The USA Today poll of Iraqis: time for us to go.

USA Today polled over 3300 Iraqis between March 22 and April 2. Just to put that in context timewise, this is entirely before the Sadrist uprising began, and before our attempted crackdown in Fallujah in the wake of the deaths of the American private security contractors on March 31.

It’s an especially useful poll analytically in that it breaks down Iraq by provinces (or governorates, or whatever they are) into Baghdad, Sunni provinces, Shi’ite provinces, and Kurdish provinces, and breaks down the poll responses accordingly.

The elephant in the room is that there’s an enormous gap between the Kurdish take on our invasion of and continued presence in Iraq, and how the rest of the country sees us. According to USA Today, Kurds make up 15-20% of the Iraqi population, so it’s better to look at the breakdowns than the country totals.

It would be an oversimplification to say the Kurds love us, and the rest of the country wants us gone, but not much of one.

Kurds nearly unanimously say they’re better off; Sunnis and Baghdad residents solidly believe Iraq’s worse off, and Shi’ites are almost evenly divided on the question.

The Kurds almost unanimously want us to stay; the rest of the country is over 2-to-1 in favor of our leaving.

Despite their belief that things will get rougher for them if we do:

Even in non-Kurd Iraq, a significant plurality thinks they’d be less safe if we go: Shi’ites by 44-34, Baghdaders by 50-31, and the Sunnis in between.

In non-Kurd Iraq, more than 80% see us as occupiers; less than 10% see us as liberators.

The Sunnis say ‘no’ by a 52-28 margin, but under Saddam, they were the favored group. Baghdaders (who are a mix of Shi’a and Sunni) say ‘yes’ by 57-38; Shi’ites say ‘yes’ by 74-17. Overall (including the Kurds, who are all glad he’s gone), Iraq thinks getting rid of Saddam was worth it by about a 2-1 margin.

I don’t consider that to be evidence that we’re doing well.

Here’s a big one: Baghdad and Sunni Iraq is divided almost down the middle on whether the current attacks on US soldiers are justified, with the Shi’ites saying it isn’t, but only by a 42-26 margin.

To sum up: Iraq was just not a friendly environment for us to be in, at the time of this poll - and this was before the Big Blowup of early April, so things have only gotten worse since then. Outside of the Kurdish areas, they think we’re doing more harm than good, they want us to go, and an uncomfortably large portion of the population thinks the armed attacks on our troops are justified.

If this poll is at all accurate, we really need to be thinking of how best to manage a relatively quick exit from non-Kurd Iraq - as in this year. If this is how things are after a year, we’ve blown our shot at whatever legitimacy an occupying power can possibly have. We don’t have enough support among the people, and we face too much opposition, to improve things by our presence. And until we leave, every American in Iraq is a target.

How do we ask someone to be the last man to die for Wolfowitz’ theories?

Pity the poor people who have to deal with the mess left behind. Civil War or worse. Nice one George and friends your helping hand and the removal of Saddam has really worked out well.

Fuckers :mad:

Maybe it is, since it appears we are cutting and running from Fullujah. There are very good reasons for the Marine pull-back, but still the insurgents haven’t surrendered the murderers of the “contractors”, haven’t surrendered their heavy weapons, and Bush has turned the command of the situation over to one of Saddam’s Republican Guard generals.

The funnier part is that the military is entering a panic-mode. They aren’t worried about losing to an enemy force - they are worried about being crushed under their own weight. The retreats from many positions have a lot to do with not having the manpower and equipment to hold them. Supply lines are targetted, and the resources just aren’t there.

We are currently incapable of deploying any force to anywhere else on the planet. At first, I was honestly worried about the military taking a right turn and heading into Iran, but that is rubbish. There is absolutely no way we could sustain a military operation of that scale. Many military experts question if we can sustain the Iraqi operation - they are already rationing ammunition and the like, and the reserve troops preparing to be sent to go there already sent a good chunk of their equipment to supply the troops there now - they don’t have the resources. We’ve already done this in Afghanistan.

Meanwhile, they’re talking about recalling and armoring 8,400 Humvees and replacing 4000 more.

And we’re still pouring billions into the all but useless F-22 program.

