Polls don't tell story, and don't reveal the stakes

Hugh Hewitt

11/1/2006 12:51:09 PM - Hugh Hewitt

"Mess Night" with the First Regiment, First Marine Division brought 250 members of the division to the Newport Beach, Calif., Balboa Bay Club for a fundraising dinner with Southern California supporters on Oct. 26.

The "1/1" returned from a tour in Iraq in August, and an appreciative group of hundreds of citizens crowded the sold-out dinner to applaud their efforts and toast their return.

They even joined the Marines in honoring their colleagues killed or wounded in the war.

Forty miles to the south, at the Wounded Warrior Center opposite the hospital at Camp Pendleton, Marines in long-term rehabilitation from wounds suffered in Afghanistan, Iraq or training worked overtime to get into the physical shape needed to get on with their lives — and for some, back to their units.

The cost of the center's construction was largely underwritten by the Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund (http://www.semperfifund.org), which has assisted 6,000 USMC families as their Marines have recovered from their wounds in the war.

All of the money raised by the Semper Fi Fund is from private donations by grateful and supportive civilians.

SoldiersAngels (http://www.soldiersangels.com), begun by an Army mom three years ago, flourishes today and connects civilians with soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and Coast Guard in the war zone so that ordinary Americans can reach out to and support the military carrying the burden of the war.

Active-duty milbloggers like MudvilleGazette (http://www.mudvillegazette.com), and retired soldiers like Blackfive (http://www.blackfive.net), Austin Bay (http://www.austinbay.net/blog), and Bill Roggio (http://www.billroggio.com) almost daily bring news from the war that MSM, the mainstream media, simply don't find or refuse to carry.

These and scores of other new media sites attract traffic because old media are not trusted to report on the war.

Bloggers and their readership help power the Valour-IT project (http://www.soldiersangels.org/valour), getting voice-controlled laptop computers to wounded soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines recovering from hand and arm injuries or amputations at home or in military hospitals.

Operating laptops by speaking into a microphone, our wounded heroes can send and receive messages from friends and loved ones, surf the Internet, and communicate with buddies still in the field without having to press a key or move a mouse.

Since its beginning, the project has equipped such men and women with 650 laptops.

And there are 1,000 other such efforts and tributes under way around the country, because the country supports the military, and the country supports the war.

There was no such network of efforts and appreciations when Vietnam dragged on. But now there is.

The crucial difference? A new media that allows the supporters of the war to be more than a silent majority.

There is also a keen appreciation of the enemy, and the fact that this enemy isn't going to simply devastate the region if the United States cuts and runs, but will organize and follow the troops back to the United States.

This isn't a war of choice. It wasn't when the United States invaded Afghanistan or Iraq, and it isn't today.

It is a war that can be won, and the key remains the development within Iraq, Afghanistan, and other allied states of a military and intelligence service capable of preventing the establishment of terror cells and their production of plans and weapons with which to hurt their fellow citizens or to strike out at the West.

What about the polls?

Like the political polls, many Americans reject their findings and suspect that the samplings are contrived to produce a result, and that the MSM bias that so deeply disfigures coverage of the war also taints these findings.

But even if these were accurate results, they would not matter for those members of the public who believe that we have no choice but to engage the enemy in Iraq and elsewhere around the globe or prepare for another and even worse Sept. 11, 2001.

If even an excellent poll in August 2000 had suggested that 80 percent of Americans believed it would be wrong to invade Afghanistan in order to disrupt al Qaeda planning for terrorist attacks on the United States, it would have provided an accurate picture of American public opinion, but that public opinion would have been handicapped by a lack of knowledge about the enemy and its plans.

If even an excellent poll in August 2000 had suggested that 80 percent of Americans believed it would be wrong to invade Afghanistan in order to disrupt al Qaeda planning for terrorist attacks on the United States, it would have provided an accurate picture of American public opinion, but that public opinion would have been handicapped by a lack of knowledge about the enemy and its plans.

The enemy is badly wounded, but hardly crushed. Its nature precludes a V-E or V-J Day, and makes this a much more difficult war to sustain at home, but no less urgently necessary for the protection of the country.

A month of more than 100 American and many, many more Iraqis dead underscore the savagery of the enemy, but also the necessity of returning battle.

There is in Doris Kearns Goodwin's "A Team of Rivals," passage after passage about the extraordinary unpopularity of the Civil War in the long years of its terrible toll.

More than 600,000 Americans died in that epic conflict, and even President Lincoln whom we now revere was remorselessly hounded by his critics, and when he wasn't, Edwin Stanton was, or William Seward, or any member of his stalwart Cabinet.

Even hero Grant would come under assault when a bloody engagement went awry, and when the last merciless campaign proceeded from 1864 to 1865.

No American wants the war, and although many suffer under the delusion that it can simply be quit, a far greater number of serious people know the sober fact that the choice is between fighting with all of its terrible costs, or retreating and paying a much, much higher cost later.