2005 December 29 Thursday
Popular Delusions On Iraq Diminish Somewhat

American democracy operates on ignorance.

More than four years after the attacks of September 11, 2001, many U.S. adults still believe some of the justifications for the invasion of Iraq, which have now been discredited, according to a new Harris Poll. For example:

  • Forty-one percent (41%) of U.S. adults believe that Saddam Hussein had "strong links to Al Qaeda."
  • Twenty-two percent (22%) of adults believe that Saddam Hussein "helped plan and support the hijackers who attacked the United States on September 11."
  • Twenty-six percent (26%) of adults believe that Iraq "had weapons of mass destruction when the U.S. invaded."
  • Twenty-four percent (24%) of all adults believe that "several of the hijackers who attacked the United States on September 11 were Iraqis."

However, all of these beliefs and others have declined sharply since the questions were asked in February 2005. For example:

  • Those who think Saddam Hussein had strong links to Al Qaeda have fallen from 64 to 41 percent.
  • Those who believe that Iraq was a serious threat to U.S. security are down from 61 to 48 percent.
  • Those who think Saddam Hussein helped plan 9/11 are down from 47 to 22 percent.
  • Those who think Iraq had weapons of mass destruction are down from 36 to 26 percent.
  • Those who think Iraqi hijackers attacked the United States on 9/11 have fallen from 44 to 24 percent.

As recently as February 2005 47% of the American public believed Saddam had something to do with the 9/11 attacks. The ignorance of the masses is appalling. Never mind all the news reports about Saudi hijackers and an Egyptian leader. In February 2005 44% of the public believed Iraqis were on those airplanes. This illustrates the big problem posed by having a reckless president. Much of the American public is so dumb and ignorant that it can be easily fooled.

I have a hard time seeing democracy as a panacea for the world's ills because most countries in the world have lower average IQs than America and America's average is already low enough to make the poll results above possible. Granted, low IQ isn't the only cause of such ridiculous beliefs. But the believers in that particular set of myths listed above are probably on average dumber than those who do not believe the myths.

Even if the biggest cause of the results above isn't low IQ the alternative explanations are no more comforting about the electorate.

Thanks to Greg Cochran for the tip.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2005 December 29 11:15 PM  Mideast Iraq


Comments
Steve Sailer said at December 29, 2005 11:58 PM:

You'll note that February 2005, when ignorance was more prevalent, was still _after_ the 2004 Presidential election.

Invisible Scientist said at December 30, 2005 12:04 AM:

It is simply too late now. The protracted guerilla war will waste so much of our resources that the national energy research will be delayed by at least 10-20 years, with deleterious consequences for the United States.

diana said at December 30, 2005 9:41 AM:

The recent numbers are still pretty awful. It's depressing, but...so what? Most people would drink sea water if their bosses told them it was premium lager.

The problem is our leadership class sucks. And that isn't changing soon.

Robert Speirs said at December 30, 2005 10:15 AM:

The problem with your post is that all those "delusions" have a lot of truth in them. Iraq was a focus of terror. It did have links - many - with Al Qaeda and many other terrorist groups. It did have weapons of mass destruction. It was a threat to the US. And it was involved in the 1993 attack on the WTC, so why not on 9/11/01? Perhaps it's not the people who are deluded. Clinton invaded more "innocent nations" than Bush has.

gcochran said at December 30, 2005 11:05 AM:

Wrong on every point, Mr. Speirs. You're crazy. But I welcome a second opinion.

gcochran said at December 30, 2005 11:25 AM:

And here it is: you're also lazy. Look at the official State Department report on terrorism in 2001, before 9-11: Iraq is a minor player in terrorism, not even mentioned. They were the fourth-biggest contributor to the Palestinians - but that's not aimed against us, now is it? . They hadn't done a damn thing against the US in at least 10 years. I happen to read the paper, and I follow international news, stuff like terroist bombings: I was well aware (before the war) that not one single significant act of terrorism had even been ascribed to Iraq in a decade. Don't you read the paper? Do you remember what you read? _Can_ you read?

Iraq had no significant connection with Al-Qaeda, according to the 9-11 commission. Why would that commission lie?

They had and used nerve gas (and lesser poison gases) in the Iran-Iraq war: war gases accounted for some 2% of war casualties. You might call that a superweapon, but I wouldn't. They had no nuclear program in the last decade, and that was easy to establish.
Threats are determined by motives and capabilities There was no way in which Iraq was a threat to the US. They did not have any such capability, and thr threat of retaliation made it impossible for Saddam to want to try. Even their neighbors, like Turkey, weren't afraid of Iraq and were puzzled by all our crazy talk about the Iraqi Peril.

