Bush Cites 'Success' in Iraq, but Benchmarks Tell a Different Story

Just hours after President Bush addressed the nation citing security and political progress in Iraq as a reason to continue a large military presence there, the administration sent a September Iraq report to Congress that paints a discouraging picture of stability on the ground in Iraq.

As ABC News first reported Thursday night, the administration's benchmark report suggests Iraq has a long way to go toward achieving security, progress and political reconciliation among Iraqi leaders.

The president's report, requested by Congress, found only nine of the 18 Iraq benchmarks are satisfactory, seven are unsatisfactory and two are mixed.

That is only one more benchmark reached than the administration's first report to Congress in July.

Report Finds Half of Benchmarks Have Been Met

In addition, members of Congress are likely to be skeptical of some of the assertions inside the administration's latest report.

For example, the report cites "satisfactory" progress in terms of elections, even though elections have yet to be held and no date has been set. The report may underscore contradictions in the president's argument that additional forces have created breathing room and afforded stability to all Iraqi leaders to work toward political progress.

Congress has been presented with a series of reports on Iraq this summer that have contradicted the administration's assertions that the U.S. strategy in Iraq is beginning to show signs of progress.

However, the White House is suggesting the report doesn't reflect the results Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki's government is achieving in Iraq.

"Broad context is necessary for assessing the performance of the Iraqi government with respect to the 18 benchmarks," outgoing White House press secretary Tony Snow said in a statement Friday.

Snow suggested significant oil revenues are being distributed by the central government to the provinces "in an equitable manner," progress is being made on a budget, and immunity is being granted to many former insurgents.

"These are precisely the effects the benchmarks were intended to produce, even if the formal benchmarks themselves have not been met," Snow said.

In speeches and appearances outside of Washington, D.C., the president and Vice President Dick Cheney are selling the latest iteration of their Iraq War strategy -- promoting the idea that the troop surge is having success.

"The United States and our coalition are getting things right in Iraq,'' Cheney told an invited audience of about 220 at the Gerald R. Ford Museum in Grand Rapids, Mich. "Tough work lies ahead,'' Cheney said. "But the evidence from the theater of war 6,000 miles away is beyond question: The troop surged has achieved solid results, and in a relatively short period of time."

The president had lunch with marines at the Quantico Marine base in Virginia who are preparing to go to Iraq.

"They're willing to serve to help shape the conditions to make the world more peaceful," Bush said.

"It's in our interest to help Iraq succeed," he said.

Bush Appeals to Nation on Iraq

Bush appealed to the nation in a prime-time address on Iraq Thursday, presenting a strategy that will see a continued U.S. troop presence in Iraq for years to come -- while suggesting that some troops will be coming home and will not be replaced.

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