What the people want: troops out of Iraq!

November 4, 2006

As of November 2, 2825 US military personnel and 232 other allied foreign troops had died in Iraq since the country was invaded on March 20, 2003, by US, British and Australian forces.

No definite figures exist on the number of Iraqis killed. However, according to a study of Iraqi mortality rate published in the prestigious British medical journal The Lancet last month, 655,000 Iraqis have died as a result of the US-led occupation of their country up to September this year.

Three-and-half years after the US-British-Australian invasion of Iraq, all three leaders of the "coalition of the willing" — US President George Bush, British PM Tony Blair and Australian PM John Howard — are facing increasing domestic pressure to withdraw their occupation troops.

In all three countries, the opinion polls show substantial majorities of voters want a quick end to the coalition's failed attempt to crush Iraqi resistance to the US-led war to seize control of Iraq's huge oil resources.

In the US, all of the opinion polls taken in the weeks before the November 7 mid-term congressional elections show that the Iraq war is voters' single greatest concern: only 29% of voters support Bush's handling of the war. Sixty per cent want Washington to set a timetable for the withdrawal of its military forces, while 34% want all US troops pulled out immediately.

The US National Council for Research on Women reported on November 2 that its polling had found that 59% of US women voters and 48% of male voters said they favoured candidates in the November 7 elections who call for the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq within the next 12 months.

Opinion polls in Britain and Australia show even greater voter opposition to the war. A mid-October Guardian/ICM poll revealed that 61% of British voters wanted Britain's occupation force of 7000 troops to leave Iraq this year, with 45% wanting them out immediately.

A Newspoll survey, published in the October 31 Australian, found that only 31% of Australian adults agreed with Howard's policy of keeping Australian troops in Iraq "for as long as is necessary", down from 45% in December 2004. An AC Nielsen poll published in the October 8 Sydney Morning Herald showed that 59% of Australians agreed with ALP leader Kim Beazley's call for Australia's 458 troops in Iraq to be brought home.

In an October 24 doorstop interview outside federal parliament, foreign minister Alexander Downer attempted to defend his government's "stay-the-course" policy on Iraq, saying: "People should listen to the Iraqi people and what the Iraqis are saying. Nobody in the Iraqi government — none of the elected officials in Iraq want to see a premature evacuation of Iraq by international forces because they know that if that were to happen the Iraqi government, the Iraqi democracy, would collapse and the country would be overrun by insurgents …"

While it's true that the coalition-installed Iraqi government says the US-led foreign troops should stay in Iraq, this government is as unrepresentative of the views of the majority of Iraqis on this issue as the US, British and Australian governments are of their citizens.

As even Channel Nine's commentator Laurie Oakes observed on September 29: "The Washington Post has published details of new polls conducted, it says, by the US State Department and independent researchers. According to the newspaper, 'a strong majority of Iraqis want US-led military forces to immediately withdraw from the country' because they believe this would make Iraq more secure and decrease sectarian violence.

"The Post says the State Department found that 'in Baghdad … nearly three-quarters of residents polled said they would feel safer if US and other foreign forces left Iraq, with 65 percent of those asked favouring an immediate pullout'."

An independent poll conducted in early September by the University of Maryland's Program on International Policy Attitudes found that 61% of Iraqis support insurgent attacks on US and allied occupation troops.

That poll result shows Downer is correct about one thing — without the presence of more than 160,000 US and allied foreign troops in Iraq its US-backed government would collapse and "the country would be overrun by insurgents". But Downer's argument also exposes the fact that it is the anti-occupation insurgency rather than the US-backed Iraqi government that has the support of the big majority of Iraqis.

"People should", as Downer advises, "listen to what the Iraqi people are saying". The Iraqi people are saying to Bush, Blair and Howard: get your troops out of our country!

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