hostility to US and support for rebel cleric
The Bush administration's last remaining justification for the invasion of
Iraq has been demolished by a private poll revealing that only 2 per cent of
Iraqis regard the occupying forces as liberators.
The poll results are devastating for both President George
Bush and Tony Blair, who are fond of saying that future generations of
Iraqis will thank them for liberating their country. Tony Blair has
consistently said that history will prove him right for engineering the
downfall of a cruel tyrant, even if weapons of mass destruction were not
President Bush, giving a pep-talk to American soldiers in
Florida yesterday, said: "We have come not to conquer, but to liberate
people and we will stand with them until their freedom is secure."
Yet the main findings of the poll, which was commissioned
by the US-led Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) last month and which was
leaked yesterday, reveal that only 2 per cent of the Iraqis polled in
mid-May see coalition troops as liberators, while 92 per cent said they were
occupiers. In a crumb of comfort for the coalition, only
3 per cent expressed support for Saddam Hussein.
A total of 54 per cent believed that all Americans behaved
like the guards at Abu Ghraib. But 71 per cent of those polled in
face-to-face interviews in six Iraqi cities said they were surprised by the
Safety and security emerged as a major concern for the
population in general, as nearly half of Iraqis said they felt unsafe in
Asked whether they would feel safer if the 138,000 US
troops left immediately, 55 per cent agreed, nearly double the 28 per cent
who held that view in a poll carried out in January.
Asked if the Americans should leave immediately, 41 per
cent agreed, while 45 per cent said they preferred US forces to leave once a
permanent Iraqi government was installed.
Hostility towards the Americans was
also reflected in strong support for the rebel Shia leader, Muqtada Sadr,
who galvanised the resistance to the occupation in April. His blend of
religion and populism has proved popular The CPA's
poll shows that 67 per cent of Iraqis say they support or strongly support
him, making him the most popular man in the country after the Grand
Ayatollah Ali Sistani. A total of 81 per cent of Iraqis had an improved
opinion of Sadr in May from three months earlier, and 64 per cent said the
acts of his insurgents had made Iraq more unified. But only 2 per cent would
support him for president. The coalition's confidence rating in May stood at
11 per cent, down from 47 per cent in November, while the troops themselves
had the support of only 10 per cent.
The survey questioned 1,093 adults who were selected
randomly in Baghdad, Basra, Mosul, Diwaniyah, Hillah and Baquba between 14
and 23 May.
The White House spokesman, Scott McClelland, put on a
brave face when reacting to the survey: "The President has previously said
no one wants to be occupied. And we don't want to be occupiers," he said
But a coalition official in Baghdad interviewed by the
Associated Press news agency, which obtained the survey, was despondent.
you are sitting here as part of the coalition, it [the poll] is pretty
grim," said Donald Hamilton, a career diplomat who helps oversee the CPA's
polling of Iraqis.
In Washington, Congressman Ike Skelton, the ranking
Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, said he found the poll
"disturbing. ... It demonstrates quite jarringly that we are not winning the
hearts and minds" of Iraqis.
Among the poll's other findings, 63 per cent believed
conditions would improve when the Iraqi interim government takes over at the
end of the month, and 62 per cent believed it was "very likely" the Iraqi
police and army would maintain security without US forces.
A State Department spokes-
man said: "Let's face it. That's the goal, to build those up to the point
where they can take charge in Iraq and they can maintain security in Iraq."
The Foreign Office had no comment last night.
source: Independent - June 17, 2004