Sunday, June 05, 2005

THIS ARTICLE in the Washington Post should make it clear why we liberal bloggers call our community "reality-based." It's because of this kind of rosy optimism about Iraq in the face of mountains of evidence to the contrary.

President Bush's portrayal of a wilting insurgency in Iraq at a time of escalating violence and insecurity throughout the country is reviving the debate over the administration's Iraq strategy and the accuracy of its upbeat claims.

While Bush and Vice President Cheney offer optimistic assessments of the situation, a fresh wave of car bombings and other attacks killed 80 U.S. soldiers and more than 700 Iraqis last month alone and prompted Iraqi leaders to appeal to the administration for greater help. Privately, some administration officials have concluded the violence will not subside through this year.

The disconnect between Rose Garden optimism and Baghdad pessimism, according to government officials and independent analysts, stems not only from Bush's focus on tentative signs of long-term progress but also from the shrinking range of policy options available to him if he is wrong. Having set out on a course of trying to stand up a new constitutional, elected government with the security firepower to defend itself, Bush finds himself locked into a strategy that, even if it proves successful, foreshadows many more deadly months to come first, analysts said.

The good news is that at least some Democrats are starting to realize that they weren't wrong about Iraq and don't have to apologize for having opposed the war; and that even Republicans are getting fed up with Pres. Bush's stubborn, childlike refusal to acknowledge reality.

Military commanders in Iraq privately told a visiting congressional delegation last week that the United States is at least two years away from adequately training a viable Iraqi military but that it is no longer reasonable to consider augmenting U.S. troops already strained by the two-year operation, said Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.). "The idea that the insurgents are on the run and we are about to turn the corner, I did not hear that from anybody," Biden said in an interview.
"It's dangerous when U.S. officials start to believe their own propaganda," said David L. Phillips, a former State Department consultant who worked on Iraq planning but quit in frustration in 2003 and has written a book called "Losing Iraq: Inside the Postwar Reconstruction Fiasco." "I have no doubt that they genuinely think that Iraq is a smashing success and a milestone in their forward freedom strategy. But if you ask Iraqis, they have a different opinion."

Phillips added that U.S. officials keep pointing to landmarks such as the January elections as turning points but "at no point have any of these milestones proven to be breakthroughs."

Atrios thinks "the importance of this ... article cannot be overstated," because of what it reveals about the growing willingness of both Democrats and Republicans to openly criticize Bush's assessments of conditions in Iraq.

To me, the weirdest -- and, frankly, scariest -- thing about the White House's "everything is going just great" statements is how it's so out of synch with the shift in public opinion regarding the war.

A poll conducted last month by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press found that only 37 percent of those surveyed approved of Bush's Iraq policy, while the number of people telling pollsters the war was not worth the cost has been rising in recent months.

What makes this disconnect even more bizarre is that the steady stream of embarrassing and politically damaging events that have undercut every single claim Bush made about this war has not had the slightest effect on the way Bush approaches the public discussion.

... the administration's assertions about Iraq have been a source of controversy since the earliest days of the operation, from the insistence that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction to Cheney's claim of links between Iraq and al Qaeda to the rosy forecasts about how welcome U.S. troops would be.

Yet Bush and Cheney continue to assess the situation in Iraq in ways that they must know will blow up in their faces with each day's news.

Or maybe they don't know. I guess that's what believing your own propaganda is all about.

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