White House Claims to Have Ditched Rose Colored Glasses on Iraq
By Lee Russ
Monday, April 07, 2008 at 07:29 PM
In today's White House press briefing, Tony Fratto said at least twice that the administration had shed its "rose colored glasses" on Iraq, and was now taking a clear view of the situation there.Excerpt:
.Q. ..with all this renewed violence, I think it has changed the dynamics. So how has this changed the equation?That's a relief, huh? Both the commitment to clear-eyed analysis and the implicit admission that the administration used to see Iraq through those rosy little specs.
MR. FRATTO: Well, I think we've thrown out all of the rose-colored glasses in how we look at Iraq, and try to look at it through clear lenses as to what is actually going on in the country.
like I said, we threw out the rose-colored glasses. I think we have a very clear-eyed view of what's happening in Baghdad.
But it's easy to say those things. Did Mr. Fratto's actual discussion in the press briefing actually demonstrate the clear-eyed views he claimed to have adopted? Not so much.
Here's the full Q and the A surrounding Fratto's first claim to have abandoned the rosy view (emphasis added):
Q Also, how does this latest violence in Iraq and the latest uncertainty about what's going on color the Petraeus-Crocker testimony this time around? It obviously has changed the equation. I mean, weeks ago it looked like the surge was -- you know, had this pretty rosy cast, and now with all this renewed violence, I think it has changed the dynamics. So how has this changed the equation?Nothing rosy there. The Basra operation wasn't an "overall success," but at least we learned what the Iraqi Army's capabilities are: poor. That's like the French saying that Dien Bien Phu wasn't all they wanted it to be, but at least it showed them what they needed to work on for the next war.
MR. FRATTO: Well, I think we've thrown out all of the rose-colored glasses in how we look at Iraq, and try to look at it through clear lenses as to what is actually going on in the country. And what is happening there, I think what we are all seeing is that the Iraqi political leadership is trying to take hold of the security for their country. They took a very bold, aggressive action in Basra. It wasn't a overall success, but it -- but we learned a lot about what the capabilities of the Iraqi army are, and we learned a lot -- and maybe this is even the most important thing -- of what the capabilities and intentions of the Iraqi leadership are to go after criminal elements and illegal militias in their country, and to evenly enforce the rule of law across the country.
And that is critically important, and it's something that other political leaders in Iraq have rallied around. Remember what was -- something that was overlooked in here -- I saw a lot of coverage last week about a number of Iraqi soldiers who refused to take part in the Basra action. What didn't get a lot of coverage, but was really significant, was that these were integrated Shia and Sunni Iraqi army units, fighting mainly Shia criminal elements and Shia militia in the Basra region. We also see these same integrated Shia and Sunni units fighting Sunni elements in the north, in Mosul, and in northern Iraq.
And the fact that an appreciable portion of Iraqi soldiers refused to fight is deceptive--the important thing is that they refused to fight in units that were integrated. Much better than refusing to fight in segregated units, of course.
Fratto's overall assessment of Iraqi political progress?
...they've made some very impressive gains, whether it's with the budget and reconstruction funding and the Baathist legislation and provincial elections. These are all very, very important elements of political reconciliation in Iraq. We'd like to see more. We want to see more action on oil revenue law. And so there's more to be done.Sometimes a lack of rosy glasses can blind you to things, apparently. Mr. Fratto seems to have overlooked the Iranian role in brokering a cease fire, and the overall increase in Iran's stature and influence in the country where we've now dropped more money than you can count, not to mention several thousand lives.
We're going to keep a very close eye on implementation of the laws that have been passed. But I think it's clear General Petraeus's mission was to reduce violence in Baghdad and in Iraq, more broadly, and I think it's hard to deny -- it would be hard for anybody to deny that he hasn't been successful in that mission.
Now, we know that it's a -- the reduction of violence is fragile and it's reversible, but we like the trend and we like what the Iraqi political leadership has shown about their ability to take action.
If the administration has, indeed, taken off the rose colored glasses, it apparently did so only to find another pair of glasses on the bridge of its collective nose.
Fortunately, these new glasses seem to have a very similar tint to the glasses they just discarded. Which allows them to continue to use the same canned quotes, the same canned spokespeople, and the same logic that has long propelled beloved Pollyanna to revel in her lack of need for the new crutches she just got for her birthday.