'AN OPINION poll carried out in Iraq will make good reading for US president George Bush and British prime minister Tony Blair.' So claimed the BBC on Tuesday morning. The Hutton report has obviously bent the BBC's judgement. The kindest thing you can say is that the BBC has 'sexed up' the results of the poll that it commissioned.
It was carried out by British-based private company Oxford Research International. Its elite clients include the World Bank and multinationals such as Coca-Cola, Kodak, Philips and Unilever.
The poll findings are based on interviews with tiny numbers in Iraq-209 people in the whole province of Basra and 732 in the whole region around Baghdad. In reply to one question 48.2 percent of people say the invasion of Iraq last year was probably right. But 51.8 percent say it was wrong or refuse to give an answer.
Around two thirds of those asked, 66.3 percent, say they have no confidence in the occupation forces. A majority, 52.6 percent, also have no confidence in the US-appointed Iraqi Governing Council.
Even more worrying for the occupying forces is that Saddam Hussein is still 16 times more popular among Iraqis than Ahmed Chalabi, the man that the US handpicked to be the key figure in the Governing Council. Chalabi is only supported by 0.2 percent of those polled!
The BBC says the poll shows that Iraqis want to 'regain security'. It quotes 'security expert' Dr Alan of Britain's Royal United Services Institute saying the poll shows, 'Iraqis are now looking for a strong leader who can save the day.'
In fact only a minority (27.5 percent) want a 'strong leader' while the overwhelming majority of Iraqis (85.9 percent) want an Iraqi-run democracy. The poll does suggest people believe that 'regaining security' is a key issue. The BBC report implied this means the occupying forces should stay to establish such security.
In fact only 5.3 percent of those polled think the 'coalition forces' should 'take care of regaining public security'. Just 4.3 percent think that the Iraqi Governing Council should be in charge of this task.
The BBC didn't mention that 86.9 percent of Iraqis think 'transferring all political authority to an Iraqi government' would be an effective way to improve security. Half of those who responded also said that the 'immediate departure of coalition forces' would be effective in improving security.
One question the BBC didn't highlight the answers to at all was the very obvious one on whether people supported 'the presence of the coalition forces' in Iraq. Of those who answered 56.3 percent opposed the occupying forces. If all this makes cheery reading for Bush and Blair you can only agree with the old proverb that says, 'Those who the gods would destroy, they first make mad.'