What is the mood of the Iraqi people?
Congressman Jo Bonner
One night last week, I was flipping through the network evening news broadcasts and trying to catch up on what had taken place while my colleagues and I were in committee meetings and on the floor of the House of Representatives voting on legislation.
Most of the stories being covered were pretty standard from one station to the next: the Dow and NASDAQ were up, a hurricane began to form out in the Atlantic Ocean and candidates for state and national office were attacking each other at every turn.
Something else that I noticed, however, was the amount of coverage there was on just how angry the Iraqi people seem to be that American troops and government officials are still in their country.
Reporters invariably seemed to find the one man or woman who was portrayed as representing the feelings of their entire community and put them in front of the camera to vent their frustrations to the world. "Americans have done nothing for us!" or "We don't feel safe!" or "Why can't we govern ourselves?"
The frustration was indeed high. But do all Iraqi citizens really feel as we have been led to believe?
Recently, Zogby International – a well-respected non-partisan polling organization – released the results of an intensive survey completed in August of Iraqis in four of that country's five largest cities: Basra, Mosul, Kirkuk and Ramadi.
The survey, included in a recent article published by the Wall Street Journal – a paper which has been less than enthusiastic about America's continued presence in that country – includes some very surprising results.
Here are some major points raised by the survey which bear consideration:
– When five nations including the United States were presented as possible models upon which a new Iraqi government could be based, nearly 40 percent selected the United States;
– Nearly 60 percent of those asked have an unfavorable view of Osama bin Laden, and as Zogby was quick to point out, the survey was taken before terrorists from bin Laden's al Qaeda organization killed over 100 worshipers and clerics at one of Iraq's most important sacred sites;
– Almost three-quarters of those surveyed – 74 percent – feel that the representatives of Saddam Hussein's regime should be punished;
– While less than 30 percent knew of someone who had been killed during Operation Iraqi Freedom, half of those surveyed had a friend or family member who had been executed by Hussein's government; and
– Seven out of every ten people surveyed said that their lives and their country will be better in the next five years.
Seven out of every 10. That's 70 percent who believe that, regardless of the time it's taking to get the power infrastructure up and running, schools up and running, water systems operational and a government functioning, their lives will improve.
Academy night around corner
For many years, members of Congress have been privileged to submit the names of extremely talented young men and women for consideration as nominees to one of our country's five service academies.
For those of you who may not be aware, high school students have been afforded the opportunity for quite some time to pursue professional and educational opportunities through our service academies.
These academies – the United States Military Academy at West Point, the Naval Academy at Annapolis, the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, the Coast Guard Academy at New London, and the Merchant Marine Academy at Kings Point – have produced some of the finest leaders in our nation's history.
I won't try to imply that the process for admission to one of the five academies is easy; in fact, the process can be rigorous. In addition to basic age requirements, candidates for admission must also display significant degrees of academic achievement (displayed by high school transcripts as well as SAT and ACT scores); have demonstrated leadership in school, church or community activities; be of good moral character; and successfully complete a medical review and physical aptitude examination.
I am pleased to be hosting my first Academy Night for prospective candidates at 7 p.m. Oct. 6. The event will be held at the auditorium of UMS-Wright School in Mobile, and it is expected that representatives of all five academies will be on hand to meet with parents and students and discuss in greater detail the requirements for admission and opportunities available.
This is certainly a great chance for anyone interested in a career through the military, Coast Guard or merchant marine. I hope you will take advantage of this opportunity and come out to find out about the nomination process. If you have any questions or would like more detailed information, please don't hesitate to call my academy coordinator, Dixie Patrick, in my Mobile office at 690-2811 or 800-288-8721.