Truth very much a casualty in Iraq’s ‘progress’ politics

Published 2:08 am Monday, September 17, 2007

By Staff
Gen. David Petraeus told Congress last week in his much-anticipated report on the effectiveness of the troop "surge" that progress has been made improving security in Iraq.
"Progress" does not apparently include 1,800 civilian deaths recorded last month – the second-highest monthly total this year.
President Bush says the troop surge is working and we must (again) stay the course.
Democrats, who supposedly control Congress, reiterate the surge has failed and that it's time to bring the troops home, but they don't cut the purse strings.
The Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report saying Iraqis failed to meet 11 of 18 security goals since the surge began.
The administration and other Republican leaders, who toe a much harder bottom line when it comes to gauging children's classroom learning in "No Child Left Behind," counter that Iraqis made progress reaching their goals, so should be given high marks for effort.
"The GAO report really amounts to asking someone to kick an 80-yard field goal and criticizing them when they came up 20 or 25 yards short," said House GOP leader John Boehner of Ohio.
"The real question that people have is: What's going on in Iraq? Are we making progress? Militarily, is the surge having an impact? The answer is yes. There's no question about it," departing White House spokesman Tony Snow said.
Unless you ask Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., who said, "No matter what spin we may hear in the coming days, this independent assessment is a failing grade for a policy that simply isn't working."
They can't both be right, so which is it? Americans wonder against the backdrop they do know – more than 80 American service members died in Iraq during August and, on Thursday, days after Petraeus told Congress violence has declined, a Sunni sheik who stood up to al-Qaeda, Abdul-Sattar Abu Risha, was assassinated.
Political posturing is committed by both parties, such as House Majority Whip James Clyburn, D-S.C., who admitted in July that positive news from Petraeus "would be a problem for us."
Americans who don't have a horse in this race except their loved ones doing the fighting and dying have had it with political posturing, self-serving spin, false optimism, false pessimism and worthless explanations.
They, who are funding this fight, just want the truth in the form of an honest war assessment. Thousands of them marched to the Capitol on Saturday to protest the Iraq war, including suburban moms, Iraq veterans and teens.
"I think the people have just had it," said one 42-year-old mom from Silver Spring, Md., who works for a school district.
"The last time I saw anything like this was the Vietnam era," a Kentucky man said.
"Gen. Petraeus will say, 'Progress is being made but we need to give the surge more time.' The Democrats will cry, 'Get them out now.' And the Republicans will say, 'We don't know what to think. We want to get re-elected.' "
That succinct assessment came from a soldier in Iraq, 2nd Lt. Kyle Graham, a 23-year-old West Point graduate.
It would be understandable if skeptical Americans do not accept without question the notion that we have made any progress in Iraq and that any alleged progress has anything to do with the Bush administration's surge strategy, or whether we are being led down the same path of cherry-picked data to serve a particular political end.
One thing accomplished last week is that Gen. Petraeus has been positioned to be the scapegoat, as Gen. Colin Powell once was. It's now his war.
Since we have been misled so many times over the past six years, it's hard not to be skeptical of reports coming from Commander in Chief Bush and military leaders under his command. Gen. George Casey, Army chief of staff, reminded us last month, "The demand for our forces exceeds the sustainable supply."
Further dependence on American troops will not create independence, but lead to years more of occupation.
Anti-American terrorists know that to optimize the impact of their next attack on the United States, the best time to strike is when America is weakened militarily and economically.
The Iraq invasion's endless drain of brave soldiers' lives and tax dollars advances both of these goals for terrorists.
Staying this course in Iraq could be playing right into the terrorists' hands. To return to the football analogy above, you don't attempt 80-yard field goals – you punt the ball.