Thursday, April 29, 2004

A new poll from Iraq 

A fascinating Gallup poll recently conducted in Iraq - with some interesting and schizophrenic results:

- It seems that the Kurds absolutely love us, but not so the Sunnis and the Shias. The results are so wildly different, they have to be seen to be believed (for example George Bush has got 95% favourable rating among the Kurds, but only 9% among the Baghdadis).

- more people think that Iraq is much or somewhat better off after the invasion (44% versus 39% for much or somewhat worse off) but 46% think that the invasion has done more harm than good (versus 33% for more good). Yet, in another example of "you're sick, I'm not" perception phenomenon so well known to Western pollsters, 51% say that they and their families are much or somewhat better off now, as opposed to 40% much or somewhat worse off.

- 89% think that Saddam Hussein would not have been removed from power by Iraqis if the Coalition forces had not taken direct military action (versus 4% who think he would have been), and Saddam enjoys an 80% unfavourable (versus 10% favourable) rating, but 52% think that the invasion cannot (at all or somewhat) be justified on moral grounds. Seems like another example of Arab fatalism.

- The activities of the Coalition administration and military forces are largely not viewed favourably. The civilian authorities are generally seen as not trying hard enough to fix problems, while the military is seen as heavy-handed and disrespectful in their approach. But these opinions seem to be based on things heard from others (54%) as opposed to seen (39% - but how? with own eyes, or on Al Jazeera and Al Arabiyah, which reach a third of Iraqi households?) or personally experienced (7%). Furthermore, only 6% say that they or someone in their household has had any personal contact with US military forces.

- 57% (versus 36%) think that the Coalition should leave immediately, but 53% (versus 28%) would feel less safe if that actually happened. See what I mean about schizophrenic attitudes?

- Still, in the end, bearing in mind all the hardships suffered post-liberation, 61% (versus 28%) think it has been worth it.

There's lot more fascinating stuff in the poll, so have a look at it in detail.

What's to say about all this? The Iraqis enjoy being free but seem to be ashamed and resentful that somebody else had to do it all for them. Despite hardships they see themselves as better off (materially and otherwise) but there doesn't seem to be much sense of self-responsibility for rebuilding their own country - it's one thing to whine about the state of things, but another to actually do something about it (yet another pervasive legacy of life under a dictatorship). The poll didn't unfortunately ask the Iraqis about their vision for Iraq's future, and more importantly, how they see themselves contributing to that future. It will be interesting to see the responses when the Iraqis actually start having more responsibility for their own affairs, and less scope for blaming everyone else for all and any problems they face.

Final thoughts? It's been worth it, even if for the Kurds alone. How about the Muslim leaders talk less about the need for the Palestinian state, and more about the homeland for the Kurds?


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