80% OF AMERICANS CAN'T FIND BUSH'S TARGET
Nov 21 2002
From Richard Wallace, US Editor, in New York
GEORGE Bush is on the brink of invading Iraq - but most Americans have no idea where the country is.
A survey revealed that only one in seven aged between 18 and 24 could identify Saddam Hussein's land.
And while more than half knew that al-Qaeda and the Taliban were based in Afghanistan, only one in six could find the country on a map.
Even more worrying - one in 10 couldn't pick out America.
When the Daily Mirror carried out a poll of 100 people on the streets of New York yesterday, we found that 80 per cent didn't have a clue where Iraq was.
Yesterday President Bush asked for military support from 60 countries, including Britain, as he prepared for an assault on Baghdad, which he is threatening if Saddam defies a UN resolution to get rid of weapons of mass destruction.
At least 12,000 Americans should know where Iraq is - they are the troops currently massed just over the border in Kuwait.
The poll that highlighted the Americans' ignorance about Iraq - population 22 million, area 260,000 square miles - was carried out by the National Geographic Society.
The Mirror poll was carried out at the self-proclaimed centre of the world - Times Square on Broadway.
New York cop John Riley, mounted on his trusty steed Hoss, studied our map for several minutes, saying: "I've got to get this right."
Then, with his finger hovering over northern Europe, he declared: "I know it's round here somewhere.
"Ah yes, there."
With a firm stab of his finger, he picked Austria as the new Iraq. Hope he's better with an identity parade.
Young couple John and Joan Jubett, from Manhattan, wanted some help.
Waving half-heartedly at South America, John asked: "Is it here somewhere? Or here?" He skimmed across the atlas to China. Finally he settled on northern Italy.
One girl in her twenties, clearly pondering a greater philosophical question, asked: "Is Iraq even in the world."
A burly construction worker barked: "Don't know, don't care, they'll be nothing left of it soon anyway."
There was no messing about from Tracey Shauger, 21, and pal Misty Wright, 20, from Michigan.
Five seconds' consideration and a firm "here", as both agreed Iraq was in the Gobi desert. Wrong - that's in Mongolia.
Drag queens Kristal Snow and Hagatha Christie, from the Lower East Side, were equally sure.
Hagatha hissed: "Oh, that Saddam is such a naughty boy. I know where he lives, it's right here," pointing at Norway. "No, no," said Kristal. "That's where I'm from.
"Iraq is right there."
Er, good morning Vietnam.
Others placed Iraq in France, Germany, Albania, the Caspian Sea, South Africa and Nicaragua.
Many of those who couldn't locate it admitted to feeling ashamed.
Carina Jannetta, 27, said: "I guess I should know. I am interested in foreign policy - I am against any kind of conflict. I know plenty about the issues but I guess my geography isn't what it could be."
Myra Dunlap, 54, admitted: "I can barely find the US. I'm not stupid, I'm just ashamed to admit I'm really bad at geography."
Rochelle Fox, 32, on holiday from California, said: "I know it is in the Middle East. I'm not that stupid, but I just can't quite remember exactly where on the map."
Theresa Livingstone, 32, admitted: "I guess I should know. There's enough about it on the news every day. I know it is close to Iran and Afghanistan, but I just can't find it."
Roberto Rios, 56, said: "I may not know where it is on the map, but that doesn't mean I do not care about the issues involved."
Jay Greany, 40, who also failed the test, admitted: "It's quite embarrassing. I should pay more attention." There were still those who were nearly up to the challenge. Kejli Jensen, 35, from Brooklyn took his time and plumped for Turkey. Close, but no cigar.
Johan Samora, 26, insisted: "I'll get it right next time." And Diana Grullon, 23, said: "I only can't find it because I'm wearing my glasses." Larry Layugan, 47, from Hawaii, said: "I'm not embarrassed that I didn't find it. At least I got the right area of the world."
Josephine Bloomer, 67, pointed at Afghanistan. Then she said: "I was close, but it bothers me that I didn't know."
Those who did get it right were ashamed of their fellow countrymen's performance.
Jordan Stevens, 25, from Brooklyn, was one of the quickest to find Iraq.
Despite the experiences of many of his fellow citizens, he insisted: "Us Americans aren't as dumb as you think we are, you know."
Sean Condron, 33, echoed his sentiments, bragging: "You think us Americans are all bad at geography but I got it. Ha!"
Elise Pritchard, 45, despaired that so many people did not know where Iraq was.
She said: "It's on the TV and in the papers ever day. How can you pay so little attention to what is happening that you don't know that?"
Anne Rothschild, 56, said: "We are totally connected to Iraq right now.
"It's a very scary situation. We need to educate everyone about what is happening.
"But it is in the paper every day, and in magazines and endless TV shows . It's hard to know what else we can do.
"We need to raise awareness of things happening outside the US.
"I guess people just aren't interested enough."
Oliver Wildman, 22, found Iraq instantly. He said: "I'm constantly amazed at how little my friends know about what is happening outside the US. Well, inside it too.
"Not that it stops them mouthing off about it in the bar."
Maggie Miller, 48, said: "When they are talking about a story on the news I want to figure out where it is.
"We Americans as a whole are very insular. We need to understand about the rest of the world."
Eurydice Thomas, 32, from California, said: "I got it but then I do have a masters degree in geography!
"But geography education in America is in a sad state. It needs a lot more attention, especially now with so many conflicts.
"We need to change the way news is reported so that people become more aware of what parts of the world are involved."
Meredith Lissack, 24, said: "It's bad if someone can't find it. People don't have any concept of what's going on in the world right now."
Michael Tolesny, 35, said: "I knew where it wasn't then I narrowed it down."
And Kimberly Wheeler, 24, California, bragged: "Of course I know where it is."
Charles Humpstone, 71, from Vermont, got it straight away, but his daughter Alessandra, 41, did not have a clue.
"Shame on you," he laughed.
One irate pensioner, who had an east European accent, didn't want to get involved.
He said: "I know what you're doing - you're trying to make us out to be stupid.
"If you think you're so clever you tell me the capital of *Belarus.
"Hey? Hey? You don't know, you don't know. I know where Iraq is - I'm just not telling you."
(*For the record, the capital of Belarus is Minsk.)
Americans have always been notoriously insular - just a sixth of them hold passports - and asking them to find anywhere outside the United States on a map is a daunting challenge.
The National Geographic Society survey said that nearly half of American youngsters couldn't pinpoint France or the UK either.
Society president John Fahey asked: "If our young people can't find places on a map and lack awareness of current events, how can they understand the cultural, economic and natural resource issues that confront us?"
Britt Meylan, 32, a sales executive from Texas was in no doubt where to find Iraq.
Grabbing the Mirror's atlas, she immediately pointed it out, correctly identified all the countries on its borders and thrust the book back, demanding: "Anything else?
"And by the way we're going to kick Saddam's butt."