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Tuesday, July 26, 2005 

US Public at Odds with Itself

Cognitive Dissonance: psychological conflict resulting from incongruous beliefs and attitudes held simultaneously (courtesy of Merriam-Webster online)

A new USA Today poll shows 51% of Americans believe the administration deliberately misled us into war, but that fully 53% believe it was "not a mistake" to send US troops to Iraq. Indeed, according to the survey, this represents "strongest support for the war since just after the Iraqi elections in January."

What's wrong with this picture?

One thing's for certain--this kind of imbalance will not last. Sooner or later people will have to reconcile their beliefs, and you simply cannot support a decision to go to war that was based on the very information you also believe was used to mislead you.

Think of it as a contract. The Bush administration made a contract with the American people that said, in essence, give us your support (and in a million or so cases, your sons and daughters) for this war and we will give you security. That was the deal. We had to invade because of WMD and the possibility of Saddam making them available to terrorists.

Now I'm not a lawyer, but I'm pretty sure that one of the basic requirements for a contract to be binding is the informed consent of each party. If the administration misled us about the reasons for going to war, how could we make an informed decision?

The good news here--if you can call it that--is that those of us who believed at the time that the invasion of Iraq was warranted can find some cover in the knowledge that we did not have all the facts at the time.

We do have the facts now, however. We know, for example, that there were no ties between Saddam and Al Qaida. We know that there were no WMDs found in Iraq. And we know, that these facts were subverted by the Bush administration in its public statements--at the time, and since.

I realize it may take some time for people to overcome the human tendancy against admitting you've been had, but the sooner we deal with how we got into this mess, the sooner we will regain the unity needed to deal with how to get out.

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