Monthly Archives: March 2008

“Mission Accomplished!” Featured on Huffington Post

 Iraq Retrospective: Read The Quotes That Sent Us To War 

As the war in Iraq enters its sixth year, Christopher Cerf and Victor Navasky have published a “definitive, footnoted, hilarious but depressing compilation of experts who were in error” about the war from the beginning. You can read more about the book — “Mission Accomplished! Or How We Won The War In Iraq” — here.

Below, an excerpt from the chapter titled “Their Finest Hour: America Readies Itself To Free The Iraqi People.”

 

CAKEWALK!

“I believe demolishing Hussein’s military power and liberating Iraq would be a cakewalk.”
– Kenneth Adelman, member of the Pentagon’s Defense Policy Board, 2/13/02

“Support for Saddam, including within his military organization, will collapse after the first whiff of gunpowder.”
– Richard Perle, Chairman of the Pentagon’s Defense Policy Board, 7/11/02

“Desert Storm II would be in a walk in the park… The case for ‘regime change’ boils down to the huge benefits and modest costs of liberating Iraq.”
– Kenneth Adelman, member of the Pentagon’s Defense Policy Board, 8/29/02

“Having defeated and then occupied Iraq, democratizing the country should not be too tall an order for the world’s sole superpower.”
– William Kristol, Weekly Standard editor, and Lawrence F. Kaplan, New Republic senior editor, 2/24/03

 

HOW MANY TROOPS WILL BE NEEDED?

“I would be surprised if we need anything like the 200,000 figure that is sometimes discussed in the press. A much smaller force, principally special operations forces, but backed up by some regular units, should be sufficient.”
– Richard Perle, Chairman of the Pentagon’s Defense Policy Board, 7/11/02

“I don’t believe that anything like a long-term commitment of 150,000 Americans would be necessary.”
– Richard Perle, speaking at a conference on “Post-Saddam Iraq” sponsored by the American Enterprise Institute, 10/3/02

“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.”
– Gen. Eric Shinseki, testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee, 2/25/03

“The idea that it would take several hundred thousand U.S. forces, I think, is far from the mark.”
– Donald H. Rumsfeld, U.S. Secretary of Defense, 2/27/03

“I am reasonably certain that they will greet us as liberators, and that will help us keep [troop] requirements down. … We can say with reasonable confidence that the notion of hundreds of thousands of American troops is way off the mark…wildly off the mark.”
– Paul Wolfowitz, U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense, testifying before the House Budget Committee, 2/27/03

“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 image.”
– Paul Wolfowitz, U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense, testifying before the House Budget Committee, 2/27/03

“If our commanders on the ground say we need more troops, I will send them. But our commanders tell me they have the number of troops they need to do their job. Sending more Americans would undermine our strategy of encouraging Iraqis to take the lead in this fight. And sending more Americans would suggest that we intend to stay forever, when we are, in fact, working for the day when Iraq can defend itself and we can leave.”
– President George W. Bush, 6/28/05

“The debate over troop levels will rage for years; it is…beside the point.”
– Rich Lowry, conservative syndicated columnist, 4/19/06

 

WHAT ABOUT CASUALTIES?

“Oh, no, we’re not going to have any casualties.”
– President George W. Bush, response attributed to him by the Reverend Pat Robertson, when Robertson warned the president to prepare the nation for “heavy casualties” in the event of an Iraq war, 3/2003

“Why should we hear about body bags and deaths? Oh, I mean, it’s not relevant. So why should I waste my beautiful mind on something like that?”
– Barbara Bush, former First Lady (and the current president’s mother), on Good Morning America, 3/18/03

“I think the level of casualties is secondary… [A]ll the great scholars who have studied American character have come to the conclusion that we are a warlike people and that we love war… What we hate is not casualties but losing.”
– Michael Ledeen, American Enterprise Institute, 3/25/03

 

HOW MUCH WILL IT COST?

“Iraq is a very wealthy country. Enormous oil reserves. They can finance, largely finance the reconstruction of their own country. And I have no doubt that they will.”
– Richard Perle, Chairman of the Pentagon’s Defense Policy Board, 7/11/02

“The likely economic effects [of the war in Iraq] would be relatively small… Under every plausible scenario, the negative effect will be quite small relative to the economic benefits.”
– Lawrence Lindsey, White House Economic Advisor, 9/16/02

“It is unimaginable that the United States would have to contribute hundreds of billions of dollars and highly unlikely that we would have to contribute even tens of billions of dollars.”
– Kenneth M. Pollack, former Director for Persian Gulf Affairs, U.S. National Security Council, 9/02

“The costs of any intervention would be very small.”
– Glenn Hubbard, White House Economic Advisor, 10/4/02

“When it comes to reconstruction, before we turn to the American taxpayer, we will turn first to the resources of the Iraqi government and the international community.”
– Donald H. Rumsfeld, U.S. Secretary of Defense, 3/27/03

“There is a lot of money to pay for this that doesn’t have to be U.S. taxpayer money, and it starts with the assets of the Iraqi people. We are talking about a country that can really finance its own reconstruction and relatively soon.”
– Paul Wolfowitz, U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense, testifying before the Defense Subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee, 3/27/03

“The United States is committed to helping Iraq recover from the conflict, but Iraq will not require sustained aid.”
– Mitchell Daniels, Director, White House Office of Management and Budget, 4/21/03

“Iraq has tremendous resources that belong to the Iraqi people. And so there are a variety of means that Iraq has to be able to shoulder much of the burden for ther own reconstruction.”
– Ari Fleischer, White House Press Secretary, 2/18/03

 

HOW LONG WILL IT LAST?

