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GAO Dispels Bush's Iraq "Making Progress" Myth

August 30, 2007

Back in July, President Bush in his interim Iraq surge status report claimed progress that even some of his most fervent supporters viewed as pure fantasy. Now, just two weeks before General David Petraeus delivers his White House authored report to Congress, a new analysis from the GAO confirms the assessments of Bush's July delusion.
The draft report from the Government Accountability Office paints a much darker picture of the situation in Iraq. On July 12, President Bush again trumpeted "we're making progress" based on checking off 8 out of 18 Congressionally-mandated milestones. In contrast, the GAO analysis concluded that only three of the benchmarks had been reached.
The differences between the reports are striking, especially regarding the Bush administration's controversial - and unsupported - claims that violence and attacks against Iraqis have been reduced. As the Washington Post notes:

"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."

The draft GAO report is just the latest blow to the manufactured rosy scenarios on Iraq flowing from the White House. After President Bush declared "cause for optimism" in his interim report, the New York Times cataloged examples of the White House giving itself passing marks in areas showing little or no progress, including passing an oil law, revising the CPA's de-Baathification order and more. Earlier this week, Americans learned that the hastily released Iraq National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) was "softened" by General Petraeus himself in advance of his September 11 testimony to Congress. And that Petraeus presentation, of course, will feature the not-so-invisible hand of the White House. As ThinkProgress detailed this morning, it's no surprise that the White House is feverishly working to "water down" the final version of the GAO report.
The GAO study is just the latest case of President Bush being "mugged by reality", as neoconservatives are so famously fond of saying. But while the American people overwhelmingly recognize the facts on the ground in Iraq, President Bush will never acknowledge them. As Bush told the Veterans of Foreign Wars just last week, "a free Iraq" is within reach.
UPDATE: The AP is reporting more details on the White House and Pentagon efforts to dramatically alter the conclusions of the final GAO report before its public release. Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell confirmed that "We have provided the GAO with information which we believe will lead them to conclude that a few of the benchmark grades should be upgraded from 'not met' to 'met.'"


Jon Perr
Jon Perr is a technology marketing consultant and product strategist who writes about American politics and public policy.

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