Wednesday, December 14, 2005

The Meaning of the New Poll in Iraq

The BBC and ABC commissioned a poll in Iraq. And we can interpret the result of the poll as following. (1) We are making progress in Iraq. (2) But that progress is painfully slow (due to mistakes on our part), and there are still much to be done.

The poll shows that the main stream media narrative is different than that of the Iraqis living there. This is natural. If one is to watch the local news, one may think that the area where I live, the Great Washington Metropolitan, is crime infested and overran with gangs. Part of it is true, there are areas that are crime infested and overran with gangs, but those are exception to the rule. This is true of Iraqis too. 70.6 percents of the participants their personal lives are quite good or very good. 51.5 percent think that their lives are better than it was under Saddam Hussein. Another 18.6 thinks their lives remain the same. Only 17.9 percents thinks that their lives are worsen off.

The interesting fact is despite thinking that their personal lives (70.6%) are positive; only 44.4 percents think that things in Iraq as the whole is positive. No, it is not a contradiction. Minus those who think their lives are positive, we have almost 30 percents who think their lives are negative (which interestingly coincides with the 30 percents unemployment rate). Now if 30 percent of your fellow citizens are in bad shape, it is only natural that one thinks that things are negative.

The poll also shows that the Iraqis do not like the occupation. This is not surprising either. Who in the world would like to be occupied? It is no surprise that Iraqis are resentful of being occupied. It is humiliating. Imagine a very abusive family where the father starves beats and sexually molests the children. If an outsider comes in, removes the father, and runs the household – it is still a humiliating experience. It is a humiliating experience to be situation that an outsider has to come in and rescue. There would be plenty of angers, but it would be because the person is helpless and dependent on outsider – and not due to anything the outsider does.

Iraqis do not like the occupation. It reminds them of their own helplessness and impotency. They resent having other people doing things that they know they should be doing for themselves. Imagine having to depend on strangers for food, security, and livelihood. It does not feel good. Therefore it is vital that we help the Iraqis help themselves – to put them back on their feet as soon as possible. That means a serious effort at training the Iraqi Security Forces. That means a more involvement of Iraqis in the reconstruction process.

Those who support the war know understands that we need to end the occupation as soon as possible. Neither the occupier nor the occupied like occupation. Therefore, the end goal should be to end the occupation – but not before the Iraqis can take care of themselves. The poll also illustrates this point. Only 25 percents believe that the US should leave right now. They all want us to leave at some point in the future however.

The poll for the most part is positive, but it is not a slam dunk for those supporting the war. The poll does not gross over the negative parts. It shows that mistakes were made (and are still being made) by the US. But it is something that the war supporters already knew. Unlike the impression being portrayed of the supporters of the war (by the anti-war groups), we never thought for one second that the project to bring freedom and democracy to Iraq is easy. On the contrary, we knew that every brick being built in Iraq would be soaked in blood, sweat, and tears. We knew that we would spend many nights anguishing over the mistakes we made. And we also knew that we would make plenty of mistakes and some Iraqis out there would resent us for our mistakes.

We knew this is the most difficult enterprise we have ever participated in. But unlike the critics, we rolled up our sleeves and gave it our best shot. And for some, they gave a whole lot more – their own lives. This poll is a long shot from a certificate of achievement. But it is an indicator that we that our decision to start the project was right after all. Now, we just need to work a little harder.


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12:14 AM  

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