Gary Younge writes: According to Christopher Gelpi, a political science professor at Duke University who specialises in public attitudes to foreign policy, the most important single factor shaping Americans’ opinions about any war is whether they think America will win. This solipsistic worldview is hardly conducive to the kind of introspection that might translate remorse into redemption.
It’s a mindset that understands the war in Vietnam as being wrong not because an independent country was invaded, flattened, millions murdered and thousands tortured. It was wrong because the US lost.
And it pervades the political spectrum. Even when the war’s critics slam the blood and treasure squandered, they usually refer only to American lives and American money. This is also the way pollsters frame it. A recent CBS poll asked: “Do you think removing Saddam Hussein from power was worth the loss of American life and other costs of attacking Iraq, or not?” (50% no, 41% yes), and “Do you think the result of the war with Iraq was worth the loss of American lives and other costs of attacking Iraq, or not?” (67% no, 24% yes). The cost to Iraqis simply does not feature.
“It is the end for the Americans only,” wrote Emad Risn, argued an Iraqi columnist in a government-funded newspaper. “Nobody knows if the war will end for Iraqis too.” And few Americans seem to care. It’s been some time since Iraq featured at all on the nation’s priorities, let alone high. Rightly Americans fret about the fate of veterans returning to a depressed economy with a range of both physical and mental disabilities. But Iraqi civilians barely get a look-in.