May 14, 2007

John Edwards: Support the Troops By Undermining Their Mission

On a day set aside to honor those who have fallen defending liberty, Democrat John Edwards is determined to undermine the mission of those currently at war:

Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards is calling on his supporters to turn this year's Memorial Day into a day of antiwar activism, saying that the best way to honor the troops is to demand an end to the Iraq war.

"Each of us has a responsibility as Americans, a duty to our troops and to each other, to do all we can to support the troops and end this war," the former senator from North Carolina said yesterday during a commencement address at New England College in Henniker, N.H.

"This Memorial Day weekend, that means more than just getting in your car, driving to the beach, or a parade, or a picnic and saying the words, 'We support our troops,' " Edwards said.

"We must take responsibility and take action together -- as citizens, as Americans, as patriots. To support the troops. To end the war."

The new token patriotism extends to Edward's new web site Support the Troops. End the War, when they issue this advice:

Gather in public. On Memorial Day, get your friends, kids, co-workers, neighbors, aunts, uncles, grandfathers, grandmothers, and anyone and everyone you know together to publicly support the troops and end the war. Be sure to check with your local authority for any permits you need for public gatherings. Contact local media to publicize your event. Before you get started, please take a moment of silence to honor the fallen. And during your event, make sure you conduct yourself respectfully—both for those serving in Iraq and the memory of the brave servicemen and women that Memorial Day honors.

It says a lot about his base that Edwards feels compelled to remind his supporters to honor the fallen and conduct themselves respectfully, something most Americans have known since childhood.

Edwards also reminds visitors that contributions to his campaign aren't tax deductible.

Even heroic Edwards supporters must be willing to make sacrifices, it seems.

Posted by Confederate Yankee at May 14, 2007 02:48 PM

"72% of American troops serving in Iraq think the U.S. should exit the country within the next year"
--Zogby poll

Evidently the majority of the troops are on Edwards' side, not yours. Also the Iraqis overwhelmingly want us to leave. So why do you want us to stay?

Posted by: Lex Steele at May 14, 2007 04:31 PM

I support Firefighters -- keep them out of burning buildings!! I support the police, too -- Keep them out of dangerous neighborhoods!!

Even if 72% were an actual figure, are you proposing that we have a military run by the soldiers? Yikes.

75% of the troops want to scalp them a terrorist
-- Paully Poll

Posted by: paully at May 14, 2007 05:45 PM

And Lex pipes in with a 14 month old poll. Good stuff, Lex.

Posted by: CoRev at May 14, 2007 06:46 PM

Well, Paully, if you don't think the troops' opinions are persuasive, what about the Iraqi Parliament's opinion. A majority just signed a petition for us to set a timetable for clearing out. This country is alledgly democratic is it not? Something about purple fingers? Should the will of the Iraqi people not trump?

Posted by: Shochu John at May 14, 2007 06:49 PM

The Iraqi NONBINDING resolution was a trick by the Shi'ia. They promised revisions, especially to the Kurds, but never implemented them. It is going no where.

At the same time the Shi'ia were playing games in the parliamant, the Iraqi defense minister was in DC begging the Dems to act rationally, and fund the war.

Posted by: CoRev at May 14, 2007 08:49 PM

Of course it's a nonbinding resolution. The Iraqi parliament can't issue orders to the U.S. military to do anything. A further of course to the notion that the Iraqi defense minister doesn't want us going anywhere (call it survival instinct). Question though: If polling the Iraqi people isn't enough and if a majority of the parliament signing a petition isn't enough, what would be enough to convince you that the Iraqis want us to adopt some sort of schedule for leaving?

Posted by: Shochu John at May 14, 2007 09:59 PM

SJohn, which message makes sense to you? A nonbinding (call it a draft) resolution to be proposed to the cabinet to vote on, or the Defense Minister asking just the opposite of our own Congress? A minister with real responsibility versus a bunch of hot head politicos with little or no responsibility.

I've already addressed the Shi'ia subterfuge used to get to the drafting stage. It pretty much assures the Kurds will not vote for it. We have had many nonbinding resolutions recently. Do they mean the anything, other than feel good/bad statements?

Posted by: CoRev at May 14, 2007 10:15 PM

Paully: Even if 72% were an actual figure, are you proposing that we have a military run by the soldiers?

Prove that it's not 'an actual figure'. I said nothing about the soldiers running the military. The premise is that people like me are not supporting the troops. That is not true, the troops in fact want to leave.

CoRev: And Lex pipes in with a 14 month old poll.

Here's some fresher material for you, USA Today, December 2006:

"41% of the military said the U.S. should have gone to war in Iraq in the first place"

"When the military was feeling most optimistic about the war — in 2004 — 83% of poll respondents thought success in Iraq was likely. This year, that number has shrunk to 50%."


