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Thursday, December 07, 2006

Tomgram: Schwartz on How More Produces Less in Iraq


[Note for Tomdispatch readers: Be on the look out -- former federal prosecutor Elizabeth de la Vega, who took over the Tomdispatch site last week, is tentatively scheduled to appear on The Colbert Report this Thursday. Don't forget to be the first person in the neighborhood to "indict" the President by picking up a copy of her Tomdispatch.com book, United States v. George W. Bush et al., either at Amazon.com or at the website of its independent publisher Seven Stories Press. While you're at it, prepare for winter by stocking up on good company -- bring Chalmers Johnson, Barbara Ehrenreich, Katrina vanden Heuvel, and Mike Davis home for a little conversation by purcha! sing Mission Unaccomplished: Tomdispatch Interviews with American Iconoclasts and Dissenters.]

As of this morning, new polling data about American public opinion on Iraq is on the table. The Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA), through its WorldPublicOpinion.org, has just released its post-election poll. On crucial issues, especially the matter of setting a timetable for withdrawal and the Bush administration's (in all but name) permanent bases in Iraq, American and Iraqi public opinion are in remarkably similar places; that the Bush administration, as the election results indicated, is now distinctly a minority regime; and that the Democrats are still largely lagging behind public opinion on Iraq, as is the media, as is James Baker's Iraq Study Group (ISG), which today releases its "consensus report" to the President.

The PIPA numbers indicate that, even if George W. Bush remains adamantly in his no-longer-mission-accomplished, but stay-until-the-mission-is-accomplished dream state, Americans have largely awoken. Yes, they do agree with the ISG recommendations by whopping proportions. Three out of four Americans (including 72% of Republicans), according to PIPA, believe that the U.S. should be engaged in conversation and negotiation with Iran and Syria; and they even more massively favor a major international conference on the Iraqi catastrophe. However, those aren't actually the most interesting figures. Here are some of those:

In the poll, 54% of Americans believe that attacks on U.S. forces are approved by half or more of all Iraqis; 66% (including a near majority of Republicans) believe that a majority of Iraqis oppose the establishment of permanent U.S. bases in their country (only 28% disagree); and 68% (including a majority of Republicans) believe that, in any case, we should not have such bases. This is an especially remarkable set of figures, given that permanent bases have received next to no attention in the American mainstream media.

Most important of all, given the arrival of the Iraq Study Group's "consensus" proposal for a "phased withdrawal" that is to begin without a timetable in sight, 58% of Americans, according to PIPA, want a withdrawal of all U.S. troops on a timeline -- 18% within six months, 25% within a year, 15% within two years. Moreover, if the Iraqi government were to request such a withdrawal on a year's deadline, 77% of respondents (including 73% of Republicans) think we should take them up on it. In this they agree with the Iraqi public. As Middle Eastern expert Robert Dreyfuss wrote recently, "Polls have shown that up to 80% of Sunni Arabs and 60% of Shiite Arabs want an immediate end to the occupation."

These new numbers should act as a wake-up call. Without much help from anyone, politicians or the media, the American people, it seems, have formed their own Iraq Study Group and arrived at sanity well ahead of the elite and all the "wise men" in Washington.

On one other matter, Americans have reached a remarkable conclusion that you're not likely to find either in your local newspaper, on the nightly news, or in the ISG report. On the question, "Do you think the US military presence in Iraq is currently a stabilizing force or provoking more conflict than it is preventing?," only 35% opt for "stabilizing force," while 60% have reached the reasonable conclusion that American forces, rather than standing between Iraq and a hard place, are "provoking more conflict than [they are] preventing." Michael Schwartz, who has been arguing just that for a long time at this website, offers a canny explanation for exactly why this is the case. Tom

Click here to read more of this dispatch.


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