Progress Unspun

It has been a tough few weeks for we Defeatocrats.  Those of us who are wishing so much for utter failure in Iraq and the complete destruction of our troops have found little to cheer about lately as first military progress started to rear its ugly head in the country we liberated.  Then, just as we tried to pull the old bait and switch in an attempt to get people to look away from the miracle that was the Anbar Awakening by begging people to look at the political failure, somehow there all of  a sudden was political progress in Iraq as well.  Drats!

Thank God the GAO was able to come through in our moment of need. (/sarcasm)

Okay, first, I have to take offense at being called a “Defeatocrat”  I like to think of myself as a “Not-wearing-Rose-colored-goggles-its-best-to look-at-the-situation-realistically-o-crat”.  It may not roll off the tongue quite as easily, mind you, but at least it has the benefit of being truthful.  Heh, I suppose it’s analogous to the difference between Republicans and Democrats in a way, you know, bumper sticker mentality versus nuance… nevermind.

Getting serious, I’ve always been more than just a little skeptical in regards to the so called military progress in Iraq that has become the battle cry of the pro-war crowd as of late.  The low troop death in July, I believe, has been skewed and taken out of the proper context rendering its actual meaning useless, and as Cernig points out, the Anbar Awakening isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, and to claim that it was a great victory for us is to come a little close to gilding the lily.

I mean, just look at the name, Anbar Awakening?  How pretentious is that?  Given the level of violence there in the past, I find it highly questionable to assume anyone there slept for very long, and when they did it was probably not with both eyes closed.

But that has been the order of the day.  Arrogance and hubris, through most of Bush’s term, actually, but definitely in recent weeks as the White House has struggled to “turn the corner” in the PR war between its failed war policies, and the growing ire of the American public.  All in an effort to stop September from becoming the beginning of the end so many people are hoping it will be.

But today, the administration finds itself coming up against a very severe obstacle.  As reported by WaPo’s Karen DeYoung and Thomas E. Ricks, the GAO (Government Accountability Office) plans on releasing its own progress report Tuesday, and the news is not particularly good for the Iraq War Forever crowd.

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.

The draft provides a stark assessment of the tactical effects of the current U.S.-led counteroffensive to secure Baghdad. “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.”

Oh, that’s gonna hurt.

For instance, I find it interesting that while the administration found in July that there had been adequate progress in nearly half of the the benchmarks established by congress, the GAO reports that only three have actually been met according to deadline.  What gives?  After all this “progress” have we actually managed to regress in Iraq?  Or, as I thought back in July, was the July report merely just a bunch of bullshit?  We report, you decide.

Further, another interesting aspect of this is the commentary provided on troop death vs. civillian death which I find particularly significant.  If we look at the situation in Iraq as it truly is, not an us vs. them conflict but instead a very complex civil war, then the effects of troop death in regards to success in Iraq is not as significant as one would think.  Now, before someone takes me out of context, look, every troop death is a tragedy.  Every soldier that doesn’t come home alive is not merely a number or a flag draped coffin, but a family devestated; mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, brothers and sisters all lost forever, leaving in their wake shattered loved ones.

But if we are to honestly look at the nature of what is going on in Iraq and true indicators of success and failure and bringing things to an amenable solution, troop death doesn’t figure into the calculations all that heavily.  Particularly not when weighed against the gravity of Iraqi civillian death.  As I said before this is a highly complex civil war waged between a multitude of factions only very loosely tied together under the labels of Sunni, Shia, and Kurds.  Even within this supergroups there is often violent and catastrophic infighting, for instance that of the SCIRI and the Sadrist Shia who only seem to calm down on their violence towards each other when it’s time to go after the US.  Equally similar would be the animosity between AQI which had been in the past loosely affiliated(by this I mean they had a flair for going after Shia symbolic targets) with the Sunni Insurgency, and the Islamic Army.

In other words, the first step to realistically approaching the Iraq conflict is understanding that the prime metric to be looked at here is not US death, but Iraqi death, which the GAO has reported did not significantly drop.  Of course, I find this entire aspect of the argument interesting for a single reason.  It is not US policy to track Iraqi civillian death, forcing those who wish to know to pool data from external sources.

This single fact, in my opinion, is one of the greatest indicators that Bush and the latter day architects of this war still fail to fully grasp the reality of the situation they have found themselves in.  There can be no true progress in Iraq until we start focusing on the right metrics, and yet we continue not to.

So does this mean that all of a sudden we’ll be treated to a realistic and honest and unspun progress report in September, allowing both administration officials and congressional legislators to proceed with the best possible information as opposed to politically charged and disingenuous data?  Don’t bet on it:

The person who provided the draft report to The Post said it was being conveyed from a government official who feared that its pessimistic conclusions would be watered down in the final version — as some officials have said happened with security judgments in this month’s National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq. Congress requested the GAO report, along with an assessment of the Iraqi security forces by an independent commission headed by retired Marine Gen. James L. Jones, to provide a basis for comparison with the administration’s scorecard. The Jones report is also scheduled for delivery next week.

Asked to comment on the GAO draft, White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe said, “General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker are there on the ground every day in Iraq, and it’s important to wait to hear what they have to say.” He disputed any suggestion that the July White House assessment did not consider all internal views, noting that it resulted from “a lengthy and far-reaching process throughout the State and Defense departments and other agencies.”

Johndroe emphasized that “while we’ve all seen progress in some areas, especially on the security front, it’s not surprising the GAO would make this assessment, given the difficult congressionally mandated measurement they had to follow.”

Bullshit.  According to the article, the report was released because officials within the GAO were not only concerned about the potential for spinning in the highly publicized Patreaus report, but also they feared a softening of their OWN report.

All of which brings me to my final point which I seem to repeat several times a week.  How on God’s green Earth are we expected to proceed judiciously and prudently in rectifying the chaos we caused in Iraq if the administration is so concerned with its own PR blitz that it is willing to ignore and treat with disdain the realities it is faced with?

4 Responses to “Progress Unspun”

  1. xranger says:

    And how are we to proceed judiciously when the Democrat Congressional leadership may not even be in attendance at the Petraeus hearings, and have already written them off?

  2. Haven’t heard that yet, but then again, I’ll answer your question with a question; what would be the value of them attending if there is little to no value in the report itself?

    Oh, hey, while I’m thinking of it, can you email me sometime today? I have some news for you that might be interesting. Please do email me. I’ve been given something, and there are few people I can share it with, few that qualify, but as you revealed not long ago, you are just such a person. I won’t be able to check my home email until later tonight, but you will have a response by tomorrow morning.

  3. xranger says:

    I sent you an e-mail yesterday.

  4. weird.. never got it, what addy did you send it to?

    Just in case, try


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