Here in the U.S., arguments rage about the Iraq War. It is far and away the most pointed, and contentious, condemnation of this administration’s foreign policy, with Republicans and Democrats engaged in a vast Push-me / Pull-you on the American people.
In the middle of all this American politicking and heated controversy, though, we’ve somehow lost sight of the fact that Iraq’s cities and countryside aren’t mere backdrops for our actions. As regional and global ambitions and interests are played out on their streets, what do the people stuck in the center of this maelstrom think?
From a poll conducted by the Program on International Policy Attitudes for the University of Maryland (pdf document) The Iraqi Public on the US Presence and the Future of Iraq:
— Seven in ten Iraqis want US-led forces to commit to withdraw within a year. An overwhelming majority believes that the US military presence in Iraq is provoking more conflict than it is preventing.
— Support for attacks on US-led forces has grown to a majority position—now six in ten. Support appears to be related to widespread perception, held by all ethnic groups, that the US government plans to have permanent military bases in Iraq and would not withdraw its forces from Iraq even if the Iraqi government asked it to. If the US were to commit to withdraw, more than half of those who approve of attacks on US troops say that their support for attacks would diminish.
— Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden are rejected by overwhelming majorities of Shias and Kurds and large majorities of Sunnis.
From our own State Department (WaPo):
BAGHDAD, Sept. 26 — A strong majority of Iraqis want U.S.-led military forces to immediately withdraw from the country, saying their swift departure would make Iraq more secure and decrease sectarian violence, according to new polls by the State Department and independent researchers.
In Baghdad, for example, nearly three-quarters of residents polled said they would feel safer if U.S. and other foreign forces left Iraq, with 65 percent of those asked favoring an immediate pullout, according to State Department polling results obtained by The Washington Post.
Evidently, Iraqis are in much the same situation as we are, in terms of ability to affect their government’s decisions:
The stark assessments, among the most negative attitudes toward U.S.-led forces since they invaded Iraq in 2003, contrast sharply with views expressed by the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Last week at the United Nations, President Jalal Talabani said coalition troops should remain in the country until Iraqi security forces are “capable of putting an end to terrorism and maintaining stability and security.”
At the purely analytic level, these polls reflect both good and bad news. The Iraqis are very unhappy with us… but they’re also very unhappy with al Qaeda. WaPo’s article, though, contained some illuminating, and extremely depressing, statements:
“Do you really think it’s possible that America — the greatest country in the world — cannot manage a small country like this?” Mohammad Ali, 42, an unemployed construction worker, said as he sat in his friend’s electronics shop on a recent afternoon. “No! They have not made any mistakes. They brought people here to destroy Iraq, not to build Iraq.”
Evidently America is still viewed there as all-powerful… and in the face of Iraq’s chaos, cronyism for contracts, and dim-witted planning and execution failures, it’s no small leap of logic to their conclusions.
Meanwhile, the Iraqi government, and some Sunni leaders, say:
Mahmoud al-Mashhadani, the outspoken Sunni speaker of parliament who this summer said that “the U.S. occupation is the work of butchers,” now supports the U.S. military staying in Iraq for as long as a decade.
“Don’t let them go before they have corrected what they have done,” he said in an interview this month. “They should stay for four years. This is the minimum. Maybe 10 years.”
Clearly, American citizens aren’t alone in their anger and frustration at this situation; other than the fact that the bombs aren’t blowing up in our malls and streets, it all sounds quite familiar.
Seems like an important distinction to me.
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There’s a great deal of interesting information in the links above; Polimom pulled only the barest of bones, and I strongly recommend reading them both.
A diverse range of perspectives from around the ‘net include:
Balloon Juice: George W. Bush, Will You Please Go Now?
Decision ’08: Winning Hearts And Minds
History News Network: POLL: AL QAEDA LOST HEARTS AND MINDS IN IRAQ
Kevin Drum: Polling Iraq
Gun Toting Liberal: If the Iraqis don’t want us there, and most Americans don’t want us there, why are we there?