Early on the morning of Nov. 13, 2006, members of the bipartisan Iraq Study Group gathered around a dark wooden conference table in the windowless Roosevelt Room of the White House. For more than an hour, they listened to President Bush give what one panel member called a “Churchillian” vision of “victory” in Iraq and defend the country’s prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki. “A constitutional order is emerging,” he said.
Later that morning, around the same conference table, CIA Director Michael V. Hayden painted a starkly different picture for members of the study group. Hayden said “the inability of the government to govern seems irreversible,” adding that he could not “point to any milestone or checkpoint where we can turn this thing around,” according to written records of his briefing and the recollections of six participants.
“The government is unable to govern,” Hayden concluded. “We have spent a lot of energy and treasure creating a government that is balanced, and it cannot function.” Hayden’s bleak assessment, which came just a week after Republicans had lost control of Congress and Bush had dismissed Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, was a pivotal moment in the study group’s intensive examination of the Iraq war, and it helped shape its conclusion in its final report that the situation in Iraq was “grave and deteriorating.”
In effect, the report from the bipartisan group — co-chaired by former secretary of state James A. Baker III, a Republican, and former congressman Lee H. Hamilton (D-Ind.) — was an urgent message from the old Washington establishment to the Bush administration to change the direction of its Iraq policy. But Bush did not initially embrace any of the key recommendations, although bipartisan groups in the House and Senate have recently introduced legislation that would make them official U.S. policy.
Instead, the president in January announced that he was sending more troops to Iraq as part of a “surge,” which he said would lead to the victory that had so far eluded U.S. forces.
WASHINGTON POST: Q-U-A-G-M-I-R-E !
ASSOCIATED PRESS: WASHINGTON – U.S. intelligence analysts have concluded that al-Qaeda has rebuilt its operating capability to a level not seen since just before the Sept. 11 attacks, the Associated Press has learned. The conclusion suggests that the group that launched the most devastating terror attack on the United States has been able to regroup along the Afghan-Pakistani border despite nearly six years of bombings, war, and other tactics aimed at crippling it.