Reading the White House’s report, released Thursday, on whether President Bush’s January 2007 “surge” of 30,000 troops is working, you’d never know that a real-life, flesh-and-blood war is being waged in Iraq, with hundreds of people maimed and killed every day. You’d never know that May 2007 was the most violent month in that violent war in nearly three years, with 6,039 attacks on US and Iraqi government forces, 1,348 IEDs exploded under their vehicles, 286 “complex ambushes” involving roadside bombs and coordinated teams of attackers, 102 car bombs, 126 American soldiers killed and 652 wounded.
The report doesn’t mention that Gen. David Petraeus, the US commander in Iraq, warned this week that the resistance in Iraq is preparing a Tet-style offensive, like the one launched in January 1968 by the Viet Cong in South Vietnam. The insurgents, Petraeus said, intend to “pull off a variety of sensational attacks and grab the headlines to create a ‘mini-Tet.‘”
Instead, in bland, bureaucratic language–its title is Initial Benchmark Assessment Report–the White House has substituted spin for substance: “We have carefully examined all the facts and circumstances with respect to each of the 18 benchmarks and asked the following question: As measured from a January 2007 baseline, do we assess that present trend data demonstrates a positive trajectory, which is tracking toward satisfactory accomplishment in the near term?”
The report says some progress is being made on its stated goals; for others, not so much, or none at all. But in reality, none–zero, zilch, nada–have been met. Last January, when the President announced the escalation by adding at least 30,000 US troops to the occupation force, he justified it by declaring that within six months it would show results, stabilizing the Iraqi capital and creating space for political reconciliation, security and economic progress. But things are demonstrably worse: Violence is up, and the Iraqi government is falling apart.
At his news conference Thursday, Bush simply ignored his promise that the surge would take six months to work. Instead, he argued that the surge is just beginning, now that the troops are finally in place. “It takes a while to move our troops, as the experts know,” said Bush. “You just can’t load them all in one airplane or one big ship and get them into theater. We had to stage the arrival of our troops. And after they arrived in Iraq, it took a while to get them into their missions.”
Now that they are in place, is Iraq making progress on amending its divisive, flagrantly biased constitution? No. Is Iraq reintegrating some of the 2 million former Baathists back into government and society? No. Has Iraq enacted an oil law that guarantees a fair division of the country’s chief source of wealth? No. Provincial elections? No. Amnesty for armed resistance members? No. Have the militias been disarmed and demobilized? No. What about a justice system, an army and police not controlled by militias? No. And after spending $19 billion to train and equip 350,000 Iraqi security forces, and then tasking US troops in 2007 with a specific mission to bring Iraqi forces into the effort, are the Iraqi forces getting stronger? “There has been a slight reduction in units assessed as capable of independent operations since January 2007,” says the report.