Lowry falsely claimed poll shows most Americans support sending more troops to Iraq

››› ››› ROB MORLINO

The National Review's Rich Lowry falsely claimed that a "late-October New York Times poll found that 55 percent of the public favors sending more troops to Iraq." In fact, according to an October 27-31 New York Times/CBS News poll, only 16 percent of respondents favored increasing the number of U.S. troops in Iraq.

In his November 14 National Review Online column, "Be Careful What You Believe," National Review editor Rich Lowry falsely claimed that a "late-October New York Times poll found that 55 percent of the public favors sending more troops to Iraq." In fact, a New York Times/CBS News poll conducted October 27-31 found that only 16 percent of respondents favored an increase in the number of U.S. troops in Iraq, virtually unchanged from what a Times/CBS News poll, conducted October 5-8, showed -- that 17 percent of respondents supported deploying more troops to Iraq. The 55-percent figure Lowry touted actually refers to the number of respondents who would support an increase in troop levels if it were guaranteed to be effective. A CBS News analysis of the poll noted: "There is one justification Americans would accept as a reason for increasing troop strength. 55% support sending more troops to Iraq if that meant the U.S. would finally gain control over Baghdad and stabilize the country."

Lowry further claimed that sending more troops to Iraq is "a position now endorsed by the [Times'] liberal editorial board." However a Media Matters for America review of recent New York Times editorials shows that, contrary to Lowry's assertion, the paper has not endorsed sending more troops to Iraq. Instead, the paper has called for the transfer of more U.S. troops to Iraq's capital, Baghdad, from other parts of the nation in order to secure that city. Thus the only increase in troop levels the Times has endorsed involves soldiers already in Iraq. In an October 24 editorial, "Trying to Contain the Iraq Disaster," the Times wrote:

The problem is that commanders in Baghdad have been given only a fraction of the troops -- American and Iraqi -- they need. There have never been enough troops, the result of [former Defense Secretary] Mr. [Donald H.] Rumsfeld's negligent decision to use Iraq as a proving ground for his pet military theories, rather than listen to his generals. And since the Army and Marines are already strained to the breaking point, the only hope of restoring even limited sanity to Baghdad would require the transfer of thousands of American troops to the capital from elsewhere in the country.

The Times subsequently revisited the issue of troop deployment, within in the context of discussing solutions for Iraq's instability, following both the midterm elections, in which Democrats gained control of the House of Representatives and the Senate, and President Bush's announcement of Rumsfeld's resignation. In a November 12 editorial, "Democrats and Iraq," the paper noted: "we have suggested one last push to stabilize Baghdad" -- apparently referring to the October 24 editorial -- and again called for "at least a temporary increase in American and Iraqi troops on Baghdad streets." In its November 12 editorial, the Times did not discuss from where the additional U.S. troops in Baghdad should be drawn.

From Lowry's November 14 National Review Online column:

Elections produce two things -- new elected officials and bogus conventional wisdom. Once they gain widespread circulation, erroneous beliefs about elections are difficult to reverse and can be nearly as important as who won or lost.

Here are seven myths rapidly gaining acceptance among conservatives, liberals or both:

[...]

President Bush now must give up on the Iraq War. The rebuke to Bush was unquestionably an expression of voters' frustration with the progress of the war, but they are not ready to give up yet. According to pollster Whit Ayers, less than one-third of voters favor withdrawal. A late-October New York Times poll found that 55 percent of the public favors sending more troops to Iraq, a position now endorsed by the paper's liberal editorial board. Bush still has a window to take decisive action to reverse the downward slide in Iraq.

From The New York Times' October 24 editorial:

Stabilize Baghdad

Most Iraqis have forgotten what security is -- or if they remember, it is an idealized vision of Saddam Hussein's dictatorship. Since neither the government nor the American occupation is able to provide basic services or safety, it is little wonder that Iraqis have turned to the militias for protection. In such a world, retribution will always take precedence over the uncertainties of political compromise.

American commanders have launched a series of supposedly make-or-break campaigns to take back the streets of Baghdad. The problem is not one of military strategy; their idea of ''clearing'' out insurgents, ''holding'' neighborhoods and quickly rebuilding infrastructure is probably the only thing that could work. The problem is that commanders in Baghdad have been given only a fraction of the troops -- American and Iraqi -- they need.

There have never been enough troops, the result of Mr. Rumsfeld's negligent decision to use Iraq as a proving ground for his pet military theories, rather than listen to his generals. And since the Army and Marines are already strained to the breaking point, the only hope of restoring even limited sanity to Baghdad would require the transfer of thousands of American troops to the capital from elsewhere in the country. That likely means moving personnel out of the Sunni-dominated west, and more mayhem in a place like Anbar.

From The New York Times' November 12 editorial:

Unless America's exit plans are coupled with a more serious effort to build up Iraq's security forces and mediate its sectarian divisions, a phased withdrawal will only hasten Iraq's descent into civil war -- while placing American soldiers who remain behind in even greater danger. We also fear that Iraqis will have no interest in anything but retribution, until they see that security and rebuilding are possible. For that reason we have suggested one last push to stabilize Baghdad. That would require at least a temporary increase in American and Iraqi troops on Baghdad streets.

We are skeptical of calls, by some Democrats, to divide the country into three ethnically based regions. Most Iraqis -- except for the Kurds -- show little enthusiasm for the idea. And while there has been horrific ethnic cleansing, it hasn't yet got to the point that boundaries could be drawn without driving many more people from their homes.

Such ideas deserve a full discussion, something the United States has not had since its troops first rolled into Iraq. We are not sure that any shift in strategy can contain the disaster. But we are sure that even a few weeks more of drift and confusion will guarantee more chaos and suffering once American troops leave. Voters gave the Democrats the floor -- and are now waiting to hear what they have to say.

Posted In
National Security & Foreign Policy, War in Iraq
Network/Outlet
National Review
Person
Rich Lowry
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