I love the military. I loved every moment that I served my country. And though I've disagreed very strongly with the civilian leadership there during most of this administration, I hold the Pentagon in high regard and most of the people who work there.
So it hurts me to see three stories come out today, in quick succession, that weave together a picture of my military and Defense Department in a complete meltdown because of this president's failed policy in Iraq.
First, the Washington Post reported on the soon to be released Government Accountability Office (GAO) report that finds, more or less, that Iraq is in chaos. In finding that Iraq has met only three of the eighteen benchmarks President Bush agreed in May to lay out, the Post reports:
"Overall," the report concludes, "key legislation has not been passed, violence remains high, and it is unclear whether the Iraqi government will spend $10 billion in reconstruction funds," as promised. While it makes no policy recommendations, the draft suggests that future administration assessments "would be more useful" if they backed up their judgments with more details and "provided data on broader measures of violence from all relevant U.S. agencies."
That's the key. In challenging the administration to back up their words with facts, the GAO is not so gently suggesting that everything the administration has claimed about success in Iraq is smoke and mirrors.
Facts matter. They especially matter to those with some sense of responsibility at the Pentagon and in the military. That became abundantly clear when McClatchy News reported that the military won't make a single recommendation to the president on what course to pursue in Iraq. The story, detailed by my friend and VoteVets.org Vice Chairman Brandon Friedman here, has two very key quotes:
Military analysts called the move unusual for an institution that ordinarily does not air its differences in public, especially while its troops are deployed in combat.
Jeffrey White, a military analyst for the Washington Institute for Near East Policy...said it suggests that the military commanders want to be able to distance themselves from Iraq strategy by making it clear that whatever course is followed is the president's decision, not what commanders agreed on.
In short, those on the ground aren't seeing progress, and don't want to suggest a policy that would be based on the premise that progress is being made. They're not seeing progress with their eyes, and they don't see it in the statistics or facts.
The result is a Department of Defense and military that is going to speak with multiple voices. If you're a soldier on the ground, that's not what you want to hear.
And finally, yesterday the Washington Post reported that the president was going to request another $50 billion for efforts in Iraq. Today, his own Defense Secretary Robert Gates said to FOX News, via his spokesman, "That's news to me."
The president, in losing control of the war in Iraq and clinging to what he wants to see, and not the reality, now has nearly a full-scale revolt in his own military that just isn't willing to go along for the ride anymore. The GAO surely interviewed a number of people on the ground for their report and got messages that didn't support the administration. The military can't come to an agreement on what to tell the president other than that this is his problem now. And the Secretary of Defense, who has strayed from the White House message a number of times, learns of administration war funding proposals from the Washington Post.
I take no joy in seeing this happen. Our troops are the best in the world. As they are fighting and dying in 130 degree heat, they've had to look to the East to see an Iraqi government that didn't care and went on vacation. Now, they look back to the West and see their department falling apart like a neglected Pinto, because this president is stubborn.
Maybe this president doesn't care because his administration is over. But I care. And I'm going to continue to care long after this president rides off into the sunset to clear brush for the rest of his life.