According to the report, which was required by Congress, progress has been “satisfactory” on eight of the benchmarks, “unsatisfactory” on another eight, and mixed on two. At his press conference this morning, President Bush, seeing the glass half full, pronounced the report “a cause for optimism”—and for staying on course.
Yet a close look at the 25-page report reveals a far more dismal picture and a deliberately distorted assessment. The eight instances of “satisfactory” progress are not at all satisfactory by any reasonable measure—or, in some cases, they indicate a purely procedural advance. The eight “unsatisfactory” categories concern the central issues of Iraqi politics—the disputes that must be resolved if Iraq is to be a viable state and if the U.S. mission is to have the slightest chance of success.
USA Today has obtained an Army report implicating Iraqi police in a January, 2007 insurgent raid during which four U.S. troops were captured and later slain. The story notes that the new Pentagon spokesman in Iraq, Brigadier General Kevin Bergner, gave a briefing last week blaming Iran for the attack but neglecting to mention the complicity of the Iraqi police.
Like being shot by a sniper on the western front at 10.59am on November 11, 1918, to die now as a British soldier in Iraq is its own special category of tragedy. What has he died for? Is Iraq a safer and more secure place? Is the rest of the world, including Britain, likewise? Is the Middle East more democratic, more optimistic of its future? But adjust these lofty aims: is the price of oil lower? The answer is not just that these things have stayed much the same; it is in all cases the incendiary opposite. Worse than all this futility, worse even than the bogus prospectus for the invasion that took him there in the first place, the dead soldier will know in the last days of his life that only a small number of his fellow citizens want him and his comrades to be there