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The People's Iraq Study Group | The Nation

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The People's Iraq Study Group

As of this morning, new polling data about American public opinion on Iraq is on the table. The Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA), through its WorldPublicOpinion.org, has just released its post-election poll. It indicates that, on crucial issues, especially the matter of setting a timetable for withdrawal and the Bush administration's (in all but name) permanent bases in Iraq, American and Iraqi public opinion are remarkably similar: The Bush administration, as the election results indicated, is now distinctly a minority regime and Democrats are still lagging behind public opinion on Iraq, as is the media, as is James Baker's Iraq Study Group (ISG), which today releases its "consensus report" to the President.

The PIPA numbers indicate that, even if George W. Bush remains adamantly in his no-longer-mission-accomplished, but stay-until-the-mission-is-accomplished dream state, Americans have largely awoken. Yes, they do agree with the ISG recommendations by whopping proportions. Three out of four Americans (including 72 percent of Republicans), according to PIPA, believe that the US should be engaged in conversation and negotiation with Iran and Syria. They even more massively favor a major international conference on the Iraqi catastrophe; but those aren't actually the most interesting figures. Here are some:

In the poll, 54 percent of Americans believe that attacks on US forces are approved by half or more of all Iraqis; 66 percent (including a near majority of Republicans) believe that a majority of Iraqis oppose the establishment of permanent US bases in their country (only 28 percent disagree); and 68 percent--including a majority of Republicans--believe that we should not have such bases. This is an especially remarkable set of figures, given that permanent bases have received next to no attention in the American mainstream media.

Most important of all, given the arrival of the Iraq Study Group's "consensus" proposal for a "phased withdrawal" that is to begin without a timetable in sight, 58 percent of Americans, according to PIPA, want a withdrawal of all US troops on a timeline--18 percent within six months, 25 percent within a year, 15 percent within two years. Moreover, if the Iraqi government were to request such a withdrawal on a year's deadline, 77 percent of respondents (including 73 percent of Republicans) think we should take them up on it. In this they agree with the Iraqi public. As Middle Eastern expert Robert Dreyfuss wrote recently, "Polls have shown that up to 80 percent of Sunni Arabs and 60 percent of Shiite Arabs want an immediate end to the occupation."

These new numbers should act as a wake-up call. Without much help from anyone, politicians or the media, the American people, it seems, have formed their own Iraq Study Group and arrived at sanity well ahead of the elite and all the "wise men" in Washington.

On one other matter, Americans have reached a remarkable conclusion that you're not likely to find either in your local newspaper, on the nightly news, or in the ISG report. On the question, "Do you think the US military presence in Iraq is currently a stabilizing force or provoking more conflict than it is preventing?," only 35 percent opt for "stabilizing force," while 60 percent have reached the reasonable conclusion that American forces, rather than standing between Iraq and a hard place, are "provoking more conflict than [they are] preventing." Michael Schwartz argues just that case today in The Myth of More at Tomdispatch.com and offers a canny explanation of exactly why that is so.

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