Last week, Gen. David Petraeus alleged a 75 percent reduction in “sectarian violence” in Iraq and is expected to say the same before Congress. In contrast, the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office recently reported that daily attacks in Iraq have “remained unchanged” throughout the escalation.
The Washington Post reports today that national security analysts are questioning the military’s statistics. National Intelligence Estimate authors, Iraq Study Group members, intelligence officials, and academics now “accuse the military of cherry-picking positive indicators.”
Brookings analyst Michael O’Hanlon, however, attacked the GAO, choosing instead to laud the Pentagon’s distortions. In an analysis only he could offer, O’Hanlon rips the GAO report for being both “overly rigorous” and “flat-out sloppy”:
During his recent tour through Iraq, [O'Hanlon] adds, every local briefing he received from the US military said that attacks in that particular sector were down. In addition, for the GAO to decline to judge whether attacks are sectarian or not is to take an overly rigorous approach to the numbers, says the Brookings expert.
“I just think they were flat-out sloppy,” he says of GAO.
By attacking the GAO, O’Hanlon has defied the community of national security experts he alleges to be a part of and has instead allied himself with the discredited ranks of the Bush administration and right-wing lawmakers.
Ironically, while O’Hanlon bashes the GAO when he doesn’t like what it says, his very own Iraq Index borrows heavily from GAO reports:
A senior military intelligence official attributed the Pentagon’s drastic reduction in violence “to a desire to provide Petraeus with ammunition for his congressional testimony.” O’Hanlon’s desire to provide that ammunition has left him in lonely territory in Washington.