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Crossposted from my blog and European Tribune.

War is God's way of teaching Americans geography, quipped Ambrose Bierce.

Memo to God: it isn't working.

In 2002 a National Geographic-Roper study found 83 percent of Americans aged 18 to 24 unable to locate Afghanistan -- the country whence the 9/11 attack originated and which the US had just invaded -- when presented with four alternatives.

Now a new such test reveals that nearly two-thirds of young adults cannot find Iraq on a map even after three years of war and more than 2,400 US deaths, at an estimated cost of $1-2 trillion.

Incidentally, other studies suggest that a majority of US servicemembers in Iraq conflate salient characteristics of Iraq and Afghanistan, with 85 percent contending the US mission is mainly "to retaliate for Saddam's role in the 9-11 attacks" and 77 percent thinking a major reason for the invasion was "to stop Saddam from protecting al Qaeda in Iraq." In other words, most young Americans don't know where their troops are fighting; most of the latter don't know why.

Domestic natural disasters fare no better as teaching tools. Carried out in December 2005, the new National Geographic-Roper study shows that, five months after Hurricane Katrina -- which wrecked a world-famous city and killed hundreds of their fellow citizens -- one-third of young American adults were unable to find Louisiana on a map of the USA.

Forty-seven percent of young adults could not find Israel, the recipient of a fifth of official US aid; a stunning 75 percent could not locate India, home to nearly one in five human beings. More than 40 percent did not know that Pakistan, in which Osama bin Laden may be hiding, is located in Asia.

Fewer than three in ten even considered it important to know the location of countries in the news. (What's the thought process here? "What the heck, the President knows?" I wouldn't count on that; nor would the "Grecians," "Kosovarians" or "East Timorians.") Presumably these attitudes reflect the same provincial mindset that, in a January 2000 Gallup poll, ranked the US role in world affairs the 20th most important issue of the presidential campaign. But one might be excused for hoping that certain subsequent developments had made an impression.

In other news, as Booman notes, the most trusted news source in the US is also the most systematically misleading, by far.

I like America despite its flaws. But this is chilling.

Originally posted to Sirocco on Thu May 04, 2006 at 12:08 PM PDT.


What's most to blame for this ignorance?

27%18 votes
24%16 votes
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15%10 votes

| 66 votes | Vote | Results

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