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What Iraqis Think of the US Occupation – A Summary of Poll Results [View All]

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Time for change Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jul-02-06 12:00 PM
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What Iraqis Think of the US Occupation – A Summary of Poll Results
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The Bush administration, in its attempt to justify approximately 40,000 dead Iraqis, more than 2,500 dead and 20,000 wounded American soldiers, a cost to the United States so far of nearly $300 billion, and our continued occupation of Iraq, has repeatedly claimed that a major reason for that continued occupation is to fulfill our commitment to the Iraqi people. Therefore, given the huge costs in life and money and the stated reasons for our continued occupation, it behooves anyone concerned with our policy in Iraq to be aware of how the Iraqi people themselves feel about that occupation.

The Brookings Institution has produced a document entitled “Iraq Index – Tracking Variables of Reconstruction and Security in Post-Saddam Iraq”, which contains the results of several polls of the Iraqi people on their opinions of the U.S. occupation of their country, among other issues.

I summarize here the most recent poll results that are the most pertinent to the issue of Iraqi opinion of the US occupation, in three categories: Opinions on the performance of the U.S. led occupation forces; opinions on how long the occupation forces should stay; and, opinions of the U.S. government and people that may provide some clue to the reasons for the other poll results:


Opinions on the performance of the U.S. led occupation forces

The poll respondents were asked: Regarding US non-military assistance in the following categories, do you approve or disapprove? They were given three choices: Approve – US doing a good job; approve – but US doing a poor job; or, disapprove. Below are the percent of respondents who answered that they approve of the assistance and that the US is doing a good job:

Percent Iraqis approving of the following non-military services provided by US forces, and who believe that the US is doing a good job of providing the service
(World Public Opinion.Org Poll – January 31, 2006)


 Economic development: 29%
 Assisting with the oil industry: 28%
 Training Iraqi security forces: 33%
 Helping build Iraqi government institutions: 23%
 Infrastructure: 20%
 Helping to mediate between ethnic groups: 17%
 Helping Iraqis organize their communities: 25%

Of the remaining respondents, approximately 60% said that they approved of having the service provided, but that the US was doing a poor job, and the other approximately 40% said that they disapproved of having the assistance provided, period.


Several questions from different polls related to the Iraqi opinions of the US led forces with respect to their military function:

 In February 2005, 71% said they “oppose” the coalition and 76% said that they have little or no confidence in the US military forces improving the situation in Iraq. In the same poll, 76% said that they have quite a lot or a great deal of confidence in the Iraqi National Guard improving the situation in Iraq (US Military poll.)

 In August 2005, 82% said they were “strongly opposed” to the presence of coalition troops (British Ministry of Defense Poll)

 In October-November 2005, 64% said that they “oppose or strongly oppose” coalition forces in Iraq (Time/ABC News Poll)


When the question became more specific, the favorable opinion of the US led forces plummeted even further:

 In August 2005, less than 1% said that coalition forces were responsible for ANY improvement in security (British Ministry of Defense Poll)

 In March 23-31, 2006, only 1% said that they preferred the coalitions forces to “protect your personal safety”, compared to 78% for the Iraqi Army and police combined. (International Republican Institute)

And finally, as an indication of just how strong the opposition is in some quarters, a January 2006 poll indicated that 47% actually support attacks on US led forces (World Public Opinion.Org Poll).


Opinions on how long US led forces should stay

The January 2006 World Public Opinion.Org Poll indicated that 87% or Iraqis “approve the government endorsing a timeline for US withdrawal”. The Time/ABC News poll of October-November 2005 provided more specifics on this question, with the following choices for when coalition forces should leave Iraq:

 Now: 26%
 When Iraqi security forces are ready: 16%
 After a new government is in place: 19%
 When security is restored: 31%


Other opinions of the US government and people

I found three poll questions that provided clues to why the Iraqi people think so poorly of the US led coalition forces:

Do you think the US government plans to have permanent military bases in Iraq?
(World Public Opinion.Org Poll – January 31, 2006)
Yes: 80%

If the new Iraqi government were to tell the US to withdraw all its forces within six months, do you think the US would do so?
(World Public Opinion.Org Poll – January 31, 2006)
Yes: 23%

Do you believe that the abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib represents less than 100 people, or do you believe that all Americans are like this?
(Coalition Provision Authority Poll – May 2004)
All Americans are like this: 54%
Note: This was an ambiguous question, since the only two choices they were given were at the extremes (All Americans are like this or less than 100).


Summary of opinion polls of Iraqis on the US occupation of their country

A total of ten poll questions from four different polls from 2005-2006, dealing with both military and non-military issues, consistently show that Iraqis give low marks to the US led coalition forces, ranging from 17% to 33% approval. Disapproval is strong enough among substantial portions of the Iraqi population that 47% say that they actually support attacks on US troops. And only 1% say that they prefer the coalition forces to other available sources of security (such as the Iraqi police or army) or that the coalition forces have resulted in any improvement in security.

Although Iraqis differ on exactly when they would like US troops to leave, they overwhelmingly agree that they should leave, with 87% favoring the setting of a timeline for withdrawal.

Beyond the inability of the coalition forces to provide for the security or other needs of the Iraqis, the Iraqi desire to have the US leave as soon as possible is also based on their distrust of the intentions of American leaders. Polling results show that most Iraqis believe that the United States intends to stay for a long time, if not permanently, regardless of the wishes of Iraqi citizens. That should not be surprising, given that the Bush administration has done little or nothing to ease such fears. The revelations of the torture of Iraqi prisoners further undermine the confidence that Iraqis have in the US occupation of their country.


Conclusion

Anthony Shadid, in his Pulitzer prize winning book, “Night Draws Near – Iraq’s People in the Shadow of American War”, provides additional clues as to why the Iraqis have such a negative view of their occupiers today. Prior to the US invasion, Iraqi opinions of the coming war were extremely varied, with dread being mixed with anticipated relief of having Saddam Hussein removed from power. But following the invasion of Baghdad, as time wore on it became obvious that, though the American forces proved very aggressive at protecting oil supplies, they (i.e., our leaders) were much less interested in restoring to normalcy other aspects of Iraqi life, such as the availability of electricity, which many Iraqis were without for several months. It was very difficult for Iraqis to believe that a country as powerful as ours couldn’t do a better job of providing basic government security and other services if we cared. And of course, the provision of extremely lucrative no-bid contracts to long time benefactors of the Bush administration, along with failure to hold them accountable for the fulfillment of those contracts, didn’t help to foster confidence.

The Bush administration and politicians of all stripes claim that a major reason for our continuing presence in Iraq is to fulfill a commitment to the Iraqi people. These polls cast a great deal of doubt on whether our continuing presence in Iraq is of any benefit to them. With the rapidly mounting costs of our continued occupation, in blood and treasure, we would do well to thoroughly consider how the Iraqi people feel about our occupation of their country. Any American politician who speaks of our commitment to the Iraqi people as a rationale for continuing to occupy their country should be ready to address evidence of how the Iraqis themselves feel about that “commitment” if he or she wants to be taken seriously on that issue.
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