No one should pretend that the creation of a new government in Iraq means that the reconstruction efforts in Iraq are over. This is not the end, nor is it the beginning of the end, and who knows whether it is the end of the beginning. But it is progress--progress that was inconceivable a little over three years ago.The "progress" in Iraq was inconceivable 3 years ago? Really? Man, i don't think John Conyers and Russ Feingold put together could have written a more stinging indictment of the Bush Administration. Because they sure were "conceiving" of this, but a lot sooner and a lot cheaper. <!--more-->
Wolfowitz offered a variety of incidental reasons why his views were so different from those he alluded to: "I would expect that even countries like France will have a strong interest in assisting Iraq's reconstruction," and "We can't be sure that the Iraqi people will welcome us as liberators ... [but] I am reasonably certain that they will greet us as liberators, and that will help us to keep requirements down." His fundamental point was this: "It's hard to conceive that it would take more forces to provide stability in post-Saddam Iraq than it would take to conduct the war itself and to secure the surrender of Saddam's security forces and his army. Hard to imagine."The Bush Administration "conceived" of a quick formation of an Iraqi government, with a minimum of US troops for a two year period and minimal expenditure.
In September, Lawrence Lindsay, then the chief White House economic adviser, broke discipline. He was asked by The Wall Street Journal how much a war and its aftermath might cost. He replied that it might end up at one to two percent of the gross domestic product, which would mean $100 billion to $200 billion. Lindsay added that he thought the cost of not going to war could conceivably be greater--but that didn't placate his critics within the Administration. The Administration was further annoyed by a report a few days later from Democrats on the House Budget Committee, which estimated the cost of the war at $48 billion to $93 billion. Lindsay was widely criticized in "background" comments from Administration officials, and by the end of the year he had been forced to resign. His comment "made it clear Larry just didn't get it," an unnamed Administration official told The Washington Post when Lindsay left. Lindsay's example could hardly have encouraged others in the Administration to be forthcoming with financial projections. Indeed, no one who remained in the Administration offered a plausible cost estimate until months after the war began.Cheney three days before the war began, in an exchange with Tim Russert on Meet the Press:
RUSSERT: If your analysis is not correct, and we're not treated as liberators but as conquerors, and the Iraqis begin to resist, particularly in Baghdad, do you think the American people are prepared for a long, costly, and bloody battle with significant American casualties?Wolfowitz and BushCo on how much the war would cost:
CHENEY: Well, I don't think it's likely to unfold that way, Tim, because I really do believe that we will be greeted as liberators ... The read we get on the people of Iraq is there is no question but what they want to get rid of Saddam Hussein and they will welcome as liberators the United States when we come to do that.
When Administration officials stopped being vague, they started being unrealistic. On March 27, eight days into combat, members of the House Appropriations Committee asked Paul Wolfowitz for a figure. He told them that whatever it was, Iraq's oil supplies would keep it low. "There's a lot of money to pay for this," he said. "It doesn't have to be U.S. taxpayer money. We are dealing with a country that can really finance its own reconstruction, and relatively soon." On April 23 Andrew Natsios, of USAID, told an incredulous Ted Koppel, on Nightline, that the total cost to America of reconstructing Iraq would be $1.7 billion. Koppel shot back, "I mean, when you talk about one-point-seven, you're not suggesting that the rebuilding of Iraq is gonna be done for one-point-seven billion dollars?" Natsios was clear: "Well, in terms of the American taxpayers' contribution, I do; this is it for the U.S. The rest of the rebuilding of Iraq will be done by other countries who have already made pledges ... But the American part of this will be one-point-seven billion dollars. We have no plans for any further-on funding for this." Only in September did President Bush make his request for a supplemental appropriation of $87 billion for operations in Iraq.Shinseki begs to differ:
On February 25 the Senate Armed Services Committee summoned all four Chiefs of Staff to answer questions about the war--and its aftermath. The crucial exchange began with a question from the ranking Democrat, Carl Levin. He asked Eric Shinseki, the Army Chief of Staff, how many soldiers would be required not to defeat Iraq but to occupy it. Well aware that he was at odds with his civilian superiors at the Pentagon, Shinseki at first deflected the question. "In specific numbers," he said, "I would have to rely on combatant commanders' exact requirements. But I think ..." and he trailed off.How many troops? Wolfowitz says:
"How about a range?" Levin asked. Shinseki replied--and recapitulated the argument he had made to Rumsfeld. I would say that what's been mobilized to this point, something on the order of several hundred thousand soldiers, are probably, you know, a figure that would be required.
