Until this weekend, Democrats and Republicans alike have pretty much accepted the idea that while the Iraqi government has made little or no political progress, the "surge" is succeeding, at least in some areas, at least militarily.
The word from the Associated Press: Not so much.
Seven months after President Bush announced that he was sending more U.S. troops to Iraq, the AP says that "life for average Iraqis appears even more perilous and unpredictable" than before. While violence is down somewhat in Baghdad, the AP says the death rate from sectarian attacks "around the country" is now nearly double what it was this time last year.
Some of the numbers from AP's reporting:
The average daily war-related death toll in 2007: 62. The average daily war-related death toll in 2006: 33.
War-related death toll so far in Iraq this year: 14,800. War-related death toll for all of 2006: 13,811.
The AP acknowledges that the United Nations and others have come up with higher death tolls for 2006; it says its numbers are "a minimum based on AP reporting," and that the actual numbers are "probably higher."
The AP's reality check could help shape the debate over Iraq in Congress next month -- GOP Sen. John Warner said Sunday that he might consider voting with Democrats for a timetable with withdrawal if the president doesn't set one of his own -- but it seems that Bush's mind is already made up.
Although the White House has repeatedly said that any discussion of the next steps in Iraq must await the issuance of the not-written-by-Petraeus Petraeus report, administration officials are telling the Washington Post that no big changes are even on the table. And in his weekly radio address Saturday, the president made it clear that he thinks the "surge" is just starting. "We are still in the early stages of our new operations," he said, "but the success of the past couple of months have [sic] shown that conditions on the ground can change -- and they are changing. We cannot expect the new strategy we are carrying out to bring success overnight. But by standing with the Iraqi people as they build their democracy, we will deliver a devastating blow to al-Qaida, we will help provide new hope for millions of people throughout the Middle East, we will gain a friend and ally in the war on terror, and we will make the American people safer."