At the American Enterprise Institute war-cheerleaders, dressed as academicians, were delivering a panegyric on how peaceful and stable the situation in Iraq had become. The "surge," they announced had nipped a civil war in the bud.
"The civil war is over," AEI's Fred Kagan, co-author of the surge, declared proudly. Brookings twins Michael O'Hanlon and Kenneth Pollack led the cheering section.
Meanwhile, back in the southern Iraq city of Basra and elsewhere, full-blown civil war seemed about to explode. And in Baghdad, formerly protected folks were getting killed by mortar and rocket fire in what is customarily referred to as "the highly fortified Green Zone," which has sequestered U.S. embassy and military officials as well as those of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's government.
Two American officials and two Iraqi guards of Sunni Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi died in the Green Zone attacks, which are continuing.
At ABC in New York, Good Morning America's Diane Sawyer was trying hard Thursday to understand it all. Shaking her head in disbelief after four straight days of attacks on the Green Zone, she asked how a round "can actually get inside the embassy; how fortified is that?" ABC national security correspondent Jonathan Karl let her down easy, explaining that artillery fire can actually get "over the walls...so it does happen: they do get inside the embassy compound."
A teaching moment. Mortar and artillery fire can actually get "over the walls." Quick. Someone tell Gen. David Petraeus.
But Don't Bother Bush
No need to drag the president away from the Easter Bunny with such nettlesome detail. Interestingly, it was Sawyer herself who asked Bush, during an interview on Dec. 16, 2003, where he gets his news and how he reacts to criticism. The president's answer was revealing:
"Why even put up with it when you can get the facts elsewhere? I'm a lucky man. I've got...it's not just Condi and Andy [Andy Card, former chief of staff], it's all kinds of people in my administration who are charged with different responsibilities, and they come in and say this is what's happening, this isn't what's happening."
By Thursday, someone did tell the president about Maliki's big gamble in taking on militias loyal to Muqtada al-Sadr in the Basra area, the stiff resistance Iraqi government forces encountered, and the application of U.S. ground and air support.
And someone told the president to take the line that the outbreak of major violence was "a positive moment," and so that's what he said. No matter that the upsurge in hostilities threatened to demolish the myth of a "successful surge." The White House spin machine could be counted on to take care of that. And, for good measure, the shelling of the Green Zone could be blamed on Iran. Indeed, Petraeus was quick to label the projectiles "Iranian-provided, Iranian-made rockets."
Reality? We Make Our Own
It is comfortable to stay in denial, and President George W. Bush basks in it. Republican Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska saw that early on. In June 2005 he told U.S. News & World Report:
"The White House is completely disconnected from reality...it's like they're just making it up as they go along."
Would that someone had summoned the courage to tell Bush of William F. Buckley, Jr.'s observations about Iraq in the National Review on Feb. 24, 2006: