President Bush has frequently cited the desires of the Iraqi people as a primary reason for our continued involvement in Iraq, liberally peppering his speeches with phrases like "it's what the Iraqi people want," "the people spoke," and "they want our help."
During a visit by Prime Minister Maliki this summer, the president said: "When 12 million Iraqis went to the polls and said, 'I want to be free,' it was an amazing moment."
Well, we've just had another amazing moment in which the Iraqi people have spoken. But this time the message isn't "We want to be free." It's "We don't mind seeing American soldiers blown up."
You read that right. In a stunning new poll conducted by a well-regarded Iraqi public opinion research firm, over 60 percent of Iraqis said they approve of attacks on U.S. troops, including solid majorities of both Sunnis and Shiites.
U.S. deaths in Iraq just passed 2,700 and the Iraqi people seem to be dancing on the graves. Large numbers of those voters who held up their purple-stained fingers back in December now seem intent on giving America the finger.
Among the reasons why: the poll found that almost 80% of Iraqis believe the US military presence in Iraq provokes more violence than it prevents. And three-fourths say they think America plans to keep military bases in Iraq forever.
What more will it take for Washington to get the point that our continuing presence in Iraq has become a big part of the problem, not of the solution?
Apparently a lot more. As evidenced by its rose-colored response to the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE), the Bush administration remains willfully clueless.
Another example: the State Department recently conducted its own poll on the sentiments of the people of Iraq, and found that two-thirds of Iraqis in Baghdad favor the immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops, as do majorities in all non-Kurdish regions of the country, saying the departure "would make them feel safer and decrease violence."
But, when asked about this, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack decided to overlook the facts and go with the truthiness: "What I hear from government representatives and other anecdotal evidence that you hear from Iraqis that is collected by embassy personnel and military personnel is that Iraqis do appreciate our presence there." That seems to be the Bush way: why believe a 20-page study when you can go with third-party anecdotal hearsay?
But the evidence continues to pile up. Fast on the heels of the damning NIE comes a new paper prepared for a British Ministry of Defense think tank which says that the war in Iraq has "acted as a recruiting sergeant for extremists across the Muslim world" and a UN Security Council report that concludes that Iraq has "provided many recruits and an excellent training ground" for al-Qaeda.
According to the UN report, "New explosive devices are now used in Afghanistan within a month of their first appearing in Iraq." So that's the Mission we've Accomplished: turning Iraq into the world's deadliest R&D facility. A terrorist laboratory.
The writing is on the wall - and on page after page of report after report. All leading to the same inescapable conclusion. Iraq has made us less safe; it's time to bring our troops home.
After all, "It's what the people of Iraq want."
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