Iraq's Dueling Story Lines

+ More

Two different takes on how things are going in Iraq:

  • Sen. John Warner, Republican of Virginia and chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, returns from Iraq and reports that the government there is in grave danger of losing control in the capital. He is decidedly downbeat.
  • Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice returns from the same scene and says she sees signs of encouragement in the battle against the insurgents. She must see things others do not in the recent bloodbath there.
  • Who's right? I'll take Warner.

    No one can accuse Warner of being a patsy for the Democrats. He has been a loyal supporter and held the line for the administration. He is a straight arrow, however, and some Republicans may not like anyone straying from the party line.

    Rice, on the other hand, is a total cheerleader for the war and has been since its inception. As national security adviser and secretary of state, she wears rose-colored glasses.

    For his part, Warner says he is not giving up on the civilian leaders in Iraq, but his patience is running out. He gives them a marker of a few months to turn things around or he thinks the U.S. should consider other options.

    Rice may have turned up the pressure, too, during her visit. But her words came from one closely attached to the government and its leaders in Baghdad.

    Should we change course? Of course. We should have done it months ago or longer when Vice President Cheney said the insurgents were in the final throes. They've been tougher ever since he uttered those words.

    The main obstacle to change is not Cheney or even Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. It is the president himself.

    When the commander in chief, as reported in Bob Woodward's new book, says he'll hang in there even if Laura and Barney the dog are the only ones with him, the nation is led by one with a tin ear. He refuses to budge or admit he may have been wrong.

    The hour is growing late.