With President Bush's original goal of establishing "a beacon of liberty in the Middle East" no longer operative, what, exactly, is the administration's goal for Iraq?
An independent government report released yesterday said there isn't one. The U.S. doesn't have a "National strategy for victory in Iraq" and, more specifically, a plan to rebuild the country's government and oil-based economy.
The Government Accountability Office report assailed "the lack of strategies with purpose, scope, role and responsibilities and performance measures" in securing and stabilizing Iraq. And the U.S. is not following through on the three broadly agreed upon strategies it previously outlined:
1. A unified U.S. Government: The State Department and Department of Defense continue to wage fierce bureaucratic battles for rebuilding, leading to a lack of coordination of what the GAO's Joseph Christoff calls the "basic, operational level."
2. An engaged Iraqi Government: Of the $10 billion the Iraqi government dedicated toward reconstruction in 2007, only 24 percent has been spent. And next year the Iraqis plan to spend only $4 billion toward a more stable government and economy.
3. International Support: With the U.S. already having spent more than $40 billion on reconstruction projects, a grand total of $15.6 billion in non-U.S. money has been pledged to rebuild Iraq, $11 billion of which is loans. The GAO could not say how much, if any, of this money has actually been granted.
So a divided U.S. government going at the rebuilding alone has predictably led to waste, fraud and abuse. The GAO's Christoff says there is "bad bookkeeping" which has most dramatically led to "190,000 missing weapons" and a "Ministry of the Interior with a different militia for each of their floors."
The Iraq news is not all bad. An Iraqi Inspector General's report also released yesterday showed that American casualties are at their lowest since February 2006. And Iraq's electricity output has reached its highest daily level, in megawatts, since the 2003 invasion. In fact, the trends described circa the Petraeus report to Congress have clearly continued: the surge has made Iraq relatively more secure but there is no indication of the political calm it was supposed to bring.
Congress has yet to approve Bush's request of $196 billion on war funding. And the President has- surprise, surprise- equated their reticence with a failure to support the troops. But if the government reports are correct, even if the troops are being "supported" they have not been given a plan to succeed.