Monday, September 10, 2007

Petraeus Report

In testimony earlier today before Congress, General Petraeus -- in what should come as a surprise to no one -- claimed that the so-called "surge" in Iraq is working. I've discussed the multitude of reasons as to why that is not the case in earlier postings, but for now lets consider what the Iraqis themselves have to say about the "surge" and whether, as Petraeus claims, it is "working."

According to a new ABC/BBC opinion poll, the answer is a resounding no: more than 70% of Iraqis say security has actually deteriorated in areas covered by the military "surge." Below is a graphic from the BBC detailing the results of the poll:

But don't expect this to get in the way of war supporters' claims that the surge is "working" (however they define that term this month), and don't expect the poll results to impact much of the public debate either. After all, last September the State Department found in their own poll of Iraqis that 65% supported an immediate withdrawal of American forces and 75% said they would feel safer if foreign troops left.

A few months ago I recall asking Michigan Republican Congressman Pete Hoekstra, the ranking Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, about similar poll results finding that most Iraqis wanted American forces to leave their country. His response -- amidst claiming that the "surge" was working and that the overall environment in Iraq was improving -- was that there is no way to accurately poll Iraqis because of all the ongoing violence, sectarian and otherwise. Naturally this level of skepticism did not present itself last June when, alongside now former Pennsylvania Republican Senator Rick Santorum, Hoekstra claimed that the US had found Saddam's weapons of mass destruction. His claim was immediately dismissed by the Pentagon.

Of course the practical effect of Hoekstra's and other lawmakers' stance on polling is that the Iraqi people will never have a voice in the future of their own country as it pertains to an American military presence, because all poll results will be immediately dismissed as illegitimate. "The Iraqi people," at least as a rhetorical device, can then be made to support any American action painted by its supporters as an attempt to further "progress" in Iraq. The only acknowledged "Iraqi voice" is that of the US-backed, "sovereign" Iraqi government, whose members -- knowing they would likely not be in power otherwise -- are unlikely to demand a withdrawal of American troops anytime soon.

One might argue that there is an undeniably reliable measure of whether the situation in Iraq is getting worse or getting better: whether Iraq's more than four million refugees are returning to their homes or not. But as CBS News reports, Iraq's refugee crisis is only getting worse -- forcing the Syrian government, which has taken in more that 1.5 million refugees, to begin issuing visas to just Iraqi professionals, thus blocking one of the few options left to many displaced Iraqis.

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