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Iraq: Polling, Reporting, Planning, and Learning

Polls: The public diplomacy blog Eccentric Star quotes an AP report about Iraqi views of their country's future, including this:
About six in 10 Iraqis say they approve of attacks on U.S.-led forces, and slightly more than that want their government to ask U.S. troops to leave within a year, according to a poll in that country. The Iraqis also have negative views of  Osama bin Laden, according to the early September poll of 1,150. The poll, done for University of Maryland's Program on International Policy Attitudes, [full report] also found: Almost four in five Iraqis say the U.S. military force in Iraq provokes more violence than it prevents.
¡No Pasarán! writes about several more positive Iraqi polls that are worth reporting, but do not get enough coverage.

Edit Copy has interviewed Borzou Daragahi, the Baghdad bureau chief for the Los Angeles Times. Borzou was a nominated finalist for a 2005 Pulitzer Prize "for his vivid, deeply reported stories on the impact of the Iraq war on citizens and soldiers alike."

In a separate post Edit Copy quotes an email from an American officer in Iraq:
Every day is a nasty gun battle. They blast us with giant bombs in the road, snipers, mortars and small arms. We blast them with tanks, attack helicopters, artillery, our snipers (much better than theirs), and every weapon that an infantryman can carry. Every day. Incredibly, I rarely see Ramadi in the news. We have as many attacks out here in the west as Baghdad. Yet, Baghdad has 7 million people, we have just 1.2 million. Per capita, al-Anbar province is the most violent place in Iraq by several orders of magnitude. (...)
Biggest Surprise — Iraqi Police. All local guys. I never figured that we'd get a police force established in the cities in al-Anbar. I estimated that insurgents would kill the first few, scaring off the rest. Well, insurgents did kill the first few, but the cops kept on coming.
He continues to describes the "Bravest Guy in al-Anbar Province, Biggest Mystery, Coolest Insurgent Act, Highest Unit Re-enlistment Rate, Most Surprising Thing I Don't Miss, Biggest Hassle, Best Chuck Norris Moment" etc.  Quotes from and discussion about the email and about the presumed author at Edit Copy.

Two more links we did not get around to linking earlier:
The Washington Post wrote on September 8th:
Long before the United States invaded Iraq in 2003, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld forbade military strategists to develop plans for securing a postwar Iraq, the retiring commander of the Army Transportation Corps said. Brig. Gen. Mark E. Scheid told the Newport News Daily Press in an interview published yesterday that Rumsfeld had said "he would fire the next person" who talked about the need for a postwar plan. Scheid was a colonel with the U.S. Central Command, the unit that oversees military operations in the Middle East, in late 2001 when Rumsfeld "told us to get ready for Iraq."
"The secretary of defense continued to push on us …that everything we write in our plan has to be the idea that we are going to go in, we're going to take out the regime, and then we're going to leave," Scheid said. "We won't stay."
Another general who joined the ranks of other war critics as reported in Ret. General Zinni on Iraq: "Ten years worth of planning were thrown away" and Are the revolting ret. generals feeling guilty?

FOXNews' Bill O’Reilly has learned something in May 2006:
The chaos in Afghanistan and Iraq will never end, because there will always be people who hate Americans. And we are an occupying force in those countries. (...) But Iraq should be a lesson learned. We cannot ever again put American boots on the ground in a hostile Arab country. Iraq was an optional war. There will always be or there were other ways, I should say, of removing Saddam. That being said, the John Murtha solution of cutting and running would lead to greater conflicts down the road, as Iran would dominate the Gulf.
And then he moved on to show Halle Berry do a cartwheel. Likewise Newsweek's US edition recently had Annie Leibovitz's "Amazing Life in Pictures" on the cover, while Newsweek's international editions had "Losing Afghanistan" on the cover.


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Chris on :

Interesting points. Thanks for the link. O'Reilly baffles me.

Assistant Village Idiot on :

Yes, Americans have heard rumors that some people think this is not working. We are also aware of intelligent observers who claim that it is. The MSM in America covers many of the former, some of the later. In Germany, are people exposed to the latter at all? I have only anecdotes and impressions, but my sense is that the press and the intellectual discussion in Germany revolves around how it's obviously not working and how the stubborn Americans refuse to see that. Are voices assessing that there is victory heard in Germany?

JW-Atlantic Review on :

"Are voices assessing that there is victory heard in Germany?" I saw an interview with Victor Davis Hanson in a German paper a few weeks ago. Can't remember which one. My impression is that positive news from Iraq are very rarely mentioned. The negative news are too strong. I think the reasoning is like: If Mr. Jones win 100$ bucks in the lottery and Mrs. Jones has a serious car accident, then let's write about Mrs. Jones since her accident is of greater significant, even for the family. My impression is that most Germans think that Iraq is not working, though parts of the German blogosphere think differently. Germans are also think that Afghanistan is a failure and they are skeptical about the missions in Lebanon, in Congo, about the health care reform, economic policy, EU enlargement etc. etc. etc. Germans are pessimistic and criticize everything. That's my impression.

