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Ostriches, spin and reality......

George Bush, behind a security screen and without even seeing the realities on the ground for himself, visited Iraq for a few hours yesterday and concluded that "progress" is being made - whatever that means! Australian Defence Minister has parroted the same nonsense - based on talking to various US officials - following a lightening visit to Baghdad and Washington.

The LA Times reports a more sober and accurate assessment - not reflective of the ostriches and spin coming out of the White House and Canberra - of how things really stand in Iraq:

"The U.S. military buildup that was supposed to calm Baghdad and other trouble spots has failed to usher in national reconciliation, as the capital's neighborhoods rupture even further along sectarian lines, violence shifts elsewhere and Iraq's government remains mired in political infighting.

In the coming days, U.S. military and government leaders will offer Congress their assessment of the 6-month-old plan's results. But a review of statistics on death and displacement, political developments and the impressions of Iraqis who are living under the heightened military presence reaches a dispiriting conclusion.

Despite the plan, which has brought an additional 28,500 U.S. troops to Iraq since February, none of the major legislation that Washington had expected the Iraqi parliament to pass into law has been approved.

The number of Iraqis fleeing their homes has increased, not decreased, according to the United Nations' International Organization for Migration and Iraq's Ministry for Displacement and Migration.

Military officials say sectarian killings in Baghdad are down more than 51% and attacks on civilians and security forces across Iraq have decreased. But this has not translated into a substantial drop in civilian deaths as insurgents take their lethal trade to more remote regions. Last month, as many as 400 people were killed in a bombing in a village near the Syrian border, the worst bombing since the war began in March 2003. In July, 150 people were reported killed in a village about 100 miles north of Baghdad.

And in a sign that tamping down Sunni-Shiite violence is no guarantee of stability, a feud between rival Shiite Muslim militias has killed scores of Iraqis in recent months. Last week, at least 52 people died in militia clashes in the Shiite holy city of Karbala."

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