As if any of us needed a reminder of how screwed up, confused, and contradictory the reports of the situation in Iraq are, to say nothing of our national understanding of what’s going on over there, the Washington Post spells it out nicely in the span of three headlines on its front page this morning.


White House Gives Iraq Mixed Marks in Report


U.S. Warns Of Stronger Al-Qaeda


CIA Said Instability Seemed ‘Irreversible’


The first story, by Karen DeYoung and Peter Baker, looks at the twenty-five page Iraq assessment report, released today by the White House that “identifies some positive movement in eight of the 18 congressional benchmarks [for the Iraqi government], most of them related to military issues; finds insufficient improvement in eight others, mainly related to political reconciliation; and judges mixed results in the final two.” The report looks at events on the ground in the six months since the president announced his escalation in the number of combat troops in Iraq, and according to news stories (I haven’t read it yet) presents a pretty mixed bag.


The second piece, by Spencer S. Hsu and Walter Pincus, says that al-Qaeda “is gaining strength and has established a safe haven in remote tribal areas of western Pakistan for training and planning attacks, according to a new Bush administration intelligence report.” The third story, by Bob Woodward, tells us something that flies in the face of the DeYoung and Baker story, that CIA director Hayden told the Iraq Study Group that the government of Nouri al-Maliki in Baghdad “is unable to govern…We have spent a lot of energy and treasure creating a government that is balanced, and it cannot function.”


So let’s see. In one fell swoop this morning we’re told—on a single page of newsprint—that the Bush administration is putting as positive a spin on al-Maliki’s failures in governance as possible, the CIA thinks the whole thing is a lost cause, and al Qaeda is regrouping and there’s not much we can do, short of invading Pakistan, to stop it. Check, please!

If you'd like to get email from CJR writers and editors, add your email address to our newsletter roll and we'll be in touch.

Paul McLeary is senior editor of Defense Technology International magazine, and is a former CJR staffer.