Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Iraq Through GAO Glasses Darkly

Within the past two days, both the Department of Defense and the GAO have issued reports on Iraq. The DoD report is guardedly optimistic about Iraqi progress. It is an important report and I will summarize it separately. The GAO report is a partisan document that uses selective facts and data, ignores key facts, and seems written by people best described as 'bean counters.' As the Washington Post states, "the two reports seemed to assess wholly different realities." I beg to differ. Only one report documents reality, and it is clearly not the GAO report.

The GAO’s last major report on Iraq was, if I recall correctly, the document solicited by Democrats in the week before General Petraeus briefed Congress in September, 2007. That was the document all Democrats relied upon to suggest that General Petraeus was being highly dishonest about the success of the surge. In reviewing the GAO's most recent product, there seems to be no improvement in quality, veracity or objectivity.

The problems with the newly released GAO report are systemic. One, there is definitely a partisan bent that shows throughout the report in how data is presented to shine the worst possible light on Iraq. Two, this report is an attempt by bureaucrats and bean counters to find bright lines and right angles in a situation that has murky lines and is chock full of odd angles – and they are having a lot trouble digesting it. For example, the GAO makes a great deal out of the fact that no oil law is yet in place in Iraq. They completely ignore the fact that, while this law is still in negotiation, the situation is not broken simply because an oil law is not in place. They ignore that oil revenues are being shared and shared fairly.

Likewise is the GAO’s take on the vast improvements being made in Iraqi security forces. If one reads the GAO report, it is as if there has been little to any qualitative improvement occurring among Iraqi security forces since the September, 2007 GAO report. The GAO comes to it assessment of the lack of progress in Iraqi forces by cherry picking DOD data and, claiming as one of the reasons that the Iraqi forces are not making sufficient progress that Iraqi forces are overly “dependen[t] on U.S. and coalition forces.” The clear implication is that if we simply do an Obama and leave, the Iraqi forces will improve. Nowhere in the report is the greatest threat to Iraq – the mad mullahs next door who, incidently, threaten the Western world – even mentioned.

What I find most offensive about this report is that it claims a “new strategy” is needed in Iraq, apparently finding the surge planning insufficient and not achieving its goals. The precise contours of a change in strategy are only vaguely hinted at in the report, but it seems certain this conclusion is tailor made for Obama and the Democrats.

Having taken the time to read the GAO, I feel that I have been cheated out of two hours of my life. The DOD, Treasury, and State Dept. all have filed dissents from this report which are attached to the report as annexes. But make up your own mind. You can find the report with annexes here.

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