So, irregardless, the question is this: If the Iraqis don’t really want us there (an opinion sure to get stronger over time), can we sustain deployment?

If North Korea invaded South Korea right now, could we do anything about it short of nuking them? If there is a regional flareup?

What are we going to do for the next 10 years when our military is rebuilding itself?

And at least as importantly, what kind of administration goes to an aggressive, long term war of occupation while lowering taxes across the board?

Something I’ve been seriously pondering for the last month or so: What course of action do you take when all your options appear equally bad?

The U.S. cannot stay in Iraq indefinitely. When it withdraws, the result will be anarchy and civil war unless there is a strong Iraqi government in place that is broadly accepted as legitimate by the Iraqi people. Yet the U.S. is incapable of installing any government that will be broadly accepted as legitimate by the Iraqi people, so what’s the use in staying there? Yet if the U.S. withdraws its forces in the short term, the result will be anarchy and civil war just as surely as if we withdraw in the long term.

What a fucking mess. A mess that was thoroughly predictable two years ago, of course, but a big stinky quagmire of a mess nevertheless.

minty, I agree that if we leave, we will likely leave civil war and chaos behind us. I’m coming to the point, though, where I can’t envision how we get from here to some future point where we’re any less likely to leave civil war and chaos behind us.

We’ve dicked around for a year without ceding any meaningful control of anything to the Iraqi people or their legitimate representatives, to the extent that we’ve allowed any such people a chance to develop a following. So now, the more radical elements, like al-Sadr, have gotten fed up and are taking control for themselves.

I think it’s only going to get worse for us, so we ought to seize the moment now, because it’s the best moment we’ve got, and do something definitive fairly quickly. And it almost doesn’t matter what, so long as it returns real power to the Iraqi people quickly. If it were my call, I’d screw this idea of waiting until January to hold elections. Hold 'em on June 15, as best as can be done, and install the new legislature on June 30. Let Brahimi pick the lame-duck pres/veeps/prime minister, as already agreed. Let the legislature write the new constitution, and in the meantime let them write legislation, with veto power on legislation (but not the constitution) to 3/4 of the four-man executive group, and hand over genuine control on July 1.

On July 1, we’d retreat to our embassy and the ‘enduring bases’, and stay out of their business except to let them know we’ll bomb the crap out of any invasions by any of their neighbors; ditto for any significant troop movements by militia of one group (Sunni/Shi’ite/Kurd) into areas primarily populated by one of the other two groups. Then we’d gradually pull out of most of the ‘enduring bases’.

I’d still favor the chances of civil war and chaos over those of stability by a good margin. But that’s true every which way.

I have every confidence the Bush Administration will stay in Iraq for as long as it takes to get ironclad assurances that Iraq’s oil reserves remain the property of the United States.

That’s pretty much my point too. But remaining there does provide one benefit that leaving does not: It provides the opportunity to formulate a plan that does not promise chaos and civil war upon our departure.

Thing is, though, the guys who created this bloody quagmire show no signs whatsoever of being able to formulate a transition plan with any hope of success. Indeed, more than a year into this thing, they have succeeded primarily in making things worse. If the same schmucks are still in charge after this fall, I’d say that the time to bug out is approximately immediately. If the schmucks get the boot they so richly deserve, I’m wiling to stick it out to see if the new guys are any more capable of avoiding a disastrous outcome.

Incidentally, Peter Galbraith has a pretty good article in the New York Review of Books in which he proposes that the best hope for a stable Iraq is a divided Iraq, separated into more or less autonomous provinces with only a weak federal government. I doubt even that would work without a lot of bloodshed in the birthing process, but it’s a damn sight better than the complete lack of plan embraced so fervently by the White House.

The one that gets the fewest of your *own * people killed, bluntly. It’s time to grab some Iraqi off the street, Chalabi’s as likely as any, hand him the new flag, wish him well, and take off.

The partitioning / ethnic cleansing / new regional strongmen scenario looks like the end game no matter . Only the extent and duration of the civil war is an open question, sadly. There is no non-fanciful way to predict a native central government with both the legitimacy and the power to prevent it, and with noticeably less repressiveness of rule than was there before.

You talk of staying in hopes of formulating a plan, but what kind of plan could prevent the division and war? I’d like to be as optimistic as you, but I don’t see a basis for it. Please help me find some hope.