Posted by: Lex Steele at May 14, 2007 10:36 PM

I find it amusing that you discount the parliament but inflate Ubaidi as having some sort of responsibility. In terms of actual power, they are all equally worthless. The Prime Minister recently asked us to stop building the wall in Baghdad. We said we'd think about it. Then his aides backtracked on his behalf saying he was misled by press accounts. It would appear that he neither knows what is going on nor can control it. His worthlessness is reflective of that of the entire so-called government.

My point would be that the Iraqi parliament's opinion is useful insfoar as it is allegedly democratic and therefore reflective, in some vague capacity, of the will of the Iraqi people. The Iraqi people, when polled themselves, overwhelmingly want us gone (even to the point of attacking us to make it happen). So, I repeat my question, what expression on the part of the Iraqis that we should leave would you respect, if any?

Posted by: Shochu John at May 14, 2007 11:01 PM

The Iraqi people, when polled themselves, overwhelmingly want us gone

Now provide the exit context around that question.

Posted by: Purple Avenger at May 15, 2007 05:38 AM

SJohn, please provide the most recent poll result for your assertions. Even the latest ABC poll had mixed results, but did not ask this question: Do you want the Americans to leave, now? Every Iraqi I talk to, admittedly they are here in the US, say NO! Moreover, the ABC poll was done just as An Bar was turning, so today's results may be signiificantly different.

Posted by: CoRev at May 15, 2007 07:14 AM

Lex and SJohn, here is a current comment about Sunni concerns. Linked here

Posted by: CoRev at May 15, 2007 07:34 AM

Well, if you think polls can be trusted, it looks like everyone has soured on the war except the hardest core of hawks:

A Military Times poll from about five months ago tells us that only 35% of US soldiers approve of Bush's handling of the war (42% disapprove). Not as much dissaproval as among the general population, but it does seem as if many in the military agree with John Edwards. (To me the most interesting result here is their finding that 72% of US soldiers have deployed to Iraq at least once. This may or may not piss the troops off, but I'm here to tell you that their wives are speaking up. No surprise that divorce rates are up). See the article here:

More specifically, at least one poll hints more strongly that the troops might agree with Edwards. A Zogby poll from last year found that 72% of US troops polled wanted us out of Iraq within a year. See that one here:

The general American population is no happier about how things are going in Iraq. An AP-Ispos poll from last week tells us that Americans are 64-33 against Bush's handling of the war. Sixty-five percent say they oppose the war, suggesting they want it ended. This is probably because 55% think it is lost. Interesting here is that almost no one has mixed feelings--Americans have made their decision about this, and it looks bad for Bush. More and more supporting the troops means bringing them home--or at least putting someone else in charge. See the polls here:

Finally, the Iraqi people give us a more specific opinion: they want us out of their country. Seven out of ten Iraqis want us out within a year, and six in ten say that attacks on US troops are OK. It looks like al-Q'aida is not our only enemy there. See that poll here:

Given the state of public opinion in Iraq, it should surprise no one that the national legislature there gives voice to it. What I find interesting is the number of Americans who use elections and democracy as an indicator of success there, yet discount a duly passed, if non-binding, resolution asking for withdrawal of US forces there. If their legislature doesn't matter, then democracy is not an indicator of success in Iraq.

Mr. Edwards' argument that supporting the troops means getting them out of a war zone is not a specious one, at least not if part of that argument is that the troops themselves want out, and that their deployment there is not helping to protect US national security. We certainly don't want the troops running the military and voting on deployments (though many of you are happy to let the troops decide with whom they will serve when discussions of homosexuals in the military start). And protecting the troops does not mean keeping them at home and safe at the risk of our security--they enlisted just as I did, and know the risks and rewards of military life. But it does mean that we owe them proper equipment and competent leadership. The current administration has given them neither, and they know it (and I don't want to hear about how the Democratic Congress is shortchanging them today--these guys were sent to Iraq improperly equipped in 2003, as Rumsfeld himself acknowledged).

I believe that invading Iraq, deposing Saddam, and attempting to establish democracy there was a fool's errand in the first place, and could not have been successful even with competent leadership. Our military forces are very good, and the US projects power well, but it can't accomplish every mission--some things simply can't be done with the force levels we have. No one knows more about the limitations of military power than a soldier, and soldiers of all ranks are starting to speak more loudly about it limitations here.

I believe this only took our attention away from the real fight, and it has been a waste of our national treasure and of the lives of fine soldiers. Saying so does not make me a traitor, or less a supporter of the troops--many of whom are my freinds and former colleagues. If it does, then many of our own soldiers serving in Iraq and Afghanistan are themselves treacherous.

