In the months after Sept. 11, 2001, Americans were united in their support of exacting revenge on those responsible for the 9/11 terrorist attacks. But according to a new Associated Press-GfK poll, today the majority of Americans believe going to war in Afghanistan was the wrong thing to do. As the longest and most unpopular war in U.S. history — surpassing Vietnam, Korea, and Iraq — it seems our nation's instinct to strike back in a time of fear and chaos ultimately led us down a road that we now regret.
On Sept. 14, 2001, then-President George W. Bush visited Ground Zero and delivered a rousing speech to a crowd of emergency rescue workers. "I can hear you, the rest of the world hears you, and the people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon." The audience erupted into energetic chanting: "USA! USA! USA!" and "God Bless America!"
Bush addressed the nation a week later and named the perpetrators of the attacks as al-Qaeda and named Osama bin Laden as their leader, describing in detail the terrorists' goal of "remaking the world and imposing its radical beliefs on people everywhere." He called on the nation to unite in support of the War on Terror. "Tonight, we are a country awakened to danger and called to defend freedom. Our grief has turned to anger and anger to resolution. Whether we bring our enemies to justice or bring justice to our enemies, justice will be done."
In the months following the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in October 2001, nine in 10 Americans supported the war. This feeling of patriotic fervor seems familiar while watching Bush's bullhorn speech, yet it is mostly forgotten today. Today, only about three in 10 support the war.
With the war costing the country billions of dollars and creating an ever-rising death toll, 57% of Americans now say going to war in Afghanistan was a mistake, while 53% believe the pace of the withdrawal is too slow. As the U.S. prepares for the withdrawal of its last combat troops in 2014, not many are convinced that this war has contributed to U.S. security as much as many had been promised. Sometimes, hindsight is a painful 20/20.