Yesterday, two years since hurricane Katrina swept ashore and destroyed the city of New Orleans as well as much of the rest of the Gulf Coast, was a day of remembrance and of continuing outrage for the people who's lives were shattered by the storm.
President Bush visited New Orleans and made a speech at one of the city's charter schools. In his speech Mr. Bush told the locals, those who lost their homes and livelihoods and who continue to live amid the wreckage of their once proud city, that progress was being made but that they were too close to the situation to see it:
And so it's -- my attitude is this: New Orleans, better days are ahead. It's sometimes hard for people to see progress when you live in a community all the time. Laura and I get to come -- we don't live here, we come on occasion. And it's easy to think about what it was like when we first came here after the hurricane, and what it's like today.Mr. Bush has sorely missed the point: if you visit New Orleans occasionally you have seen the destruction and you now can see some improvement, these are largely cosmetic changes that can be observed on short, choreographed jaunts through the city. The residents of New Orleans, on the other hand, live day to day with the consequences of the devastation and the ongoing struggle to rebuild a ransacked and discarded community, one largely forgotten and ignored outside of the tourist districts.
For a change the media has not fallen in to lockstep with the Administrations pronouncements regarding hurricane Katrina and the storm's aftermath: The Washington Post, New York Times, and especially NPR have all offered actual in depth reporting from New Orleans instead of letting Mr. Bush and his associates tell them how it is. Independent groups have also been reporting on the condition and progress of the Gulf Coast region, of particular note is a new report from the Institute for Southern Studies.
Mr. Bush has also spent much of the past month traveling the country making speeches in support of the war in Iraq, he has taken advantage of the congressional recess to make rosy pronouncements about the conditions on the ground in Iraq and the state of the so-called surge that Mr. Bush ordered this past spring. On August 28 he told the American Legion National Convention:
[T]here are unmistakable signs that our strategy is achieving the objectives we set out. Our new strategy is showing results in terms of security...Sectarian violence has sharply decreased in Baghdad. The momentum is now on our side. The surge is seizing the initiative from the enemy -- and handing it to the Iraqi people.Mr. Bush's claims of success not withstanding most independent reporting from Iraq tells a much different story. As Media Matters notes, McClatchy and the AP have both recently contradicted Mr. Bush's descriptions of progress. On August 25 the AP reported:
This year’s U.S. troop buildup has succeeded in bringing violence in Baghdad down from peak levels, but the death toll from sectarian attacks around the country is running nearly double the pace from a year ago.And on August 15 the McClatchy Washington Bureau reported:
U.S. officials say the number of civilian casualties in the Iraqi capital is down 50 percent. But U.S. officials declined to provide specific numbers, and statistics gathered by McClatchy Newspapers don't support the claim...
One bright spot has been the reduction in the number of bodies found on the streets, considered a sign of sectarian violence. That number was 44 percent lower in July, compared to December. In July, the average body count per day was 18.6, compared with 33.2 in December, two months before the surge.
But the reason for that decline isn't clear. Some military officers believe that it may be an indication that ethnic cleansing has been completed in many neighborhoods and that there aren’t as many people to kill.
There was also the August 19 op-ed in the New York Times "The War As We Saw It" by service members finishing a current deployment in Iraq. Among other points the soldiers attest that:
The claim that we are increasingly in control of the battlefields in Iraq is an assessment arrived at through a flawed, American-centered framework.
Kevin Drum, of the Washington Monthly, compared and analyzed statistics on the success of the surge provided by the Brookings Institute and found that none of the measurable statistics are encouraging in the least.
Coupled with the gloomy outlooks and forecasts of continuing mayhem and violence ensconced in the latest National Intelligence Estimate, whose warnings were apparently diluted, and the new Terrorism Index released by the journal Foreign Policy, these reports make it clear that the situation in Iraq is not improving.
Mr. Bush has told the American people for years now, that progress was being made in Iraq, that a corner was being turned: He will continue to abuse and mislead the public until he leaves office.
No Mr. Bush, sadly things are not getting better all the time.
The Washington Post reported today on a draft of the upcoming Government Accountability Office report on the situation in Iraq which is said to be "at odds with the White House".