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What Addington Wrought
"Citing data from the Pentagon and other U.S. agencies, the Government Accountability Office found that daily attacks against civilians in Iraq have remained 'about the same' since February, when the United States began sending nearly 30,000 additional troops to improve security in Iraq.
"The GAO also found that the number of Iraqis fleeing violence in their neighborhoods is increasing, with as many as 100,000 Iraqis a month leaving their homes in search of safety.
"The GAO's conclusions contradict repeated assertions by the White House and the Pentagon in advance of the coming congressional debate on whether to stay the course in Iraq or to begin some withdrawal of U.S. troops."
Kathy Kiely writes in USA Today that GAO director David M. Walker "acknowledged that his agency's assessment is considerably more negative than one produced by the Bush administration in July; the White House rated the Iraqi government as having made 'satisfactory progress' on eight benchmarks and 'mixed results' on two others.
"Walker said his auditors used tougher standards, checking to see whether the goals were met rather than whether progress was made. He also attributed the difference between the two reports to the fact that the first report was produced by administration officials. 'They're not independent, and we are,' he said."
Karen DeYoung and Ann Scott Tyson write in The Washington Post about "last-minute changes made in the final draft of the report after the Defense Department maintained that its conclusions were too harsh and insisted that some of the information it contained -- such as the extent of a fall in the number of Iraqi army units capable of operating without U.S. assistance -- should not appear in the final, unclassified version."
Deeper and Deeper
Sudarsan Raghavan writes in The Washington Post: "The violence continues to divide Iraq, paralyzing its political system and efforts at national reconciliation."
In a sidebar, Raghavan also writes: "The United States turned over sovereignty to an Iraqi government in June 2004 after a 14-month occupation. But for many Iraqis, the United States remains the only source of basic services, protection and infrastructure -- functions the new government was supposed to perform. The result is a dilemma for U.S. officials and particularly the reconstruction teams that are the cornerstone of the rebuilding effort. When Americans step in to provide services that the government does not, they foster dependence and undermine the institutions they want to strengthen."
It once seemed that an oil revenue-sharing agreement was the most likely of all the Iraqi benchmarks to be met. So what went wrong? Joshua Partlow explains in The Washington Post.
A New Strategy?
Yochi J. Dreazen, Philip Shishkin and Greg Jaffe wrote in yesterday's Wall Street Journal: "After almost four years of trying to build Iraq's central government in Baghdad, the U.S. has found that what appears to work best in the divided country is just the opposite. So senior military officials are increasingly working to strengthen local players who are bringing some measure of stability to their communities. The new approach bears some striking similarities to the 'soft partition' strategy pushed by senior Democrats, and suggests that despite the often bitter debate in Washington on Iraq policy, a broad consensus on how to move ahead in the war-torn country may be forming."
David E. Sanger writes in today's New York Times that some of Bush's critics regard the change as very significant, "saying they believe it amounts to a grudging acknowledgment by the White House of something these critics themselves have long asserted -- that Iraq will never become the kind of cohesive, unified state that could be a democratic beacon for the Middle East.