Appearing on NBC's "Meet the Press," Marine Gen. Peter Pace, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said there's been progress in training Iraqi defense forces and disputed accounts, some from conservative commentators, that U.S. efforts in Iraq are failing.
"It is not a great smiley picture nor is it a disaster," Pace said. "What is it is a very tough environment that still has a lot of work to be done but one in which we're making very, very good progress."
Pace disputed a steady stream of CIA assessments, reported last week by Knight Ridder, that the Sunni insurgency has deep roots, is likely to worsen and could lead to civil war. His more optimistic appraisal is expected to set the tone for a meeting this week among President Bush and his top military commanders to assess the war and decide how many U.S. troops should remain in the country.
How can Pace make the claim that progress is being made in training Iraqi forces, when just last week the Pentagon was forced to admit that the only Iraqi battalion capable of independent operations had to be downgraded. The word is setback, progress implies improvement. The unbelievable element lies in the fact that the Pentagon has used these tired arguments at every hearing, press conference and interview since "mission accomplished". It is like some bizarro Pentagon tribute to Groundhog Day.
Pace argues that people are overly pessimistic, that Iraq is not on the verge of civil war. Is this stance part of a bigger strategy to justify withdrawal or pure delusion? It is now reasonable to posit whether or not the civil war has actually begun. To deny the realistic possibility is so beyond the mainstream view of the situation that it borders on ridiculous. Yet, Pace claims progress and a steady march toward stability.
It is this sort of inability, or refusal, to admit the obvious that is at the heart of the Bush administration's failure. It has it roots in the view that people are incapable of processing bad news and remaining resolute. The irony is this lack of faith in the American people has ultimately undermined their faith in their government to come clean. Remember "Baghdad Bob" wildly claiming that American troops hadn't entered Baghdad, when in fact they have overrun the city? The world media had great fun poking at the absurdity of the propagandist who resisted reality. Can someone explain to me how the current Pentagon stance on Iraq isn't analogous?