2005 October 24 Monday
Iraq In Civil War As Poll Shows 82% Of Iraqis Want Coalition Troops Out

Past and potentially future Prime Minister of Iraq Iyad Allawi says Iraq is in a civil war.

Closely allied to the United States and British governments, Mr Allawi, 60, is the most senior Iraqi politician to have said that civil war has become a reality.

His comments, in an interview with The Sunday Telegraph, will cause deep concern in Washington and London. "This is one of the stages of civil war we are right in now," he said. "What you have is killings, assassinations, militias, a stagnant economy, no services. With the help of the world, we must try to avoid moving further and deeper into these stages."

He said that while suicide bombs grabbed the headlines, the murder of Sunnis by Shia groups and vice versa was more significant and ominous. "On a daily basis there are assassinations and liquidations. In Jordan, I was told that the official figures of Iraqi students trying to move to Jordanian universities is 14,000. We have an exodus of doctors from Iraq. These are all the ingredients of much wider problems."

Shiite security forces are operating death squads against Sunnis.

BAGHDAD -- Britain's envoy in Baghdad urged the Shiite-led Iraqi government yesterday to mount an inquiry into reports that its security forces are operating clandestine death squads against minority Sunnis.

The call by Ambassador William Patey came after a week in which a journalist for a British newspaper was abducted by men driving a police car (he was later released) and a defence lawyer in the Saddam Hussein trial was shot dead by men claiming to be from the Interior Ministry.

The absence of Sunnis in Iraq's southern city Basra has not prevented a decline into lawlessness. Basra is controlled by Shiite militias and the chief of police does not trust most of his police force.

Once a relaxed riverside getaway, Basra has slipped under the rule of fundamentalist Shiite militias with strong ties to Iran. The city has only 2,500 to 3,000 police officers, and several times that number in the province, while estimates of militia ranks have reached as high as 13,000 in Basra and its environs.

In recent months, lethal attacks on British forces and other rising violence in the city — including the murders of an Iraqi employee of The New York Times, Fakher Haider, and of a New York journalist, Steven Vincent — have shattered a convenient myth: that no matter how brutal the Sunni insurgency became, the Shiites in Basra would keep the city relatively peaceful, overseen by the soft touch of British forces.

So much for the theory that only the Sunnis are a problem.

The British are increasingly attacked by the Shiite militias.

And new details of last week's violence have highlighted what many long suspected: Basra has fallen under the control of a cabal of renegade police commanders who have enforced a reign of terror in the city.

It was these commanders, with close ties to radical Shia militias, who held the two SAS soldiers in their headquarters at Basra's Jameat police station and probably orchestrated the violence that followed.

British soldiers involved in the operation to rescue the two men say they were surrounded by up to 3,000 demonstrators.

They were then attacked by a well co-ordinated core of between 500 and 1,000 who damaged 13 Warriors, setting eight ablaze with petrol bombs.

Hostility toward British troops around Basra is rapidly increasing.

But in the past 10 days, despite that happy vignette, the cheery "salaam alaikums" that used to greet the soldiers have disappeared. You can feel the hostility in the market.

"The British have turned into terrorists," Fahed Jaber, a trader, said. "They have become Americans. Before, they were our friends; now we see them as occupiers."

This is a view almost universally held in Basra since soldiers stormed a city police station to rescue two SAS troopers arrested last month.

The British Sunday Telegraph has gotten ahold of a secret poll of Iraqis done by the British Ministry of Defence which shows that Iraqis strongly oppose the presence of US and British forces in Iraq and 45% support attacks against US and British troops.

• Forty-five per cent of Iraqis believe attacks against British and American troops are justified - rising to 65 per cent in the British-controlled Maysan province;

• 82 per cent are "strongly opposed" to the presence of coalition troops;

• less than one per cent of the population believes coalition forces are responsible for any improvement in security;

• 67 per cent of Iraqis feel less secure because of the occupation;

• 43 per cent of Iraqis believe conditions for peace and stability have worsened;

• 72 per cent do not have confidence in the multi-national forces.

How about a popular referendum in Iraq on whether the US and British should pull out? If we are really for respecting the democratic will of the people then shouldn't we abide by the results of such a referendum?

Retired general and former head of the US National Security Agency William E. Odom argues the worst that could happen after a US withdrawal from Iraq is already happening.

If I were a journalist, I would list all the arguments that you hear against pulling U.S. troops out of Iraq, the horrible things that people say would happen, and then ask: Aren't they happening already? Would a pullout really make things worse? Maybe it would make things better.

