Grim Numbers
June 16, 2004 4:15 AM   Subscribe

Winning hearts and minds in Iraq (or anywhere else, for that matter)? Not really. Check this U.S.-sponsored poll, then pray and hope for the best.
posted by acrobat (19 comments total)

 
Time to go.

All credibility spent. No possible positives from remaining.

Lewis Lapham has a great "Notebook" article on the subject in this month's Harpers magazine.
posted by nofundy at 4:28 AM on June 16, 2004


The poll results which have not been released publicly but were obtained by NEWSWEEK,
posted by thomcatspike at 4:53 AM on June 16, 2004


The poll consisted of face-to-face interviews with 1,093 people selected randomly in six Iraqi cities and towns

the poll’s margin of error of plus or minus 4.1 percent

I wonder how accurate this poll really is. If it comes anything close to reflecting widespread Iraqi sentiment, this is pretty disastrous. No matter who's in office next year or when the troops come home, this is going to be a serious problem for America for years to come. I had been in favor of keeping US forces in Iraq to maintain stability until elections can be held, but now I'm having serious doubts that their presence is really more helpful than harmful.
posted by Loudmax at 6:58 AM on June 16, 2004


"According to the poll, a mere 1% of Iraqis feel that the coalition forces contribute most to their sense of security; only 18% described Iraqi police in the same way. By contrast, a total of 71% said they depended on their family and friends for security. "

54% percent of Iraqis believe that all Americans behave like the torturers at the Abu Ghraib prison - and worse revelations are forthcoming. Sy Hersh, who says he has seen all the Abu Ghraib photos, describes pictures of children being tortured in front of their parents. [ this sounds more than a little like what was going on, with US assistance, in Central America in the 1980's - and during Reagan's "optimistic, avuncular" watch ]

I'm experiencing cognitive dissonance.... I just heard an extended segment on "liberal" public radio yesterday about how well the rebuilding of Iraq was going and thought to myself - "Well, maybe the Bush Administration will pull it off and all the critics - myself included - will be proved wrong."

The Iraq described by Newsweek here sounds like a different country from the one I heard described on WBUR.

I'll have to say one thing about the conservative fancy for the privatization of government - if the US were run as a for-profit public corporation, CEO George W. Bush would have been kicked out on his ass months ago : for the seas of red ink, for the Abu Ghraib torture (PR debacle), and for the wildly incompetent product-launch that was the US invasion of Iraq.
posted by troutfishing at 7:15 AM on June 16, 2004


Loudmax - The word I've consistently heard from independent observers who've recently been in Iraq is :

Wherever American troops go, there is violence - and there are many, many reasons for this which have nothing to do specifically with the goodwill of the Americans. But they don't speak the native language or understand the culture and they are on constant gaurd for attacks that could come from anywhere. So, from the Iraqi perspective, the Americans tend to be rather dangerous to be around: they are a net security liability - a magnet for insurgent attacks, and an accidental death hazard to all civilians within firing range.

It's hard to see how this could be much different now. people ARE constantly attacking the American troops - who have to have edgy trigger fingers in order to save their skins. But it's hard to see what they are gaurding now in Iraq more than - quite simply - the reputation and '04 re-election chances of George W. Bush.
posted by troutfishing at 7:28 AM on June 16, 2004


But what happens after the US troops leave? Say the US troops (and the CPA) pulled out tomorrow. Then what? Does the interim government have enough legitimacy to keep the country from sliding into more chaos?

Granted, things are chaotic already. But it's a fallacy to think that things couldn't get worse. It isn't just the troops that are being targeted, it's anyone who's perceived as being close to the occupational authority.

61 percent said they either strongly oppose or somewhat oppose Allawi

That's not too encouraging. I don't think it's clear that there's an authority who will be able to maintain stability if the troops were to leave today.

it's hard to see what they are gaurding now in Iraq more than - quite simply - the reputation and '04 re-election chances of George W. Bush.

No, it's much more than that. If Iraq slides into complete anarchy, the blame won't just be on GW Bush; it will be on America. This is bad for all of us, liberals and conservatives alike.
posted by Loudmax at 8:48 AM on June 16, 2004


Does the interim government have enough legitimacy to keep the country from sliding into more chaos?

No. There should be (should have happened months ago, really) immediate local and national elections. Allawi is seen as another puppet, and not someone they chose themselves.

Sadr is getting very popular, and Sistani--they're the only hope now for any stability there. We've proven we can't provide it.
posted by amberglow at 8:55 AM on June 16, 2004


The fact that the interviews are face-to-face might actually be a bias in favor of the US (people being scared to piss off their "liberators" (and as someone who grew up under a US-supported "liberator", I use the term with all due venom)).
posted by signal at 9:15 AM on June 16, 2004


According to the poll, a mere one percent of Iraqis now feel that the coalition forces contribute most to their sense of security; only 18 percent described Iraqi police the same way. By contrast, a total of 71 percent said they depended mostly on their family and friends and neighbors for security.

I don't doubt that the situation over there now is pretty grim and dangerous, low moral, low confidence and all that. But I have to wonder what those numbers above really mean. If you took the same poll of Iraqis, say a year or more before the war, I'm not so sure if they would look that much different. Can anyone vouch for the previous Iraqi citizen/Iraqi police relationship pre-Operation Iraqi Freedom?

