Let’s Blame the American People for Iraq, Not Just Bush and Neocons

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Keith Olbermann last night issued another of his signature condemnations of the political establishment, where he addresses Bush witheringly as "Sir." Last night he said the Democrats are not following the mandate of the people from last November, to get out of Iraq.

Olbermann is surely right about getting out of Iraq, but his idealization of the American people is typical of the lib-left. In fact, the American people did not say, Get out of Iraq! last fall. They said, Unh-oh, this has been a huge mistake. In fact, the American people are as blameworthy for this war as anyone else, George Bush and the neocons included. The American people supported this war back in 2002 and 2003. Then they went ahead and reelected the stupid war president in 2004.

The left argues that the people were whipped to a war frenzy by George Bush in those years, and lied to by Colin Powell about weapons of mass destruction, and deceived by the New York Times. All true. And all those parties deserve blame, and should give us an accounting. Or history will make the accounting.

But how do the nabobs of the left explain that we leftwingers were never for this war? That we weren’t fooled? All those lies had no effect on us. We saw through them. To say that the American people were deceived and manipulated is to patronize them. Why not hold them responsible for their views, as we hold our friends responsible? The lefty critics of the press and politicians then say, Well the people don’t have time to look into these things, or they are easily deceived. So they apply a different standard, of intelligence and political acumen to "the people" than they do to themselves. Elitism.

When the truth is that they actually know very few of these people to whom they ascribe such innocence and simplicity and inherent good nature. There is a class divide; the lib-left is by and large privileged (as I am). The "people" are less affluent. When the lib-left blames the media, they are saying that the people are stupid and can be manipulated in a way that they themselves cannot be.

I’m prepared to agree that "the people" are not as well-educated or intelligent as us elites. But what if the people weren’t manipulated? What if, in this great democracy, the people were angered by the attacks of 9/11 and chose to respond militarily, in a fit of nationalistic-topdog chauvinism, and flatten a third world country? As late as fall 2003, the people believed that Saddam was responsible for 9/11. When any intelligent person knew that there was no connection. All the information was out there; the people chose to ignore it. Wasn’t that their choice? Sadly, Bill O’Reilly gets around three times the viewers that Keith Olbermann gets. I wish that weren’t the case, but it is.

Many years ago, the great Anthony Lewis wrote in the Times that the U.S. is a conservative country. A wise statement. Progressives have won a great number of battles, often using elite institutions like the courts and the media, but it is a conservative country. The Iraq War disaster must be understood as an expression of the people’s will.   

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