the moment of [relative] truth…

Posted on Thursday 30 August 2007

GAO Draft at Odds With White House

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."
Long ago, the Greek Philosopher Pyrrho of Elis made one of the first formal challenges to the natural tendency of human beings to believe that their own thoughts are true. His school of thought was known as Skepticism. He said that there was no such thing as absolute truth – believing that the goal was rather relative truth. Over time, this ancient philosophy evolved into what’s called the scientific method, a set of rigorous principles to avoid treating opinion as fact. In the realm of human psychology, Sigmund Freud began the study of how selfish motives could distort logical conclusions. And in our government, we’ve instituted any number of "checks and balances" – oversight – to keep our leaders from making the mistakes of the absolute monarchs and despots of previous times. The Government Accountability Office is such an Agency. It exists only to examine our programs to see if the claims of people emotionally or otherwise invested in a given program are justified – to keep people from "cooking the books" or falling into their personal "blind spots."

We all know what’s happening right now. We’ve been through it all before with the War in Iraq, over and over. Having unseated Saddam Hussein in Iraq, we found ourselves occuppying a country that was an illusion. It’s not a country. It’s a group of warring factions who were only tied together by force, the force we removed. Many of us opposed invading Iraq in the first place, but that’s behind us. We can’t "uninvade." So, for four years, we’ve been placed in a holding pattern trying to create a government that would bring stability to that intrinsically unstable place. It is apparent that we are trying to do something that either cannot be done or, at least, cannot be done by us. At the end of last year, an oversight committee, the Iraq Study Group, concluded that we had a failed policy and proposed a number of ways to extricate ourselves. The architects of this war heeded none of their advice and invented something called "the Surge."

We have any number of signs about what’s going to happen now. The architects agreed to re-evaluate "the Surge" in September, after nine months. Now they are campaigning to have us believe that "the Surge is working." It’s in every speech. They’ve hired an ad agency to sell it. They’ve asked for some huge appropriation to enforce continuing the war. They’ve done everything possible to "cook the books." Their "blind spots" are a matter of public record. And today, some patriot in the Government Accountability Office has leaked the report of our oversight agency – because they know we won’t see it otherwise.

We know what to do now… 

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