Wednesday, March 21, 2007
n the fourth anniversary of the launch of the war against Saddam's Regime of Fear, one must expect this grim milestone to be marked by a slew of opinion polls in that divided nation. Two of the most widely cited on this occasion were released on Sunday and Monday past.
The London Times covers the nation-wide survey conducted by Opinion Business Research which, in addition to being a respected market survey organisation, is not a media outlet with an axe to grind. Among the findings, according to the Times, are indicators of progress and optimism as well as evidence of the torment being suffered by the beleaguered country. It found that most Iraqis believe life is better for them now (despite the insecurity and daily wanton slaughter by terrorists) than under Saddam. One in four Iraqis has had a relative murdered in the past four years, one in four Baghdadis has had a relative kidnapped and one in three has a relative who has fled abroad. Only about one in four Iraqis believes the country is in a "civil war," and by a two to one majority they believe the military operations now taking shape will finally disarm all militias.
Of course these overall figures mask the deep divisions between different confessional groups on many of these questions. But slightly over half of all Iraqis believe the security situation will improve after international forces withdraw, reinforcing the strong belief that the current drive to improve security will actually succeed. Almost two-thirds say they want a united Iraq under a central national government. The researchers, which included 400 interviewers who worked across the country in early February, were surprised at the optimism:
“We’ve been polling in Iraq since 2005 and the finding that most surprised us was how many Iraqis expressed support for the present government,” said Johnny Heald, managing director of ORB. “Given the level of violence in Iraq, it shows an unexpected level of optimism.”As I say, the details by sectarian breakdown reveal a sharply divided nation in many ways. The ORB's own summary, with links to the source tables and charts is here.
The next poll, much more widely cited in the pop media in the past couple of days, was conducted for ABC, BBC and USA Today. It asked different questions, and it got different answers. Just look at that headline: "Iraqis see hope drain away." Draining away, like blood down the gutter of a bombed out public market. This poll also claims to be nationally representative of all regions and groups, but with a sample of just over 2,000 people, will be less reliable than the ORB poll which sampled more than 5,000. By all means read the dire account of disillusionment and despair, contrast and compare not only the answers but the questions.
One aspect which caught a few folks' attention, is the apparent oversampling of Sunni Arabs by at least 100% (and bear in mind that the Kurdish population, by far the most pro-Western grouping in the country, are mostly Sunni Muslims). Karl at protein wisdom notes that only some of the oversampling is admitted within the poll results, and that positive indicators are buried in the USAToday, BBC and ABC news reports -- or are not mentioned at all. He shows up some glaring contradictions in the reporting, and it's well worth the read.
AllahPundit dives into the sectarian breakdown figures of various poll sections, and finds aspects both encouraging and worrisome. But his example details (clipped directly from the source document) bring the picture into much clearer focus than the sponsoring media's own summaries, and that picture is itself still a contradiction in many ways. AP also did a lot of work on this one, with some very good analysis of what the numbers mean. A link to the source document is there as well.
Hitchens goes for a retrospective in his latest Slate column, answering the questions I imagine he still gets on a daily basis from plenty of his former comrades on the Left. Why has he still not stepped of that train to perdition, BushCo's Quagmire Express? He goes through the events of the timeline one by one -- strange it is, how easily many people seem to forget them -- and replies to his imagined questioner in measured tones, leading to the unescapable meta-question:
So, you seriously mean to say that we would not be living in a better or safer world if the coalition forces had turned around and sailed or flown home in the spring of 2003?A big part of what moves Hitchens on the Iraq issue, as I've gathered from much of his writing, is his long and close association with many Iraqi Kurds. The Kurdish miracle (knowing what they went through under Saddam, I think that's not much of an overstatement) is one of the largely untold stories of Iraq right now in the pop media.
That's exactly what I mean to say.
I've frequently linked to Michael Totten's great photo-rich essays on Iraqi Kurdistan, and he's come through with another tour de force -- this time from Erbil, where he and a friend have just finished doing some work for the private sector. He paints a vivid picture, with great writing and wonderful photos, of a city on the move and the people who are moving it. If you're not yet familiar with the way things are going in Iraqi Kurdistan, you will be surprised. Highly recommended.
