Eighty Percent of What?

Discussion in 'Politics' started by 007, Dec 14, 2005.

  1. 007
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    007 Charter Member Supporting Member

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    Eighty Percent of What?



    Fred Barnes
    Tue Dec 13, 5:16 PM ET


    Washington (The Weekly Standard) Vol. 011, Issue 14 - 12/19/2005 - THE POLL NUMBER--80 percent of Iraqis want Americans out of their country--has become a staple of Democratic antiwar rhetoric. Representative John Murtha (news, bio, voting record) cited it in his proposed House resolution calling for the immediate withdrawal of American troops from Iraq. Democratic national chairman Howard Dean mentioned it in the radio interview in which he said the war in Iraq is unwinnable. Senator Barbara Boxer put it this way on Fox News Sunday: "Eighty percent of Iraqis want us gone." Senator John Kerry made reference to the poll number in responding to a speech on Iraq by Vice President Cheney last month.

    Democrats may be oblivious, but there are reasons to be skeptical of the 80 percent figure. Does it actually reflect support among Iraqis for immediate withdrawal? Probably not. Or have Democrats misconstrued its meaning to justify their demand for the removal of American forces from Iraq, in Murtha's words, "as soon as possible"? It sure looks that way.

    There's no doubt about the authenticity of the opinion survey from which this particular finding emerged. That poll was conducted secretly by an Iraqi university for the British military in August. And the poll's results were disclosed in October by Sean Rayment, the defense correspondent for the Sunday Telegraph in London.

    The problem with the 80 percent figure--actually, 82 percent were said to be "strongly opposed" to "coalition forces in Iraq"--is threefold. One, it clashes with the demographics of Iraq. Two, it's at odds with other polls in Iraq. And three, the question that elicited the 82 percent response is vague, which means the response is ambiguous.

    The population of Iraq is made up of Sunnis (20 percent), Shia (60 percent), and Kurds (20 percent). The Sunnis in the poll would no doubt say they strongly oppose "the presence" of the American-led coalition in Iraq and favor instant withdrawal. It was the Sunnis and their leader, Saddam Hussein, who ruled Iraq for decades before being overthrown by coalition forces in 2003. The Shia, on the other hand, were persecuted by Saddam and thus were happy to see him and his colleagues ousted. The Kurds were even more viciously persecuted and are downright pro-American. So the obvious conclusion, based on Iraq's demographics and simple math, is that 82 percent of Iraqis probably do want Americans to leave eventually, but that they don't favor immediate withdrawal.

    If we knew the "internals" of the poll's sample, we could say for sure whether 82 percent of a representative sample of Iraqis said they favored immediate withdrawal. I contacted Rayment, who broke the poll story, and learned the sample size (1,264 Iraqis), but not the breakdown of Sunnis, Shia, and Kurds. That remains unknown, at least publicly. It matters, though. If the sample consisted disproportionately of Sunnis, for example, that would explain a high number of respondents who want U.S. forces to withdraw immediately. However, it wouldn't be a faithful reflection of overall Iraqi opinion.

    Earlier polls tell a different (and clearer) story, though still not one that's favorable to keeping American troops in Iraq indefinitely. In March 2004, a BBC poll of 2,500 Iraqis found that 51 percent opposed the continued presence of coalition troops in their country. And in May 2004, a poll in six Iraqi cities, including ones with significant Sunni populations, put the percentage of Iraqis who want coalition forces to "leave immediately" at 41 percent. And 55 percent said they would feel safer if those forces left.

    The wording of the question in the poll cited by Democrats is important. It is: "Do you support the presence of coalition forces in Iraq?" It's likely the vast majority of Iraqis would like to see foreign troops leave Iraq at some point. Even President Bush and the Pentagon insist that American forces should be withdrawn as the Iraqi military and security personnel grow and are able to operate effectively on their own.

    But an Iraqi who answers "strongly opposed" to coalition troops in Iraq isn't necessarily in favor of immediate withdrawal--quite the contrary. The six-city poll last year found, for instance, that while 41 percent wanted a quick withdrawal, another 45 percent favored the departure of coalition forces after the establishment of a permanent Iraqi government. This is roughly in line with the desire of the Bush administration to begin troop reductions in 2006.

    Iraqis, however, disagree with a core premise of the Democratic calls for immediate withdrawal--at least according to the polls. They do not buy the notion that the United States has lost in Iraq and that things are getting worse there--hence, the need for U.S. forces to withdraw as quickly as possible.

    The polling of Iraqis since the ouster of Saddam in April 2003 shows a consistent streak of overall optimism. A poll last month conducted by an Iraqi firm showed that 53 percent of Iraqis believe "things will be better" in six months, while 65 percent believe this will be true in one year and 72 percent think so in five years.

    Iraqis have been asked the same question often used to gauge American sentiment: Is your country headed in the right direction? In a poll last month, 49 percent of Iraqis said right direction, up from 43 percent in September but down from 67 percent in April. This compares with only 31 percent of Americans who think the United States is on the right track, according to a poll in early December by CBS News and the New York Times.

    Here's what I think we should conclude from all this: Iraqis want foreign forces, mostly Americans, out eventually, but a majority, or something very close to one, would wait until an Iraqi government is firmly established and able to ward off insurgents. This is a sensible position and quite different from the story Democrats are telling.

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  2. Said1
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    Said1 VIP Member

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    I find the fact that other nations aren't mentioned very often to be very interesting. I know they aren't making up the bulk of the troops, but still - it's a coalition, isn't it?
     
  3. Adam's Apple
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    Adam's Apple Senior Member

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    I think Barnes' assessment hits the nail squarely on its head. Despite liberal propaganda and skewed polls drawn up to support it, what Barnes has indicated is exactly the course that will be followed. When the new Iraq government is in place and their military and police forces have achieved a level where they can protect the country, the U.S. and coalition forces will depart with heads held high and thanks from a grateful people, the Iraqis.
     
  4. insein
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    insein Senior Member

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    My feeling is that no matter when the US forces accomplish the mission, declare Victory in Iraq official and leave Iraq as a fully functional Nation, the Democrats will try to claim it as a victory for themselves. Even if its 10 years from now that we leave, they will call it the ultimate failure in American History. The challenege we face till then is making sure the America people see who the democrats really are so that when that time comes, most Americans will think nothing of the traitor party.
     

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