The caption of the angus-reid.com report was “Some Americans Still Link Hussein to 9/11.” Some, indeed. As of September 2006, 46% of Americans asked, “Do you think there is a link between Saddam Hussein and the 9/11 terrorist attacks?” said yes. 50% said no, and 4% said they weren’t sure in a poll with a 3.2% margin of error. In other words, fully half of us link Saddam and the 9/11 attacks. (The poll was taken Sept. 1-5, 2006.)
Of course, it’s all in the wording of these questions. There might have been a different result had the pollsters asked, “Do you still think there is a link between Saddam Hussein and the 9/11 terrorist attacks?” or “Given the fact that no expert has been able to establish any evidence for an operative relationship between al-Qaeda and Saddam, and that only people who never pay attention to the news think that anymore, do you think personally still think there is a link between Saddam Hussein and the 9/11 terrorist attacks?” (Don’t laugh at the tendentiousness built into my rewritten questions. The online polls conducted by the cable networks are often just as skewed.)
Anyway, the just published Angus-Reid poll asked a second question: Do you think former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein was personally involved in the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks?
This is a significantly different question. I can see why lots of people would believe there some link between Saddam and 9-11. I think about how students process information in history classes as they prepare for exams. (A has something to do with B. If I remember that, it will help me guess right.) Any historical synopsis of the five years following 9-11 will have to note that soon after the al-Qaeda attacks the Bush administration started preparing to invade Iraq, and that the U.S. president repeatedly linked 9-11 and the Iraqi president. So in that sense, yes, there is a link, and any college freshman memorizing for a U.S. history test some 50 years from now will have reason to link, in some way, 9-11 and Saddam.
But this second question implicitly asks about responsibility, about blame. It is depressing to note that 43% of Americans polled answered in the affirmative, a narrow majority of 52% saying no. (Poll taken Aug. 29-Sept. 2, 2006.) After all the facts that have come to light, all the exposure that’s been done! You can just hear the neocons’ sigh of relief at this extraordinary statement of manipulable ignorance. The power of Fox News!
I do find cause for optimism, though, in the response to the third question: Do you think Saddam Hussein was personally involved in the September 11th, 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon?
Here the pollsters remind the respondent of the details of the 9-11 attacks. Just eight words of elaboration which, since most of us were thinking adults at the time, shouldn’t really affect the response much. But they do. When you add these pithy historical details suddenly the American people -- those polled anyway -- say, “Wait, nah, that doesn’t make sense. He wasn’t personally involved in those attacks!”
Just 31% say “yes” to the slightly elaborated proposition, and 60% say “no”! (Poll taken Aug. 17-21, before the most recent Senate Intelligence report that again indicates what those paying attention have believed and argued for a long time -- that these “links” have been disinformation.) That 31% remains far too high, a testimony to the power of the (continuing) power of the Cheney-Rumsfeld neocon cabal hell-bent on regime change in Iran and Syria and well practiced at the art of deception to make it happen. It’s testimony to the power of the religious right, the AIPAC lobby, the politically influential neocon press and the mainstream press that refuses to really pursue the story of how Bush lied the country into war. Testimony to the solidarity between the two parties who continue to uphold the attack on Iraq as a good decent thing -- if maybe justified initially by some “intelligence mistakes,” or mishandled.
The different responses to the three Angus-Reid show how easily it is to manipulate people, words and information. The Straussian neocons planning the next couple imperialist wars know how easy it is. You can insist upon a link, to set up a target for attack, and if the press is on your side (as they’ve been pretty much so far) you can repeat it again and again so that enough people buy it. Half of the people still see a Saddam-9/11 leak! Lesson is, lying works. And on the other hand, serious researchers and analysts can blow away the disinformation, gradually getting their point across in the generally reactionary, always tardy corporate media. But the lies (for example, the plainly planted psy-ops story about Iraqi troops killing prematurely born Kuwaiti babies in 1990) tend to get exposed long after they’ve served their purpose.
The Bush administration apparently is banking on that buttheaded 30 percent to endorse the next stages in the Terror War chief architect Dick Cheney has declared will continue way beyond his lifetime. A war against various nations in the Muslim world (and maybe elsewhere) that George W. Bush has (fortunately, to general skepticism and ridicule, but still receiving support from the genuinely fascist-prone right) pronounced a war against an “Islamofascism” as threatening and coherent as Hitler’s fascism or Marxism-Leninism. The conflation of Nazism and communism, stupid enough, has been around for ages. The conflation of these two plus Syrian Baathism, Iranian mullocracy, Hizbollah, Hamas, al-Qaeda and anything especially in the Muslim world Bush doesn’t like is a real leap. It is as though the liars in power want to test just how ignorant people can be, how deeply their fears bigotries and faith in an apocalyptic future can be exploited as they proceed with their agenda.
I’d rather bank on the 60% to wise up further, and act upon their knowledge (and disillusionment) to thwart that agenda, including any military strike against Iran. World Can’t Wait has called for nationwide actions against the Bush regime on October 5. A strong showing of opposition to the regime -- reflecting and spreading, in the face of all the lies, truth about the recent past and present -- could help transform the political climate.
is a Professor of History, and Adjunct Professor of Comparative
Religion, at Tufts University and author of numerous works on Japanese
history. He can be reached at:
Other Articles by Gary Leupp
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* “Ideologies of
Hatred”? What Does Condi Mean?