Why are so many Americans still hoodwinked?

Almost one-third of the U.S. electorate continues to believe that Saddam personally participated in the 9/11 attacks.

Published September 21, 2006 2:14PM (EDT)

A new New York Times/CBS poll (PDF) contains many interesting findings, and one startling revelation: Even now, 31 percent of Americans -- almost one-third of the country -- believe that Saddam Hussein "was personally involved in" the 9/11 attacks (see question No. 59). During the time of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, this same poll revealed that more than half of all Americans -- 53 percent -- believed Saddam had personal involvement in 9/11. Other polls, such as this one from USA Today, found that as many as 69 percent of Americans believed this to be true even six months after the American invasion of Iraq.

It is no mystery why Americans, for so long, believed something for which there has never been a shred of evidence and that was, all along, indisputably untrue. To justify the war they wanted, Bush officials continually insinuated such a connection, while their most fervent supporters, almost from the beginning, baselessly proclaimed a direct connection between Saddam and 9/11. As but one example, on the day of the attack, University of Tennessee law professor Glenn Reynolds bizarrely wrote on his widely read right-wing blog, Instapundit: "If [President Bush] wants to nuke Baghdad, there is nobody to say him nay -- and damned few who would want to."

But now the president has been forced to expressly disavow any belief that Saddam had any involvement in the 9/11 attacks. In his Aug. 21 press conference, Bush claimed that "nobody has ever suggested in this administration that Saddam Hussein ordered the attack," and when asked what Saddam had to do with the 9/11 attacks, he replied: "Nothing." Since then, Bush officials have been regularly acknowledging -- far more explicitly and clearly than ever before -- that there never was any evidence of a connection between Saddam and 9/11.

So how to explain that 31 percent of Americans continue to believe in a patent falsehood regarding a critical matter -- namely, whether the leader of the country that we invaded was responsible for the 9/11 attacks on the United States? What does it say about the potency of the Bush administration's propaganda abilities that this myth was believed by so many Americans in the first place, and that it still endures quite vibrantly? And is there any more potent evidence of the profound failure of the American media to fulfill its central function of informing the citizenry and exposing government falsehoods than the fact that America went to war while most of the country believed this fiction, and that almost one-third of Americans continue to believe it? Regardless of one's ideological orientation, shouldn't it be considered highly disturbing -- to put it mildly -- that such a large percentage of the electorate believes in rank fiction with regard to such critical matters?

By Glenn Greenwald

Follow Glenn Greenwald on Twitter: @ggreenwald.

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