Iraq Reports are Bad News for President
Published on Friday, May 6, 2005 by the Baltimore Sun
Iraq Reports are Bad News for President
by Jules Witcover

 Here are just some of the things that have happened regarding the U.S. involvement in Iraq over the last several days:

  • The Pentagon released the names of 12 more American soldiers killed in Iraq, bringing the total U.S. fatalities there as of yesterday to 1,591, of which 1,215 resulted from hostile action.
  • A new Army report said the death in Iraq of Army corporal and former pro football star Pat Tillman was intentionally not reported to his family or the public as having been caused by friendly fire until weeks after the nationally televised memorial service for him.
  • The judge in the trial of Army Pfc. Lynndie R. England, the Army reservist photographed holding a naked Iraqi detainee on a leash at Abu Ghraib prison, declared a mistrial when Private England's former lover, convicted Abu Ghraib guard Pvt. Charles A. Graner Jr., testified that she was just following his instructions and didn't think she was doing something wrong.
  • The mistrial came after the Army inspector general, Lt. Gen. Stanley E. Greene, exonerated Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, the former U.S. commander in Iraq at the time of the Abu Ghraib incidents, and other top officers of any wrongdoing in the scandal. His report also recommended only a reprimand for Brig. Gen. Janis L. Karpinski, the head of the military police unit there at the time.
  • The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Richard B. Myers, issued an annual risk assessment saying that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan would put more strain on the U.S. military establishment to deal with other responsibilities elsewhere.
  • The Army reported that it had failed to reach its recruitment quota for the third straight month, signing up only slightly more than half of the 6,600 new soldiers sought for April. The Army Reserve and the Marine Corps also reported recruiting shortfalls.
  • An audit of reconstruction spending in Iraq kicked off an investigation by a special inspector general of suspected fraud in nearly $120 million allocated, of which $7.2 million could not be accounted for and nearly another $90 million had insufficient documentation.
  • Ahmad Chalabi, the Iraqi politician whose U.S. support was cut off after allegations of providing false intelligence about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, was named minister in charge of oil in the new Iraqi Cabinet. He received one of several courtesy calls from Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to Cabinet members.
  • The overall picture that emerges from all of this is that the U.S. presence in Iraq continues to be not only a tragedy but a comedy of errors that is nothing to laugh about. That's especially true because over the same period, more than 150 Iraqis were killed in various insurgent and suicide attacks.

Countering all of this was the swearing-in Tuesday of Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari and his Cabinet. But several Cabinet posts were left vacant, including the defense ministry, which was set aside for a Sunni Arab.

U.S. officials reported killing 24 insurgents believed to be followers of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the reputed al-Qaida leader in Iraq. They said Mr. al-Zarqawi may be ill or injured. Such are the signs of progress proffered by the Bush administration.

But the public isn't buying. In the latest Gallup Poll, 57 percent of those surveyed said it was not worth going to war in Iraq, 49 percent called it a mistake, 56 percent said they thought the war was going "badly" and 25 percent said "very badly."

The news from Iraq gives a good idea why President Bush, according to Gallup, has the lowest rating ever - only 45 percent approval - for a president embarking on his second term.

Jules Witcover writes from The Sun's Washington bureau.

© 2005 Baltimore Sun