Carrying GWB's Water: GAO Shoots Holes In Bucket genre: Just Jihad & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

George Bush's Water

Oh I just can't wait for the good news...you know...the good news about the success of the surge and the progress being made on the political front in Iraq. With every nugget of good news, the Bush administration apologists race to report the shifting tide while also chiding the defeatist Democrats. You have to admire their fortitude...their undaunted willingness to push the rock back up the hill over and over again...as if to be reenacting the plight of the mythical Sisyphus.

Unfortunately, the rock appears poised to slide back down the hill once again with the release of the Government Accountability Office (GAO) report. According to a draft of the document, the White House has apparently engaged in an effort to offer an assessment that may well conflict with the more negative views found in the administration. In other the words, the spin doctors have been very busy in anticipation of the GAO report as well as the findings to be offered by General Petraeus in September.

To demonstrate the divide that exists between those who are carrying the President's water and the GAO assessment, I decided to put one statement next to the other and allow the reader to draw their own comparisons and conclusions.

From The Boston Globe:

Good news, but not for Democrats
By Jeff Jacoby | August 29, 2007

For months, observers have been crediting General David Petraeus's "surge" with remarkable progress on the ground. That message has come not only from longtime supporters of the war, but from some tough critics as well.

Michael O'Hanlon and Kenneth Pollack, analysts at the left-leaning Brookings Institution, jolted Washington with their July 30 op-ed column, "A War We Just Might Win." Eleven days later, the German newsmagazine Der Spiegel, which had long pronounced the war a misbegotten disaster, radically revised its view. "The US military is more successful in Iraq than the world wants to believe," journalist Ullrich Fichtner reported. So much so that the outcome the Bush administration "erroneously predicted before their invasion -- that the troops would be greeted with candy and flowers -- could in fact still come true."

More good news came just this week in a breakthrough announced by Iraq's top Shiite, Sunni, and Kurdish politicians. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, President Jalal Talabani, Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi, Vice President Adel Abdul-Mahdi, and the Kurdish regional president, Massoud Barzani, are joining forces on legislation to settle some of the thorniest issues bedeviling Iraqi politics, including a national oil policy, an easing of de-Baathification, and the release of certain detainees.

For most Americans, positive developments in Iraq are very welcome. But good news is bad news for the Democratic left, where opposition to the war has become an emotional investment in defeat.

From The Washington Post:

Report Finds Little Progress On Iraq Goals
GAO Draft at Odds With White House
By Karen DeYoung and Thomas E. Ricks
Thursday, August 30, 2007

Iraq has failed to meet all but three of 18 congressionally mandated benchmarks for political and military progress, according to a draft of a Government Accountability Office report. The document questions whether some aspects of a more positive assessment by the White House last month adequately reflected the range of views the GAO found within the administration.

The strikingly negative GAO draft, which will be delivered to Congress in final form on Tuesday, comes as the White House prepares to deliver its own new benchmark report in the second week of September, along with congressional testimony from Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, and Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker. They are expected to describe significant security improvements and offer at least some promise for political reconciliation in Iraq.

"While the Baghdad security plan was intended to reduce sectarian violence, U.S. agencies differ on whether such violence has been reduced," it states. While there have been fewer attacks against U.S. forces, it notes, the number of attacks against Iraqi civilians remains unchanged. It also finds that "the capabilities of Iraqi security forces have not improved."

"Overall," the report concludes, "key legislation has not been passed, violence remains high, and it is unclear whether the Iraqi government will spend $10 billion in reconstruction funds," as promised. While it makes no policy recommendations, the draft suggests that future administration assessments "would be more useful" if they backed up their judgments with more details and "provided data on broader measures of violence from all relevant U.S. agencies."

Look, the bottom line is that the Bush administration is waging multiple wars...the ones in Afghanistan and Iraq...and the one at home designed to justify the quagmire in Iraq.

Jacoby's tortured defense cites the widely criticized O'Hanlon and Pollack article...the one that received broad criticism and which the authors felt compelled to point out that they had no input in deciding the title of the article...stating that it may have been too optimistic and inconsistent with their actual conclusions.

Worse still, Jacoby goes so far as to quote a German article which repeats the pre-war assessment of Dick Cheney that our soldiers would be greeted by candy and flowers. I hate to point this out to Jacoby, but that was nearly five years ago and at this point...assuming they ever existed...the candy is undoubtedly stale and the flowers have long since wilted. In fact, stale and wilted seems like a much better assessment of the situation...as well as the one voters seem much more inclined to accept.

Jacoby then pivots to discuss the al-Maliki government's announcement of political reconciliation...failing to acknowledge the fact that the government is being boycotted by nearly half of the cabinet or the fact that former Bush administration officials are actively seeking to unseat the al-Maliki government. Essentially, this announcement of a tentative meeting of the minds comprises a portion of what little progress is being reported by the GAO. Jacoby fails to mention the numerous other benchmarks that remain unmet.

Clearly, Jacoby is entitled to his optimism...but reality tells us that his article is little more than a biased attempt to build momentum for a failed strategy and an unpopular war. His final spin seeks to suggest that Democrats are falling all over themselves as they attempt to disavow themselves from their partisan negativity. His effort to depict the position of the Democrats as an "emotional investment" seems to be little more than a classic case of projection.

Suffice it to say that Jacoby's ginned up garble lacks substance, does little to impugn the position of the Democrats, and serves to highlight the desperation of the White House as it approaches the eleventh hour of a malaise which arguably mirrors a mythical tragedy.

The following excerpts from the Post article provide further contrast and cast additional doubt on the veracity of the Jacoby piece.

One of eight political benchmarks -- the protection of the rights of minority political parties in the Iraqi legislature -- has been achieved, according to the draft. On the others, including legislation on constitutional reform, new oil laws and de-Baathification, it assesses failure.

"Prospects for additional progress in enacting legislative benchmarks have been complicated by the withdrawal of 15 of 37 members of the Iraqi cabinet," it says. An internal administration assessment this month, the GAO says, concluded that "this boycott ends any claim by the Shi'ite-dominated coalition to be a government of national unity." An administration official involved in Iraq policy said that he did not know what specific interagency document the GAO was citing but noted that it is an accurate reflection of the views of many officials.

The GAO draft also says that the number of Iraqi army units capable of operating independently declined from 10 in March to six last month. The July White House report mentioned a "slight" decline in capable Iraqi units, without providing any numbers. The GAO also says, as did the White House in July, that the Iraqi government has intervened in military activities for political reasons, "resulting in some operations being based on sectarian interests."

The Bush administration and those inclined to defend it seem to be ignoring one crucial consideration...they fail to realize or accept that their campaign to tout progress cannot succeed without some actual progress. The American public is generally patient...but to assume that they are also stupid is a grave misjudgment.

George Bush may have little to lose at this point...but those within the GOP who are willing to ignore the message of the 2006 election do so at their own peril.

Tagged as: 2008 election, al Maliki Government, Democrats, GAO, George W. Bush, GOP, Iraq, Jeff Jacoby, Sectarian Conflict

Daniel DiRito | August 30, 2007 | 9:28 AM
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