Posted by Joshua Holland at 9:59 AM on January 20, 2008.
The Washington Post offers us a Very Serious Perspective on the occupation of Iraq, penned by one Nate Slate, a retired Army colonel ...
He Explained Iraq to Me. Now I Have to Explain America.
Not long ago, I finally succeeded in arranging for my Iraqi cultural adviser to move to the safety of the United States. My adviser -- whom I'll call by his tribal name, al-Dulaimi -- helped me navigate the thickets of local culture and politics when I served in Iraq during the first year of the war.
As we drove from the airport down an Oklahoma highway in the darkness, Dulaimi told me that he'd watched the Democratic presidential debates while waiting for his flight out West. "They all talked about leaving Iraq," he said of the candidates. "They're just saying that to get votes, aren't they? They would never do that, would they?"
His plaintive question gave me pause. Of course, Dulaimi wouldn't understand American politics, or the way some Americans would view this war. After all, he had known American soldiers who were selfless and dedicated. Who cherished Army values. Who had committed their lives to each other and this cause.
So it would seem impossible to Dulaimi that the United States might give up. The Americans he knew, the ones he had risked his life (and the lives of his family members) to support, would never "cut and run."
The tag-line's worth noting too:
Nate Slate, a recently retired Army colonel, works for a defense contractor.
So, we've got a militaristic ideologue -- someone who thinks ending a disastrous occupation is "cutting and running" -- but also one with an apparent financial stake in propping up American adventurism. Thank God we have a liberal media that gives him a prime platform from which to disseminate his views.
But that's an aside; what fascinates me is that people -- including DC lawmakers -- will take this rather clunky bit of propaganda seriously. This, after all, is an officer who took advantage of DC's proverbial revolving door and became a "defense contractor," and is now writing about getting one of the very few Iraqis who have gained asylum in the U.S. out of the country. The irony of using this "cultural adviser" as an example of American good will is that he needed to flee his native country because he was marked for death for collaborating with an almost universally loathed occupation force.
Given that circumstance, it's not surprising that the guy would be among the 9 percent of Iraqis who want U.S. forces to stay in Iraq until the security situation improves, rather than the large 80 percent majority who want a withdrawal within a relatively short time-table. So, assuming the whole anecdote isn't made up out of whole cloth -- I put nothing past these hawkish dead-enders -- Slate's extrapolating from the views of a single Iraqi, dependent on U.S. forces for his life, and one who represents an insignificant minority of the population.
But it's more than just the striking intellectual dishonesty; there's something particularly disgusting about hooking a pro-war propaganda piece to the story of one of the 2.2 million refugees who, according to the UN, have had to flee the hellhole people like Slate helped create. That's only the number who have fled the country -- another 2 million have been displaced and remain in Iraq. Diseases have been widespread among Iraqi refugees, they've faced harassment and abuse from neighboring governments and half of them lack access to food aid -- it's a humanitarian crisis of epic proportions, and it's both profoundly immoral and typical of the war's supporters to take something that reasonable people around the world can see is a disaster and try to twist it to their rhetorical advantage.
Anyway, let's leave the colonel's fantasy land for a moment, and take a look at the views of most Iraqis, courtesy of The Global Policy Forum:
* According to a poll on Iraqis' views of the "surge" conducted in September for the BBC, ABC and NHK (PDF), "70 percent of Iraqis believe the strategy has made Iraq's security situation worse." Contra Leni Riefenstahl's Slate's trite description of "selfless and dedicated" U.S. troops "Who had committed their lives to each other and this cause," fully 82 percent of Iraqis said they had little or no confidence in coalition forces.
* A large-sample poll conducted last March by the British firm, Opinion Research Business, found that a majority of Iraqis believe the security situation will improve "in the immediate weeks following a withdrawal" of U.S. troops. Only one in four thought the situation would get worse.
* A poll conducted for the Centre for Research and Strategic Studies (PDF) in November of 2006 found that 95 percent of Iraqis believed the security situation had deteriorated since the arrival of U.S. forces and about 2 out of 3 thought violence would decrease if US forces were to leave.
* A PIPA poll (PDF) in September of 2006 found that Iraqis believe, "by an overwhelming margin of 78 to 21 percent, that the US military presence is 'provoking more conflict that it is preventing.'" As for "cutting and running," Iraqis were given four choices of what they'd like to see happen. According to the poll, "37 percent take the position that they would like US-led forces withdrawn 'within six months,' while another 34 percent opt for 'gradually withdraw[ing] US-led forces according to a one-year timeline.' Twenty percent favor a two-year timeline and just 9 percent favor 'only reduc[ing] US-led forces as the security situation improves in Iraq.'" That was a year and a half ago.
* According to a classified poll conducted at the end of 2005 by the British Ministry of Defence (and then leaked to the media), "82 percent of respondents are 'strongly opposed' to the presence of Coalition troops, 45 percent believe attacks on foreign troops are justified, and less than one percent think that US-UK military involvement is helping to improve security."
* And here's the key datum that explains why "success" -- as folks like Slate would define it -- has never been an option: a poll conducted in mid-2004 by the Independent Institute for Administration and Civil Society Studies (PDF) found that 92 percent of Iraqis saw U.S. troops as "occupiers" as opposed to just 2 percent who saw them as "liberators."
This, of course, is reality, but one rarely reported by the Washington Post. As far as Slate needing to "explain America" to his Iraqi charge, the truth is that most Iraqis could do a pretty good job of explaining America to Slate himself. In the September PIPA poll, 77 percent of Iraqis said "the US government plans to have permanent military bases in Iraq," and the same number said that "If the new Iraqi government were to tell the US to withdraw all of its forces within six months," the US would refuse to do so. If there's a better definition of "despised foreign occupation" than that, I'd like to hear it.