Today's Daily Telegraph from Britain reports that 45 percent of all Iraqis feel that attacks against coalition forces are justified. In the British-controlled Maysan province it is 65 percent.
Now, most of my posts have been fairly flippant, but this is a serious matter. While the grounds for the war in Iraq have been as mutable as Play-doh, the administration and its supporters have consistently pointed out that there is progress being made, and that it's just a small segment of the population that doesn't want us there. This poll states just the opposite. According to the Telegraph, which is a Tory paper, 82 percent of Iraqis polled are "strongly opposed" to the presence of coalition troops, and less than 1 percent believe that the coalition forces increase their security. Of course, it must be noted that we have not seen the actual poll questions, the actual answers, or the sample from which it was drawn. The data are striking, nonetheless.
Even more striking than the polls, though, is the profile given of the average insurgent:
"The report profiles those likely to carry out attacks against British and American troops as being "less than 26 years of age, more likely to want a job, more likely to have been looking for work in the last four weeks and less likely to have enough money even for their basic needs"."
I wasn't really expecting this. From what I'd read and heard from the administration and the media, the insurgents are supposed to be Syrians who cross the border, radical fundamentalists who want to highjack the political process, or al Qaeda operatives. I didn't expect them to be unemployed, hungry, impoverished young adults who are trying to get a job but can't.
Maybe I'm taking this too far, but it's almost as though the insurgents aren't people who want to fight, but rather people who want to eat. For a right-wing paper, the Telegraph is sure making some liberal claims about poverty and its effects on the average human being. The argument seems to go something like this: Iraqi insurgents are hungry, poor, and angry. They believe that the coalition forces are responsible for this hunger and poverty. Because of this, they attack coalition forces. I figure this would play much better in the Guardian than the Telegraph. Maybe my conflation of "people likely to carry out attacks" and "insurgents" is wrong; if it is, someone please correct me, and soon.
Now, none of this is meant to justify attacks on coalition forces. The vast majority of soldiers in Iraq either want to make a difference and to help create a democracy or are just there because it's their job and they go where they're told.
The problem is that Iraq is a country with vast oil wealth and it's not able to provide for the basic needs of its citizens by way of water, electricity, sewage or jobs. If the oil fields were producing at capacity, there wouldn't be this problem. Yet, because there is this problem, the coalition forces and those working on the pipeline will be attacked by those who couldn't get jobs working on it and the oil fields won't produce. It's a vicious cycle that is exacerbated by assholes like Sadr, a man who is trying to use the poverty and suffering of his brothers and sisters as leverage for adding more insurgents to his cadre of killers. And it's exacerbated by pundits and presidents pointing to progress when 71 percent of people don't have fresh drinking water in a country that hovers around 100 degrees most days and has women wearing black burqas from head-to-toe.
Insurgents are desperate, we've heard. Desperate people are without hope. These people who lack hope also lack water, lack jobs, lack food. Lacking hope does not justify killing. But without an infrastructure, there is no hope. Yes, the vote on the Iraqi constitution (I'll reserve judgment regarding its content) was a fantastic thing. People who'd never voted before had the chance to have their voices heard. But you can't eat elections. You can't drink them either. Democracy is an important thing, but it's not the only important thing. Instead of attempting to show them how great we are at creating democracies in the Middle East, we should be re-creating a habitable country first and foremost. I know this is part of our 3-pronged "political, economic, and social" war, but the "political" seems to have superseded the other two parts because it is the easiest to tout. It's simple enough to show video clips of Iraqis going to to polls, but it is much harder to show a new sewage system working. Peace is much easier to achieve when people have full stomachs and their toilets aren't stopped up and there aren't flies buzzing around the refuse in the streets. If we can give the population of Iraq--and if I check my Venn diagram, the insurgents are included within said population--water, jobs, and food, maybe we can also give them the hope they need to make life bearable enough that they won't risk it in order to kill a coalition soldier.