Read Odom's full article. He directly addresses all the major arguments against a US and British withdrawal. I find his case convincing. Though I've been for unilateral withdrawal for a couple of years now.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2005 October 24 01:32 PM  MidEast Iraq Opinion Polls

razib said at October 24, 2005 5:19 PM:

you know i don't follow foreign policy closely...but i mentioned to a center-right friend of mine my skepticism about the whole iraq situation, his response was, "don't you read iraq the model? don't trust the MSM...." in some ways i felt like someone was telling me to read the bible, the real truth is in there, don't trust your lying eyes. this has become a religious war in a fashion from what i can tell, too many people are invested in the beliefs they held in march of 2003....oh well, the democrats will find a way to cut & run in 2008.

Invisible Scientist said at October 24, 2005 6:10 PM:

But when the United States gets out of Iraq, then which groups will fill the power vacuum? If the chaos spreads to Saudi Arabia, the consequences will be very serious for Europe, too... The North Sea oil from U.K. and Norway is declining, and if Europe gets crippled, the consequences will be very severe.

Randall Parker said at October 24, 2005 6:13 PM:


Yes, there is definitely an element of "I got to hold to my position because I always know I ought to disagree with certain types who oppose my group" and "Geez, we couldn't possibly have argued for and supported something so tragically counter-productive. Our side is wiser than that." and other variations on those themes.

Iraq has become a huge tragedy. We are about to cross the 2000 dead mark for American lives lost.

The Democrats are the really interesting ones to watch. They are even more vested in liberal democracy as the cure for the world's ills than the neocons are. They want to believe that all have the capacity and desire to be liberal democrats. It is core to their world view.

I see Iraq as a big learning lesson for anyone who is willing to learn.

Stephen said at October 24, 2005 6:45 PM:

I just read the keynote address by Col. Lawrence Wilkerson (Powell's ex-chief of staff at the State Department). Among other things, he said that if the Iraq adventure fails, then he expects the US will be sending 5 million soldiers to the middle east sometime next decade. A shiver went down my spine when I read that.

Stephen said at October 24, 2005 6:47 PM:

In fact here's the quote:

I’m not evaluating the decision to go to war. That’s a different matter. But we’re there, we’ve done it, and we cannot leave. I would submit to you that if we leave precipitously or we leave in a way that doesn’t leave something there we can trust, if we do that, we will mobilize the nation, put 5 million men and women under arms and go back and take the Middle East within a decade. That’s what we’ll have to do.

razib said at October 24, 2005 7:26 PM:

The Democrats are the really interesting ones to watch. They are even more vested in liberal democracy as the cure for the world's ills than the neocons are. They want to believe that all have the capacity and desire to be liberal democrats. It is core to their world view.

yep. some of the humanitarian arguments against the war were hilarious in my opinion. the left couldn't oppose it on realist-pragmatic grounds, there have be ideals, so they mitigated the brutality of saddam's regime and simply ignored the long term mouse-that-roared benefit that iraq has received. the whole situation is bizarre, the neocons are some idealistic weirdos, some of 'em are obviously israel-first, but i think a lot of them actually have faith in this spread-democracy crap too. i have a post at my politics blog where i kind of ruminate on this issue broadly speaking...basically, i wonder if a neoneoliberal is a neoliberal whose bluff has been called by g.w. bush. in a bizarre way, with g.w. defanging republican constraints on the panglossian paradigm in regards to social engineering the left sees how nakedly implausible the whole project was.

Stephen said at October 24, 2005 9:21 PM:

I've got to disagree. If the democrats have been 'even more vested in liberal democracy', then which democratic president has intervened militarily in order to impose democracy on a country?

On the other hand, I can think of a few instances where Republican presidents have done just that - Granada (Regan), Panama (Bush 1), Iraq (Bush 2). Each is an instance of imposing democracy militarily. Bush 2 bit off more than he could chew in Iraq. It seems to me that he made the classic mistake of believing his own propaganda - ie that there's something special about the US, and that everyone else, if given the chance, would quickly buy into the dream. With that bit of brain washing at the forefront, the neocons decided to attack Iraq, fully believing that the iraqi people would spontaneously adopt a democratic system, and the rest of the arab world would then trip over itself to join the love-in. Post WW2, has there been a bigger case of social engineering than that?

Hugh Angell said at October 25, 2005 6:04 AM:

Do I like the US being in Iraq? Not particularly but the question has to be viewed in
context. Would I like Saddam Hussein still being in power there more? Of course not.
Both parties voted to authorize military action against Saddam and it is distressing, to
say the least, to see the Democrats try to pretend they had nothing to do with the war.

I think Stephen is right that if we fail in Iraq, and we may, the future looks very grim.
Bush has tried to fight this war on the cheap which may have been a mistake. He has
squandered the momentum that 9/11 gave him and while our initial military foray to remove
Hussein went well the administration really botched the post invasion planning. We were
the conquerors. You have to establish that and we didn't. Martial law should have been
declared and probably more than a few Iraqi government officials hung to establish our
bona fides. Oh well, water under the bridge now.

