Iraq's PR Battle Continues in U.S., Abroad

By Terry M. Neal Staff Writer
Thursday, December 8, 2005; 11:27 AM

President Bush on Wednesday compared the task at hand in the Middle East to the lofty objectives the United States faced during World War II, saying that the attempt to build a stable democracy in Iraq is essential to the future security of America.

Yet, during War World II, Americans and Europeans saw their intervention in clear, altruistic terms. Today, the Bush administration is losing the public relations battle in the Middle East, Europe, and, increasingly, at home. The president seems to realize this and is giving a series of speeches aimed at swinging public opinion back to his side of the ledger.

"In places like Mosul and Najaf, residents are seeing tangible progress in their lives," Bush said Wednesday in a speech at the Council on Foreign Relations. "They're gaining a personal stake in a peaceful future and their confidence in Iraq's democracy is growing. The progress in these cities is being replicated across much of Iraq. And more of Iraq's people are seeing the real benefits that a democratic society can bring."

Democrats were quick to respond, with Rep. John P. Murtha (D-Pa.), a longtime hawk on military issues who has turned against the Iraq war, saying that the administration is "unrealistic" about the situation in Iraq.

"When I said we can't win a military victory, it's because the Iraqis have turned against us," he said.

Meanwhile, a new joint poll conducted in six Middle Eastern countries (Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Kuwait and Morocco) by Zogby International and Shibley Telhami, the University of Maryland's Anwar Sadat chair for peace and development, demonstrates the extent of the perception problem facing the United States.

* More than two-thirds of respondents disagreed with the statement that the spread of democracy is the goal of the U.S. in the Middle East.

* More than four-fifths believe the war in Iraq has brought less peace to the Middle East.

* Nearly four-fifths believe the war in Iraq has increased terrorism.

* Just fewer than 60 percent believe the war in Iraq has brought less democracy to the region.

* Seventy-seven percent believe Iraqis are worse off since the war.

* Majorities of the public ascribe to the U.S. negative motivations, such as securing oil resources, protecting Israel and weakening the Muslim world, while fewer than 30 percent ascribe positive motivations, such as preventing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, promoting human rights and spreading democracy.

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