Milan Rai on Iraqi polls and UN occupation


posted to on March 30, 2004


On Znet you can find an article by Milan Rai (author of a worthwhile study of Noam Chomsky) that argues that the antiwar movement should not call for immediate withdrawal. Why? Because, according to recent polls, the Iraqis--no matter how much they are fed up with the occupation--are afraid of the anarchy that would ensue if the USA pulled out. He writes:


"But, as we pointed out in JNV Briefing 50, there is a great deal of ambivalence in the Iraqi attitude to the US/UK forces. The vast majority of the Iraqi people do not want immediate withdrawal. Asked how long the occupation forces should stay, Iraqis gave these responses: 'leave now' (15.1%); 'a few months' (8.3%); 'six months to a year' (6.1%); 'more than one year' (4.3%). 18.3% said 'They should remain until security is restored'. The bulk of people, however, said, 'They should remain until an Iraqi government is in place' (35.8%). (Only 1.5% said, 'They should never leave', and 10.6% didn't know.)"




Although I don't have the statistics at my fingertips, and I am not sure whether it is necessary to provide them, I am quite sure that Western polltakers found support for the US occupation of Vietnam all through the Vietnam war. Since the North Vietnamese and the NLF were not permitted to disseminate their views on what a united Vietnam would look like, it would naturally skew poll results.


The same situation exists in Iraq. The resistance not only has absolutely no freedom to present its ideas about how Iraq would look after US troop withdrawal, it is subject to demonization from the quisling government and the media it tolerates. Except for sermons in the mosques, arguments for removal of US troops cannot be heard. If Iraq was a free society, you'd have debates on the evening television between opposition politicians and those favoring continuing occupation. This in fact is the main complaint that the USA had about Aristide and Milosevic, and still has about Chavez and Castro. They say that without something resembling "equal time" for opposition parties, Venezuela and Cuba cannot be characterized as democratic.


It these standards were to be applied to Iraq, it would seem to preclude taking Western pollsters seriously who operate in country where free debate about Iraq's future is not permitted.


Beyond that, there is a political problem involved with support of occupation, even under UN auspices. I am not quite sure what Rai's politics are, but speaking as a socialist it seems obligatory to support self-determination. The United Nations is not some kind of neutral body. It has acted consistently in the 20th century to deny self-determination to the Koreans, the Congolese, the Yugoslavs and others. Even if you disregard this principle, you still have to contend with the character of the post-USSR UN, which is run by a Security Council that either defers to the USA or supports it outright.


Rai says, "Therefore, if the anti-war movement is to pay heed to the expressed wishes of the Iraqi people (as determined in several polls), we should abandon the demand for 'troops out now' and call instead for the rapid replacement of US/UK occupation forces, and the withdrawal of US/UK political and economic 'advisers'."


As the Iraq quagmire deepens, the same debate that took place during the early days of the Vietnam war will take place again in all likelihood. Forces such as SANE/Freeze, AFL-CIO "progressives" and Democratic Party "doves" all argued for a phased withdrawal from Vietnam. Slogans and perspectives such as "peace now", "let the UN solve the problem", "negotiations now", etc. were put forward as slogans for the antiwar movement, which consistently chose immediate withdrawal. It is singularly depressing to see a website so connected to Noam Chomsky putting forward a perspective that he himself rejected back in the 1960s.