Crater: 69% in new NYT/CBS poll say U.S. should not be fighting in Afghanistan

A new high since they started asking this question in 2009. That’s noteworthy but not surprising given the gruesome Rasmussen poll Ed blogged a week ago. How much of it is driven by a reaction to the massacre on March 11 allegedly carried out by Robert Bales and how much is a reaction to the Koran-burning riots and fragging of U.S. troops by Afghan “partners” before that? No way to tell, but for a clue, revisit this ABC poll conducted from March 7 to 10 and published on the very day that Bales is said to have gone on a rampage. Even before his actions, 60 percent of adults said the war hasn’t been worth fighting and 54 percent said the U.S. should pull out whether or not it’s done training the Afghan army. This is a long time coming, but the riots and aftermath were obviously a heavy nudge.

The poll found that more than two-thirds of those surveyed — 69 percent — think that the United States should not be at war in Afghanistan. That number is a significant increase from just four months ago, when 53 percent said that Americans should no longer be fighting in the conflict, which began more than a decade ago.

There were even sharper increases when respondents were asked for their impressions on the state of the war. The poll found that 68 percent thought the fighting was going “somewhat badly” or “very badly,” compared with 42 percent who had those impressions in November. The latest poll was conducted by telephone from March 21 to 25 with 986 adults nationwide…

The poll showed that across all parties, negative impressions of the war in Afghanistan were growing. Among Republicans, 54 percent said the war was going somewhat or very well in November 2011, but just 34 percent said so in the most recent New York Times/CBS News poll.

More from CBS:

Fifty-five percent say they have no clear idea why we’re fighting in Afghanistan now that Bin Laden’s dead, but don’t read too much into the OBL angle of that question. Back in September of last year, after Osama had been fish food for four months, 50 percent said they did have a clear idea why we were still fighting versus just 43 percent who said they didn’t. It’s not that the goals of the mission have suddenly become murkier lately, it’s that people are having a harder time seeing how those goals justify risking the lives of U.S. troops for people willing to shoot them in the back of the head for accidentally burning a Koran. Speaking of which, one of Time magazine’s correspondents asked a good question: How come there were a week’s worth of riots and killings after the Korans were burned but no riots and killings after Bales allegedly went berserk and killed 17 people? The answer:

When mullah Abdul Rahim Shah Ghaa thinks back to the day in February when a couple of Afghan employees at a U.S.-run detention center outside Kabul yanked five partly burned Korans out of a trash incinerator, he shudders with anger and revulsion. “It is like a knife to my heart,” says the head of the provincial religious council. The March 11 slaying of 16 Afghan civilians by a lone U.S Army staff sergeant named Robert Bales in Kandahar province, however, has left less of a scar. “Of course we condemn that act,” he says. “But it was only 16 people. Even if it were 1,000 people, it wouldn’t compare to harming one word of the Koran. If someone insults our holy book, it means that they insult our faith, our religion and everything that we have.”…

Comparing reactions to the two atrocities is not just a question of the sacred vs. the profane, says parliamentarian Fawzia Koofi. As with everything else in Afghanistan, politics plays a role. While she has no doubt that antigovernment elements and even opposition politicians sought to capitalize on both events, she believes that Afghans have become savvy to the political opportunities presented by yet another case of civilian deaths and have learned not to react. Bales may have murdered nine children in his rampage, she notes, but just a few days later an insurgent bomb planted in the road of a neighboring province killed nine more. “Why don’t we stand strongly against the Taliban when they massacre people?” she asks. “People are clever enough to understand that this is a political issue and the Koran is not.”

Maybe, but I think a lot of Americans see their responses to the two incidents as so drastically different from how they’d react themselves — if there’s to be rioting, it’s for slaughtered innocents, not a book — that they conclude the two cultures are hopelessly incompatible and it’s time to call the whole thing off. And when you add what Bales allegedly did to that, the queasiness and exasperation become so profound that suddenly the thought of getting far away and leaving these people alone to make the best of it in their own country becomes irresistibly alluring.

Here’s Bales’s wife trying to come to grips with the charges against him. Three more allied troops, two British and one American, were shot dead today by Afghan soldiers.

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