Posted by: R. Stanton Scott at May 15, 2007 07:48 AM

I am in the military, and just took a quick poll of the 27 personnel who work in the same location as I do.

There were 25 for the war, 1 undecided, and 1 against the war.

So I wasnt satisfied with those results I went on to contact my cousin who I asked to perform the same survey in his military unit.

47 for the war, 2 against, 1 in the hospital so he couldnt be asked.

Now where in any of those numbers does the 72% come up??????

Posted by: 81 at May 15, 2007 08:17 AM

81: Two words--representative sample.

Posted by: R. Stanton Scott at May 15, 2007 09:51 AM

Thankfully, there is someone here providing the poll results so I don't have to go dig them up (thank you, R. Stanton Scott). Secondly, you may not find this question asked or discussed much: "Do you want the Americans to leave, now?" The reason is that question is asinine, first and foremost because it is impossible. You just can't beam well over a hundred thousand soldiers and their equipment out of a country overnight. Disengaging from Iraq will require a date certain or timeable, if you will, to do it, such that it can be accomplished in a vaguely organized fashion, and these are the terms the question is usually asked in polls.

As to your link, I would note firstly that the sentiments come from Talebani, which should be, of course, taken with a big grain of salt when it comes to Sunni Arab opinions. Secondly, if this is true, it should be noted that when the Sunnis turn their attention to "the Iranians", that means the Shi'a. Considering the fact that Shi'ite death squads have been ethnic cleansing Sunni areas, I find it unsurprising that Sunnis consider them a substantial problem. If anything this portends an intensification of the sectarian violence.

Finally, I ask again, for the third time, theoretically, what expression on the part of the Iraqis that we should leave would you respect, if any?

Posted by: Shochu John at May 15, 2007 10:12 AM

SJohn, answering is easy. A poll of Iraqis that answered my one, simple question. Or a real vote of the parliament and law signed by Maliki asking/directing us to leave. And, even a poll here in the US that asked just this one simple question: "Do you want us to lose in Iraq?"

Now, don't get all rapped around the axle re: how the withdrawal would be accomplished. Just feel all warm and cuddly that your views prevailed.

SJohn this not necessarily true: "Disengaging from Iraq will require a date certain..." that's the Dem party line, but it could just as well be "event driven". An event just like the results from a national referendum answering my question. I prefer the referendum to a poll it is likely to be skewed.

Posted by: CoRev at May 15, 2007 11:04 AM

RSS, and what would make a "Two words--representative sample"? As you used your own feelings re: the subject earlier, It is my opinion that 81's poll is as representative of actual feelings of our fine military, as are yours.

BTW, most of your polls are already badly dated.

Posted by: CoRev at May 15, 2007 11:12 AM

"Do you want us to lose in Iraq?"

Now that is what I call a loaded question. I presume "us" means the U.S. and the dwindling coalition of the willing. This question is certainly not good for actually determining whether Iraqis would like U.S. forces to leave or set a schedule for doing so. Indeed, it stands to reason that many Iraqis would like us to stay so we can lose (call it the Zawahiri strategy). In any case, if you are going to craft a loaded question, that one may not get you the answer you desire. The number of Iraqis who say "yes" would probably track closely with the number who think it is acceptable to attack U.S. forces.

"BTW, most of your polls are already badly dated."

Luckily, they are irrelevant to any actual discussion of withdrawal as they fail to ask the above-discussed loaded question, yes?

Thank you for finally answering the question, though. I find your response illuminating. Correct me if I'm wrong, but it seems to indicate that there is absolutely no expression of the will of the Iraqi people which (1) could possibly occur (a referendum on the above question not being remotely realistic) and (2) you would honor as a valid request for us to leave.

Posted by: Shochu John at May 15, 2007 12:08 PM

81: "Representative sample" means that the random sample of people asked the poll question reflects the demographic makeup of the entire universe of members of the group. So a poll of troops, for example, would have to include the appropriate numbers of officers and enlisted soldiers, the right numbers from the different branches, age groups, gender groups, and ethnicities. Otherwise there is no way to know whether something about the sample makes them more likely to answer in a certain way. If your informal poll, for example, is all Navy personnel, or officers, it may reflect the views of that subgroup, but not of the larger population. I would be very surprised if your sample was representative.

It also matters who asks, by the way. If someone in a leadership position does the asking, the results will likely be skewed, probably to whatever position the troops think the leader holds. So if a commander conducts such an informal poll, and he is known to be a proponent of the war, troops will be likely to tell him what he wants to hear.

CoRev: Badly dated? The oldest one is from last September, and one from only five months ago. The poll of Americans was from last week. How recent to do want them to be?

The poll of troops is conducted annually. The numbers changed drastically since the 2005 poll. The trend is toward support for withdrawal, even among the troops.

