IRAQ: Liberated thinking
William Fisher «View Bio

Last week, US President George W. Bush predicted that future generations of Iraqis would “come to America and say, thank goodness America stood the line and was strong and did not falter in the face of the violence of a few.”

Perhaps. But what of the current generation?

Well, here the news is not quite so upbeat. In fact it is downright discouraging. According to a May poll of Iraqi opinion sponsored by the US-backed Coalition Provisional Government (CPA) – but not released to the American public – more than half of Iraqis believe they would be safer if US troops simply left.

The poll also found:

• 92 percent of Iraqis consider the United States to be an occupying force.

• More than half believe that all Americans behave like those portrayed in the Abu Ghraib prison abuse photos.

• 63 percent of Iraqis believe conditions will improve when an Iraqi interim government takes over on June 30.

• 62 percent believe it is “very likely” the Iraqi police and army will maintain security without US forces.

• The coalition’s confidence rating in May stood at 11 percent, down from 47 percent in November, while coalition forces had just 10 percent support. Nearly half of Iraqis said they felt unsafe in their neighborhoods.

• 55 percent of Iraqis would feel safer if US troops immediately left, nearly double the 28 percent who felt that way in January.

• 71 percent of Iraqis were surprised by the humiliating photos and tales of abuse at the hands of Americans, but 54 percent said they believed all Americans behave like the guards.

• Meanwhile, the radical cleric Moqtada Al Sadr is surging in popularity: 81 percent of Iraqis said they had an improved opinion of Sadr in May compared to three months earlier, and 64 percent said the acts of his insurgents had made Iraq more unified. However, only 2 percent said they would support Sadr for president. Two percent expressed support for the deposed Saddam Hussein.

According to the Associated Press (AP), the coalition polled 1,093 adults selected randomly in six cities – Baghdad, Basra, Mosul, Diwaniyah, Hillah, and Baquba.

The poll was carried out between May 14 and 23 and had a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

One can assume that Bush was briefed on the poll results. This would help explain why the focus of America’s ‘Crusader-in-Chief’ suddenly shifted to ‘future generations’ of Iraqis. One can also assume that the president had no intention of sharing any of this information with the American public. For that, we are indebted to the AP, which obtained a copy of the presentation on the polling results presented to the CPA.

In an article in this week’s ‘Jordan Times,’ Rami Khouri, executive editor of Beirut’s the ‘Daily Star,’ pretty much said it all. Writing of the current upheavals in Iraq and Saudi Arabia, he said: “You’d think that someone in Washington beyond the hallucinogenic spell of the neoconservative radicals would have studied the last decade in Saudi Arabia and reached the simple conclusion that a large Western military presence is not a recipe for happy Arabian days or nights. Washington says that its military is needed in Iraq to ensure security. Says what?

“The evidence suggests that it does precisely the opposite: it stimulates terror against Americans and against Arabs. That’s why two of the world’s most important oil producers are exporting images of death, bombing, and burning these days almost as regularly as they export energy.”

William Fisher is a regular contributor to the Middle East Times.