September 10th, 2007
06:00 PM ET
11 years ago

Petraeus is a tough sell for Americans

Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker testified before Congress Monday.

WASHINGTON (CNN) - Do Americans trust the top U.S. military commander in Iraq to report what’s really going on in Iraq without making the situation sound better than it is?CNN and the Opinion Research Corporation asked Americans that very question last month. The answer? 53 percent do not.

The USA Today-Gallup poll just asked the public again this month whether they thoughtGen. Petraeus's report would be independent and objective. Again, 53 percent did not.

The public is skeptical.

Petraeus sought to convince Congress Monday that the situation in Iraq is improving. He has some well known supporters of the surge echoing his sentiments. “In a short period of time, we have seen significant success,” said Sen. John McCain of Arizona, who’s also a Republican candidate for president.

The public is skeptical of that, too.

Asked whether the troop increase is succeeding in improving conditions and ending violence in Iraq, most Americans say it's not in a new CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll released Monday. At the joint House Armed Services and Foreign RelationsCommittees hearing, Petraeus reported some military progress. “To summarize, the security situation in Iraq is improving,” Petraeus testified.

But few see much political progress by the Iraqi government.

"To us, it just hinges on the government doing what the government is supposed to do and that is finding a way to get a sense of an agreement that they will stop the killing and stop the ethnic violence,” said retired Marine Gen. Jim Jones, chairman of the Independent Commission on the Security Forces of Iraq.

Last month, Americans were divided over whether the U.S. military is making progress in improving conditions and ending violence in Iraq (47 percent said yes, 49 percent said no). But their judgment of the Iraqi government was much harsher (69 percent saw no progress on the part of the Iraqis).

The current USA Today-Gallup poll finds the same thing: people feel the U.S. is not putting enough emphasis on finding a political solution in Iraq.

"The reason for the surge was promoted by the president and by Gen. Petraeus as creating the space for political settlements in Iraq, which have not only not happened, but we've even seen steps backward,” Rep. Janice Schakowky, D-Illinois, said.

Americans see the situation in Iraq as a political failure much more than a military failure.The U.S. military is doing its job, they feel. The Iraqi government is not.

The CNN/Opinion Research Corporation Poll of 1,017 adult Americans was taken between Sept. 7-9 and has a margin of error is plus or minus three percentage points.

- CNN Senior Political Analyst Bill Schneider

Filed under: Iraq
soundoff (32 Responses)
  1. MCD, San Francisco, CA

    Bush has already admitted that he doesn't want to be in charge when the pullout happens. He wants to pass it along to the next president. Bush started this mess and he should be the one to finish it.

    September 10, 2007 06:43 pm at 6:43 pm |
  2. Jeff Old Bridge,NJ

    That is "General Betrayus".He's just another lapdog for the Bush administration.He came armed with charts just as Colin Powell did at the UN to ilustrate what we now all know for a fact was nothing but lies and deceit!

    September 10, 2007 06:53 pm at 6:53 pm |
  3. Tim Riley, Sacramento, CA

    General Petraeus is an interested party; therefore, he cannot provide an independent assessment. However, he can provide an objective assessment if he equally balances the positive with the negative. We still here negatives, like lack of basic services and political strife, from media reports.

    September 10, 2007 07:03 pm at 7:03 pm |
  4. Christian, Tampa FL

    There's just no more support for the war in the majority of the public. That SHOULD be enough to force a smart and sane end to it, but our leaders don't seem to care about public opinion anymore.

    September 10, 2007 07:09 pm at 7:09 pm |
  5. Al Bariatti, Frederick, MD

    As a former US Army Officer I "know" that Gen Petraeus is no different than most other career officers when it comes to the truth. Mission comes before all else. One does not say what the boss does not want to hear. And by the way, when he said he expects an American troop presence in Iraq to last at least 10 years, who died and made him President?????

    September 10, 2007 07:25 pm at 7:25 pm |
  6. Michael M. - San Mateo , Ca.

    LAST MONTH this poll was taken? Well, that's not making a hasty brush-off of the Iraq report is it? This proves that NO MATTER what the military announces regarding the war, some people will already have their ears stuffed up, unable and unwilling to listen.

    September 10, 2007 07:38 pm at 7:38 pm |
  7. A. Adamson, Reno, Nv.

    Generally "activists" answer these polls, don't they? Wonder which way the results will tilt then?

    September 10, 2007 07:39 pm at 7:39 pm |
  8. John, Ca.

    There is NO Petraeus report! The report is to be written by the Cheney/Bush Adm., and the American public took off their rose-colored glasses along time ago, and they know that this Adm. has no credibility when it comes to assessing the situation in Iraq.

    These people simply cannot be trusted to tell the truth.

    September 10, 2007 08:02 pm at 8:02 pm |
  9. RG, Wesley Chapel, FL

    Would anyone REALLY want our military leaders to have a negative attitude about the war??????

