The Slatest

Forty-Three Percent of Public Thinks That Launching Neverending War That Created ISIS Was a Good Idea

Iraqis surround a statue of Saddam Hussein in Baghdad on April 9, 2003.
Iraqis surround a statue of Saddam Hussein in Baghdad on April 9, 2003.
Patrick Baz/AFP/Getty Images

George W. Bush ordered U.S. forces to invade Iraq fifteen years ago today. Bush said the invasion was justified because Saddam Hussein was developing weapons of massive destruction (he wasn’t) and supporting al-Qaida (no). There are still American troops in Iraq—seven died last week, bringing the count of U.S. military fatalities in the country since 2003 to 4,540. The death toll for Iraqis has been much more severe; an estimated 200,000 civilians have died violently there over the same time period. The civil war and chaos that the U.S. invasion created resulted in the rise of ISIS.

All in all, a pretty solid showing by the ol’ USA, eh? Forty-three percent of Americans think so, Pew has found:

Fifteen years after the U.S. invasion of Iraq in March 2003, the American public is divided over whether using military force was the right decision.

Nearly half (48%) of Americans say the decision to use military force was wrong, while slightly fewer (43%) say it was the right decision, according to a Pew Research Center survey, conducted March 7-14 among 1,466 adults. 

That 39 percent of respondents answered this question affirmatively might be even more mind-blowing:

More Americans say the U.S. “mostly failed” in achieving its goals in Iraq (53%) than say the U.S. succeeded (39%). 

In Bush’s own words, the purpose of the Iraq invasion was to create a country which would “set an example to all the Middle East of a vital and peaceful and self-governing nation.”

Here’s another good one:

Conservative Republicans are more likely to say the U.S. mostly succeeded in Iraq today (50%) than they were in 2014 (36%)

That’s the same bloc of voters who otherwise spent their time between 2014 and 2018 electing a president whose central foreign policy argument, as a candidate, was that the Iraq War was a disaster. Good stuff!