No One Saw This Coming

It’s funny in a hysterical, oh god this whole thing is sad, kind of way to watch a ridiculously neoconservative cheerleader of a news source accuse the left (read: congress, which is now under Democratic control) of being too “black and white”. And just before the exasperation there begins to fade out, you get this near euphoric, oh dear I just inhaled glue giddiness of the whole, “benchmarks were so last year” feel of this Weekly Standard bit of drivel.

But that’s starting you off in the middle of the movie. Let’s rewind it to the opening credits, shall we?

Last week, the GAO leaked a report that chronicled a more dismal picture of the Iraqi conflict than the Administration with it’s little Petraeus elf working in the wings had all summer.

The reason the report had been leaked was to avoid what pro-surgers had been hoping for; a thorough scrubbing from the White House in order to provide a homogenously sunny outlook for what’s going on over in Iraq. Perhaps, in its attempt to hold the government accountable, the Government Accountability Office, actually wanted to do its job… I know, I know, it’s a shock, but please, contain yourselves.

You see, there’s a good reason the GAO would be worried such a thing might happen. With public support for the Iraq War as low as it is, Bush is fighting an uphill battle to keep the war going as it is right now. People want out, and without some miraculous news in Iraq, elected officials are going to find their very jobs in danger if Congress doesn’t do something about US involvement in Iraq.

And so it is up to the Administration to continue to sell a war that it has already sold. Since the beginning of the “surge” goalposts have been moved over and over again both in scope and in time in order to keep Americans on our toes. For instance, at first it was to reduce violence to allow Iraq’s political leaders to work towards reconcilliation, and when that seemed unlikely, the whole political thing was ditched in place of just the hope that we can keep the violence down.

At this point, it would seem as though the new meme is an almost desperate, ‘If we leave now, more people will die,’ as though we don’t already know this.

And that’s the state of affairs right now.

But while the GAO was right to worry about the White House attempting to get its grubby mits on their report, what they failed to take into consideration were the cheerleaders who were willing to take the report and ravage it whether the White House had a hand in it or not.

From the Weekly Standard:

The GAO report reflects everything that has been wrong with the discussion about Iraq since the end of 2006. Through no fault of the GAO’s, the organization was sent on a fool’s errand by Congress. Its mandate was not to evaluate progress in Iraq, but to determine whether or not the Iraqi government had met the 18 benchmarks. As a result, as the report repeatedly notes, the GAO was forced to fit an extraordinarily complicated reality into a black-and-white, yes-or-no simplicity. In addition, the GAO’s remit extended only to evaluating progress on the Congressionally-sanctioned 18 benchmarks, 14 of which were established between eight and 11 months ago in a very different context. As a result, the report ignores completely a number of crucial positive developments that were not foreseen when the benchmarks were established and that, in fact, offer the prospect of a way forward that is much more likely to succeed than the year-old, top-down concept the GAO was told to measure. As the situation in Iraq has been changing dynamically over the past eight months, as American strategy and operations, both military and political, have been adjusting on the ground to new realities, the debate in Washington has remained mired in the preconceptions and approaches of 2006. The GAO report epitomizes this fact.

Which begs the question, if this is true, why did we care so much about the midway progress report which was delivered in July? Back then it was a huge deal, but maybe that was because the White House was able to scrub that one thoroughly to be about as pro-surge as it could get without being a fairy tale.

And then after that, the entire article becomes Anbar Anbar Anbar, a claim that is frankly only pro-surge if you look at it through the most rosy, black and white goggles available today. Realists look at the so-called Anbar Awakening, and like everything else in Iraq, see only another thing to be skeptical about.

Meanwhile, as the likes of the Standard are out there trying to impugn the integrity and validity of the GAO, you have Petraeus up there peddling the story we’ve all been expecting him to peddle.

But again, the GAO is ready to go.

Gen. David Petraeus has claimed that there has been a 75 percent reduction in sectarian violence. In testimony today before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, GAO Comptroller General David Walker said those statistics cannot be independently verified.

The GAO’s statistics, which extend through the end of July, demonstrate that the number of daily attacks against Iraqis remains unchanged. Walker said he the Pentagon has refused to provide him with the latest statistics. “We asked for but did not receive the information through the end of August.” he said. “They haven’t given us the data.”

While Walker wasn’t privy to the Pentagon’s information, Sen. Norm Coleman (R-MN) said he recently met with Gen. Petraeus and was shown “the data in August.” Coleman said the data is “very clear about a reduction in violence. General Petraeus has those charts,” Coleman explained. Walker responded by hinting that a classified version of the GAO report contains more explanation of the administration’s claims about reductions in sectarian violence. He said:

Without getting into detail, let’s just say there are several different sources within the administration on violence. And those sources do not agree. So I don’t know what Gen. Petraeus is giving you. I don’t know which source he’s using. But part of the problem we had in reaching a conclusion about sectarian violence is there are multiple sources showing different levels of violence with different trends.

Oh, and one of the reasons why the numbers Patraeus reports sound so good? Yeah, maybe that’s because they aren’t counting car bombs. Not that this should come as a big shock to anyone. We know that according to Bush, if you don’t count it, it doesn’t exist, kinda like how war funds aren’t really counted towards our deficit because they’re just immediately pushed to the National Debt. Yeah, that’s it. No one will ever find the money we owe there.

(*cough* China *cough*)

But there’s another reason to worry about this, and it requires a flashback:

-Aluminum tubes

-Attempts to buy plutonium from Nigeria

-Saddam had ties to al Qaeda

All claims used to get us into this war and more founded on faulty, single source intelligence. Which brings us to full circle. Not long ago I got into it with beloved reader and commenter X ranger, leading to this diatribe.

We know the outcome here, just like we know the outcome of what will happen when the Patreaus report is delivered, and so on and so forth.

And so all that is left to do is criticize. How can we even begin to, as Noonan says, work together when the same people who are calling the shots are not leveling with the American people, but instead releasing unsourced and mischaracterizing progress reports, running a political campaign not for a candidate but for a war, distributing OPPO rap sheets on anti-war legislators, playing up military progress when political progress is what is needed, etc. etc. etc.?

That’s the point. We want the bad shit in Iraq to be taken into consideration because nothing good will ever happen if it is continuously ignored for the sake of PR. I wrote that in a post not too long ago, a week or so maybe. I simply said I bet Bush would have a lot more success if he just came out, and laid it all out on the line, the bad and the good, but he not once ever does this, just like with his speech on the anniversary of Katrina, it’s always about the story he wants to tell and not the story in its entirety.

It’s called trust. From the run up to the Iraq war, to the surge, to the run up to our shiny new war with Iran that I’m sure will be coming along any day now, the administration has failed in every capacity to not only treat us with honesty, but its own policies. Until they do, how can we trust them to continue our presence in Iraq?

I can’t. Can you?

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