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During a panel discussion on the November 21 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Brit Hume, Roll Call executive editor Morton M. Kondracke questioned the accuracy of Iraqi polling cited by Rep. John P. Murtha (D-PA) in his House resolution calling for the withdrawal of American troops from Iraq. In fact, at least four Iraqi public opinion polls confirm that the majority of Iraqis are opposed to the presence of coalition troops in Iraq.
Responding to panelist and National Public Radio senior correspondent Juan Williams's explanation of Murtha's bill, Kondracke stated:
KONDRACKE: And the idea that 80 percent of the Iraqi people want us to pull out right now? I don't think so. I mean, I don't know where that number comes from, but I cannot imagine that the Shiites and the Kurds, who constitute 80 percent of the Iraqi people, want us to leave them right now to the tender mercies of the insurgents.
Despite Kondracke's addition of the phrase "right now" -- a misrepresentation of Murtha's proposal, which called for a withdrawal "at the earliest practicable date" but keeping some troops in the region -- it appears that he was referring to sections of Murtha's resolution, repeated by Williams, noting that "over 80 percent of the Iraqi people want the U.S. forces out of Iraq" and "45 percent of the Iraqi people feel that the attacks on U.S. forces are justified."
Though Murtha's resolution does not indicate the source of the cited poll numbers, it appears that the data originated from a private poll of Iraqi opinion commissioned by Great Britain's Ministry of Defense (MOD) in August. As an October 23 article in the British newspaper The Sunday Telegraph noted, the poll found, among other things, that "[f]orty-five per cent of Iraqis believe attacks against British and American troops are justified" and that "82 per cent are 'strongly opposed' to the presence of coalition troops." While this poll apparently did not specifically ask respondents to indicate support for immediate U.S. troop withdrawal, earlier polls have. A CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll (subscription required) interviewing 3,444 Iraqis in the spring of 2004 found that 57 percent of Iraqis thought "the U.S. and British forces ought to leave in the next few months," with 71 percent of Iraqis viewing the U.S. military "mostly as occupiers." As The Washington Post reported on May 13, another poll, which was commissioned by the U.S.-led coalition and also conducted during spring 2004, indicated that "[f]our out of five Iraqis report holding a negative view of the U.S. occupation authority and of coalition forces" and that "82 percent said they disapprove of the U.S. and allied militaries in Iraq." In January 2005, Zogby International released the results of its Iraqi public opinion poll, which was conducted in conjunction with Abu Dhabi Television. It also found that, of the 805 Iraqis interviewed, "[m]ajorities of both Sunni Arabs (82%) and Shiites (69%) ... favor U.S. forces withdrawing either immediately or after an elected government is in place"; 53 percent supported attacks on coalition troops; and only the Iraqi Kurds favored the "continued U.S. presence."
From the November 21 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Brit Hume, with congressional correspondent Brian Wilson serving as guest host:
BARNES: Well, I think we're finally seeing the administration fight back and defend its Iraq policy, which they didn't for months and months. I can only come to the conclusion that that was a decision made by President Bush to sort of sidetrack the Iraq issue, but now they're back and they're particularly back on this question of whether they phonied up the intelligence. I mean, I think there is absolutely no evidence that they did. It's a completely trumped-up accusation, but the administration, I think, really doesn't want to fight over that. They want to knock that down and then have a big argument over the war in Iraq itself because they think they can win that.
WILSON: What do you think about that?
WILLIAMS: Well, I mean, obviously, we didn't find weapons of mass destruction, so I think there's -- and obviously you have indictments of administration officials, investigations into whether or not people have been forthcoming or trying to discredit those who have an alternate point of view. Now, even today, as things got really muted in terms of the president and Vice President [Dick] Cheney saying nice things about Congressman Murtha, you still had them basically framing this as a discussion in which the United States, if it considers pulling back on the troops, is conceding to murder and blackmail. Congressman Murtha, for his part, you know, had a press conference today, he was on [NBC's] Meet the Press yesterday. And what he's saying is, wait a second, 80 percent of the Iraqi people don't want us there, 40 percent say it's OK to attack us Americans, even though we're there trying to help them. So, we've got to look at this through a different angle and look at -- consider whether or not it might be time to pull back, at least to a perimeter or to say, you know what? We've got to do a faster job of training people, but look at it in some reasonable way.
KONDRACKE: No, no, no, no. He said that we've got to begin withdrawals immediately, and --
KONDRACKE: -- and the idea that 80 percent of the Iraqi people want us to pull out right now? I don't think so. I mean, I don't know where that number comes from, but I cannot imagine that the Shiites and the Kurds, who constitute 80 percent of the Iraqi people, want us to leave them right now to the tender mercies of the insurgents. And, you know, there are two lines of attack from the administration. What -- they have been answering back, the critics who accused them of lying about the prewar intelligence. And I think that's all very well and good, that they should hit back on that because the charges in the main are just outrageous, as they say. But the other thing is, that they've got to do more to bolster public support for the ongoing effort and to, I think -- I mean, right now only 19 percent of the American people want to pull out all of our troops right now. But, a lot more, a majority want to pull them out over the next year. And it seems to me that they've got to make the case that the stakes involved in losing in Iraq are so catastrophic that we can't do that.