Two days later Paul Wolfowitz appeared before the House Budget Committee. He began working through his prepared statement about the Pentagon's budget request and then asked permission to "digress for a moment" and respond to recent commentary, "some of it quite outlandish, about what our postwar requirements might be in Iraq." Everyone knew he meant Shinseki's remarks.Inconceivable? It seems the Bush Administration thought that difficulty in forming an Iraqi government was inconceivable:
"I am reluctant to try to predict anything about what the cost of a possible conflict in Iraq would be," Wolfowitz said, "or what the possible cost of reconstructing and stabilizing that country afterwards might be." This was more than reluctance--it was the Administration's consistent policy before the war. "But some of the higher-end predictions that we have been hearing recently, such as the notion that it will take several hundred thousand U.S. troops to provide stability in post-Saddam Iraq, are wildly off the mark."
Wolfowitz offered a variety of incidental reasons why his views were so different from those he alluded to: "I would expect that even countries like France will have a strong interest in assisting Iraq's reconstruction," and "We can't be sure that the Iraqi people will welcome us as liberators ... [but] I am reasonably certain that they will greet us as liberators, and that will help us to keep requirements down." His fundamental point was this: "It's hard to conceive that it would take more forces to provide stability in post-Saddam Iraq than it would take to conduct the war itself and to secure the surrender of Saddam's security forces and his army. Hard to imagine."And what did the Bush Administration think was inconceivable?
MR. RUSSERT: Let's go through some of those things because there have been suggestions of misjudgments by the administration. When you were on the program in March, I asked you about troop levels. Let's watch:2400+ American dead later, 400 billion dollars later, the revisionist line offered by Red State stands in stark contrast to what they said, what Bush said, and what the pundits said:
MR. RUSSERT: The army's top general said that we would have to have several hundred thousand troops there for several years in order to maintain stability.
VICE PRES. CHENEY: I disagree. To suggest that we need several hundred thousand troops there after military operations cease, after the conflict ends, I don't think is accurate. I think that's an overstatement.
MR. RUSSERT: We, in fact, have about 140,000 troops, 20,000 international troops, as well. Did you misjudge the number of troops necessary to secure Iraq after major combat operations?
VICE PRES. CHENEY: Well, you're going to get into a debate here about--talking about several years, several hundred thousand troops for several years. I think that's a non-starter. I don't think we have any plan to do that, Tim. I don't think it's necessary to do that. There's no question but what we've encountered resistance. But I don't think anybody expected the time we were there to be absolutely trouble-free. We knew there were holdover elements from the regime that would fight us and struggle. And we also knew al-Qaeda was there, and Ansar al-Islam, up in northeastern Iraq, which we'll come back to, talk about in a minute. So I don't think there was a serious misjudgment here. We couldn't know precisely what would happen. There were a lot of contingencies we got ready for that never did happen. You know, for example, one of the things we spent time worried about was that Saddam would destroy his own oil industry, that he'd do in Iraq what he did in Kuwait 12 years ago. The consequence of that, if he'd gone in and blown up those wells, as they contemplated doing, in fact wired some of them for destruction, would have been that the oil industry would have been shut down to zero production, probably for several years, while we tried to restore it. We were able to defeat that. That didn't occur. We had plans for it that we didn't have to execute or implement. So it's like any other process. A plan is only as good until you start to execute, then you have got to make adjustments and so forth. But I don't think there has been a major shift in terms of U.S. troop levels. And I still remain convinced that the judgment that we'll need "several hundred thousand for several years" is not valid.MR. RUSSERT: The Congressional Budget Office said that: "That the Army lacks sufficient active-duty forces to maintain its current level of nearly 150,000 troops in Iraq beyond next spring. In a report that underscores the stress being place on the military by the occupation of, the CBO said the Army's goals of keeping the same number of troops in Iraq and limiting tours of duty there to a year while maintaining its current presence elsewhere in the world were impossible to sustain without activating more National Guard or Reserve units." Can we keep 150,000 troops beyond next spring without, in effect, breaking the Army? VICE PRES. CHENEY: Tim, we can do what we have to do to prevail in this conflict. Failure's not an option. And go back again and think about what's involved here. This is not just about or just about the difficulties we might encounter in any one part of the country in terms of restoring security and stability. This is about a continuing operation on the war on terror. And it's very, very important we get it right. If we're successful in Iraq, if we can stand up a good representative government in Iraq, that secures the region so that it never again becomes a threat to its neighbors or to the United States, so it's not pursuing weapons of mass destruction, so that it's not a safe haven for terrorists, now we will have struck a major blow right at the heart of the base, if you will, the geographic base of the terrorists who have had us under assault now for many years, but most especially on 9/11. They understand what's at stake here. That's one of the reasons they're putting up as much of a struggle as they have, is because they know if we succeed here, that that's going to strike a major blow at their capabilities.