Would more than 18% of Americans say that the police made them feel safe and secure? I know that I certainly depend FAR more on my friends and family for my security.
posted by Witty at 9:38 AM on June 16, 2004


I don't doubt that the situation over there now is pretty grim and dangerous, low moral, low confidence and all that. But I have to wonder what those numbers above really mean.

Yeah, I've got some mixed feelings as well. On the one hand, this poll was taken just after the Abu Ghraib scandal hit, so of course the local perception of the U.S. is going to suck. On the other hand, there's a broad range of bad indicators in there...

Can anyone vouch for the previous Iraqi citizen/Iraqi police relationship pre-Operation Iraqi Freedom?

Probably well-warranted fear. Iraq used to be a police state, remember.

Would more than 18% of Americans say that the police made them feel safe and secure? I know that I certainly depend FAR more on my friends and family for my security.

Personally, I'd agree with you, but neither of us live in a war zone, under the very real threat of armed attack. If an armed mob took to the streets here in NYC, I'd be so thankful we had the boys in blue.
posted by mkultra at 10:51 AM on June 16, 2004


If you took the same poll of Iraqis, say a year or more before the war, I'm not so sure if they would look that much different.

That's probably true, although comparing the CPA to Saddam Hussein is setting the bar pretty low. In order to justify the occupation, it isn't enough that America should make Iraq a slightly better place than it was under Hussein. America needs to make Iraq a much better place for Iraqis; it needs to be moving in the direction of becoming an autonomous democracy. The danger is that most Iraqis don't seem to think that it is.

I know that I certainly depend FAR more on my friends and family for my security.

But what kind of security? Financial security, sure. Security from armed bandits demanding cash at roadblocks? Friends and family aren't going to protect you from those, unless you have high-profile, very powerful friends or family. I'm pretty sure most Americans do rely on the police for their day-to-day physical security. (Obviously, some people are more apt to rely on their friends and family for security from the police.)
posted by Loudmax at 10:57 AM on June 16, 2004


Well, a fluctuating and stubborn Iraqi pessimism is of no surprise to me, regardless of how "good" or "bad" things are over there at any given moment. It would still be interesting to know though, what 18% of confidence in police for protection really means. For all I know, that's an improvement. And if it's on the rise, then great.

I just think the stats are worded misleadingly. To say that 1% of Iraqis feel that the coalition forces are responsible for providing the majority of their safety... well, is that a bad thing? I'm not so sure. What should the number be, if only 1% is something to be concerned about? 18% think that the majority of their safety comes from the Iraqi police. Isn't it OK from them to have more confidence in the local security forces than the coalition?
posted by Witty at 11:51 AM on June 16, 2004


54% percent of Iraqis believe that all Americans behave like the torturers at the Abu Ghraib prison - and worse revelations are forthcoming. Sy Hersh, who says he has seen all the Abu Ghraib photos, describes pictures of children being tortured in front of their parents. [ this sounds more than a little like what was going on, with US assistance, in Central America in the 1980's - and during Reagan's "optimistic, avuncular" watch ]

Unfortunately, the US adopted that sort of torture as a policy in the 60s and it's stayed with us ever since. See here for more information.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 4:33 PM on June 16, 2004


So, tell me again, why can't we just leave and let the Iraqis sort things out themselves? They may hate us for leaving, but they'll hate us just the same for staying (even if we make things better). This reminds me of a relationship where the boyfriend is going to "make the bitch love him if it's the last thing he'll do." And we all know how well those work out.
posted by moonbiter at 4:42 PM on June 16, 2004


we can leave--it's going to happen, and this "handover" is a start. Unfortunately, all the power over Iraq will remain in our hands, which will probably be the next scandal to break after June 30th, and that'll change too. I think even the adminstration realizes they can't win and get what they want--they'll have to be happy Saddam's no longer in power, and their cronies are measurably enriched and will continue to be so.
posted by amberglow at 4:49 PM on June 16, 2004


Interesting sidenote:

Oil is traded exclusively1 in US dollars.

This requires purchasing countries to have US dollar money.

This, in turn, requires those countries obtain US dollars.

They do that by selling things to the USA. Cheap, because the USA isn't going to import things it can get at the same price within its own borders.

This, in turn, benefits American multinationals (WalMart likes cheap goods). Whether it benefits citizens is questionable: while you can buy things cheaper, what value-added work is available when manufacturing is out-sourced? Jobs become more difficult to find.

1 But a few years ago, Iraq said "Bugger this," and went to the Euro. This rather shook things up, and other mid-East countries are thinking of doing the same.

This ends up requiring the US to start exporting to the EU. This doesn't benefit American multinationals, and it may not benefit American citizens: because much manufacturing has already gone away, what has the country left to sell?

A few years after moving to the Euro, Iraq is invaded.

A warning to the mid-East?
posted by five fresh fish at 5:35 PM on June 16, 2004


Interesting angle.
posted by troutfishing at 9:55 AM on June 17, 2004


Isn't it, though? Especially when you consider the USA debt is so dangerously high. A little thing like petro being traded in eurodollars could destabilize the US$ to the point of complete economic collapse. The government can't allow that, even if preventing it requires an unjust war.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:15 AM on June 17, 2004


The only downside that I can see to that theory is that the folks in the administration don't seem to notice such details. I vote for the more simpleminded motivation of "secure the natural resources!", as presented in Rebuilding America's Defenses [pdf].
posted by moonbiter at 5:55 PM on June 17, 2004


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