    We want our military leadership to have a positive, "Can-Do" attitude. If they do not, we will surely lose. Wars are won by those that think they can win. If our soldiers didn't have a positive attitude, they wouldn't have a chance against these radical terrorists.

    Viet Nam was lost because the politicians wanted it to happen. Had the military been allowed to fight the war without all of the political strings attached, we would have had a decisive victory there.

    The liberals are sacrificing our future for their own political gain. They are hoping to turn this into another Viet Nam, so they can gain some political ground.

    My brother was in Falluja for nearly a year. Yes, it was hell. Yes it was a nasty place, but progress is being made. He saw it with his own eyes. These people now have hope. Remember, this is a country that was ruled by a ruthless dictator for years. Before the war, if you were not an ally of Saddam, you had nothing – not even running water in many areas. We are building the infrastructure that he did not.
    Yes, there is alot of work to be done. Yes, the new Iraqi government needs to step up, but they have been under a dictatorship for all of the last generation. They are still trying to figure things out.

    Stop the political grandstanding and be constuctive.

    September 10, 2007 08:19 pm at 8:19 pm |
  10. RG, Wesley Chapel, FL

    And why does the media insist on trying to tell us what we think? The polls are crafted to provide the spin that the media wants.

    Political solution in Iraq? Give me a break! Do you really think that you can politically negotiate with terrorists – from around the world? Our enemy has no government to negotiate with. Our ONLY option is to root them out wherever they are and eliminate them. (Just found some the other day in Germany – they are among us everywhere people!) The sooner that people understand that, the better off we'll be.

    The sad part is that the libs and media will be the first to point fingers when the terrorists hit us on our own soil again, yet they are doing everything to enable the enemy.

    September 10, 2007 08:29 pm at 8:29 pm |
  11. Bill, Streamwood, IL

    The problem is that the stench of the Bush Administration taints anyone involved with it – regretably this includes people like General Petraeus.

    It's not right, but this situation shows just how badly George Bush and his cronies have polarized the country. It will take an exceptional leader to heal things and bring us back together as Americans, not as Republicans or Democrats.

    Unfortunately, save for one individual, I don't see any Gerry Ford-like candidates currently seeking the presidency.

    September 10, 2007 08:42 pm at 8:42 pm |
  12. C.LyOns New York NY

    As an independent, I see the General as credible and trustworthy. People don't understand how strict the code of honor for military officers. It's engrained in them during officer training to think independent of the political establishment. The military industrial complex idea is not so much about the generals as it is about the politicans and weapons manufactures who try to profit of the duty of these humkble and respectable men.

    September 10, 2007 09:10 pm at 9:10 pm |
  13. Greg, Phoenix, AZ

    And how exactly do you think that "most Americans" have formed their opinion of whether or not the surge is working?

    Think it might have something to do with the fact that CNN, MSN, NBC, CBS and ABC have been shamelessly ramming it down their throats every night telling them that it's not working (even when many who were formerly opposed to the war are now suggesting that it is paying dividends)?

    Think it might have something to do with the fact that this crop of Democratic presidential candidates are bucking the time honored political tradition of supporting the President and troops during war time in order to win a few votes for themselves?

    Think it might have something to do with the bottom dwelling special interest groups like MoveOn.Org and DailyKos who are constantly trolling the internet and our college campuses trying to turn everyone against our current administration?

    Well, General Petreaus is ACTUALLY there and HIS career rides on this so I think I just might take his word for it. Let us not forget that both Republicans and Democrats were steadfastly behind the appointment of this decorated military genius.

    September 10, 2007 09:22 pm at 9:22 pm |
  14. Teri Wenninger. Somerset kentucky

    The American people are aware of the challenges that the government and military has faced in the War on Terror. It not only is the American people that is hurt by this, but Iraq Government has an obligation to the people of Iraq. It is to the point that both countries is suffering from the situation. The people of Iraq is not satisfied with what the U.S. and the Iraq government has done so far. Iraq is still a country without stability. It is clearly acknowledged in the polls and with our own government leaders that we also are starting to display, and to other countries we too are with signs of instability. In the best interest of our troops and country, we need to turn our interest into our own country and rebuild the stability we are loosing over helping IRAQ. When you have instability in Government and economics, and the threats of terrorism on our own soil, It is time for our nation to stand up for "AMERICA". We have to be able to help ourselves and put our soldiers in our own country to protect the interest of our great nation. We are losing the battle everyday that one more soldier is killed in IRAQ with our own instability in the United States.

    September 10, 2007 09:24 pm at 9:24 pm |
  15. sonny c. v.p.,la.

    It takes a leader of extraordinary talent to cause the American Public to no longer trust their own military to be honest with them. Yep, that George W. really is a uniter and not a divider.

    September 10, 2007 09:38 pm at 9:38 pm |
  16. Sandy, Lafayette, IN

    How can we believe someone who knows he will be fired if he speaks differently than his boss, the president? A General (active duty) is not going to cut his own throat (retirement pay). Think this isn't true, look at the record of anyone who spoke out with an opinion different than the president...where are they now?

