Why most polls on Iraq are misleading

June 13, 2008

The ‘Frank Sinatra’ theory of issues

The conventional wisdom is that the Republicans should downplay the War in Iraq. It has been suggested that even the success of the surge has only meant that this issue will become less of a drag on the Republicans. However, I believe that many polls, especially polls where people are invited to select the issue that they believe is most important, as well has their stance on the issue, give a misleading impression about the war.

My theory is while those who oppose the War In Iraq cite Iraq as one of their main reasons for voting for Obama, those who support the war will cite ‘National Security’ (or even ‘Moral Values’) as their most important issue.

As one can see from the 2004 exit poll, Kerry led Bush on the War in Iraq, but Bush crushed Kerry on the issue of Terrorism. Of course, poltical operatives will argue that this means that the Republicans should focus on National Security, as opposed to the War. It also has to be conceeded that the awful events of September 11 meant that Bush would have had a lead on National Security in any case (though the example of his father in the 1992 election demonstrates that such leads prove transitory.However, as Giuliani’s campaign proved, like the old Frank Sinatra song, ‘love and marriage goes together like a horse and carriage/you can’t have one without the other’. National security is important, but to talk of national security without talking about the War in Iraq or the Middle East is like talking about crime without suggesting how to solve such crime. Indeed, to paraphrase Tony Blair, you cannot claim to be tough on terror without outlining how you are going to be tough on the causes of terror. Also, While there were strong strategic reasons for going into Iraq America (and Britain) did so for moral reasons that were as, and perhaps more important. McCain, who was one of the key supporters of the intervention in Kosovo, should emphasise this because it not only emphasises his achievements in the Senate, but is someone he passionately believes in.

This poll also points to another important issue. Although Bush’s tax cutting gave the Republicans a lead on the issue of taxes, those who thought that his tax cuts were irresponsible and regressive simply gave Kerry a lead on the economy and healthcare. If you aggregate National Security/Iraq and Healthcare/Economy/Eduucation and Taxes you get a Democratic lead on the Economy and a Republican lead on foreign policy. Now McCain is more moderate than Bush on the economy and September 11th was nearly seven years ago but I’d suggest that McCain would do well to move to the centre on the economy and keep talking about Iraq, especially in terms of the consequences a preciptous withdrawl would provoke. The National Review Online has a very good article on the subject.



  1. The reason between the break over Iraq and the War on Terror was because so many Americans were convinced that Saddam had a role in 9/11. Now that Iraq is a whole different quagmire on it’s own, I think it’s clear that those who make Iraq their main concern will be voting Democratic. Why? Becuase they know it’s not part of the War on Terror, never was, and should be ended as soon as possible.

  2. Even though we are “not convinced” as you put that Saddam had a role in 9/11, Iraq is still part of the war on terror. Only a few extremists think that it is an actual quagmire.

  3. Giacomo,

    There is increasing evidence that Saddam did have links with Al-Quaeda affiliates, though not with 9/11.

  4. Read the 9/11 Commission Report sometime. Iraq did not have any connection whatsoever to the terrorist attacks of 9/11.

    If you continue to press this issue, I’ll have no choice but to say that you’re deliberately lying to your readers. (Not misleading, lying. If you have evidence, than prove it.)

  5. Once again you miss the point, just because Iraq may have nothing to do with 9/11 does not change the fact that it was a terrorist state.

  6. Oh, then maybe US forces should’ve invaded Washington, DC. Our government trained and armed Al Qaeda after all…

    Or Sudan for their genocide… or Myanmar… or China…

    OH! Or Saudia Arabia! A nation condemned by Amnesty Internation where most of the 9/11 hijackers (including Bin Laden) came from.

    Face it, Bush lied our nation into war for one reason: war profiteering.

    Sen. Obama was smart enough to see through this deception. Sen. McCain was not.

  7. Giacomo,

    Lets get all the facts straight. There has been new information out since the 9-11 report.

    Saddam, Al Qaeda Did Collaborate, Documents Show

    “A former Democratic senator and 9/11 commissioner says a recently declassified Iraqi account of a 1995 meeting between Osama bin Laden and a senior Iraqi envoy presents a “significant set of facts,” and shows a more detailed collaboration between Iraq and Al Qaeda.”

    “In an interview yesterday, the current president of the New School University, Bob Kerrey, was careful to say that new documents translated last night by ABC News did not prove Saddam Hussein played a role in any way in plotting the attacks of September 11, 2001.”

    “Nonetheless, the former senator from Nebraska said that the new document shows that “Saddam was a significant enemy of the United States.” Mr. Kerrey said he believed America’s understanding of the deposed tyrant’s relationship with Al Qaeda would become much deeper as more captured Iraqi documents and audiotapes are disclosed.”

