Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Thanks for saving us; now f*ck off

The Iraq war has been in the headlines again this week, because we have just arrived at a milestone:  the war's third anniversary.

Many of the Iraqi people are of two minds about the U.S. invasion. Their attitude is summed up in the title of this post:  "Thanks for saving us from Saddam; now f*ck off out of our country."

That is my conclusion, based on data published by the Globe and Mail this past weekend. ( is the original source of the data.)

I've put together three bar graphs for you. First, 77% of Iraqis think all the hardships they have suffered have been worth it to be rid of Saddam Hussein. (Click on the graph for a larger version.)

bar graph

Second, 87% of Iraqis believe that the US-led forces are still needed in Iraq. (The Globe expresses the data the other way around; 13% think the forces are no longer needed.)

bar graph

But here's a kick in the head for you:  47% of Iraqis approve of attacks on the US-led forces!

bar graph

To be blunt about it, some Iraqis are quite irrational. There's only one way to account for the data. In many cases, the men and women who are glad to be rid of Saddam and who, moreover, recognize that the US military presence in Iraq is necessary, are the very same people who are glad to see American soldiers killed.

Thanks; we really couldn't do it without you; but I still love to see you get your head blown off!

Many of the Kurds and the Shiites fall into this camp, even though they have benefitted from the "regime change" (whereas the Sunnis lost power).

The US military isn't exactly triumphing, either. Here's a look at the trend with respect to civilian deaths:

bar graph

So far, each year has been worse than the one before it. (The fourth bar represents total US casualties — not a reduction in civilian deaths.)

According to the Globe, attacks by "insurgents" increased by 29% from 2004 to 2005. In the latest shocking turn of events, Iraqi gunmen stormed a prison and released 30-odd prisoners.

If there's a bright spot to the story, it's this:  US casualties in Iraq (2,314) are much lower than they were in the first three years of the war in Vietnam (19,159).

I'd like to believe that this is a winnable war. I'd like to believe that the USA is making real progress in Iraq; that it's only a matter of time before the country becomes stable and democracy takes root.

But we're nowhere near that point — not yet.

copyright © 2006, Stephen Peltz


At 11:05 PM, March 22, 2006, Blogger McSwain said...

Fascinating data--and just as interesting is the media interpretation.

At 7:59 AM, March 23, 2006, Blogger snaars said...

Well, if that's how they feel, then f*ck them too!! Let's never leave!

Just kidding.

Hey, you probably read this already but the CPT hostages were freed today. Hooray!

At 11:22 AM, March 23, 2006, Blogger Carolyn said...

Interesting information. I'm to the point where I don't know what the hell should happen. I'm definitely not pro-war, but it would really suck to leave Iraq and have a new regime take over when the country's unstable. It seems kind of like a mini-Vietnam.

At 6:34 PM, March 23, 2006, Blogger Stephen (aka Q) said...

• Cheryl:
I'm not sure which journalists you're gently mocking. According to some journalists, things are peachy keen in Iraq. According to other journalists, Iraq is Vietnam redux.

• Snaars:
Be careful what you say: President Bush doesn't need that sort of encouragement.

And no, I hadn't heard that the CPT hostages have been released. Thanks for the info — I'll have to post on it.

• Carolyn:
I'm to the point where I don't know what the hell should happen.

I think that's what scuppered Kerry in the last election. It's one thing to say that it was a mistake to start the war. It's another thing to figure out what to do now that the mess has been created. Kerry was left talking out both sides of his mouth because he didn't have it figured out.

Bush doesn't have a strategy, but he has the political advantage of a consistent position — "We started the job and we're going to see it through."

Like Kerry, I think it was a mistake to start the war. Like Bush, I think the USA has to see it through and restore stability.

If such a thing is possible. That's the big question now.

At 8:14 PM, March 23, 2006, Blogger McSwain said...

In my area, I never hear the "peachy keen" slant--only the "new Vietnam" slant. There's no straight up the middle. :)

At 10:44 PM, March 23, 2006, Blogger Stephen (aka Q) said...

A blog I sometimes read frequently links to journalists of the "peachy keen" persuasion. E.g., Victor Davis Hanson and Charles Krauthammer.

You just aren't reading the right sources (pun intended).

At 9:31 AM, March 24, 2006, Blogger Bill said...

Really confusing isn't it?

In truth as the media is highly controlled, are we really seeing the whole picture. Consider the possibility that the attacks may be to some degree unrelated to removing the US from Iraq.

I did hear one Iraqi (cab driver) once say that at certain economic levels in Iraq the measure of a man is based on his actions more than his personal philosophy. This might be why the action against the US forces has value even though the rational might not fit the statistics.

Aside from coercion, this may be the reason the Ba'ath party succeeded in Iraq for as long as they did considering that it 's philosophy was contrary to many Islamic principals.

At 9:59 AM, March 24, 2006, Blogger Stephen (aka Q) said...

Now that I've mulled it over for a few days, here's how I see it.

Iraqis are glad to be rid of Saddam. And they're glad the USA is providing some level of security; otherwise the country would be plunged into anarchy and probably civil war.

Still, it's galling to have some other nation, whose values you strongly disagree with, come swooping in as your rescuer.

And it's humiliating to see that the most powerful man in your country throughout your whole lifetime (Saddam) was utterly impotent in the face of the American onslaught. He didn't even put up a decent fight before being removed from office. And then they dug him up from a hidey-hole, threw his sorry ass in jail, and generally made a laughing-stock of the guy. Even if you loathe him, it's a blow to the national ego.

So Iraqis are ambivalent about the US presence. That much, I understand.

What is irrational is taking it to the next level: actively cheering when US soldiers are killed. (Maybe even participating in the attacks.) No matter how much you resent their presence, it should be clear that blowing up Americans is not in the best interests of Iraqis who need stability and security more than they need anything else right now. It's a dramatic instance of cutting off your nose to spite your face.

They've suffered a national humiliation and the insurgency saves face: The Americans aren't superior to us: we can kill them.

At 12:41 PM, March 24, 2006, Blogger chosha said...

Perhaps one flaw in your logic: 'worth it to get rid of Saddam' does not equal 'everything they did was necessary to getting rid of him, or rebuilding after he went.' Also, the first three columns on those graphs show a very clear indication that those who appreciated US results we NOT the ones wanting to see them die. The overall numbers don't mean anything if they in actuality represent different groups in the different graphs.

At 12:54 PM, March 24, 2006, Blogger Stephen (aka Q) said...

Let's take Shiites for example. 98% said the hardships were worth it to overthrow Saddam. 92% believe that the presence of US troops is still necessary. But 41% of Shiites approve of attacks on US forces.

There has to be a significant overlap, in the neighbourhood of 30-40%.

At 1:39 PM, March 24, 2006, Blogger Jack's Shack said...

There is a disconnect in all of this that stems from cultural differences.

The way the West sees the world is often so very different from how others view it.


Post a Comment

<< Home