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    15 August 2007

    Forget Bush's mid-September Report, Look for the GAO's

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    The LA Times reveled some insight on what we can expect mid-September in the report on the presidents "surge" in Iraq. It also reminded anyone remotely paying attention that the mid-September report--misleadingly referred to as the Petraeus-Crocker report--will be a political document written for, and only for, misleading the US audience into a continuation of failed policy.
    Despite Bush's repeated statements that the report will reflect evaluations by Petraeus and Ryan Crocker, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, administration officials said it would actually be written by the White House, with inputs from officials throughout the government.

    And though Petraeus and Crocker will present their recommendations on Capitol Hill, legislation passed by Congress leaves it to the president to decide how to interpret the report's data.

    One would hope that the frame "Petraeus-Crocker" would disappear, but it won't. One would hope people will see through this report, but they won't. For a quick reminder, here is what the President said, and has been saying of the much anticipated mid-September report. This is from his July assessment of "progress" in Iraq:
    I will repeat, as the Commander-in-Chief of a great military who has supported this military and will continue to support this military, not only with my -- with insisting that we get resources to them, but with -- by respecting the command structure, I'm going to wait for David to come back -- David Petraeus to come back and give us the report on what he sees. And then we'll use that data, that -- his report to work with the rest of the military chain of command, and members of Congress, to make another decision, if need be.

    That frame should end as well. This is not David's--David Petraeus' report, it is this administrations spin of Petraeus' mid-September briefing.

    If you think back, the July "Initial Benchmark Assessment Report" that claimed that "satisfactory performance" on nearly half of the proposed benchmarks was so fundamentally flawed that I doubt the White House can flaw it any more this time around. They set a fake bar, way too high, and now they won't be able to reach past it while still seeming realistic. They may have burned themselves (why they did this is a mystery, as they stated repeatedly that the July report came "a little less than a month after the full complement of troops arrived" in Iraq). Still, the bottom-line remains as plain as day. The premise was to "surge" in order to clear, hold and build. In that time political reconciliation and momentum was to be generated. We've done some of the former, but none of the latter. Prospects of this changing are slim to nil.

    This Presidents mid-September report will be a farce. The LA Times cites internal debate as such:
    "There were some in the drafting of the report that said, 'Well, we can claim progress,'" the administration official said. "There were others who said: 'Wait a second. Sure we can claim progress, but it's not credible to ... just neglect the fact that it's had no effect on the ground.'"

    Another tactic they are considering is to make Petraeus and Crocker visit Congress in a private congressional briefing and having Secretary Rice and Gates talk to the full Congress in the public domain. It's going to be all spin. An alternative to the Presidents mid-September report on his "surge" is the early September report carried out by the Government Accountability Office that will be apolitical and pragmatic not political and misleading.

    Posted by Geoff

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