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The Troops Want to End Iraq Occupation in 2006 

By Richard B. Mazess 

02/28/06 "ICH" -- -- A recent Zogby poll of 944 US soldiers in Iraq reported that 72% thought all troops should withdraw this year.  The views of the troops differ markedly from those of their commander-in-chief, and the administration; only 23% wanted to “stay-the-course”. The troops views, however, concur with those of the foreign policy establishment, e.g., General William Odom, former national security advisors Brent Scowcroft, Zbignew Brezinski, and see: http://democracyrising.us/content/view/359/151/. It is not surprising that liberal experts would favor withdrawal, since they viewed the invasion as a strategic error, but many conservative pundits, who initially favored the invasion, have now recognized it as a failure, with a trillion dollar cost, that is increasingly problematic for both Middle East stability and worldwide American credibility. The  hostilities in Iraq are thought to greatly increase the risk of terror attacks elsewhere according to a BBC poll of 41,000 people in 35 countries

There were differences in the Zogby poll among the service branches with the Reserves and National Guard overwhelming in favor of withdrawal (89% and 82%) this year compared to the Army and Marines (69% and 58% respectively). Even more impressively, three-quarters of the Guard and Reserves, and half of the Army, favored withdrawal within 6 months.  Marines were more inclined to stay as long as needed (37%), but only a quarter of the Army, and 9% of the Guard and Reserves felt that way. Apparently Senator Russ Feingold and Rep. Jack Murtha knew what they were talking about when they proposed many months ago that the troops had done everything possible and should be leaving Iraq in 2006 http://www.counterpunch.org/murtha11172005.html ; http://feingold.senate.gov/~feingold/statements/05/10/20051025IQ.html . The view of the troops parallels the documented feeling of the Iraqi public; 80% want US forces out within months (and 50% feel that attacks on the US “occupiers” are justified). Similarly there is near unanimity among the Iraqi political leadership that US forces should withdraw as soon as tactically possible. At a meeting in Cairo last November these leaders proposed the US withdraw troops from Iraqi cities by May 2006 http://www.workingforchange.com/article.cfm?ItemID=19930.  

Support for rapid withdrawal in the Zogby survey of troops, three-quarters of whom had served two or more tours of duty, was even higher than among the U.S. public. A majority of the US public (almost 60%) now believes that the troops should be withdrawn this year. Moreover, almost half of the public say that the US should never have invaded and troops should be withdrawn immediately.  The view of the troops is more in accord with that of Democrat or progressive voters, 80% of whom favor rapid withdrawal. In contrast Republican voters (41%) are less inclined for withdrawal. Support for the administrations’ performance in Iraq is waning among military officers as well http://www.militarycity.com/polls/2005_main.php.  

Troops and the public disagree on the reasons for the war, but both groups now eschew the egregious propaganda about Saddam’s WMD. At the same time the troops ascribe their mission in Iraq to the administration line that Saddam was harboring al Qaeda (77%) and was involved in the 9/11 attacks (85%); over half the public no longer believes these obvious administration falsehoods. While the troops have been misled to accept lies they also have been misled to reject truths about their mission. Only 11% see securing strategic oil supplies as a reason for the occupation, and only 6% recognize the mission as providing long-term US military bases. In fact the latter two items have been the dominating concerns of US policy in the Middle East for half a century http://www.tompaine.com/articles/2006/02/24/will_fight_for_oilbut_we_wont_debate.php . The Bush administration, with support of both parties in Congress, has established 14 long-term bases in Iraq to accommodate 50-100,000 troops for the next several decades http://www.fcnl.org/iraq/bases.htm.  

The majority of the troops view the insurgency as largely homegrown; only 20% say this was not true, and only 25% think that elimination of non-Iraqi fighters would inhibit the insurgent forces.  Leading experts agree that the ongoing presence of US troops is itself the major factor exacerbating hostilities, with both factions of the insurgency (nationalists and Jihadists) united against foreign occupation.  In 2003 the insurgency was small, and poorly organized, and could only mount 50 attacks weekly. In 2004 the attack rate went to 150 to 200 per week and in 2005 to 750 attacks weekly. Perhaps because of the increased level of insurgent activities 53% of the troops opine that a doubling of troop strength and bombing activity would necessary to control the insurgency. In spite of the difficult situation over 80% of the troops maintain good feelings toward the Iraq civilian population. The recent upsurge of violence in Iraq may make it less politically possible to have the troop withdrawal that the troops, the Iraqis, and the American public all desire http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/4747316.stm. One hopeful factor is that the Iraqi  resistance offered a ceasefire in December 2005 to allow occupation forces to peacefully withdraw from the cities to defined military bases, as suggested by the Iraqi government a month earlier http://www.iraqresistance.net/article.php3?id_article=452.

Offsetting this, however, is a complete lack of response by the Bush administration.

Dick Mazess rbmazess@wisc.edu is Professor Emeritus, University of Wisconsin-Madison

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