    September 10, 2007 10:58 pm at 10:58 pm |
  17. Greg, Houston

    The public should be skeptical. The Bush administration has telegraphed his position all week. All Petraeus did was deliver the message that Bush wouldn't do. Now neither Bush, Petraeus or the Ambassador is credible.

    September 10, 2007 11:18 pm at 11:18 pm |
  18. John Sullivan Indianapolis, IN

    Hardly fair reporting here. Focus is on the 53% that say Petraeus' report would be influenced by the White House, but one more important question sort of falls through the cracks.

    That is this: "Please tell me how much confidence you have in the recommendations of each of the following for what to do next in Iraq - a great deal, a fair amount, only a little, or almost none."

    Petraeus scores 63%, the Pentagon and military leaders score 58%, Democrats score 44% and Republicans 41%.

    The respondents by a small margin indicate they think Petraeus' report will have some leaning toward the administration, but far, far more have much less trust in the Democrat (or Republican) leadership.

    Did I miss a report on that? I think not.

    September 10, 2007 11:18 pm at 11:18 pm |
  19. Jack, Boston, MA

    With those +/- 3 percentage points, it can reduce the numbers somewhat to about half of those polled do not think Petraeus is independent and objective. Although, it also means that the number could be as high as 56% as well.

    Is this a hit against Petraeus personally? Probably not. Since the President is the Commander-In-Chief of the military, and the general is below him, most Americans are probably assuming that a report by the general would skewed to be in favor of the CiC.

    September 10, 2007 11:31 pm at 11:31 pm |
  20. anna, Appleton, WI

    TIME WILL won't it!
    Those who judged based on emotions and ignorance will end up eating their words and America will forget, just like they have always done....

    September 10, 2007 11:55 pm at 11:55 pm |
  21. Curt, Corona CA

    General Betray Us is a fraud. He said things were improving in 2004. If our soldiers and Iraq civilians are dying at a greater rate, how is that improvement? Perhaps ethnic cleansing is improving Gen Betrayus death count. You can't argue against a body-bag. 3600 dead US soldiers 750,000 dead iraqis. Improvement?

    September 11, 2007 02:51 am at 2:51 am |
  22. M. Elaine, El Sobrante, CA

    Listening carefully to all sides, it is clear that there is merit in widely varying opinions. The problem is, unity of action and clarity of perception is never going to be possible until we are collectively willing to be accountable and tell the truth.

    The truth needs to be told about how we got into this tragic mess, and the real reasons for undertaking the war in the first place. The truth needs to be told about the damage it has done to the security of our nation and the world, and the devastation and death that have ensued for countless innocents. The truth needs to be faced – that our precious soldiers have bravely died for a lie – and the thought of that is just inexpressibly painful.

    Then the truth must be acknowledged that our country is in a mess with this war, and we have more power to make it worse than we do to make it better. We need to stop bickering – which is more possible once truth has been acknowledged – and just do together whatever is the best that can be done with the facts that now exist.

    As horible as it is that our people are now hostage to the political choices of Iraqis at war with each other, the fact is we cannot leave the mess we have made until we have helped clean it up. I believe that the fundamental problem is that the Democratic party is loathe to continue in complicity with a lie- which they were dumb enough to do in the first place; and the Republican party cannot choke out the truth that Iraq was not the place we should have prosecuted a war against those who attacked our country.

    The thought of remaining would be easier to agree to – and generals and politicians far more believable – once there is a public expectation of honest communication and deliberation as to what is best for our country and the world.

    The expectation we have now is that people are more interested in saying what is best for their parties and personal political outcomes, than what is best for our country and the world. That must change before our prospects for any definition of victory will much improve.

    September 11, 2007 02:58 am at 2:58 am |
  23. robert edison New Jersey

    We the people are disgusted. No one believes the propaganda anymore. Why cant the morons work together be on the same side, I am tired of the Dems against the repubs. They are supposed to be working toward the same goal.

    September 11, 2007 07:42 am at 7:42 am |
  24. Bill Charleston SC

    It's not surprising the public is skeptical. The media bombards us daily with how badly things are going, and rarely if ever reports on any of the progress made. The sad fact is that Americans have become like sheep, led along by media elites to reach the conclusions they desire. Maybe one day people will begin to think for themselves again.

    September 11, 2007 08:04 am at 8:04 am |
  25. Thomas, Mission Viejo, CA

    Does is suprise me that the American 'public' doesn't trust the General? or should i say slightly more than half of the public. However you want to put it, its not suprising...most of the public is ill informed as it is.

    Do the same 53% of those polled also know that 3 Democratic Senators came back from Iraq and praised the success of the surge? The simple fact is the surge is working but the American 'public'/media doesn't have the guts to see this through. This could turn into another Algeria...

    We live in a society today that demands instant gratification. It took the United States 10 years to come up with what we know as the Constitution! But we expect Iraq to be a well-oiled machine in just under 5 years? Come on people..

    September 11, 2007 09:52 am at 9:52 am |
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