“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
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