We are where we are and extricating ourselves is not going to be easy. We have a problem
with Iran that mimics the one we had with Saddam Hussein. With that in mind, having a large
military presence in Iraq ( and Afghanistan) gives us a headstart in dealing with it. The
problem is that we have not the ground forces to take on Iran and Iran knows it. We also
may have a crippled presidency owing to the relentless partisan attacks on him by the

The problem with Islamofascism isn't going to go away if we were to pull out of Iraq and
it isnt' going to go away even if we stay and continue the present desultory military
campaign. War is about winning and winning means killing the enemy and destroying his
capacity to resist. We aren't doing that. We have become hobbled by the need to seem 'nice'
when we need to be seen as "Don't tread on US" country.

Bob Badour said at October 25, 2005 6:45 AM:


May have been a mistake?!? War by half measures is a useless waste of human life. It is immoral. It is evil.

Churchill knew that. Reagan knew it. Kennedy didn't. Johnson didn't. Nixon didn't. Bush doesn't.

Bush lost the war in Iraq two years ago the day anarchy broke out. The loss of human life since then nauseates me.

Ivan Kirigin said at October 25, 2005 7:03 AM:

"82 per cent are "strongly opposed" to the presence of coalition troops"

That isn't the same thing to "a majority want coalition troops to leave immediately".

Invisible Scientist said at October 25, 2005 8:13 AM:

OK, but what will happen in a few years? That's the question. How strong the new powers will become in the Middle East? What will they want (from the United States, from Europe, etc)?

Matra said at October 25, 2005 10:57 AM:

Stephen - If the democrats have been 'even more vested in liberal democracy', then which democratic president has intervened militarily in order to impose democracy on a country?

Haiti in 1994.

The Democrats also favoured bombing the Serbs throughout the 90s because of their refusal to abide by American standards of multiculturalism - something they seem to see as a corollary of liberal democracy. Indeed Gen. Wesley Clark (an influential Democrat) was quoted during the pummeling of Yugoslavia in 1999 as saying that ethnically homogeneous societies were unacceptable in this day and age!

Stephen said at October 25, 2005 5:40 PM:

Hugh, Bush's real crime is that he picked a fight that wasn't only unnecessary to win the "war on terror", but was strategically devestating to our side. Also, I don't think its right to say that its merely a question of whether the world is better off without Sadaam, because that entirely fails to ask the real question: at what cost?

My eye keeps going to Iran - but not as a potential target...

My plan for a 'nice' middle east (short version): Accept that Iran is the most cohesive, stable, economically developed proto-democracy in the region. Engage with it economically thereby enlarging its middle class (the idea being that bourgeoisie dampen revolutionary zeal). Over time, Iran becomes an example of an arabic form of democracy that will be used as a model for other islamic countries.

My plan for Iraq: If broad and self-organising political institutions haven't developed in the next 18-months (be up front, tell them they've got that much time), break the country up rather than allowing it to become a political vacuum. Iran gets the south, Turkey & Syria get the north, Jordan gets the western desert. Or more riskily, create a new Kurdish country from the north of Iraq (but I'm sure Turkey would hit the roof and quickly destabilise it, and anyway, I doubt a country of that size would be economically viable).

Matra: I thought about Haiti, but I think it falls into the category of undoing a military coup?? Yugoslavia is an example of humanitarian intervention - we wouldn't have intervened merely if, say, the Serbs had voted themselves a totalitarian government, rather, it was the ethnic cleansing that bothered people. That said, I see you point that stopping ethnic cleansing is itself a way to impose social engineering on people.

Randall Parker said at October 25, 2005 5:58 PM:


I do not see Iran as a proto-democracy. I'd cast Jordan as closer to that role. Or even Lebanon.

FriendlyFire said at October 26, 2005 2:49 AM:

yep. some of the humanitarian arguments against the war were hilarious in my opinion

yeah equaly hilarious were the argument of the neocons to justifying the invasion in the first place, WMDs ?
Sorry couldnt resist.
With that out of the way.

The US is running out of good option in Iraq already we are seeing a rolling back of what objectives we would accept in order for the US and coalition to declare mission accomplished. The mistakes earlier on have come back to haught the US. The short "window of oppotunity" where great things could have been accomplished has well and truely gone. forever.
I dont doubt that the Bush Administration is deperatly trying to fix the problem, then I see the Vice President going onto television announce that the insurrgency is in its last throws.

Oh well.

Maybe the democrates will screw up again and well get another republican administration. I for one wish to see the full consequnces brought to the american public.

Marvin said at October 26, 2005 5:20 PM:

I like this website. There are also a lot of grunt-run blogs from Iraq that give some interesting insight called milblogs. The Iraqi blogs give a variety of viewpoints and are worth looking over from time to time.

Of course, there is always al-Guardian, al-Jazeera, and al-Arabiya, for truly objective reporting.

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