Thursday, March 20, 2008

Michael Totten on Iraqi Public Opinion

Itimidation may be at work so any poll may be skewed. But as Totten also points out, culturally, things are a little different. In America, we feel it is our natural right to belittle you to your face, but
I’ve been to Iraq five times, and never once have I heard an Iraqi say anything hostile about Americans. Partly this is because I don’t spend time in insurgent circles. How could I? The Iraqis I’ve met don’t represent the full spectrum. Middle Easterners are also famous for their politeness and, unlike some people from other parts of the world, they will not get in your face if they don’t like where you come from. (Al Qaeda members are an obvious and extreme exception, but they’re hated everywhere in Iraq and are violently atypical.)

Burns is right, though, that there’s more to it than that, and there’s also more to it than he let on. Why would Iraqis say to me, an embedded American reporter, that they want Americans to get out of their country while well-armed Marines are standing nearby? Marines won’t punish Iraqi civilians for saying so, but I doubt very seriously that everyone in Iraq understands that.
The legacy of Saddam's intimidation is hard to underestimate. While Americans are used to dissent and tolerate it if not welcome it, that has not been the history in Iraq. Thus, Iraqi public opinion polls are probably not as relevant as many would have you believe.

This makes sense to me.

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