    “Last night ABC News reported on five recently declassified documents captured in Iraq. One of these was a handwritten account of a February 19, 1995, meeting between an official representative of Iraq and Mr. bin Laden himself, where Mr. bin Laden broached the idea of “carrying out joint operations against foreign forces” in Saudi Arabia. The document, which has no official stamps or markers, reports that when Saddam was informed of the meeting on March 4, 1995 he agreed to broadcast sermons of a radical imam, Suleiman al Ouda, requested by Mr. bin Laden.”

    “The new documents suggest that the 9/11 commission’s final conclusion in 2004, that there were no “operational” ties between Iraq and Al Qaeda, may need to be reexamined in light of the recently captured documents.”

    “While the commission detailed some contacts between Iraq and Al Qaeda in the 1990s, in Sudan and Afghanistan, the newly declassified Iraqi documents provide more detail than the commission disclosed in its final conclusions.”


  8. If Mr. Bush lied then everybody else did.

  9. Matt,

    Get with the Times, my friend: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/06/world/middleeast/06intel.html?_r=1&oref=slogin

    As with the 1993 WTC investigations, the 1998 National Security Council exercise, the September 21, 2001 Presidential Daily Briefing, the 2001-2 Atta in Prague investigations, the 2002 DIA reports, the October 2002 British intelligence report, the January 2003 CIA report, the January 2003 British intelligence report, the February 2003 Israeli intelligence report to the AP, the 2004 Carnegie study, the 9/11 Commission Report, the 2004 Senate Report of Pre-war Intelligence on Iraq, the 2004 CIA report (and it’s 2005 update), the 2006 Pentagon study, the 2006 Senate Report of Pre-War Intelligence, the CIA, the DIA, the FBI, the 2007 Pentagon Inspector General Report, the 2008 Pentagon report, and the recent Senate Select Committee on Intelligence report of June 2008,…

    Iraq had NOTHING to do with 9/11, NO ties with Al Qaeda, NO relationship with the terrorists (aside from a mutual animosity), and that “statements and implications by the President and Secretary of State suggesting that Iraq and al-Qa’ida had a partnership, or that Iraq had provided al-Qa’ida with weapons training, were not substantiated by the intelligence.”

    Furthermore, “Statements … regarding Iraq’s contacts with al-Qa’ida were substantiated by intelligence information. However, policymakers’ statements did not accurately convey the intelligence assessments of the nature of these contacts, and left the impression that the contacts led to substantive Iraqi cooperation or support of al-Qa’ida.”

    Source: Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Report on Whether Public Statements Regarding Iraq by U.S. Government Officials Were Substantiated by Intelligence Information


    Date: June, 2008

    (So you know, Sen. John McCain’s name appears on that report).

    The sum of this report with McCain’s name on it: you, and Ohio Joe (just like Sen. McCain and Sen. Clinton in 2003), and like so many Americans, are wrong.

  10. Once again, you are mixing two separate issues, Giacomo. Even if you can prove that Saddam had nothing to do with 9/11, you cannot prove that he did not support terrorism. Yet you say the rest of the world is wrong.

  11. Ohio,

    I suggest that you spend this Fourth of July reading more about this great country of ours. Consider this:

    In the argument that Iraq and Al Qaeda were “two independent actors trying to exploit each other” was true only about al-Qaeda. “Postwar findings indicate that Saddam Hussein was distrustful of al-Qa’ida and viewed Islamic extremists as a threat to his regime, refusing all requests from al-Qa’ida to provide material or operational support.”

    This information was found to be consistant with Saddam’s view towards other terrorist groups: “Prewar assessments expressed uncertainty about Iraq’s complicity in their presence, but overestimated the Iraqi regime’s capabilities to locate them. Postwar information indicates that Saddam Hussein attempted, unsuccessfully, to locate and capture al-Zarqawi and that the regime did not have a relationship with, harbor, or turn a blind eye toward Zarqawi.”

    In sum, “No postwar information indicates that Iraq intended to use al-Qa’ida or any other terrorist group to strike the United States homeland before or during Operation Iraqi Freedom… additional reviews of documents recovered in Iraq are unlikely to provide information that would contradict the Committee’s findings or conclusions. The Committee believes that the results of detainee debriefs largely comport with documentary evidence, but the Committee cannot definitively judge the accuracy of statements made by individuals in custody and cannot, in every case, confirm that the detainee statements are truthful and accurate.”

    – 2006 Senate Report of Pre-War Intelligence

  12. Yes, I will continue to read about my great country (and great state of Ohio) on July 4th.

    While Saddam may have distrusted some terrorists (including a-Qa-ida element) he did allow them to set up camp at Salmon Pak and he gave money to the families of Humas terrorists.

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