- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 20, 2004

With the one-year anniversary of their liberation behind them, most Iraqis are looking to the future with a fair amount of hope. A recently released survey of Iraqis showed that despite the dreadful attacks that have continued since Saddam Hussein was deposed, there is a great deal of good news in the hearts-and-minds department.

Seventy percent of the over 2,500 Iraqis polled by Oxford Research International said that their lives were either quite good or very good. Two-thirds said that their lives were better than before the war. More Iraqis felt that the U.S.-led coalition was right to invade than felt the coalition was wrong to do so (48 to 39 percent) but they were evenly divided on whether the invasion had humiliated or liberated Iraq.

Reconstruction has had some successes — only 4 percent of respondents said that poor electrical supplies were their primary problem; fewer than that said that poor public services were. Instead, 22 percent of Iraqis said their biggest problem is a lack of security and stability, followed by 12 percent who said unemployment. Despite those concerns, over 53 percent of Iraqis said that the security situation is better than it was before the war and 74 percent said they expected it to be even better next year.

Iraqis want coalition forces to finish the job — more than 18 percent said they should stay “until security is restored,” and almost 36 percent called for coalition forces to stay until an Iraqi government is in place. Iraqis also said that attacks on foreigners — whether coalition forces or aid workers — were unacceptable forms of behavior. Nearly 97 percent of them condemned attacks on Iraqi police.

Iraqis appear to be leaning in favor of the establishment of a secular democracy. Almost 42 percent said the nation needed a democracy in five years’ time. When asked what was the most important consideration in establishing a new political order, 16.7 percent said a government that “follows religious ideals,” compared to 19.6 percent who called for a “liberal government,” 23.9 percent who argued for a “strong government” and 31.3 percent who called for a “broad government.”

Those considerations, and many others, seem to be making Iraqis more and more optimistic about the future. Forty-three percent of the 800 Baghdad residents surveyed last summer by YouGov said they expected their lives would be better in a year, compared to 16 percent who said they expected their lives to be worse. Seventy-one percent of respondents to the Oxford poll said they expect their lives to be better in a year and less than seven percent said they expect their lives to be worse.

Suicide bombings and insurgent attacks have made Iraq reconstruction a bloody, sometimes heart-breaking business. Despite those difficulties, the Oxford poll demonstrates that progress is being made. Working together, the willing hands of Iraqis and their many coalition partners have made for many hopeful hearts.

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