Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Newsweek has a must-read exclusive this week on Iraqi public opinion. Now, assuming there is such a thing as "Iraqi public opinion" can be a dicy adventure in and of itself, but when you get these kinds of numbers, the only response is "landslide".

Confidence in selected institutions ("fair amount" or "great deal" of confidence)
Iraqi police: 76%
Iraqi army: 62% [ed -- is there an Iraqi army?]
Coalition Provisional Authority: 11%
Coalition Forces: 10%

Compared to three months ago, my opinion of Moqtada al-Sadr is:
Much better or better: 81%
Much worse or worse: 19%

Support of or Opposition to the Following Individuals ("strongly support" or "somewhat support")
Ali Sistani: 70%
Moqtada al-Sadr: 67%
Ayad Allawi: 23% [ed -- this guy is, of course, the Interim Prime Minister of Iraq]

If you could vote for any living Iraqi for President, who would it be?
Ibrahim Jafari: 16.8% [ed -- first President of the IGC]
Saddam Hussein: 3.4%
Moqtada al-Sadr: 2.0%
Ali Sistani: 1.8%
Ahmed Chalabi: 0.5%
None or Don't Know: 54%

What powers should the unelected, interim government have for its 7 months in office?
Make economic changes, like adjusting prices: 84%
Take responsibility for prisoners held by Coalition Forces: 83%
Order Coalition Forces to leave Iraq: 77%

Which of the following contributes most to your sense of security?
Neighbors and friends: 45%
Family: 26%
Local police: 18%
Coalition Forces: 1%

What kind of violence do you think is most dangerous to your family?
Street crimes: 40.4%
IEDs along roads: 16.7%
Large vehicle bombs: 15.2%
Armed encounters between Coalition Forces and others: 10.8%
Violence by militias: 1.6%

The Coalition Forces are . . .
Occupiers: 92%
Peacekeepers: 3%
Liberators: 2%

How long should Coalition Forces stay in Iraq?
Leave after a permanent government is elected: 45% [ed -- that's in 7 months]
Leave immediately: 41%
As long as Coalition Forces think necessary for stability: 6%

If Coalition Forces left Iraq immediately would you feel . . . ?
More safe: 55%
Less safe: 32%
No difference: 10%

Some of the most devastating responses came from answers to questions concerning Abu Ghraib. On its face, 71% of respondents saying "yes" when asked whether they were surprised by the abuse at Abu Ghraib is comforting to the US government. However, when asked why they said "yes", 48% said it was because "It humiliates Iraqis". Only 24% of all respondents (34% of 71%) suggested it was because they didn't expect such a thing from Americans. Of the 22% which said "no" they were not surprised, 64% said "I expect the worst from Americans" and another 31% said things nearly as unkind. In sum, 24% of Iraqis thought Abu Ghraib was out of character for the US, but 21% thought Abu Ghraib was pretty much what Americans are all about.

Yet it's not really even that rosy (as if one can be comforted by a 50-50 split on whether your national character is or is not "sadism"). When asked "Do you believe that the abuse of prisonsers at Abu Ghraib represents fewer than 100 people or that all Americans behave this way?", 54% said the latter, only 38% the former. More significantly, 61% thought no one would be punished for the torture, while another 15% thought only the "little people" involved would be brought to justice. A mere 11% thought "everyone responsible" would be punished -- I wonder what a US public opinion poll would say to that question!

What can we conclude from this poll?
  1. There is no functioning state in Iraq -- not even close
  2. Coalition Forces contribute virtually nothing to the daily security needs of the population
  3. Coalition Forces are at rock bottom in terms of public support or goodwill
  4. Anyone associated with the Coalition is just a tick above rock bottom in terms of public support or goodwill
  5. Roadside mines and car bombs are having exactly the desired effect of destabilizing the political situation in Iraq and discrediting Coalition Forces
  6. Anybody standing up militarily against the Coalition becomes popular
  7. Iraqis are strongly nationalistic and see the Coalition's primary interests as stealing Iraqi resources and humiliating Iraqi national pride
  8. Bush is up shit crick without a paddle



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