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Should We Stay Or Should We Go, Now?

Art Chrenkoff has some more encouraging polling data from Iraq:

"Do you support the pull out of foreign troops?

"At once - 12.56%

"According to a future timetable - 81.80%

"Do not know - 5.64%

"Has the security situation improved since the start of the new government?

"Yes - 55%

"No - 35%

"No change - 10%"

More, on the April 9th demonstrations in Iraq:

Most of the U.S. media portrayed it as a massive anti American demonstration in the streets of Iraq. I noticed, however, from Iraqi Arabic newspapers that most the demonstrations were against terrorism & calling for SaddamÂ’s trial & hanging (all these signs were in Arabic).

Meanwhile, you have headlines like these in the media:

From Canada-

Yankee go home: Iraqis increasingly calling for American troops to leave

From China-

Iraqis increase calls for US troops to leave

From Massachusetts-

Call rises in Iraq for U.S. to leave

In Iraq, increasing calls for American troops to leave

From Montana-

Iraqis make increasing calls for troops to leave

From Washington State-

Protests highlight Iraqis' impatience for U.S. military to leave country

The journalist responsible for the body of the story: Traci Carl.

Her version goes like this:

Tens of thousands of mostly Shiite protesters, largely followers of militant cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, filled central Baghdad's streets Saturday, holding the largest anti-American protest since the invasion. Demonstrations have continued, all echoing the same demand: It's time for U.S. troops to leave.

Meanwhile, from the Los Angeles Times' Edmund Sanders, in a New Hampshire paper-

In Baghdad, protesters demand that U.S. leave

But the body is a little more even-handed:

"This is the first manifestation of freedom in Iraq," said Lt. Ali Muhsin of the Iraqi National Guard, raising his voice to be heard over the din of protesters. "We have never witnessed such a thing before. In the old days, people would only have been able to do this if they were hailing Saddam. Now they are protesting for their rights."

Despite the anti-American slogans, some people in the crowd expressed support for the United States and ambivalence about the occupation.

"I came here today to mark the fall of the tyrant Saddam and to call for his execution," said Mohammed Abdul Hussein, 42, an anesthesiologist now working as a salesman. "We deeply thank all the people, including the Americans, who helped us get rid of him."

Nadhum Jaffer, 31, an unemployed surveyor, worried that a U.S. withdrawal would leave Iraq vulnerable to sectarian violence and foreign interference.

"If the Americans left immediately, everything would be a mess," Jaffer said.

I. So, did some Iraqis demonstrate against what they perceive to be a lingering occupation?

Probably. In fact, it's likely.

II. Did others demonstrate against simultaneously against the terrorists and regime remnants?

Yeah. And why wouldn't they?

III. Do the protests represent the sentiments of the Iraqi people?

Not really. Muqtada al-Sadr is a truly marginal figure in Iraq, and his followers are not even the mainstream of Iraqi thought.

One thing they probably have in common with the whole of Iraq is their understandable frustration that their country is still in a transition phase, still replete with random acts of terrorism.

A second thing the al-Sadr followers have in common with much of the rest of Iraq is their disdain for Saddam Hussein and their desire to move forward with progress and prosperity.

IV. Which version of events inevitably ended up in the headlines, indeed in the bulk of the story on the demonstrations?

You guessed it, the pessimistic, negative one.

V. Which version of events was largely omitted?

Yep, the one where the Americans are the good guys.

A few points to consider-

First, demonstrations in Iraq are a manifestation of the feelings of a small proportion of the population.

Second, they are not insignificant. They, while not indicative of what "Iraq is feeling," still represent a valid point of view.

Third, that point of view is best expressed in demonstrations, at at the ballot box, not through improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and other acts of violence.

Fourth, it is interesting to note that at nearly all of these demonstrations composed of Shi'a, there is an almost paranoid longing for Saddam Hussein's trial and execution. They want him gone.

One can't help but wonder if some of the Iraqi population believes Saddam Hussein may still have a chance at returning to power. For certain Saddam loyalists, the fact that he remains alive gives them hope; for certain Shiites with memories of the disastrous aftermath of the Gulf War, the fact that Saddam remains alive makes them uneasy. There is a kind of unnatural tension there; although, from an American perspective, it seems unreasonable to imagine Saddam Hussein back in power, it may loom as a very real possibility to many in Iraq.

Fifth, although we despise this phrase, it seems like "the truth is somewhere in the middle" on this one. Some Iraqis hate the U.S. with a burning passion. Others are grateful to America for giving them an opportunity to flourish as a free and prosperous society. Others may just be fed up with everything, period. The bottom line is that the recent spate of headlines proclaiming that "Iraqis want the U.S. to leave immediately" are more than a little misleading.

Posted by Will Franklin · 18 April 2005 10:47 PM


The polling process always seems to be misleading. There will always be some who will despise freedom. There will always be some who desire freedom. Those who despise freedom are usually control freaks! Our promise as americans to remain until those who desire freedom is the real question. Leaving immediately? Would that enhance the freedom of Iraq?
My husband and I know an iraqi man who told us he and his family appreciate American troops being in Iraq!...Desire freedom, or despise freedom... I would bet more of Iraq appreciates the US troops being there for them! Whatever, we believe Americans need to ask. Is Iraq better off today because of the US?

Posted by: Zsa Zsa at April 19, 2005 07:32 AM

The weapons of mass destruction? I believe the weapons of mass destruction have been found! Sadam and his sons were the biggest weapons of mass destruction! That is no lie! The torture chambers are proof! The mass graves are proof! What more do anti-US troop Americans need?

Posted by: Zsa Zsa at April 19, 2005 07:57 AM

Posted by: No Oil for Pacifists at April 19, 2005 10:05 PM