Weeks after thse invasion of Iraq began, Fox News Channel host Brit Hume delivered a scathing speech critiquing the media's supposedly pessimistic assessment of the Iraq War. "The majority of the American media who were in a position to comment upon the progress of the war in the early going, and even after that, got it wrong," Hume complained in the April 2003 speech (Richmond Times Dispatch, 4/25/04). "They didn't get it just a little wrong. They got it completely wrong."
Syndicated columnist Cal Thomas declared (4/16/03): "All of the printed and voiced prophecies should be saved in an archive. When these false prophets again appear, they can be reminded of the error of their previous ways and at least be offered an opportunity to recant and repent. Otherwise, they will return to us in another situation where their expertise will be acknowledged, or taken for granted, but their credibility will be lacking."
"Iraq Is All but Won; Now What?"
(Los Angeles Times headline, 4/10/03)
"Now that the combat phase of the war in Iraq is officially over, what begins is a debate throughout the entire U.S. government over America's unrivaled power and how best to use it."
(CBS reporter Joie Chen, 5/4/03)
"Congress returns to Washington this week to a world very different from the one members left two weeks ago. The war in Iraq is essentially over and domestic issues are regaining attention."
(NPR's Bob Edwards, 4/28/03)
"Tommy Franks and the coalition forces have demonstrated the old axiom that boldness on the battlefield produces swift and relatively bloodless victory. The three-week swing through Iraq has utterly shattered skeptics' complaints."
(Fox News Channel's Tony Snow, 4/13/03)
"The only people who think this wasn't a victory are Upper Westside liberals, and a few people here in Washington."
(Charles Krauthammer, Inside Washington, WUSA-TV, 4/19/03)
"We had controversial wars that divided the country. This war united the country and brought the military back."
(Newsweek's Howard Fineman--MSNBC, 5/7/03)
"We're all neo-cons now."
(MSNBC's Chris Matthews, 4/9/03)
"The war was the hard part. The hard part was putting together a coalition, getting 300,000 troops over there and all their equipment and winning. And it gets easier. I mean, setting up a democracy is hard, but it is not as hard as winning a war."
(Fox News Channel's Fred Barnes, 4/10/03)
"Oh, it was breathtaking. I mean I was almost starting to think that we had become inured to everything that we'd seen of this war over the past three weeks; all this sort of saturation. And finally, when we saw that it was such a just true, genuine expression. It was reminiscent, I think, of the fall of the Berlin Wall. And just sort of that pure emotional expression, not choreographed, not stage-managed, the way so many things these days seem to be. Really breathtaking."
(Washington Post reporter Ceci Connolly, appearing on Fox News Channel on 4/9/03, discussing the pulling down of a Saddam Hussein statue in Baghdad, an event later revealed to have been a U.S. military PSYOPS operation--Los Angeles Times, 7/3/04)
"The war winds down, politics heats up.... Picture perfect. Part Spider-Man, part Tom Cruise, part Ronald Reagan. The president seizes the moment on an aircraft carrier in the Pacific."
(PBS's Gwen Ifill, 5/2/03, on George W. Bush's "Mission Accomplished" speech)
"We're proud of our president. Americans love having a guy as president, a guy who has a little swagger, who's physical, who's not a complicated guy like Clinton or even like Dukakis or Mondale, all those guys, McGovern. They want a guy who's president. Women like a guy who's president. Check it out. The women like this war. I think we like having a hero as our president. It's simple. We're not like the Brits."
(MSNBC's Chris Matthews, 5/1/03)
"He looked like an alternatively commander in chief, rock star, movie star, and one of the guys."
(CNN's Lou Dobbs, on Bush's 'Mission Accomplished' speech, 5/1/03)
Neutralizing the Opposition
"Why don't the damn Democrats give the president his day? He won today. He did well today."