And every official invetigation concluded that Iraq had nothing to do with that 1993 bombing. Nothing. That's what the FBI says - why would they lie?

Why should I believe you, rather than the FBI, the 9-11 Commision, the Kay and Duelfer reports? Why should I believe you rather than my lying eyes?


Ivan Kirigin said at December 30, 2005 12:47 PM:

It really is an amazingly tiresome matter to constantly have to justify the invasion of Iraq.

While those interested in the future of the region are open to reasonable alternatives in future strategy, this page is dedicated to the idea that those brown/muslim people are too dumb to be reformed. What optimism!

Just make sure you have a recognizable avatar online in the near future. When disaster does not result from out current adventures, and the payoff is clear as day, you can be identified and all your foreign policy opinions ignored.

diana said at December 30, 2005 12:53 PM:

Not to pile on (oh, why not), but the recent Iraq elections succeeded in installing an Islamist government. Even the Sunni parties that won weren't secular -- they were Islamist.

How does that help the United States? I grant that Saddam Hussein was no prize, but his government lacked internal and external legitimacy. Now Islamists are in power in Iraq...and the government will be legitimate, at least to Shiites and Kurds.

Somebody please explain to me how this is worth American blood and treasure. Somebody please explain to me how this advances American interests in the world. And in your explanation, use facts, not emotions.

gcochran9 said at December 30, 2005 1:57 PM:


Since there was no threat averted and there are no tangible benefits, only huge costs, making the case isn't going to be easy. But Kirgin, why don't you try convincing the War College first? Might be easier. Change their minds and I promise to reconsider. While you're at it, change General Odom's mind. And General Zinni. And General Hoar. And George Bush Sr.

Christ, even fucking Tom Clancy think's it's a mistake.

diana said at December 30, 2005 2:33 PM:

Kirigan, thanks, again, you've proven that the war party has no facts, only insults. Move along.

Jorge D.C. said at December 30, 2005 3:08 PM:

American democracy operates on ignorance.

Ha that is a funny headline. d-u-h.

Political ignorance and confusion demonstrated by polls of the general population is a long standing American tradition and possibly the natural state of an affluent free society.

It is not news many persons on the street have the facts wrong. It's also not news that the US entered another war using questionable intelligence and a huge propaganda campaign.

This state of affairs is cause for alarm if you don't like the way American history has turned out up to this point. Please someone post a list of wars where the US entered riding a white horse with no alterior motives and crystal clear moral highground. You'll have a short list. And, no, it won't include WWII.

For the record I'm against nation building and definitely not a fan of El Presidente Bush.

American democracy operates on ignorance.

And let me just add: damn all this talk of democracy!

Google results:

819,000 - "american republic"
2,030,000 - "american democracy"

What a sad state of affairs.

We are a representative republic and not a democracy. Pure democracy sucks and always has sucked. The founders were against it obviously. Pure democracy is as unAmerican as dictatorship.

btw one great victory for the Left in this country is that both parties blather on about the merits of democracy (and really they mean the nasty proportional kind which we reject here at home) when one party should be delineating and focusing on securing representative republicanism domestically and holding that system up as an example for the rest of the world - especially the Electoral College system which every European sure could use these days.

Theresa said at December 30, 2005 3:29 PM:

American democracy operates on ignorance

You're assuming that people base their beliefs and make choices on knowledge and rational thought. Evidence suggests this is not the case.

Most people will believe whatever the person with the most confidence tells them. People telling the truth are often pretty confident...but so are good poker players and psychopaths.

"It Ain't What You Say, It's The Way That You Say It"
http://www.scienceblog.com/cms/node/7403

And, people do not just "go along" with what the persuasive person tells them -- their perception is actually altered >>

"What Other People Say May Change What You See"
http://www.nytimes.com/2005/06/28/science/28brai.html?ex=1277611200&en=9056930f1620a2d4&ei=5090&partner=rssuserland&emc=rss

"There's a Sucker Born in Every Medial Prefrontal Cortex"
http://www.nytimes.com/2003/10/26/magazine/26BRAINS.html?ex=1382500800&en=f2f892dad7b173aa&ei=5007&partner=USERLAND

Humans are social creature -- with a herd mentality. It's extremely interesting -- but extremely frustrating -- that this is what has been selected for. :|

Invisible Scientist said at December 30, 2005 8:41 PM:

"Most people will believe whatever the person with the most confidence tells them. People telling the truth are often pretty confident...but so are good poker players and psychopaths."
-------------------------------------------

Excellent point. But additionally, totally ignorant but perfectly conditioned people also speak with great "confidence", in such a way that their conditioning also becomes contagious since people who hear these confidently uttered words often internalize them without any questions...

