Support for the war is at an all-time low. Forty-four percent now say the United States did the right thing in taking military action against Iraq, the lowest reading since the question was first asked more than two years ago.

A majority, nearly 60 percent, now disapprove of the way President George W. Bush is handling the situation in Iraq, while 36 percent approve. Almost half of those surveyed said that they were not proud of what the United States is doing in Iraq.

When asked how long U.S. troops should remain in Iraq, a majority said they should leave as soon as possible, even if Iraq is not yet a stable democracy. Fifty-two percent called for an immediate departure and 42 percent said troops should remain for as long as it takes to make sure Iraq is a stable democracy.

The political divisions that have been present all along, remain.

Seventy-one percent of Democrats said the United States should leave as soon as possible, while 31 percent of Republicans and 52 percent of independents took that position.

The poll found that the casualties had been particularly wearing on the public. Forty-five percent said there had been more American military casualties in Iraq than they had expected. ~The International Herald-Tribune

Already we can expect to hear the predictable counterblasts from the War Party: we are hurting morale, we are too sensitive to a “few” casualties, we are spineless weaklings, etc. But note the last figure: 45% said that casualties have been higher than expected. That probably has an enormous amount to do with collapsing support for the war. It is understandable that the public, accepting the administration’s either inept or deceitful predictions of easy victory, expected few casualties. These were, after all, just Iraqis we were fighting, and “we” had trounced them before with minimal losses (nevermind that the two wars are completely incomparable) and “we” had just ousted the Taliban (with helpful brigades of Northern Alliance cannon fodder)–the popular imagination might have seen it in just this way.

I imagine that if Mr. Bush had been even the slightest bit informed, prepared and honest, he would have told the public that casualties could easily be several thousands of men and that reconstruction might take many years. But his handlers, assuming they had any earthly idea what they were getting into (a big assumption), probably knew no one would go for it. However, if a majority did accept his pathetic justifications for this war, in spite of the greater expected costs, I suspect that more people would be supporting his policy today and would be far less scandalised by the loss of life. As I have said before, it is not that the public is necessarily so hypersensitive to combat losses, but that the costs and purpose of the war are not what they believed they would be. That gap between expectations and reality has been filled, naturally enough, by resentment at the man who started the war.

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