Yesterday at the Department of Defense press briefing, Secretary Rumsfeld and General Richard Myers touted new poll results of Iraqis that claim to demonstrate that the insurgency is losing political steam. What they didn’t reveal about the poll is that it surveyed only those Iraqis who already despise the insurgent activity and have actively worked against it.
Here’s what Rumsfeld said yesterday when asked whether he truly understands the nature of the insurgency:
Q: “If I can take you back to your opening statement when you — actually, General Myers made similar references to the failings of the insurgency, including their failure to garner public support. And yet, this far into the operation, the insurgency has managed to sustain itself. Does this suggest a lack of understanding on your part on what the insurgency is about, who they are, the durability of their effort?” SEC. RUMSFELD: “The people who are involved in analyzing that think not.”
Myers followed up with the evidence to back Rumsfeld’s statement:
GEN. MYERS: “The polling data would certainly — and we have some recent polling data that certainly indicates just the opposite, and I think we can release that at some point. Yeah, we can release the polling data.”
Some of the polling data was released in an article written by Jim Garamone of the Armed Forces Press Service (the AFPS is a propaganda arm of the DoD, sending out news articles daily that carry only the administration’s point of view). Here’s what Garamone wrote of the polling data:
“The poll — done as part of the Tips Hotline number campaign — was conducted in Baghdad, Basrah, Salah Ad-Din, Najaf, Diyala and Irbil. More than 1,200 Iraqis answered the questions.”
What is the “Tips Hotline number campaign?” The Tips campaign was originally established by U.S. forces in Baghdad to give ordinary Iraqis the opportunity to call in leads regarding suspected insurgent activity (see this article by the AFPS on the hotline). Pollsters were able to gain access to the database for this most recent poll. The problem with the poll should be clear at this point: Iraqis who were already predisposed against the insurgency are being asked about their feelings toward the insurgency, and the results are being used to portray the entirety of Iraqi opinion. It is not surprising to learn that 95+ percent of those surveyed said attacks are not justified — that is why they’re calling them in.
I called the Pentagon to ask them about this misleading survey. A Pentagon official said he did not know of the methodology of the poll, but he suggested that the poll may simply be an effort to “measure the effectiveness of the tips campaign.” If that’s true, the message isn’t getting across to others, who are using the figures not to demonstrate the effectiveness of the hotline, but instead to suggest they know the full range of Iraqi opinion. The American Forces Press Service touted the poll results as demonstrating that “Iraqis do not support terrorists.” And General Myers said in the briefing, “I think the polling numbers are all very good with Iraqi citizens, they understand who the bad guys, who the good guys are I think in this case.”
What is most disturbing about this biased poll is that even those Iraqis who are calling in insurgents are not unequivocally opposed to attacks on U.S. forces. Garamone writes:
“Half of those polled said there was no excuse for attacks against coalition personnel, while 40 percent said there is a justification and 10 percent saying they don’t know.”
Only half of those Iraqis who are dead-set against the insurgency — to the point of reporting them to coalition authorities — think there is no excuse for attacking coalition personnel. Almost half think it is justified. The poll results hardly confirm that Rumsfeld and company understand this insurgency; in fact, it is a misleading effort which demonstrates the opposite.