Just Ask The Iraqis
By Marie Cocco
" -- -- It’s all about us.
This is why the theatrical masterpiece of Gen. David Petraeus’
testimony to Congress coincided with the anniversary of the
terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. President Bush always has
cast the American invasion and occupation of Iraq as part of the
larger war on terror, a logical and supposedly unavoidable step
to prevent the next 9/11-or inexplicably, avenge the last. The
falsity of the claimed connection was long ago exposed but it
resurfaces like an ugly, bloated corpse.
What if the hearings had been held in connection with another
anniversary-say, that of the 2006 bombing that shattered the
Golden Mosque in Samarra, a spectacular provocation that
intensified, possibly beyond hope, the sectarianism that tears
at Iraq? “This is as 9/11 in the United States,” Adel Abdul
Mahdi, a Shiite politician and one of Iraq’s two vice
presidents, said at the time.
Perhaps we would then ask what Iraqis think of the American
military “surge,” ostensibly conducted on their behalf. If we
did, we would find that they think it is a failure.
Six in 10 Iraqis say security in Iraq overall has worsened since
the surge began. That is their grim assessment, according to an
extensive national poll conducted jointly by ABC News, the BBC
and NHK, a Japanese broadcaster.
The survey cannot be said to contain any data from which even
the most facile manipulator could make a colorful collection of
upbeat charts. The proportion of Iraqis who rate their local
security positively-43 percent-is unchanged since March. When
asked to assess the surge overall, Iraqis are particularly
negative: More than two-thirds of them say the stepped-up U.S.
military presence has worsened security, worsened the country’s
political dialogue, and worsened the pace of reconstruction and
In Anbar province-held up for the exemplary way in which
Americans have suddenly struck tactical security alliances with
Sunnis who formerly were our sworn enemies-the outlook is still
decidedly glum. Thirty-eight percent of those in Anbar province
rated security positively-none had six months ago. Still, nearly
half of those in the province identified security as the biggest
problem in their lives, and factional fighting in Anbar, the
poll analysts said, was reported as being up.
A worsening of attitudes in Baghdad, also a focal point of the
surge, is apparent. Sixty-eight percent of Baghdad respondents
called local security “very bad,” a proportion that is up since
Resentment against Americans is undiminished, and has reached
such levels that 57 percent of Iraqis say that violence against
U.S. forces is acceptable, up six points from when the survey
was last conducted in March. In February 2004, only 17 percent
of Iraqis said they condoned violence against the Americans in
Fear, pessimism and resentment grip the country. Why should it
be otherwise? Iraqis do not sense that this war was ever about
them. They cannot reconcile their lives of deprivation and
destruction with American television reports of administration
officials claiming that things are beginning to go much better,
thank you. Could there be a more blatant display of indifference
to their suffering?
For the implacable Bush administration and for the impatient
Congress, a single force drives all discussion about Iraq. It
has not much to do with Iraqis. Their concerns are the future of
the U.S. military, of U.S. prestige, of U.S. access to oil, of
broader U.S. strategic interests in the Middle East. Add to the
mix the political imperatives that inspire all of them-Bush’s
intent to hand over the messy endgame to the next president;
lawmakers’ determination to find a path to re-election that
guides them safely through this quagmire-and you have a myopia
that is bereft of morality.
Americans always have believed themselves to be exceptional, set
apart from the rest of the world in both triumph and sacrifice.
The instinct intensified after the 2001 terrorist attacks that
have defined our contemporary politics.
It is as though history began, or ended, on that day. The next
time that banal question-why do they hate us?-is asked, it would
be worth reading this poll of Iraqis, if only to get a glimpse
of the answer.
Marie Cocco’s e-mail address is mariecocco(at)washpost.com.
© 2007 TruthDig.com
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