No matter what one might hear on the evening news, there is good news in Iraq. This week, the American Enterprise magazine and Zogby International released a poll of Iraqis that shows “seven out of 10 say they expect their country and their personal lives will be better five years from now.” Even more promising, as the American Enterprise reports, is that when “asked to name one country they would most like Iraq to model its new government on … the most popular model by far was the U.S.” Sixty percent of Iraqis said they don’t want an Islamic government. The overwhelming optimism and pro-American sentiment of Iraqis expose the discrepancy between the reality of the situation and the doomsday reports coming from most news outlets. The survey reinforces the need for America to stay the course in Iraq.
Of course, rebuilding Iraq will not be easy. It should be obvious that creating a civilized society and stable government from the rubble of Saddam Hussein’s dictatorship will take time, and that there inevitably will be pockets of resistance. Even if 99 percent of Iraqis supported the U.S. presence, a mere handful of terrorists can cause considerable carnage. The answer is not to pull out, but to root out that handful,andtocontinuetotrackdown Ba’athists and others who are continuing to contest the issue.
The challenges facing our government on the ground in Iraq are matched by public-relations challenges flowing from Washington partisanship, panic and backbiting. Last week, retired Gen. Anthony Zinni, former U.S. commander of the Middle East, blasted Bush administration war planning, claiming, “There is no strategy or mechanism for putting the pieces together.” In a speech to hundreds of Navy and Marine officers, Gen. Zinni compared political “garbage and lies” from the Vietnam era to what soldiers are hearing now. We would suggest that retired and other politicized generals might want to check with Iraqis before suggesting Iraqis are displeased about liberation.
Nobody expects a biased media to support President Bush’s war efforts, or that promising reports such as the Zogby poll will get top billing on networks that routinely exaggerate bad news. But as the new poll shows, while we are winning the PR war with Iraqis, the White House now must pivot to defend against a second front that has opened in Washington.