Thanks to Pico for pointing it out.
The first is that Iraqis, and especially Sunnis, are quietly in favor of a lasting U.S. security presense. The second is that the “federalization of Iraq” ballyhooed by Anbar true-believers in the U.S. Congress and the Washington punditry is something Sunnis would actually want.
Myth One: Iraqis quietly want U.S. forces to remain
The New York Times is today running an irresponsible article about the views of Iraqi citizens on the Petraeus report.
Based on interviews with, to quote the article, “more than 20 Iraqis of different sects and ethnicities,” the Times is willing to assert such sweeping claims as, “Mostly, Iraqis appeared rueful about their vulnerability and the need to allow foreign troops to help keep order for some time to come,” and, “Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki in his speech to Parliament on Monday, acknowledged that the country was not ready for the American forces to withdraw. In subdued language, he voiced the views of many Iraqis.”
Further, the Times leaves the impression that Shiite followers of “anti-American cleric Moktada al-Sadr” are more in favor of a quick U.S. pullout than are, for example, Sunnis.
These assertions and implications, every one of them, are in direct contradiction to a poll of 2,212 Iraqis sponsored by BBC, ABC, and NHK, released on Monday. Complete poll here (warning PDF).
Here is the The New York Times article.
For Iraqis, General’s Report Offers Bitter Truth
By ALISSA J. RUBIN
Published: September 12, 2007
BAGHDAD, Sept. 11 – Iraqis found themselves in a difficult position on Tuesday as they reflected on the report to Congress by Gen. David H. Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker. Although they say there is nothing they want more than to have American soldiers leave Iraq, they also say there is nothing they can afford less.
— snip —
Right out of the chute, we are told that this story is about “Iraqis”, not “20 specific Iraqis”. And “Iraqis” “say” they cannot afford an American exit.
Next, we get the claim that of those “Iraqis” who “say” the U.S. should leave, most are followers of Sadr. Meaning, among other, things: Shiite. That is, Shiites want the Americans to leave more than do Sunnis:
— snip —
Most of those who wanted a quicker pullback were politically close to the anti-American cleric Moktada al-Sadr, who has advocated immediate withdrawal. But even Mr. Sadr’s supporters left room for negotiation when it came to suggesting dates for withdrawal.
And again, we read that “many Iraqis”, which by this point is understood to mean, lots of Iraqis of “different sects and ethnicities”, are in agreement with their Prime Minister in wanting the U.S. to stay:
Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki in his speech to Parliament on Monday, acknowledged that the country was not ready for the American forces to withdraw. In subdued language, he voiced the views of many Iraqis.
Now here is question 21 from the poll of BBC, ABC, NHK poll of 2,212 Iraqis. I’m putting it in a blockquote but the arrangement of text was entered by hand from the PDF:
21. How long do you think U.S. and other coalition forces should remain in Iraq? They should…
Leave now, total: 47%
Leave now, Sunni: 72%
Leave now, Shiite: 44%
Leave now, Kurd: 8%
Remain until security is restored, total: 34%
Remain until security is restored, Sunni: 27%
Remain until security is restored, Shiite: 38%
Remain until security is restored, Kurd: 36%
Remain until the Iraqi government is stronger, total: 10%
Remain until the Iraqi government is stronger, Sunni: 0%
Remain until the Iraqi government is stronger, Shiite: 10%
Remain until the Iraqi government is stronger, Kurd: 28%
Remain until the Iraqi security forces can operate independently, total: 7%
Remain until the Iraqi security forces can operate independently, Sunni: 1%
Remain until the Iraqi security forces can operate independently, Shiite: 6%
Remain until the Iraqi security forces can operate independently, Kurd: 18%
Remain loner but leave eventually, total: 2%
Remain longer but leave eventually, Sunni: 0%
Remain longer but leave eventually, Shiite: 1%
Remain longer but leave eventually, Kurd: 8%
Never leave, total: 0%
Never leave, Sunni: 0%
Never leave, Shiite: 0%
Never leave, Kurd: 2%
No opinion, total: 0%
No opinion, Sunni: 0%
No opinion, Sunni: 0%
No opinion, Kurd: 1%
Note that Sunnis want the U.S. to leave more quickly, not less quickly, than do Shiites.
Note also that “leave now” is the most popular of all the options.
Myth Two: Federalization would be welcomed by Iraqis; especially Sunnis
Ever since President Bush went to Anbar province to take credit for Sunni actions that his Administration initially rebuffed, right-wing pols and pundits have been cheering for the federalization of Iraq.
Thing is, only Kurds actually want federalzation; not Shiites, and especially not Sunnis.
Here I’ll just quote David Brooks, cause it’s fun to quote David Brooks.
David Brooks, Sept 11, 2007:
Musawi’s words are just one more piece of evidence that Iraq will not be put together the way it was. It’s one more piece of evidence that America’s best course is not to reunify Iraq, but simply to inhibit the violence as Iraqis feel their own way to partition.
What we’re really trying to build, in other words, is a road to partition.
David Brooks, Sept. 4, 2007:
Have you noticed the change in the Iraq debate?
Most American experts and policy makers wasted the past few years assuming that change in Iraq would come from the center and spread outward. They squandered months arguing about the benchmarks that would supposedly induce the Baghdad politicians to make compromises. They quibbled over whether this or that prime minister was up to the job. They unrealistically imagined that peace would come through some grand Sunni-Shiite reconciliation.
[This next sentence is one of my all-time favorite sentences — LC]:
Now, at long last, the smartest analysts and policy makers are starting to think like sociologists. They are finally acknowledging that the key Iraqi figures are not in the center but in the provinces and the tribes. Peace will come to the center last, not to the center first. Stability will come not through some grand reconciliation but through the agglomeration of order, tribe by tribe and street by street.
Wow! Federalize, young man, federalize! Anbar will show us the way!
Only problem is Iraqis don’t want to do that, no matter what David Brooks or anyone else in Washington might wish. And Sunnis wish to do it least of all. Question 13.
13. Which of the following structures do you believe Iraq should have in the future?
One unified Iraq with central government in Baghdad, Sunni: 97%
One unified Iraq with central government in Baghdad, Shiite: 56%
One unified Iraq with central government in Baghdad, Kurd: 9%
A group of regional states with their own governments and a federal government in Baghdad, Sunni: 3%
A group of regional states with their own governments and a federal government in Baghdad, Shiite: 42%
A group of regional states with their own governments and a federal government in Baghdad, Kurd: 42%
Dividing the country into seperate independent states, Sunni: 0%
Dividing the country into seperate independent states, Shiite: 2%
Dividing the country into seperate independent states, Kurd: 49%
No opinion, Sunni: 1%
No opinion, Shiite: 0%
No opinion, Kurd: 0%
So there ya go. Two new myths about Iraq, coming out of Washington.