Exchange with Roger Alton about the British legacy in Iraq


Please see below an email exchange I recently had with Roger Alton, the editor of the UK’s Independent newspaper, about the British withdrawal from Iraq.  The exchange starts at the bottom…

 

 

To: Roger Alton

From: Ian Sinclair

 

Dear Mr Alton

 

Thank you for taking the time to reply to my last email.

 

And again, although I know you are a busy man, I would like to take issue with your answer.

 

You say the report I cite “was done in 2007, its now 2009, and a lot has happened since , not least the American Iraqi op in Basra …”

 

Firstly, is a two-year old survey really out of date?  In addition, recent polls broadly back up the results of the December 2007 BBC Newsnight poll I mentioned. For example, a February 2009 ABC/BBC opinion poll found 59 percent of respondents thought the UK played a negative role in Iraq today (compared to 22 percent of respondents who said the UK played a positive role).  So I would ask again – rather than suggesting Basra/Iraqi public opinion was unknown, why didn’t you cite any of the numerous opinion polls publicly available in your summary of the British legacy in Iraq?

 

Your mention of ‘The Charge of the Knights’ operation (“the American Iraqi op in Basra”) is a red herring, because, as you must know, this attack was largely carried out by US and Iraqi forces, with British forces playing a very small role (in fact, as you must also know, the British commander was only told about the attack at the last moment: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/apr/17/iraq-war-british-army). 

 

Furthermore, as is well known, British forces have been largely confined to Basra airport since September 2007.  So I’d be interested to know how you think Basra residents’ opinion of British forces have changed since then?  If indeed it has changed, then it can only be down to their absence, surely?

 

Kind regards

 

Ian Sinclair

 

 

To: Ian Sinclair

From: Roger Alton

 

Crikey …  the poll you refer to was done in 2007, its now 2009, and a lot has happened since , not least the American Iraqi op in Basra

 

best

 

Roger Alton

 

To: Roger Alton

From: Ian Sinclair

Dear Mr Alton

 

Thank you for taking the time to read and reply to my email.

 

I don’t want to take up too much of your time, but you seem to have misunderstood my email.  This isn’t about whether you or I agree or disagree over Iraq, but your decision to ignore extremely pertinent evidence when discussing how Basra residents perceive the British occupation.

 

Surely it is elementary intellectual honesty to weigh up the relevant evidence (in this instance the BBC Newsnight poll I mention), before you come down on one side of an argument?

 

So again, I would politely ask, were you aware of this BBC Newsnight poll when you wrote the editorial?  And if so, why didn’t you mention it?

 

I look forward to hearing from you.

 

Kind regards

 

Ian Sinclair

 

 

To: Ian Sinclair

From: Roger Alton

 

I think we probably disagree about  most of this …   if I had written a personal leader rather than one which is the voice of the paper and leader writers, I would have been much more in favour of the intervention,  though not necessarily its subsequent handling,  as anyone who knows me knows …

 

best

 

Roger Alton

 

 

To: Roger Alton

From: Ian Sinclair

 

Dear Mr Alton

 

I read with interest your recent editorial on  titled ‘A timely end to an unwise and mismanaged intervention’ (http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/leading-articles/leading-article-a-timely-end-to-an-unwise-and-mismanaged-intervention-1676346.html), in which you note “Our immediate bequest to southern Iraq is, at best, neutral. We hope that, as time passes, the judgement of Iraqis themselves might be kinder.”

 

Not that you would know from your editorial, but we already have a good idea of what Basra residents think of the British occupation.  I am referring to the results of a December 2007 BBC Newsnight opinion poll of Basra residents that found "only 2% of Basra residents believe that British troops have had a positive effect on the province since they helped the US overthrow Saddam Hussein in March 2003. An overwhelming majority of 86% felt British troops had had a negative effect."  (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/7144437.stm). 

 

The poll also found "a total of 83% of those surveyed said they wanted British troops to leave Iraq, including 63% who wanted them to leave the Middle East altogether" and that "56% believe their presence has increased the overall level of militia violence."

 

Were you aware of this poll?  If so, could you tell me why you failed to mention it in your editorial?   I ask because it is clearly very important evidence because 1) as far as I am aware, it is the only publicly available survey of Basra residents and 2) it completely contradicts most of the mainstream news coverage of the UK withdrawal from Basra.

 

I look forward to hearing from you.

 

Kind regards

 

Ian Sinclair 

 

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