Sunday, October 08, 2006

It's Not Just Us Democratic Cut'n'Runners (The Hidden Kristof)

From today's Nicholas Kristof column, Listen to the Iraqis (fully available to Times Select subscribers):

A terrifying new poll conducted last month found that 61 percent of Iraqis now approve of attacks on Americans. That figure, up from 47 percent in January, makes counter-insurgency efforts almost impossible, because ordinary people now cheer, shelter and protect those who lay down bombs to kill Americans. The big change is that while Iraqi Sunnis were always in favor of blowing up Americans, members of the Shiite majority are now 50 percent more likely to support violent attacks against Americans than they were in January.

The poll, by the Program on International Policy Attitudes at the University of Maryland, also found that 78 percent of Iraqis now believe that the American military presence is “provoking more conflict than it is preventing.”

So ordinary Iraqis themselves — who have the most at stake — overwhelmingly think they will be better off if U.S. forces leave according to a timetable. Only 9 percent prefer President Bush’s policy of toughing it out, while 71 percent favor a withdrawal within one year.

This midterm election season is an ideal time for a public debate on Iraq policy, and Senator John Warner, the longtime Republican leader on military issues, is right to raise the possibility of a “change of course.” The evidence suggests ever more clearly what we should do: Don’t rush for the exits, but renounce permanent bases and announce that we will withdraw our troops within one year.

[...]

All our options are bad, and I worry that a timetable will encourage the insurgents to hang on until we leave. Or maybe Iraq will fall apart no matter what we do. But the evidence is pretty strong that our presence — because of suspicions that we plan to stay forever — is doing more harm than good. One poll conducted by our own State Department found that nearly three-quarters of Baghdad residents said they would feel safer if U.S. forces left Iraq, according to The Washington Post.

The present policy is also nurturing a broader extremism. A letter seized by the U.S. military and reported by The Christian Science Monitor suggests that Al Qaeda itself is rooting for the U.S. to “stay the course” rather than withdraw. “Prolonging the war is in our interest,” the Qaeda letter says, presumably as a tool for propaganda and recruitment.

A U.N. report found that the Iraqi insurgency is inspiring the Taliban fighters in Afghanistan. New designs for bombs are used in Afghanistan just a month after they make their appearance in Iraq.

Likewise, Sudan’s president is able to defy calls for international peacekeepers in Darfur because he plays on Arab fears that the U.S. plans to do to Sudan what it has done to Iraq. All over the globe, American diplomacy is hobbled because of Iraq.

So it’s time to face the grim reality and announce that all our troops will leave Iraq by October 2007.

Axis of Logic also has the transcript of an interview by Democracy Now's Amy Goodman with Army reservist Sergeant Marshall Thompson, who "spent a year in Iraq working as a military journalist. He reported from across Iraq, interviewing thousands of US soldiers. Now back home in his native Utah, he is planning a 500-mile walk across the state to protest the war and call for a withdrawal of US troops." Here's an excerpt (hat tip to Crooks and Liars):
SGT. MARSHALL THOMPSON: Most soldiers want to withdraw. That is proven. There was a Zogby poll. 72% of recently turned Iraqi vets want to be out of Iraq by 2006.

AMY GOODMAN: 2006?

SGT. MARSHALL THOMPSON: By 2006.

That means this year.

And my experience backs that up absolutely.

There is a lot of pressure for soldiers not to speak out. There's fear of court-martials. There's fear of their commanders getting mad at them. There's a lot of reasons why soldiers don't speak out.

But nobody should be fooled.

Soldiers know what's going on over there, and they are not happy about it.


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