(MSNBC's Chris Matthews, 4/9/03)
"What's he going to talk about a year from now, the fact that the war went too well and it's over? I mean, don't these things sort of lose their--Isn't there a fresh date on some of these debate points?"
(MSNBC's Chris Matthews, speaking about Howard Dean--4/9/03)
"If image is everything, how can the Democratic presidential hopefuls compete with a president fresh from a war victory?"
(CNN's Judy Woodruff, 5/5/03)
"It is amazing how thorough the victory in Iraq really was in the broadest context..... And the silence, I think, is that it's clear that nobody can do anything about it. There isn't anybody who can stop him. The Democrats can't oppose--cannot oppose him politically."
(Washington Post reporter Jeff Birnbaum-- Fox News Channel, 5/2/03)
Nagging the "Naysayers"
"Now that the war in Iraq is all but over, should the people in Hollywood who opposed the president admit they were wrong?"
(Fox News Channel's Alan Colmes, 4/25/03)
"I doubt that the journalists at the New York Times and NPR or at ABC or at CNN are going to ever admit just how wrong their negative pronouncements were over the past four weeks."
(MSNBC's Joe Scarborough, 4/9/03)
"I'm waiting to hear the words 'I was wrong' from some of the world's most elite journalists, politicians and Hollywood types.... I just wonder, who's going to be the first elitist to show the character to say: 'Hey, America, guess what? I was wrong'? Maybe the White House will get an apology, first, from the New York Times' Maureen Dowd. Now, Ms. Dowd mocked the morality of this war....
"Do you all remember Scott Ritter, you know, the former chief U.N. weapons inspector who played chief stooge for Saddam Hussein? Well, Mr. Ritter actually told a French radio network that -- quote, 'The United States is going to leave Baghdad with its tail between its legs, defeated.' Sorry, Scott. I think you've been chasing the wrong tail, again.
"Maybe disgraced commentators and politicians alike, like Daschle, Jimmy Carter, Dennis Kucinich, and all those others, will step forward tonight and show the content of their character by simply admitting what we know already: that their wartime predictions were arrogant, they were misguided and they were dead wrong. Maybe, just maybe, these self-anointed critics will learn from their mistakes. But I doubt it. After all, we don't call them 'elitists' for nothing."
(MSNBC's Joe Scarborough, 4/10/03)
"Over the next couple of weeks when we find the chemical weapons this guy was amassing, the fact that this war was attacked by the left and so the right was so vindicated, I think, really means that the left is going to have to hang its head for three or four more years."
(Fox News Channel's Dick Morris, 4/9/03)
"This has been a tough war for commentators on the American left. To hope for defeat meant cheering for Saddam Hussein. To hope for victory meant cheering for President Bush. The toppling of Mr. Hussein, or at least a statue of him, has made their arguments even harder to defend. Liberal writers for ideologically driven magazines like The Nation and for less overtly political ones like The New Yorker did not predict a defeat, but the terrible consequences many warned of have not happened. Now liberal commentators must address the victory at hand and confront an ascendant conservative juggernaut that asserts United States might can set the world right.
(New York Times reporter David Carr, 4/16/03)
"Well, the hot story of the week is victory.... The Tommy Franks-Don Rumsfeld battle plan, war plan, worked brilliantly, a three-week war with mercifully few American deaths or Iraqi civilian deaths.... There is a lot of work yet to do, but all the naysayers have been humiliated so far.... The final word on this is, hooray."
(Fox News Channel's Morton Kondracke, 4/12/03)
"Some journalists, in my judgment, just can't stand success, especially a few liberal columnists and newspapers and a few Arab reporters."
(CNN's Lou Dobbs, 4/14/03)
Sean Penn is at it again. The Hollywood star takes out a full-page ad out in the New York Times bashing George Bush. Apparently he still hasn't figured out we won the war."
(MSNBC's Joe Scarborough, 5/30/03)
"This will be no war -- there will be a fairly brief and ruthless military intervention.... The president will give an order. [The attack] will be rapid, accurate and dazzling.... It will be greeted by the majority of the Iraqi people as an emancipation. And I say, bring it on."
(Christopher Hitchens, in a 1/28/03 debate-- cited in the Observer, 3/30/03)
Inconceivable? Indeed, it is inconceivable. But Red State, the Bush Administration and the Media could conceive of nothing else.