At home, antiwar sentiment is widespread—whether it takes the form of plain foreboding or active protest. It is compounded by concerns about the economy, jobs, oil prices, corruption in government and corporate America, and the apparent malaise of policy and leadership. Even though President Bush’s approval rating has plummeted, he continues to be unwilling to level with the public, to explain his intentions, and to discuss the difficult and limited options before us. He continues to invoke September 11, describe the war as one against terrorism, and talk of progress in Iraq. In his own words: “In my line of work you got to keep repeating things over and over and over again for the truth to sink in, to kind of catapult the propaganda.”
Doubly troubling is the administration’s encouragement of vicious stab-in-the-back thinking, which Rove and his propagandists spread through the right-wing media, and which finds fertile ground among Americans who are emotionally or intellectually unable to concede that their president lied us into this quicksand war. They believe that “supporting the troops” means supporting continued war and President Bush, as though willpower alone will see us through to victory, thereby honoring those who have sacrificed or fallen. It has happened before during and after other wars, especially during and after the Vietnam War, when the hawks who led us into war, both Democrats and Republicans, blamed the defeat on the antiwar movement, the press, liberals, and critics in general. One does not have to be a soothsayer to predict that when Bush is forced by circumstances in Iraq and public opinion at home and in Congress to get out of Iraq, his attack on his critics will intensify, absolving him and hawks of responsibility for an ill-conceived war.