OK, so the headline is plural -- and the other divided nation of course, is the good ol' USA. Some of their diverse population is committed to finishing the endeavour properly, while some others are committed to defeat at any cost. Over the weekend, the fourth anniversary was marked in Washington with yet another March on the Pentagon, forty years after the first one. This time, the Pentagon didn't levitate into the air either. Rallies were also held in many other cities in the US and Canada.
These events were organised by the Workers' World Party, under the auspices of its front organisation International ANSWER (WWP follows the revolutionary vanguard leadership of Little Kim, the perfect little tyrant of North Korea). Most of the followers who attend these things have no idea of the pedigree of the organisers they march behind, but maybe some are starting to get it. ANSWER had been promising upwards of 100,000, but evidently achieved only a single-digit percentage of that.
Papier mache puppets, drum circles and folks dressed up as death... yawn. It's become a sort of twisted Mardi Gras for the smash the state set. If an extra-terrestrial intelligence had been watching from the sky, and not yet familiar with our written script, s/he would think this was the procession of a religious subculture that worships ugliness and death, marching beneath totems of ghouls and red devils -- not to mention the mass murdering Che. And actually, that's exactly what they would be ensuring, should their advice of immediate surrender to head-loppers and terrorists ever be taken -- a gruesome horror beyond their own fevered imagination, for people on the other side of the world. Except that, after it happened, they'd just stop talking or thinking about it anymore. Mission accomplished.
But this time was quite different from these annual fests in previous years. The last DC demo featured the anarchist contingent indulging in a little spray-paint defacement of the US Capitol building, and the "chatter" on anarchist fora had since indicated that the Vietnam War Memorial would be a target this time. People who still love their country and what it stands for were determined not to allow this to happen. Convoys were organised from as far away as the left coast to travel to DC. Veterans and their families arrived from all over the nation, including many Vietnam vets who felt called upon to support their brothers and sisters currently serving freedom's cause -- in contrast to how they were treated all those decades ago.
A veteran's wife stated to Michelle, choking back tears, that "we will never let that happen again." She said her husband was standing up on the hill, with tears in his eyes all day as well, and that he felt so happy that after 40 years those who were wronged then were making it right now. Rolling Thunder attended in strength, with chapters showing up from far afield, having ridden through the weekend blizzards to get there. Many observers said the counter-demonstrators (don't call them "pro-war" please - they aren't) at least equalled the ANSWER turnout, and the US Parks Service estimated these patriots at 30,000.
Of course very little of this aspect was covered by the pop media. The New York Times deigned to mention it in passing, referring to "several hundred counter demonstrators." Of course the ANSWER rally gathered at one place, marched en masse along a route to a Pentagon parking lot, and rallied together there for speeches, while the patriots were dispersed all over the capital area. But Bush puppets and halloween costumed youngsters carrying large Mercedes Benz symbols (that's not a peace symbol, dear) are so much more photogenic than the middle-aged and oldsters (even if granny is carrying her "spit shield"), vets in wheelchairs or 40-year old cammos, bearing a forest of stars and stripes. After all, I mean really... who do you expect to make it to the nightly news?
The pro-America folks packed both sides of ANSWER's marching route, while others gathered at their own stage area for speeches and music, and still others were standing guard over all the monuments and memorials around the national capital. They were spread out to guard that which they'd come to protect, standing a "watch" just as many had routinely done during their own service. The war protesters stayed generally in a big clump, moving around as they were ordered by their communist shepherds, while the patriots were outflanking them all over the darn place. Many accounts I've read have mentioned that protesters seemed quite shocked that everywhere they turned, their hatred for their country was being answered strongly by those who love it.
A must-see blogburst roundup of new media coverage is at Michelle's site. Good photos, video, and incredibly moving accounts by participants of the Gathering of Eagles. I have a feeling that this won't be the last either. Something has awakened, and the anti-Americans won't be having the field to themselves anymore.
Another terrific account is provided by Tantor, in this four part series. Highly entertaining and informative writing, fabulous pictures (some of which you really won't believe, of the type that would never make it into a pop newspaper or tv news show, for the expected reasons) -- this one is another must-see. Wanna see a commie steal an American flag from a woman and tear it up on camera (but don't question his patriotism!)? How 'bout a pudgy dork mocking wounded troops with a gaping head wound, and "Bush Lied" fingerpainted in "blood" on his cammos? How about BusHitler's head on a stake? It's all there, and more!