Yesterday, a plane carrying three U.S. senators and a member of the House was forced to take evasive maneuvers to avoid rocket-propelled grenades as they took off from Baghdad. “It was a scary moment,” said Sen. Mel Martinez (R-FL). “There were a few minutes there where I wondered: ‘Have we been hit? Are we OK?'” added Rep. Bud Cramer (D-AL).
Despite the close call, the lawmakers continued to insist that progress was being made in Iraq:
– “Incredibly significant progress has been made on the military front,” Martinez told the Orlando Sentinel.
— “I believe the surge, from observations…that they have made a lot of progress with the surge. It’s not definitive, but it’s on the right track,” Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) told the Tuscaloosa News.
— Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) told the Tulsa World that “his visit allowed him to witness firsthand the progress resulting from the ongoing troop surge in Iraq.”
The senators’ assessments are contradicted by the conclusion in the Government Accountability Office’s upcoming report on Iraq, a draft of which was leaked to the Washington Post yesterday. The “strikingly negative” draft report says that “Iraq has failed to meet all but three of 18 congressionally mandated benchmarks for political and military progress”:
“While the Baghdad security plan was intended to reduce sectarian violence, U.S. agencies differ on whether such violence has been reduced,” it states. While there have been fewer attacks against U.S. forces, it notes, the number of attacks against Iraqi civilians remains unchanged. It also finds that “the capabilities of Iraqi security forces have not improved.”
“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. […]
It contradicts the Bush administration’s conclusion in July that sectarian violence was decreasing as a result of the U.S. military’s stepped-up operations in Baghdad this year. “The average number of daily attacks against civilians remained about the same over the last six months; 25 in February versus 26 in July,” the GAO draft states.
In an interview with ThinkProgress this week, Rep. Ellen Tauscher (D-CA) described the “physiological phenomenon” of lawmakers claiming to see progress in Iraq that is contradicted by empirical evidence. She called it “Green Zone fog.”
Apparently even a close-call with a rocket propelled grenade isn’t enough to shake the “Green Zone fog” from the eyes of some Bush supporters.