Middle East — 26 March 2006

It is always interesting to listen to pro war commentators on the subject of Iraq; they sound so sure of themselves. Frequently using favourable comparisons to Saddam Hussein’s rule (as if he was somehow an appropriate benchmark), or claiming that they speak for the Iraqi people, they constantly tell us that Iraq is going well and that the US led occupation has popular acceptance. They often cite favourable first hand meetings with Iraqis, arguing that when one looks at the bigger picture important progress is being made such as elections and the new constitution. The problem with the politicians and the few commentators who continue to support the war is that when they go to Iraq they don’t venture beyond the green zone, the Kurdish areas or military compounds. Ascertaining the pulse of the Iraqi people from these areas is like doing a poll on George Bush’s popularity in the Whitehouse living room.

A more reliable indicator is a poll conducted for WorldPublicOpinion.org in January 2006 by the Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA) at the University of Maryland. It broadly concludes that nearly thee years on from the invasion of Iraq; the US led force continues to lose the battle for hearts and minds of the Iraqi people. The poll finds that a large majority of Iraqis think the US plans to maintain bases in Iraq permanently, even if the newly elected government asks the US to leave. In a devastating indictment of Coalition policies, nearly half of all Iraqis approve of attacks on US-led forces—including nine out of ten Sunnis. Most Iraqis believe that many aspects of their lives will improve once the US-led forces leave with sixty-seven percent saying that “day to day security for ordinary Iraqis” would improve. Contrary to the propaganda coming from Washington and London, there is a fair amount of consensus that if US-led troops withdraw, there would be a substantial improvement in the performance of the Iraqi state. Overall; 73% think there will be an increase in the willingness of factions to cooperate in Parliament; Sixty-seven percent assume there will be an increase in the availability of public services such as electricity, schools and sanitation; and sixty-four percent assume crime will go down

This poll corroborates the clear trend over recent months in the Islamic world. The success of Islamic parties in Palestine, Egypt and Iraq itself is a growing indication of people’s rejection of liberal secular models and the West’s interference in the Muslim world. The failure in Iraq therefore is a major body blow to Western attempts to transform the paradigm in the Muslim world, an objective cited constantly by President Bush and Prime Minister Blair. However following an illegal invasion; the callous attitude towards civilian casualties, the X rated horrors at Abu Ghraib, the loss of billions of dollars in corruption, and a chronic failure to address the security, energy and economic needs of the Iraqi people, is it any surprise that the opinion polls are so bad. However, it should come as no surprise that the Iraq project has gone so badly due to the narcissistic nature of Western foreign policy. The war in Iraq was always justified as being good for the West’s security (better to fight our enemies ‘over there than over here‘ ). This may have given some superficial comfort to the citizens of Washington and New York, but those in Baghdad and Fallujah (as well as the tens of thousands of American soldiers who have died or been injured) have paid the price, as major Iraqi cities become battle zones. This colonial mentality towards the systematic exploitation of another nation’s land, infrastructure and civilian lives, coupled with an oil-centric foreign policy explains the failure to provide effective governance to Iraq. Rather than Iraq being a beacon for Western liberalism it has become a recruiting sergeant for greater Islamic governance in the region.

Not only was the war in Iraq botched, it has as was predicted, increased insecurity for the whole world, in that sense alone it is worse than the Vietnam debacle. This is because both America and Britain have failed to diagnose the real lesson of 9-11, it was not about terrorism per se, or its nexus with WMD (these are mere symptoms) but it was about the huge reservoir of Muslim alienation. After the debacle of Iraq and the incompetent and coercive way the War on Terror has been prosecuted, this alienation with the West has grown to unprecedented levels, indeed it now only takes a small spark for things to boil over. If you feel I am exaggerating, just ask the Editor of Jyllands-Posten or the head of the British Council in Gaza.

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