And there is absolutely no analytical value to asking "Do you want us to lose in Iraq." It is a colossally stupid poll question--of course very few will say they do. More importantly, there is no reason to equate withdrawal with losing. We did not "lose" the Pacific War because we fought the Germans first, nor because we abandoned the Phillipines--both moves made military sense.

More importantly, from the perspective of our enemies we are losing under the current policy. With only a few thousand operatives (I can't bring myself to call them soldiers--I know what a soldier looks like, and those guys don't cut it) they have tied down almost one-half of the US military ground combat capability, and a good portion of its Navy and Air Force to boot.

Read that again and think about it. Only a few thousand poorly equipped and trained operatives have locked half the military forces of the lone superpower into a war of attrition that has no real good definition of victory. If you don't see the ginormous stupidity of letting them do this, then there is little more I can say.

But they are also bleeding us financially in a way that may well ruin our economy if the Chinese suddenly decide to stop lending us money. The have us living in fear and trading civil liberties for safety (you guys don't care about this until they start messing with your guns), while they expand their operations in Afghanistan and Europe.

We are losing, in other words, because we are not winning. And I find it hard to understand how staying in Iraq is supposed to "win" the war on terrorism. The al-Q'aida folks there are only marginally part of that group, and they are at any rate as hated by the locals as we seem to be. In fact, leaving may be our best move, since it would free the Shia and Sunnis there to deal with foreign terrorists their own way, and then come to some accomodation between them.

In the end, I am not convinced that Iraq would become any more chaotic if we left than it is now. And if it does, we haven't given anything up but the chance to stay in the middle of the Sunni-Shia bar fight. At any rate, we are left with a variety of bad options. Let's at least get our good soldiers and our wallets out of Iraq so they can be put to better use elsewhere.

Posted by: R. Stanton Scott at May 15, 2007 04:43 PM

R.Stanton Scott, Saddam, Uday, and Qusay aren't around for this debate, so it looks like a Victory to me. What "elsewhere" do you have in mind?

Posted by: Tom TB at May 15, 2007 05:38 PM

Tom TB: Afghanistan, for starters. Potentially China, North Korea, or Russia. The Taliban is resurgent, and may be taking that country back. And if you think we can deal with other potential threats with half our combat power in Iraq, you are sadly mistaken.

If your definition of "victory" is that Saddam and his brothers are dead, what are we still doing there? We already won, right?

Posted by: R. Stanton Scott at May 15, 2007 05:49 PM

Oops. Sons.

Posted by: R. Stanton Scott at May 15, 2007 05:49 PM

R. Stanton Scott:

For my poll the demographics were as follows

First this is a Naval Organization but does include Marines.

O-7 and above = 1
O-4 to O-6 = 4
O-1 to O-3 = 0
E-7 to E-9 = 10
E-1 to E-6 = 12

Now for my cousin this is an Army unit that returned from Iraq 6 months ago.

O-7 and above = 0
O-4 to O-6 = 2
O-1 to O-3 = 5
E-7 to E-9 = 5
E-1 to E-6 = 37

I am sorry it took so long for me to get these numbers together but it is hard to get my cousins information while he is stationed overseas.

Now if this is not a reprsentative answer then how does a poll that is conducted thru a paper, that most military members read only to find how much their next pay raise or what the next big uniform issue is, represenataive?

* This was an informal poll.

Posted by: 81 at May 16, 2007 11:00 AM

81: From a pay grade standpoint, it looks pretty close to representative. But other factors could matter as well, such as gender and specific occupational specialty. And, as I said, it matters who asks the questions.

The Military Times Poll was not conducted by asking readers to give their views. They commission a polling firm to conduct the surveys, after finding a representative sample. They asked non-readers the survey questions--in fact, it is likely that very few actual readers responded in the poll.

Your informal poll is certainly interesting, but it is not representative and says only that those particular units are very pro war, for some reason--or at least the members of the units say they are. It is in fact quite likely that many units in the US military would give similar results, whereas others would give an opposite one--balancing the opinions of the first (and note that I would not say that a unit giving the opposite result would be any more reliable when conducted in this fashion).

It is important to remember that people routinely lie when answering poll questions (not that I am saying your respondents did--there is really no way to know for sure). They often give the answer they think the pollster wants to hear. The best example of this is voting: after elections, when voters are polled and asked whether they voted, many more than actually did claim that they went to the polls. So if I poll citizens in a Congressional District where 50% voted, I am likely to get as many as 70% saying they voted. This happens almost every time, and it means that polls are at best a general tool.

Once again, I don't want to be too critical of your informal poll. It is a very interesting result. But the MT poll probably says more about broader opinion on the war among the troops.

Posted by: R. Stanton Scott at May 16, 2007 03:40 PM