Assistant Village Idiot on :

Thank you, Joerg. We also have a similar focus on the negative here, independent of political persuasion. It is also something of an explanation and a comfort to hear that Germans are pessimistic and criticise everything. That certainly gives criticism of the US some context, because usually all we ever hear about Germans is when they are criticising us. To know that they see their role as sounding a warning cry about many things is a role I can understand and accept. Frankly, I thought Americans were singled out for criticism until I saw your explanation.

JW-Atlantic Review on :

Yep! However, among all the countries in the world: the foreign policy of the United States is criticized the most in the German media. I guess that comes along with being a superpower and allied democracy. There is no point in criticizing North Korea really. One could however argue that a few other countries should be criticized more and that criticism of the US should be put in perspective etc. For instance, I think, [b][u][url=,-but-not-Darfur.html]coverage of Abu Ghraib has been much bigger than coverage of Darfur.[/url][/u] [/b]That's wrong. Sure, Abu Ghraib should be criticized, but Darfur should also be a cover story worth... The magnitude of Darfur is so much bigger, obviously.

Don on :

Hell, Joerg, the coverage of Abu Ghraib is much greater than that - of Abu Ghraib! Abu Ghraib means two things. It was the place where Lynndie England led a prisoner around on a dog leash - to be sure. It's also the place where Saddam Hussein's regime tortured and killed more than 100,000 Iraqis. Guess which Abu Ghraib gets greater play in the press? Both the German press and in the US. Maybe it's just me but don't you belive Der Speigeal seems unusually - obssessed by Abu Ghraib II? Have they done covers on Darfur? They did a cover in Abu Ghraib a couple months ago when some *new* pictures turned up. No news, just pictures. And you think the US press is obsessed with pictures?!!! Look a bit closer to home.... ;)

fredouil on :

"... The magnitude of Darfur is so much bigger, obviously." nope, dramas in darfur dont have any world consequences. be realistic, noone give a shit of what s happening in Africa.

JW-Atlantic Review on :

You are a great humanist! You are kind, compassionate because you don't "give a shit of what s happening in Africa." And of course, everybody thinks like you. Why do you think does the torture in Abu Ghraib have "world consequences", but the murder of more than 250,000 and the displacements of a few million are of no importance whatsoever? Why do you think should the media write so much about Abu Ghraib, but not about Darfur? Do you think Americans "give a shit of what" is written in your newspaper? Did you read this:,-but-not-Darfur.html

Don on :

Fredouil is being bitter, but I think he has a point. Actions speak louder than words, Joerg. So where are the actions? Sudan is committing genocide on the Darfur tribes. China is getting oil from Sudan and are backing the Sudan government. The US is making noises about doing something - but it's difficult because Sudan is a long way from anywhere and a lot of political capital needs to be mobilised. The US doesn't have the political capital to use right now - it's been used on Afghanistan and Iraq. So what is Euroe doing? Germany is trading with Sudan directly and being very deferential to the Chinese & the EU is following the Germans lead. The EU could get behind the US and help mobilise the political clout to get something real done - instead it prefers to point the finger at the US. Moreover, the US is just a little skeprical about the EU's committment to human rights and foiling genocide. Many of us suspect that once the US is stuck in to another of these little conflicts the Europeans will be pointing the finger, indicting US officers on war crimes charges, and having a lot of fun raking us over the coals - again. The 300,000 dead all forgotten. You think that's harsh of me? Not hardly. It's happened before and no doubt will again. Look no further than - Iraq. Abu Ghraib. In the international press Lynndie Enland is a bigger war criminal than Saddam Hussein. Color me skeptical....

JW-Atlantic Review on :

@fredouil You basically prove that your criticism of Abu Ghraib is insincere. Like many critics of Abu Ghraib, you do not care about human rights, moral values etc, but just care about making the US look bad. Right? Or did I misunderstand your short comment? Please elaborate. Now, before you say, I underestimate US wrongdoings, please have a look at our nine posts that deal with Guantanamo. Scroll down:

Olaf Petersen on :

Maybe an explanation too simple: In the spheres of free speech people and media rather focus on affairs they can influence than on those out of range. Be it the War on Terrorism or the global warming and ecopolicies: Pointing at this or that nation and saying "But they are doing it!" is no excuse for not doing the right thing. What goes wrong, will go worse. There are many problems we are directly responsible for and we really should put them in first place. Don't forget: Those politicians who advocate war, on terrorism, any war, are the same who failed to protect their country against hostile acts before. In world affairs diplomacy can only be 'interesting' or powerful. America is losing power and reputation since 1991, the defeat of a small demoralized Iraqi army doesn't count. Bush doesn't fight terrorism, he multiplies it - in Iraq, at the cost of the Iraqi people, with ~ 3,000 deaths per month equaling forty 9/11 since 2003. And at the cost of the American soldiers in Iraq, who have to serve as the monster magnets attracting the terrorists worldwide. Just try to bring them home, them magnets, just try it... The incompetence of the American leadership deserves to be criticized, in first place and in second place and then come a big manure heap and then come the CIA and then and then and then perhaps Germany's responsibilities.

