October 2003. A slightly newer (Sept. 15-17) poll showed that, for the first time since last December, less than a majority of Americans believe the Iraq war was a mistake.
In other words, our role in the Iraq war is increasingly popular.
[Update: This analysis was posted in September 2006. With the Rep. Mark Foley congressional page scandal at the end of that month, with U.S. forces taking relatively high numbers of casualties in Baghdad in October 2006, with the Democrats winning Congress in November 2006, and with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld resigning in response to the election, U.S. hopes for success in Iraq plummeted until February 2007. In March 2007, two months into the “surge,” public confidence rose slightly.]
Tired phrase. I recalled yesterday that, over the last year or two, news story after news story has referred to the “increasingly unpopular Iraq war.” I asked if now we could expect an endless string of news stories with the phrase “increasingly popular Iraq war.”
But hold it. Were there really all these stories referring to the “increasingly unpopular Iraq war”? Were they only nightmares? Well, no. I checked, and there are tons of stories with that discouraging phrase.
Here are just a few examples of straight news stories describing Iraq as the “increasingly unpopular war.”
Note this: News stories written between Aug. 20 and Sept. 12 are demonstrably wrong if they used the “increasingly unpopular war” phrase. An Aug. 18-20 poll showed American support for the war at 35 percent. By Sept. 12-13, support rose a stunning 16 percent! In case the math ain’t clear, even with the margin of error, that’s increasing popularity.
Peter Wallsten, staff writer, Los Angeles Times, Sept. 13, 2006:
Bush, in a series of recent appearances, and other administration officials have stressed their view that the increasingly unpopular war in Iraq was part of the broader fight against terrorism and that critics were playing into the hands of terrorists.
Linda Feldman, staff writer, Christian Science Monitor, Sept. 8, 2006:
The question now is whether the increasingly unpopular war in Iraq -- long framed as a central front in the war on terror -- will undo the White House’s goal of portraying Republicans as more capable than Democrats of defending the nation.
Thomas Ferraro, Reuters, Sept. 6, 2006:
Polls show Lieberman with an early lead over Lamont, a wealthy businessman who beat Lieberman in the primary by portraying the senator as too supportive of the increasingly unpopular Iraq war and too close to President George W. Bush and other Republicans.
Anne E. Kornblut, The New York Times, Aug. 31, 2006:
Unlike the last two election cycles, when the threat of another attack helped bolster support for Republicans, strategists believe that the increasingly unpopular American presence in Iraq could hurt the governing party.
Marc Sandalow, Washington bureau chief, San Francisco Chronicle, Aug. 22, 2006:
As Republican congressional candidates struggle to defend the increasingly unpopular war in Iraq, Bush said military withdrawal in the foreseeable future would increase the likelihood of a terrorist attack in the United States.
CNN, March 13, 2006:
President Bush launched a new effort to shore up support for the increasingly unpopular war in Iraq on Monday and accused Iran of providing explosives used to attack American troops.
Caitlin Johnson, ABC News, Dec. 21, 2005:
There have been several large-scale protests against the increasingly unpopular war in Iraq, but none has matched the anger, urgency and frequency of the Vietnam War rallies.
Jill Lawrence, USA Today, Nov. 20, 2005:
The 2006 campaign year is shaping up as the first to feature both parties splintered and edgy over the increasingly unpopular Iraq war.
Susan Milligan, staff writer, Boston Globe, June 29, 2005:
In an address filled with references to September 11 and Osama bin Laden, Bush repeatedly linked the increasingly unpopular Iraq war with the 2001 attacks that galvanized the country against Al Qaeda and terrorism.
Embarrassed reporters. Shouldn’t there be a few red faces in the press corps? In particular, Peter Wallsten, Linda Feldman, Thomas Ferraro, Anne Kornblut and Marc Sandalow (and probably others) were writing of an “increasingly unpopular war” at a time when the Iraq war clearly was increasingly popular.
I can’t wait to see the corrections, retractions and apologies by Wallsten, Feldman, Ferraro, Kornblut, Sandalow and all the others who carelessly used the boilerplate phrase.
And then I can’t wait to see the stories by Wallsten, Feldman, Ferraro, Kornblut, Sandalow and the others reporting new events in the context of the “increasingly popular Iraq war.”
Hope for our troops. How will it feel to read that in a news story? Our enemies will be discouraged. Our troops will love it. I’ll check today’s papers to see if it’s there yet.
Update: Julian E. Barnes and Peter Spiegel, Los Angeles Times, Sept. 20, 2006 (hat tip: Tall Dave):
As conditions have worsened for Iraqis, the war has grown increasingly unpopular with Americans, and promises to be the major issue in November's congressional elections.
Update, Oct. 10, 2006: OK, it’s safe to call the U.S. role in the Iraq war ‘increasingly unpopular’ again.
Update, March 27, 2007: From rock bottom, U.S. confidence rises in Iraq war role, from February to March 2007.