In the eye of the beholder

And it's not just beauty

It's almost time for the Petraeus-Crocker report on the situation "on the ground" in Iraq that we have been breathlessly awaiting all summer. It is, of course, perfectly obvious what they're going to say — they've been rehearsing bits of it in the PR blitz of the last few weeks. Petraeus has a history of seeing things through rose-colored glasses, and there's no reason to believe this time will be any different.

General David H Petraeus

In September of 2004 — conveniently just before the 2004 elections — Petraeus wrote an op-ed for the Washington Post (see sidebar) in which he painted a rapturously positive picture of Iraq progress:

  • "I see tangible progress."
  • "Iraqi leaders are stepping forward, leading their country and their security forces courageously"
  • "164,000 Iraqi police and soldiers ... and an additional 74,000 facility protection forces" are performing security missions
  • "Progress has also been made in police training.... By early spring, nine academies ... will be graduating a total of 5,000 police each month"
  • "In the months ahead, the 16,000-strong border force will expand to 24,000 and then 32,000" and provided with "modern technology"
  • "Equipment is being delivered.... Infrastructure is being repaired. Command and control structures and institutions are being established"

Three years later, the Independent Commission on the Security Forces of Iraq has found:

  • Border security forces are "ineffective"
  • "Adequate forcewide logistics capability is at least 24 months away"
  • The Ministry of Interior "is widely regarded as being dysfunctional and sectarian, and suffers from ineffective leadership"
  • "The Iraqi Police Service is incapable today of providing security at a level sufficient to protect Iraqi neighborhoods from insurgents and sectarian violence"
  • "The National Police should be disbanded and reorganized"
  • "In the next 12 to 18 months there will be continued improvement in their [Iraqi Security Forces] readiness and capability, but not the ability to operate independently"

Quite a diffferent reality than the one Petraeus claimed to see!

We already know that George W Bush is completely out of touch with reality. On Tuesday, he told Australia's deputy prime minister that "we're kicking ass" in Iraq (Sydney Morning Herald).

Stuart Carlson

It's hard enough to formulate good public policy when everyone agrees on what the problem is. It's doubly hard to do so in a poisonous atmosphere in which one side works from their "own reality."

When Petraeus and Crocker give their report to Congress, will the Republicans just sing Hallelujah and the Democrats cave, intimidated by a uniform and a chest full of medals? Will anybody force them to reconcile their vision of progress busting out all over with the other pictures being drawn of chaos almost everywhere? Will the press just roll over and repeat what Petraeus, Crocker, Bush, et al say, or will they do some reality checking? Will the American people be taken in again?