Randall Parker said at December 30, 2005 8:54 PM:

Theresa,

Like I said, if the problem isn't IQ the alternatives aren't any better. Yes, the genetic programs that wires up the vast bulk of human brains are not designed to make us extremely rational and devoted to the truth.

diana said at December 30, 2005 9:04 PM:

Did you know that George Bush did one thing well in college? He was an excellent poker player. Doesn't that tell you something?

Stephen said at December 30, 2005 9:36 PM:

To add to Theresa's list, political advertising & TV sound bites favour politicians who are simplistic rather than those who recognise complexity and therefore try to give a nuanced answer.

Invisible Scientist said at December 30, 2005 11:41 PM:

OK, what kindS of Apocalyptic predictionS are we going to make for the New Year?

Theresa said at December 30, 2005 11:58 PM:

Invisible Scientist >> totally ignorant but perfectly conditioned people also speak with great "confidence"

Good point. Ugh. I forgot all about them!

Theresa said at December 31, 2005 12:04 AM:

Randall >> if the problem isn't IQ the alternatives aren't any better

I'm sure, too, that IQ has a helluva lot to do with it! Like Invisible Scientist pointed out, totally ignorant people can also speak with great "confidence". :|

Yes, the genetic programs that wires up the vast bulk of human brains are not designed to make us extremely rational and devoted to the truth.

I find this conclusion disturbing and irritating (especially when I consider myself in relation to this) -- but I'm beginning to think more and more that this is the case. Doesn't come as a big surprise, then, that so many Americans think Saddam had something to do with 9/11. %/

diana said at December 31, 2005 7:06 AM:

I recently read on the op-ed page of the NY Times that humans are genetically programmed to be optimistic. The author made the case that our genes mitigate against disaster planning; it just isn't in our genes.

Extrapolating from this, I conjecture that humans are genetically programmed to create messes and then move on. Call the mess a failed experiment. This worked well 60,000 years ago when the earth was empty of humans, but it doesn't work well now that the earth is thickly populated by developed human cultures, which resist encroachment. Like Iraq. We need to develop a sense of responsibility and an awareness of consequences. If it isn't genetic, then it must be taught.

Bob Badour said at December 31, 2005 8:35 AM:

Diana,

Why must we do that?

It's just as likely we will depopulate larges parts of the earth again.

diana said at December 31, 2005 9:15 AM:

Bob: do what? If you mean that it's a good thing that "we" depopulate large parts of the earth again, I disagree. Who is "we"? Uncle Sam and its army? At what cost to us? If we could agree that this is a good thing (and I do not), aren't there cheaper ways to do this? Not to mention, more humane. Not to mention, more faithful to our VALUES.

The upshot is, Greg is right: there is no logical reason for the US to intervene in the Middle East and its endless wars. The hell with them.

Greg: I didn't realize Tom Clancy is against Iraq now.

Bob Badour said at December 31, 2005 9:39 AM:

I didn't express any moral preference. I merely questioned the necessity you expressed.

gcochran said at December 31, 2005 12:46 PM:

It's also proof that lazy assholes make mistakes. There's actually a surprisingly large number of people who you'd usually call conservative that think invading Iraq was a serious mistake: and, on the other hand, people like Christopher Hitchens, with the oh-so-reliable judgement you can only find in Trotskyites, like it above all things. Not political hacks, of course, because they're not allowed to exhibit any independent judgment. Sure, many have their private doubts, but Iraq is now the acid test of movement conservatism. And in a sense it's a good test, because even a fair-weather friend will support you when you're _right_: the real test of loyalty is if they'll support you when you're mad as a hatter, barking like a dog, rolling around in your own vomit. Reminds me of the scene in Grosse Pointe Blank wherein our antihero, home for the class reunion, asks an old friend to help him stuff a corpse into the school furnace -and of course he does it, no questions asked. True loyalty.


http://msnbc.msn.com/id/5053682/


NEW YORK - A brand name author with many admirers in the military criticized the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, citing it as proof that “good men make mistakes.”

That same writer said he almost “came to blows” with a leading war supporter, former Pentagon adviser Richard Perle.

The author is Tom Clancy.


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