July 12, 2007

Iraq Preliminary Benchmark Assessment: Pretty Good, Could Be Better

Hatched by Dafydd

Elite media reporting: not so good, vast room for improvement.

The White House has released its first, preliminary assessment of Iraq's progress during the counterinsurgency, Operation Phantom Thunder; and considering how short a time the operations have been fully manned and actually under way (only since June 15th), Iraq has already made quite remarkable progress. (The report can also be downloaded in HTML, rather than pdf.)

Nevertheless, there are areas -- mostly political -- that are lagging. This is exactly what we would expect: The purpose of the new strategy is to give Baghdad "breathing room" to enact the necessary legislation: oil and natural gas revenue sharing; initiating local elections; un-de-Baathification (letting former Baathists who do not have blood on their hands back into government and society); removing police units from sectarian, even militia control; and stopping political interference with military operations. Obviously, political gains will all come towards the end, after security has been reestablished. That's the whole point of the security operation.

By Big Lizards' independent count, seven of the 18 benchmarks are making satisfactory progress, five are not, and the last six are indeterminate for one of several reasons. Let's start with the good news...


Overall, of the 18 benchmarks established by Congress, Iraq has made clear, unambiguous, satisfactory progress on seven (39%):

  • (i) Forming a Constitutional Review Committee and then completing the constitutional review;
  • (iv) Enacting and implementing legislation on procedures to form semi-autonomous regions;
  • (viii) Establishing supporting political, media, economic, and services committees in support of the Baghdad Security Plan;
  • (ix) Providing three trained and ready Iraqi brigades to support Baghdad operations;
  • (xii) Ensuring that, as Prime Minister Maliki was quoted by President Bush as saying, “the Baghdad Security Plan will not provide a safe haven for any outlaws, regardless of [their] sectarian or political affiliation;”
  • (xiv) Establishing all of the planned joint security stations in neighborhoods across Baghdad;
  • (xvi) Ensuring that the rights of minority political parties in the Iraqi legislature are protected.


They have made clearly unsatisfactory progress on five benchmarks (28%):

  • (ii) Enacting and implementing legislation on de-Ba’athification reform;
  • (iii) Enacting and implementing legislation to ensure the equitable distribution of hydrocarbon resources to the people of Iraq without regard to the sect or ethnicity of recipients, and enacting and implementing legislation to ensure that the energy resources of Iraq benefit Sunni Arabs, Shi’a Arabs, Kurds, and other Iraqi citizens in an equitable manner;
  • (x) Providing Iraqi commanders with all authorities to execute this plan and to make tactical and operational decisions in consultation with U.S. Commanders without political intervention to include the authority to pursue all extremists including Sunni insurgents and Shiite militias;
  • (xv) Increasing the number of Iraqi security forces units capable of operating independently;
  • (xviii) Ensuring that Iraq’s political authorities are not undermining or making false accusations against members of the ISF.

Mixed or inappropriate measures

The remaining six benchmarks (33%) either show mixed results, or else facts on the ground indicate that they are not appropriate metrics at this time:

  • (v) Enacting and implementing legislation establishing an Independent High Electoral Commission, provincial elections law, provincial council authorities, and a date for provincial elections.

This is a multi-part benchmark; the first part -- establishing the electoral commission -- is proceeding satisfactorally, but establishing the law for local elections has not yet happened. Thus, parts 3 and 4 cannot yet be implemented, as they await the law.

  • (vi) Enacting and implementing legislation addressing amnesty [of those who fought against the Coalition or against the new Iraqi government].

The White House and Pentagon believe that the conditions on the ground are not yet ripe for a general amnesty; it's more important to continue to turn more and more Sunnis against al-Qaeda and Shia against the miltias. Once the fighting is over, then it may be time to talk about a general amnesty; but not while the war still rages.

  • (vii) Enacting and implementing legislation establishing a strong militia disarmament program to ensure that such security forces are accountable only to the central government and loyal to the constitution of Iraq.

Again, the Pentagon, the State Department, and even the U.N. do not believe this is the right time to enage in DDR (Disarmament, Demobilization, and Reintegration):

Assessment: The prerequisites for a successful militia disarmament program are not present. In fact, international experts, including the U.N., have expressed reservations to advancing this proposal at the present time. The U.N. DDR Advisory Mission to Baghdad Report (April 25 - May 2, 2007) stated, “The Iraq environment makes it most unlikely that traditional DDR can take place, and planning should take this into account.” Likewise, a State Department internal review has shown that the timing is not right for a full-scale DDR program in Iraq. Given the absence of the necessary conditions for DDR, the absence of legislation on militia disarmament has had no effect. The current plan and strategy calls for the passage of such legislation when the necessary conditions are present.

It is silly to count as "unsatisfactory" a benchmark that was premature to begin with; such an assessment does not adequately convey what is actually happening.

  • (xi) Ensuring that Iraqi Security Forces are providing even-handed enforcement of the law.

