Spinning the Course

By Dan Froomkin
Special to washingtonpost.com
Tuesday, October 24, 2006; 1:22 PM

The latest rounds of spin from the Bush administration are really straining the credulity of the press corps and the public.

First, over the weekend, we were asked to believe that the president's strategy in Iraq has never been to "stay the course." This in spite of all the times in the past that Bush himself has used the phrase, which happens to accurately define his approach.

And now, as of this morning, we're being asked to believe that staying the course (or whatever you want to call it) is working, and that Iraqi security forces could be largely self-sufficient within 12 to 18 months.

Again, despite all the evidence to the contrary.

Ibon Villelabeitia writes for Reuters: "Two weeks ahead of congressional elections in which Bush's Republicans are on the defensive over Iraq, the U.S. ambassador and its military commander in Baghdad told a rare joint news conference that success in Iraq was still possible -- and on a 'realistic timetable' that would let U.S. troops start leaving.

"Envoy Zalmay Khalilzad said he expected Iraqi leaders to make 'significant progress in the coming 12 months' -- with support from U.S. troops and officials -- in meeting 'benchmarks' for resolving disputes and curbing sectarian killing.

"He gave no indication of what if any action Washington would take if Iraq's fractious national unity government failed to meet those expectations."

Agence France Presse reports: "The United States' ambassador to Iraq has assured US voters that victory was still possible in this war torn country so long as Iraqi leaders live up to their promises.

"At a news conference Tuesday that was briefly plunged into darkness by one Baghdad's incessant power cuts, Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad described the battle to save Iraq from extremists as 'the defining challenge of our era'.

"And, in a direct appeal to the American people two weeks before key midterm congressional elections, he said that it was not too late to pull the country back from the brink."

It's nice talk, but is it even vaguely based in reality?

As Christopher Bodeen writes for the Associated Press: "With violence in Iraq at staggering levels, the United States is battling on both the military and political fronts to tame growing chaos in regions where Sunni insurgent violence now is compounded by sectarian killing."

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