OK, I wasn’t sure.

Even if the Bush team was kicked out tomorrow in favor of the best team the Dems could put in their place, I’m not sure we could do much to reduce the risk of civil war, other than to put Iraq in the hands of the Shi’ite majority as quickly as possible, by the closest thing to a legitimate means possible.

I only disagree with you in being more pessimistic, I guess. I fully expect that due to the Bushies’ talent for screwing up, Iraq will be so obviously out of our control by January 20 that we’ll have no choice but to leave on the Iraqis’ terms, rather than our own.

Without implying that Iraq isn’t a mess right now, I’m going to somewhat disagree with your OP. To my eye, those poll reports are unexpectedly good compared to what I’d expect to see if the situation were hopeless. (Compare the poll results to what you’d expect to see if if a foreign power invaded the US and people answered the polls honestly.) Obviously the Iraqis want us gone ASAP. That isn’t even a remotely surprising result. But for many of the quality of life questions, there’s a pretty even spread round the “more-or-less the same” median.
The poll questions that I found most disturbing were the ones where US troops were perceived as conducting themselves predominantly badly; that the Iraqis feel that the CPA is making little efforts to improve the infrastructure situation; and that the streets are not safe at night.

However, if you look at where they’re getting their news, it’s predominently from Arabic language radio and TV stations, including that bastion of impartiality, Al Jazeera. And much of the reported ill-treatment was not from first person reports, but hearsay.

So what I’m partially getting from this poll is that we’re not winning the “hearts and minds” battle, or even fighting it particularly effectively.
None of this means that I think we should be there or that we have an effective plan for getting the hell out. I just don’t think that this poll paints the situation as black as you’d have it.

Thanks for your thoughtful reply, Finagle, and I apologize for my slow response.

My first concern is that the “hearts and minds” problem is the wellspring for everything else, and it doesn’t matter if they’re getting their news from al-Jazeerah, unless there’s something we can do about that.

Our support among the populace is thin and getting thinner, and about as many of them as not feel that the attacks on our troops are justified. IMHO, we’d still face a stiff challenge in leaving behind a stable government (I’ve long since given up on ‘democratic’) if 2/3 of Iraqis wanted us to stay there, and only 10% felt that taking up arms against us was justified.

And the biggest problem is the way the numbers are going, because it’s hard to imagine that the numbers aren’t way scarier now than they were five weeks back.

So I still see the glass as just about empty for us. I think we’ve got a duty to give Iraq a stable government if we can, but I think time is not our friend here, and there’s no requirement that those elections have to wait until January. So I’d say the sooner the better. An actual legislature in place on or shortly after June 30 might have a chance, but time’s a-wastin’.

Gee, I would say that many of them are a lot closer to getting their news from what they see going on around them than you and I are. Where do we get our unbiased news?

The liberal media? (FOX news viewers’ take.)

FAUX News? (CNN viewers’ take.)

RTFirefly, you might want to consider updating your sig line. It’s been retracted:
Bremer Takes Back Statements About Bush

I feel safer already. :wink:

Well, in fact there is. This organization just ran a very successful fund drive in order to allow marines to set up television stations in Iraq to combat negative publicity. (Why some of the billions of dollars in reconstruction money hasn’t been spent on this, I don’t know.)

As for David Simmon’s comments, while I certainly don’t have firsthand knowledge of what’s going on in Iraq, I do have access to a world’s worth of uncensored news over the Web, including the blogs of troops and Iraqi bloggers. (And no one who reads Riverbend’s blog can accuse her of being censored or sympathetic to the US.)

There does seem to be a consensus that while Iraq pretty much sucks right now, the US and world media actually are painting it even blacker than it actually is, for pretty much the same reasons that if you judged America from the contents of the nightly news, you 'd perceive the entire country as a hellhole of crime and car crashes. Violence sells. Slow, incremental increases in quality of life and infrastructure are boring stories and don’t make the news much.

From what I can tell, he’d be worse than the average random Iraqi off the street, legitmacy-wise.

Considering that the conditions in Iraq were deplorable just prior to the invasion, it would seem that “more-or-less the same” would be deplorable as well.