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Tuesday, June 24

Left Hand and Right Hand

An article today in the Washington Post caught my eye, concerning two rather divergent views of how things are going in Iraq. The first report, put together by the Government Accounting Office (the investigative arm of the Congress) said that while the level of violence has indeed gone down - and that's a very good thing - the country remains little more than a basket case and many of the Bush Administration's political goals for the surge as set forth in January 2007 haven't been met.

Those goals included the passage of certain laws, which haven't been passed. Iraq's oil production targets also haven't been met, and the Iraqi government seems to be spending less money (giving rise in my suspicious mind that people are skimming from the till and squirreling the money away offshore).

Particularly damning seems to be the revelation that there didn't seem to be an plan in place for what to do after the troop escalation was done, whether to draw down the troops or to give the Iraqis even more Friedman Units in which to meet the goals.

Now, the Pentagon unveiled its own report, which paints rather a different picture. It concedes that the drop in violence, while a very good thing, is still very tenuous at best (witness the recent killings of US troops - six in the past week). It also criticizes the GAO for not taking into account the possible bad influence Syria and Iran might have for the continuing violence in parts of the country.

The Pentagon's report also states that there is no need to change the plan as it sits right now.

The article has a very interesting line in it: "In many respects, the two reports seemed to assess wholly different realities."

Indeed. Which got me thinking about a little passage from the book Vietnam: A History, by Stanley Karnow (Penguin Books, 1983). In 1963 President Kennedy sent two aides to South Vietnam on a fact-finding mission. One, an optimist, spoke mostly to US and South Vietnamese military officials; the other, a pessimist, spoke to urban bureaucrats and politicians.

When their reports were given to JFK on September 10, 1963 he asked, "You two did visit the same country didn't you?" (p. 293)

One might put the same question to the GAO and the Pentagon.

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