Anonymous on : Vanity Fair writes that the US lost Iraq. More troops would not change that. On Haditha: "When noncombatants are killed, it matters little to the survivors whether the American rules allowed it, or what the U.S. military courts decide. The survivors go to war in return, which provokes more of the same in a circular dive that spirals beyond recovery. Haditha is just a small example. By now, nearly one year later, hatred of the American forces in the city has turned so fierce that military investigators for the trials at Pendleton have given up on going there. That hatred is blood hatred. It is the kind of hatred people are willing to die for, with no expectation but revenge."

Assistant Village Idiot on :

Olaf, I agree that criticism tends to focus on the people one can influence rather than those who pay not heed. But the long term consequence of that is that the receivers of information lose perspective. Is it not true that many in Europe consider America more dangerous to world peace than the NoKos and Irans of the world? There is also the basic point of being in the news or analysis business: is it to record and report what happens or to influence events? It seems much more noble at first to try and move the events of the world, but look where it has lead throughout the 20th C, when media thought it better to report what is good for the people instead of what happened? To forgo criticising those who you think will not listen is to tread a dangerous road. It leads inexorably to opposition to all that is good, merely because it is not perfect. This is a grave danger in literate societies. BTW, I have read the 3,000 dead/month number before (perhaps from you?), but I do not accept it. More responsible estimates are less than a third of that. The Johns Hopkins study, for example, has such obvious flaws that even I, a statistics-lover but no expert, could see through it on sight. Back on task: I hear your assertion that the war in Iraq multiplies the number of terrorists. As no one knows how to measure such things, and even the grimmest of serious analyses only "suggest" that there "might be" an increase, the use of the word multiplies is irresponsible, as it implies at minimum a doubling of terrorists. I would also note an enormous contradiction in your last paragraph. You open your comment by stating that doing what is right, regardless of whether others are doing it is important. Then in the last paragraph you declare that there is no point in considering what Germany has done until all the blame of Americans is settled. A challenge: thus far you have delivered nothing but the usual stereotypes of what Americans do wrong. Give evidence that you are not simply reflexively anti-American. Anonymous: Langewiesche is an excellent reporter, though he does seem to revel in seeing the worst side of everything. But Vanity Fair is not noted for its incisive military analysis. I would say that this report is only part of the story.

JW-Atlantic Review on :

@ Assistant Village Idiot (comment #3) Re: US not being singled out for criticism. ABC News about Putin's visit to Germany: President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday denounced the murder of Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya and vowed to bring those responsible to justice. Questions about the contract-style killing, which has drawn condemnation from round the world, dominated a joint news conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel that also touched on business and energy issues. (...) Putin was heckled by a man in the crowd over the murder as he got out of his limousine in the eastern city of Dresden, where he served as a KGB agent in the 1980s. Waving a banner with "Murderer" on it, the man shouted: "You're a murderer, you're not welcome here." Business Day - News Worth Knowing "Andreas Schockenhoff, foreign policy expert for Merkel’s conservatives in parliament, said Politkovskaya’s murder was “a serious setback for the development of democracy in Russia.” He urged Russian authorities to do everything in their power to track down the journalist’s killers."

Anonymous on :

Favorite quote from that email from Iraq cited by Edit Copy: Biggest Hassle — High-ranking visitors. More disruptive to work than a rocket attack. VIPs demand briefs and "battlefield" tours (we take them to quiet sections of Fallujah, which is plenty scary for them). Our briefs and commentary seem to have no effect on their preconceived notions of what's going on in Iraq. Their trips allow them to say that they've been to Fallujah, which gives them an unfortunate degree of credibility in perpetuating their fantasies about the insurgency here. Biggest Outrage — Practically anything said by talking heads on TV about the war in Iraq, not that I get to watch much TV. Their thoughts are consistently both grossly simplistic and politically slanted. Biggest Offender: Bill O'Reilly.

Don on :

"The chaos in Afghanistan and Iraq will never end, because there will always be people who hate Americans." O'Reilly is a bit of an ass. 'There will always be people who hate Americans'. Duh. You could attach that reasoning to almost any stupid statement. Why redevelop the WTC are? The US has enemies who will blow the new buildings up. Well yes - if we let them. But a lot of the people so motivated are guests of the US government right now, and others are being observed more or less closely. O'Reilly is being an idiot. Again.

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