Iraqis of all sectarian and ethnic groups believe that the U.S. military invasion is the primary root of the violent differences among them, and see the departure of "occupying forces" as the key to national reconciliation, according to focus groups conducted for the U.S. military last month.
That is good news, according to a military analysis of the results. At the very least, analysts optimistically concluded, the findings indicate that Iraqis hold some "shared beliefs" that may eventually allow them to surmount the divisions that have led to a civil war.
That's definitely looking for the silver lining. Indeed, Iraqis would be quickly united if they turned against us en masse to drive us out of the country by force, but that's not exactly the direction we should be pleased to head in.
Why are the Iraqis so angry, even in the midst of improving conditions? Here's why:
"They remind me of this constantly," [Iraqi reporter] Fadel says. "Americans believe their soldiers are working for the greater good. The Iraqis don't see that. They see people who are here for their own self-interest—who drive the wrong way on roads, who stop traffic whenever they want to, who they have to be careful not to get too close to so that they won't be shot." When one of her staff members wrote the post about the student who threw a rock at a US soldier, Fadel says, she asked him, "Why did this kid throw a rock at a man with a weapon, a helmet, and a vest? What was he thinking?" "These are foreign soldiers," he replied. "This is an occupation." That, Fadel notes, is a very common feeling among Iraqis. "Everybody I speak to thinks this. They don't have power in their own country."
Pushing the Iraqi parliament to pass laws that allow politicians hear at home to demonstrate that the "surge" is succeeding, also doesn't help.
None of this will be resolved by anything less than our leaving. Military officials and supporters of the surge seem to think that the peace has opened a short window during which the Iraqi political process can be poked and prodded forward, but the truth is the window on our ability to influence significant political events in Iraq may have closed years ago, and the Iraqi people do not appear to be interested in opening it again.