Iraqi people, U.S. troops
Both want end to occupation
By LeiLani Dowell
Published Mar 12, 2006 9:12 PM

Three separate polls, two taken in Iraq and one in the United States, show that the majority of the people in both countries are opposed to the occupation of Iraq—including those troops sent to occupy it.

A poll released on Feb. 28 by Le Moyne College/Zogby shows that a great majority of U.S. troops stationed in Iraq—72 percent—“think the U.S. should exit Iraq in the next 12 months.” Of those, 29 percent said the U.S. should leave “immediately.”

The poll also revealed the confusion of many of the troops stationed in Iraq about the purpose of the war. Forty-two percent said the U.S. mission “is either somewhat or very unclear to them, that they have no understanding of it at all, or are unsure.” Eighty-five percent said that the U.S. mission is primarily “to retaliate for Saddam’s role in the 9-11 attacks.”

Despite all the propaganda to the contrary, however, only 24 percent believed that “establishing a democracy that can be a model for the Arab World” was a major reason for the war. Three-quarters of the troops polled had served multiple tours in Iraq, according to a press release from Zogby International.

Meanwhile, the newest Washington Post-ABC News poll of people living in the United States says that over half of those polled—52 percent—believe that the U.S. should begin withdrawing forces. Accord ing to the Washington Post, “The poll found that 56 percent also say the United States is not making significant progress toward restoring civil order in Iraq.” Furthermore, 48 percent said the U.S. and its allies are failing to move ahead in “establishing a democratic government.”

Perhaps the most insightful poll was released on Jan. 31 by the Program on International Policy Attitudes. Entitled “What the Iraqi Public Wants,” the poll divided the Iraqi population into Kurds, Shia and Sunnis, and shows that 80 percent of all Iraqis polled believe that the “U.S. government plans to have permanent military bases in Iraq.” Seventy-six percent believed that the U.S. would refuse “if the new Iraqi government were to tell the U.S. to withdraw all of its forces within six months.” Eighty-seven percent would approve the government’s endorsing a timeline for U.S. withdrawal, as opposed to only reducing the forces “as the security situation improves.” Almost half of those polled—47 percent—said they approve of attacks on U.S.-led forces in Iraq.

According to the report, “The major source of urgency for withdrawal is the feeling ... that it is offensive for their country to be occupied. A secondary reason is that U.S. forces attract more attacks and make the violence worse. The majority of those polled expect that should the U.S. withdraw in six months, the day-to-day security of ordinary citizens, willingness of factions in parliament to cooperate, and availability of public services would increase; while violent attacks, inter-ethnic violence, the amount of crime, and the presence of ‘foreign fighters’ would all decrease.”

The report also states that “a majority or plurality says the U.S. is doing a poor job” in all areas of nonmilitary involvement—assisting with economic development, assisting with the oil industry, training Iraqi security forces, helping to build Iraqi government institutions, helping to mediate between ethnic groups, infrastruc ture, and helping Iraqis organize their communities to address needs. “Of the seven nonmilitary activities Iraqis were asked about,” the report asserts, “approval is ... lowest for U.S. efforts to help mediate between ethnic groups (65 percent overall).”

These numbers come amid intense fighting throughout Iraq, with 15 killed on March 6, including a puppet Iraqi major-general and one U.S. soldier whose death brought the official U.S. troop toll to 2,300. In addition, a report from Amnesty International states that torture of detain ees in Iraq is still routinely occurring, despite promises to the contrary in the wake of the Abu Ghraib scandal. AI says that 14,000 detainees are being held in coalition military prisons; last year, the U.S. said it plans to expand prison capacity to 16,000, at an expense of $50 million.

On March 6, the radio show Democracy Now! interviewed two Iraqi women who had traveled to New York to speak out about the situation in Iraq. One of them, civil engineer and blogger Faiza Al-Araji, described the propagation of “civil war” in Iraq, amidst the explosion of recent fighting: “Somebody is pushing the country to ... the option of civil war. Why? Who is the benefit? Iraqis are against civil war.

“If you have the chance to go ... in the streets of Iraqis and ask everyone, ‘Are you with the civil war?’ they will say, ‘No.’ ... If you have [an] official meeting with the leaders of religion and political parties and social parties ... they will say, ‘No.’ So the question is: Who is pushing the country to choose civil war? ...

“The only one who will benefit from this civil war is the occupation force, because it will give them the justification to stay forever in Iraq. They are building army bases to stay in Iraq. So, we have no other explanation.”

When interviewer Amy Goodman asked Al-Araji if she was Sunni or Shia, she replied, “I don’t like this question. I’m Iraqi. And I’m insisting I am Iraqi. I don’t want to use these new titles [that] have ... entered Iraq after [occupation head Paul] Bremer. When he entered Iraq he made this division of the Iraqi people. And we refuse it. ...

“We are brothers and sisters. We are Muslim .... This is the identity of the nation.... But they are trying to divide the people, to go to the sub-identity, to make a cause of fighting or to provoke the people against each other. And we refuse it.”

Medea Benjamin of Code Pink, which is organizing the U.S. tour of the Iraqi women, reported that the U.S. State Department denied visas to two other women invited on the delegation and gave as a reason that these women had no family ties in Iraq and might stay in the U.S. They lack family ties because in both cases their entire families had been killed when U.S. tanks fired into the civilian cars in which they were driving.

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