Hear it from the United States Defence Department or the White House, and the war in Afghanistan is a success story allowing combat operations to cease a year early.
Listen, however, to Lieutenant-Colonel Daniel Davis, veteran of two tours, and the 11-year conflict is a failure bordering on a disaster that those in power have concealed from Congress and the American people.
For the past month, Davis has been conducting an unusual one-man whistleblowing campaign, complete with two reports - one classified - to his superiors at the Pentagon and private briefings for legislators.
Now he has gone public, first in an article for a journal on military affairs, and then yesterday with the New York Times.
It comes barely a week after Leon Panetta, the Defence Secretary, revealed plans for the last US combat troops to be out of Afghanistan by late 2013, compared with President Barack Obama's previous target of 2014.
"I'm going to get nuked," the 48-year-old officer said, speaking of the reaction he expects to the accusations he is levelling at the Pentagon high command, and luminaries like General David Petraeus, who oversaw Obama's troop surge in Afghanistan.
Davis likens himself to a latterday James Stewart in Mr Smith Goes to Washington, the 1939 film about a senatorial innocent risking his career to take on a corrupt establishment.
In reality, he has a track record of dissent.
But his current views stem from his time in Afghanistan, where he travelled 14,500km across eight provinces last year, speaking to 250 soldiers and many Afghans.
His judgment is that official reports of progress in the war are wildly overblown. The Taleban's strength, he contends, is undiminished, while the Afghan security forces have in many cases made their own deals with the rebels. "You can spin all kinds of stuff, but you can't spin the fact that more men are getting blown up every year."
The Pentagon rejects the charges, insisting it is committed to "the integrity of what we publish and what we say". But it has not moved to punish Davis - perhaps because he has drawn a degree of support on Capitol Hill.
This is not the first time official public assessments of the war have been challenged. In December 2010, two classified intelligence reports warned that success was unlikely without a crackdown by Pakistan on insurgents in that country. And last week, Dianne Feinstein, chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, spoke of the "disparity" between public pronouncements on the war, and the "sobering" conclusions of a National Intelligence Estimate drawn up a month before.