In this case, much progress has been made; but because we have set such a high standard, they had to say "unsatisfactory."

However, simply saying progress has not been satisfactory gives entirely the wrong impression. As the report says:

Assessment: The Government of Iraq has not at this time made satisfactory progress in ensuring that Iraqi Security Forces are providing even-handed enforcement of the law; however, there has been significant progress in achieving increased even-handedness through the use of coalition partnering and embedded-transition teams with Iraqi Security Force units. The presence of Coalition Forces in JSSs and Combat Outposts (COPs) has had a positive effect on ensuring a more even-handed approach, and Iraqi officials continue to communicate the importance that all terrorist organizations be targeted, regardless of their affiliation or ethnic background. ISF performance has generally been adequate, particularly when partnered with Coalition Forces.

This is another mixed benchmark: They're making progress, but the standard for measuring the benchmark was set much too optimistically. Simply saying they're not making satisfactory progress masks the extraordinary progress they have made, especially considering the starting point last year.

  • (xiii) Reducing the level of sectarian violence in Iraq and eliminating militia control of local security.

Another two parter: The level of sectarian violence in Iraq is down substantially; but there are still too many local security units infiltrated by Shiite or Sunni militias.

  • (xvii) Allocating and spending $10 billion in Iraqi revenues for reconstruction projects, including delivery of essential services, on an equitable basis.

This benchmark has subtlely mixed results: Iraq has made satisfactory progress in allocating the $10 billion; but infrastructure is not yet present for them to spend it.

Elite media disinformation campaign

The final score is thus 39% positive, 28% negative, and 33% mixed or inappropriate measures. This is actually a remarkably good score, considering conditions in 2006.

But that's not what the drive-by media wanted to see. It's not even what their double-secret sources told them: They predicted that the assessment would be "gloomy," would show a lack of progress, and would be more fodder for the Democrats' psalm of surrender.

Thus, they reacted as one would expect from people whose overriding interest is saving the world -- meaning "saving the world from George Bush and the Republicans" -- not reporting facts: They simply ignored the differences between their expectation and the reality... and reported the expectation.

Thus, virtually every news source, from AP to the New York Times to the Washington Post to the Los Angeles Times, and even the Fox News report, falsely claims that there were eight satisfactory benchmarks, eight unsatisfactory ones, and only two mixed -- instead of the seven sats, five unsats, and six mixed one gets from a realistic assessment of the assessment.

I suspect many media sources simply played follow-the-leader without doing their own independent count (as we do above); but the ringleaders knew exactly what they were doing... they were lying.

What is the point of this falsehood? Simple: If the score is 39% to 28%, then clearly the report is overall positive. But if instead it's 44% to 44%, then it's at best disappointing, and perhaps overall negative, if the media decide (as most do) that a tie goes to the cut-and-runner.

As usual, the LA Times is the most aggressive, heading their story "Iraq's failure on benchmarks is fodder for Democrats." The others have more neutral headlines, through they emphasize the negative in the story itself. For example, here is the lede from the WaPo piece:

Iraqi progress on political and military goals sought by Congress has been mixed during the past several months, with slow advances toward some of the targets and paralysis or even reverses in other areas, the White House said today in a much-anticipated assessment.

What, nothing is actually going well? Did we read the same report? (Answer: No; Big Lizards read the report... the Post reread their stories from yesterday, before the report was released.)

AP summarizes (or caricatures) the report thus:

The report said that despite progress on some fronts by the government of Nouri al-Maliki, "the security situation in Iraq remains complex and extremely challenging," the "economic picture is uneven" and political reconciliation is lagging.

Considering this is a preliminary report compiled less than a month after Operation Phantom Thunder began, it's hardly surprising that security would still be "complex and extremely challenging." (All three vague charges could also apply to Iran, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and even Israel!)

Even the New York Times, which makes a faint effort to be even-handed, betrays its bias. They allow a number of hard-core Democratic leftists to negatively characterize the preliminary assessment -- Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 90%), Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-IL, 90%), Sen. Russell Feingold (D-WI, 100%), and Sen. John Kerry (D-Harvard, 95%) -- but did not ask the opinion of even a single Republican on Capitol Hill.

They also trot out a shopworn Democratic talking point:

Asked why he was resistant to the idea of a change of course in Iraq, which has found wide support among Americans in recent polls, Mr. Bush said he was not surprised that there was deep concern. “I believe we can succeed,” he said, “and I believe we are making security progress that will enable the political track to succeed as well.”

Mr. Bush has said repeatedly that he is willing to be flexible on Iraq strategy and tactics, but that he will be guided by his military commanders, not by opinion surveys.

But what they fail to quote is the long section after the first part of Bush's answer in which he argues that he did change course, disputing the fundamental premise of the Democratic position (and their elite-media water carriers):

I went to the country and said, I have made this decision. I said, What was happening on the ground is unsatisfactory in Iraq.