“Now, it isn’t gong to be over in 24 hours, but it isn’t going to be months either.”
– Richard Perle, Chairman of the Pentagon’s Defense Policy Board, 7/11/02

“The idea that it’s going to be a long, long, long battle of some kind I think is belied by the fact of what happened in 1990. Five days or five weeks or five months, but it certainly isn’t going to last any longer than that.”
– Donald H. Rumsfeld, U.S. Secretary of Defense, 11/15/02

“I will bet you the best dinner in the gaslight district of San Diego that military action will not last more than a week. Are you willing to take that wager?”
– Bill O’Reilly, 1/29/03

“It is unknowable how long that conflict will last. It could be six days, six weeks. I doubt six months.”
– Donald H. Rumsfeld, U.S. Secretary of Defense, 2/7/03

“It won’t take weeks… Our military machine will crush Iraq in a matter of days and there’s no question that it will.”
– Bill O’Reilly, 2/10/03

“There is zero question that this military campaign…will be reasonably short. … Like World War II for about five days.”
– General Barry R. McCaffrey, national security and terrorism analyst for NBC News, 2/18/03

“The Iraq fight itself is probably going to go very, very fast. The shooting should be over within just a very few days from when it starts.”
– David Frum, former Bush White House speechwriter, 2/24/03

“Our military superiority is so great — it’s far greater than it was in the Gulf War, and the Gulf War was over in 100 hours after we bombed for 43 days… Now they can bomb for a couple of days and then just roll into Baghdad… The odds are there’s going to be a war and it’s going to be not for very long.”
– Former President Bill Clinton, 3/6/03

“I think it will go relatively quickly…weeks rather than months.”
– Vice President Dick Cheney, 3/16/03  

 

The Huffington Post  | March 20, 2008 12:03 PM 

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“Mission Accomplished!” Op-Ed by Cerf and Navasky in LA Times Marks 5th Anniversary of Iraq Invasion

A surge in Iraq gasbags

The experts all agree about the war’s success, but does anyone else agree with them?

By Christopher Cerf and Victor S. Navasky

March 19, 2008

With the fifth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq upon us, it seems to be generally agreed by most experts that the “surge” is working, that despite continuing casualties, we have at last reached a “turning point.” This is certainly the view of George W. (“Mission accomplished!”) Bush, Donald (“Stuff happens”) Rumsfeld, Dick (“The streets of Baghdad are sure to erupt with joy”) Cheney, Bill (“Military action will not last more than a week”) O’Reilly and Condoleezza (“We don’t want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud”) Rice.

But the above are all partisan voices. As far as we are aware — and, as founders of the Institute of Expertology, we are experts on the matter — until now no impartial institution has undertaken a comprehensive survey of experts on the war in Iraq. Therefore, our institute has taken it on itself to conduct such an inquiry.

For those who may have been too young to see, or are too old to remember, our original study, “The Experts Speak: The Definitive Compendium of Authoritative Misinformation” (1984), we recall that notwithstanding the best efforts of our worldwide cadre of researchers, we were unable to identify a single expert who was right.

At the time, despite those findings, our scholarly integrity compelled us to concede the statistical probability that, in theory, the experts might be right as much as half the time. It was simply that we hadn’t found any.

Our new study of the Iraq war, titled “Mission Accomplished! Or How We Won the War in Iraq,” is a different matter. We can state without fear of contradiction that never before in the history of institute surveys has there been such a dramatic consensus among experts — those who, by virtue of official status, academic standing, formal title, mastery of jargon and/or number of publications, are presumed to know what they are talking about.

They all seemed to agree that: 

* The link between Iraq and the Al Qaeda terrorists who carried out the 9/11 attacks was (to quote New York Times columnist William Safire) an “undisputed fact.”

* Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. (“Only a fool, or possibly a Frenchman, would think otherwise”: Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen.)

* The cost of war would be cheap at the price. (“We are dealing with a country that can really finance its own reconstruction”: then-Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz.)

* The U.N.’s chief weapons inspector was unreliable. (Hans Blix “couldn’t find the stretch marks on Rosie O’Donnell”: Laura Ingraham, syndicated radio host.)

* Torture is justifiable. (“Reasonable people will disagree about when torture is justified”: John C. Yoo, then-deputy assistant attorney general.)

