January 5, 2009
In discussing his plans for the Iraq War during the presidential campaign, one group that Barack Obama seldom, if ever, mentioned as supporting his proposed policy was the Iraqi people.
Obama’s campaign website, which differs only slightly from his transition website, lays out very clearly what he sees as problematic with the Iraq War. It highlights U.S. casualties — without mentioning the hundreds of thousands (some studies estimate over one million) of Iraqi civilians who have died as a result of the invasion and occupation — and the exorbitant financial cost of the war, while arguing from a strategic perspective that the diversion of troops and resources to Iraq “continues to set back our ability to finish the fight in Afghanistan.”
Not only is Iraqi opinion completely ignored, but Obama’s website actually blames the victim — a popular line with both Democrats and Republicans — by stating that “the Iraqi government has not stepped forward to lead the Iraqi people.” How Iraqis are supposed to take control of their destiny with 146,000 U.S. troops — and an even larger number of U.S. contractors — in their country is apparently not a relevant question.
Failure to mention Iraqi opinion during the campaign, however, wasn’t due to a lack of knowledge about what they think. In fact, since the war began, the Iraqis have been extensively polled and the results are telling. Below is a sampling of these poll results, each compared with the president-elect’s proposed policy for the Iraq War.
1) A March 2008 poll by Opinion Business Research found that 70% of Iraqis wanted foreign troops to leave. Of that group, 65% said they wanted the troops to leave “immediately or as soon as possible,” and another 13% responded “within six months.” Such sentiment has remained fairly consistent since shortly after the U.S. invasion. In April 2004, for example, a USA Today/CNN/Gallup poll found that 57% of Iraqis wanted the U.S. and British forces to “leave immediately.”
Obama has repeatedly pledged to “responsibly end the war in Iraq,” convincing many of his supporters who didn’t dig beneath the campaign rhetoric that he was the “peace candidate.” Obama’s plan from the beginning, however, has consisted of withdrawing only the “combat brigades” over a 16-month period and leaving behind a “residual force in Iraq [that] would perform limited missions: going after any remnants of al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia, protecting American service members and, so long as the Iraqis make political progress, training Iraqi security forces.”