In consultation with a lot of folks, I came to the conclusion that we needed to send more troops into Iraq, not less, in order to provide stability, in order to be able to enhance the security of the people there.

And David asked for a certain number of troops. David Petraeus asked for a certain number. General Petraeus asked for a certain number of troops. And he just got them a couple of weeks ago....

Since the reinforcements arrived, things have changed.

For example, I would remind you that Anbar province was considered lost. Maybe some of you reported that last fall.

And yet today, because of what we call bottom-up reconciliation, Anbar province has changed dramatically.

The same thing is now beginning to happen in Diyala province.

There are neighborhoods in Baghdad where violence is down. There are still car bombs, most of which have the Al Qaida signature on them.

But they're declining, you know. So there's some measurable progress.

So the Times is still up to its old tricks; but even they were forced to admit much progress, according to the report that yesterday they predicted would report virtually no progress at all.

Their wannabe namesake, the LA Times, has the most absurd take: They imagine that the very idea of measuring benchmarks was a "costly blunder", leading to fury among unnamed administration or military "officials":

The Bush administration's decision to set benchmarks for measuring the progress of the Iraq mission is now seen by some U.S. officials as a costly blunder that has only aided the White House's critics in Congress and its foes in Iraq.

When they began publicizing the benchmarks a year ago, administration officials saw them as realistic goals that would prod the Iraqi government toward reconciliation, while helping sustain political support for the effort at home. The yardsticks include steps vital to Iraq's stability: passage of a law to divide oil revenue among the key communities, reforms to allow more members of Saddam Hussein's party back into the government, and elections to divide power in the provinces.

Yet now, with the major goals still out of reach, the administration is playing down their importance. Administration officials instead are emphasizing other goals -- some of which are less ambitious but have been attained....

In private, many officials were more scathing in their critique, saying that defining the goals in such a way galvanized resistance in Iraq and gave war critics a way to argue that the U.S. mission was falling short.

"You better believe it was a mistake," said a Pentagon official who spoke on condition of anonymity when criticizing administration policy. "In any armed conflict, trying to predict the future is folly. You are setting up some degree of failure."

So all in all, if I had to give Iraq a letter grade on the benchmarks established by the administration, I would have to allocate a B-. It would be a C+, except that three of the six "mixed or inappropriate" benchmarks shouldn't be counted at all. Thus, the proper percent is 7 satisfactory assessments out of 15 valid benchmarks, or 47% positive, compared to 5 out of 15 (33%) negative, which is signficantly more positive than negative.

But grading the elite media's coverage, I have to give them a D+... they didn't so much report on what was actually in the interim report, as repeat and justify what they expected and predicted would be there; they warped their coverage to justify what they wrote earlier, rather than just reporting straight.

So a B- for Iraq and a D+ for the media; looks like both have shown improvement!

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, July 12, 2007, at the time of 5:45 PM

Trackback Pings

TrackBack URL for this hissing: http://biglizards.net/mt3.36/earendiltrack.cgi/2249


The following hissed in response by: Terrye

Hey, at least the Iraqis are trying to accomplish something. Our Senate can not even pass immigration reform.

In truth I hear that the House voted to run for the hills and abandon Iraq. However, they say we will leave troops there to fight terrorists, train Iraqis and protect US interests. How stupid is that? I mean how many troops?

Bush has promised a veto. Maybe his fellow Republicans can take a break from calling him a traitor and stand behind him here.

The above hissed in response by: Terrye [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 12, 2007 6:12 PM

The following hissed in response by: Big D

Today I listened to Harry Reid respond to a question from a ABC news reporter (and I paraphrase:

Q: "Do you believe that the security situation in Iraq will worsen if the U.S. leaves?"

A: 'Well, clearly the Iraqis don't want us there..." He went on for some time, but that was as close as he got to an answer.

I kept trying to figure it out. Did he say yes? No? Maybe? Then I realized, the Reid's real answer was "I don't care".

Don't care if the Iraqis slaughter each other.
Don't care if the U.S. is humiliated.
Don't care if Al Queda and Iran is emboldened.
Just don't FREAKIN' care. None of it matters to him. Or to the press.

That's when it hit me. The evil of the Jihadis, of September 11, the Taliban, of Hussein. It is just too overwhelming for the lefties. It puts a lie to too much of their preconcieved existentialist, valueless world. They can't comprehend it. They can't possibly face it. I cannot be snickered or sneered away. So it must be denied.

And they hate anyone, especially Bush, for puncturing that denial.

I say without malice that Reid, Pelosi, and many in the press are mentally ill. It is sad to watch.

The above hissed in response by: Big D [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 13, 2007 9:49 AM

Post a comment

Thanks for hissing in, . Now you can slither in with a comment, o wise. (sign out)

(If you haven't hissed a comment here before, you may need to be approved by the site owner before your comment will appear. Until then, it won't appear on the entry. Hang loose; don't shed your skin!)

Remember me unto the end of days?

© 2005-2009 by Dafydd ab Hugh - All Rights Reserved