* Abu Ghraib was not all that bad. (Abu Ghraib “is no different than what happens at the Skull and Bones initiation”: Rush Limbaugh.)

* The U.S. won the war within weeks. (“The only people who think this wasn’t a victory are Upper West Side liberals and a few people here in Washington”: Charles Krauthammer, syndicated columnist.)

Although there were differences, the Great Consensus was bipartisan. Sen. John McCain (who said before the fact that “the Iraqi people will greet us as liberators”) observed in September 2003 that “the next three to six months are critical.”

Three months later, Sen. Hillary Clinton (who before the invasion had said that Hussein “will keep trying to develop nuclear weapons”) insisted that “the next six to seven months are critical.”

Barack Obama partisans may try to argue that the Illinois senator did not share in the consensus, but he lacked any foreign policy experience and therefore does not qualify as an expert and is excluded from our study.

Nevertheless, as scrupulous scholars, we concede that there was and is a small group of dissenters from the Great Consensus, but they are for the most part ordinary citizens or extreme left- (and far right-) wingers who don’t really count. Besides, they would only pollute our sample.

Finally, although the institute expresses no opinion of its own on the matter, we feel it is incumbent on us to note apropos the “surge” that there is ample precedent for the “turning point” thesis mentioned above:

* July 7, 2003: “This month will be a political turning point for Iraq.” (Douglas J. Feith, then-undersecretary for Defense.)

* June 16, 2004: “A turning point will come two weeks from today.” (President Bush.)

* Feb. 2, 2005: “On Jan. 30 in Iraq, the world witnessed … a moment that historians might one day call a turning point.” (Donald Rumsfeld, then-U.S. secretary of Defense.)

* June 14, 2006: “I think — tide turning — see, as I remember — I was raised in the desert, but tides kind of — it’s easy to see a tide turn — did I say those words?” ( Bush.)

We trust that the above abstract of our findings will convince any reasonable person that our study was as rigorous, systematic and serious as were the experts themselves.

Christopher Cerf and Victor S. Navasky are the authors of Mission Accomplished! Or How We Won the War in Iraq: The Experts Speak, from which this was adapted.

Christopher Cerf and Victor Navasky to Appear at Politics and Prose Bookstore, in Washington, DC, on March 28

Here’s the store’s announcement:

Friday, March 28, 7 p.m.CHRISTOPHER CERF and VICTOR NAVASKY, MISSION ACCOMPLISHED! (Simon & Schuster, $16.95). From the folks at the Institute of Expertology comes Mission Accomplished! Or How We Won the War in Iraq, the definitive, footnoted, hilarious but depressing compilation of opinions from the experts who were in error about the Iraq War.

Salon.com Reviews the Institute’s New Book!

“Mission Accomplished: The Experts Speak, or How We Won the War in Iraq,” by Christopher Cerf and Victor Navasky

In some ways the Iraq war feels like a relic of a bygone era. People are still dying, America’s prestige and treasure continue to bleed into the sand, but the war has somehow become less newsworthy. It has migrated toward the back of the A section as the front pages fill up with headlines about Clinton, Obama and McCain. People apparently no longer want to hear about the war; they’d rather read about who will replace the war’s author.

“Mission Accomplished” feels, at first, like the same kind of musty echo. Cerf and Navasky have assembled 200 pages of direct quotes from the “experts” who brought us the war, a mordant collection of the most hubristic, deluded, deceitful and plain wrong statements about Iraq ever made by Bush administration officials and their enablers. All the golden oldies are here, from the title of the book itself to Rumsfeld’s “freedom is untidy” to Kenneth Adelman’s prediction that the war would be a “walk in the park” to Cheney and McCain’s prediction that the Iraqis would greet us as “liberators.” Cerf and Navasky have also dug up a few forgotten and worthy B-sides, like former White House speechwriter David Frum’s creepy assertion that “This ‘rush to war’ should really be seen as the ultimate ‘rush to peace.'”

It’s an upper-middle-brow bathroom book, full of a species of overly familiar and tragicomic one-liners. Readers may wish to do Sudoku puzzles instead of wallowing in memories of Ari Fleischer and WMDs. But readers who opt for “Mission Accomplished” may find that it pins them to their, um, seats. You can read it for the requisite five minutes, or 50. And should you linger, and find yourself borne back into the past, remembering what it was like to listen, helplessly, to the cheerleading, to cringe as a supposed liberal like Alan Colmes asked, “Should the people in Hollywood who opposed the president admit they were wrong?” you will also remember the alarm and outrage that ensued. You may turn past the front pages of the paper again, and notice that people are still saying things like this. Many of the book’s quotes are of quite recent vintage, like “Waterboarding is something of which every American should be proud,” uttered by conservative commentator Deroy Murdock on Nov. 7, 2007. Still other bons mots will have to wait for the next edition, like those from one of George Bush’s potential successors, who claims, repeatedly, that Iran is helping al-Qaida in Iraq. — Mark Schon

*   *   * 

http://www.salon.com/books/review/2008/03/21/iraq_books/index.html