GAO report paints grim Iraq picture

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Tom Lantos, D-San Mateo, told me yesterday that he believes the forthcoming Government Accountability Office report on political and military progress in Iraq will be “scathing.” Sure enough, the Washington Post reports today that the “strikingly negative” GAO draft — which will be sent in its final form to Congress next week for a hearing by Lantos’ committee — finds “Iraq has failed to meet all but three of 18 congressionally mandated benchmarks for political and military progress.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, today notes President Bush “is demanding tens of billions more dollars for the war in Iraq despite non-partisan conclusions, such as the draft GAO report and the recent National Intelligence Estimate, that the Iraqi government has failed to achieve required reforms.

pelosi12-14-06.jpg“As in the past, President Bush stubbornly refuses to acknowledge the facts on the ground about the sectarian civil war in Iraq or the growing bipartisan opposition to his failed policies,” she said. “He insists that our soldiers sacrifice even more, and taxpayers spend billions more dollars for an Iraqi government incapable or unwilling to institute reforms required by the President himself.

“With the President continuing to stay the course in Iraq, Republicans will have to decide whether they will continue to vote with him or join Democrats and the vast majority of Americans who are demanding a new direction in Iraq and refocusing America’s efforts on fighting the real threats of terrorism around the world.”

BTW, I asked Lantos yesterday what he would say to the 80 or so protestors who took part in an antiwar vigil Tuesday night outside his district office at Fourth Street and El Camino Real in San Mateo, one of many of such vigils held across the nation that night, organized by MoveOn.org and Americans Against Escalation in Iraq.

lantos.jpg“This is not an unfriendly presence, they are welcome, but I think it’s important for them to understand that members of Congress operate within the reality of the American government’s framework,” he replied.

“Both Nancy (Pelosi) and I have basically supported the same general direction that they are asking for, namely a de-escalation in contrast to the administration’s policy of escalation,” Lantos said. “But the last piece of legislation on this subject that the Democratic leadership sent to the White House was vetoed by the president, and he has a sufficient number of Republicans to sustain his veto.”

Given that, the only options are either to win over enough votes to override the veto or to replace the President, he said, “but camping in front of Nancy Pelosi’s house will not bring about a U.S. policy change” — a dig at the CodePink protesters who staked out Pelosi’s San Francisco home and district office in recent weeks.

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.