By now all but the most ardent of Bush administration admirers must face the obvious: the mission in Iraq was never accomplished, only botched. Historians and pundits will devote tomes upon tomes in assessing one of the most egregious blunders in American foreign policy. But it is not that difficult to see how it happened. Take a horrific tragedy (9/11), a convenient scapegoat (Muslim extremists), a personal grudge (Saddam surviving the first Gulf War and bragging about it), ideological nitwits (Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Feith, and the list goes on), a bottom line (oil supply), a fear factor (WMDs) and outright lies. Much of the evidence for the Iraq Debacle survives on videotape. Now Christopher Cerf and Victor S. Navasky have documented what the “experts” bungled in their recent Mission Accomplished or How We Won the War in Iraq: The Experts Speak (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2008).
Cerf and Navasky operate out of The Institute of Expertology, an outside the Beltway anti-think tank that reveals that most would-be intellectual emperors have no clothes, and many of these stand stark naked without shame, even after being exposed. The case for the prosecution is both cute (without having to change a word of the neocon experts) and acute, as the architects of the Bush Iraq Debacle walk the planks they themselves imagined out of hot air. Here is a sampling of the neoconceit anti-principles that got us into this mess:
• They will treat us like liberators.
“My belief is we will, in fact, be greeted as liberators.” Dick Cheney, March 16, 2003 [Well, Dick, you should have stuck to duck hunting, since we never stopped being regarded as occupiers. Our troops were, in fact, greeted with IEDs and sniper fire.]
• It’ll be over in a jiffy.
“It is not knowable if force will be used, but if it is to be used, it is knowable how long that conflict would last. It could last, you know, six days, six weeks, six months.” Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, February 7, 2003. [Hey, Rummy, you forgot the six years part. But the numbers you did give add up to 666, and you should know what a beastly number that is. Or, did you mean “farce” rather than “force”.]
• They sell WMDs in the corner deli.
“[Saddam’s] facilities are mobile; they have been widely dispersed to a number of locations; [he has] vast underground networks and facilities, and sophisticated denial and deception techniques.” Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, September 27, 2002. [The mobile units turned out to be nothing but hot air, literally helium tanks for weather balloons, and the deception of Saddam’s WMD program was so good that six years later no nukes have been found. If they really did have Nigerian yellow cake, they must have eaten it. Did anyone do a stool test on Chemical Ali?]
• When in doubt, blame Saddam.
“The war on terror involves Saddam Hussein because of the nature of Saddam Hussein, the history of Saddam Hussein, and his willingness to terrorize himself.” President George W. Bush, January 29, 2003. [In hindsight I suppose we could say that “The war on terror involves George W. Bush because of the nature of George W. Bush, the history of George W. Bush, and his willingness to terrorize just about anyone who does not agree with him.”]
• The minimalist approach to war.
“I am reasonably certain that they will greet us as liberators, and that they will help us keep [troop] requirements down… We can say with reasonable confidence the the notion of hundreds of thousands of American troops is way off the mark … wildly off the mark.” [Wolfie, we can see with total confidence, because it happened already, that the only thing wildly off the mark was your estimate.]
• Casualties, did you say casualties?
“Oh, no, we’re not going to have any casualties.” George W. Bush in a response attributed to him by Rev. Pat Robertson, when Robertson warned the President to prepare the nation for “heavy casualties” in the event of an Iraq War, March, 2003. [Did you get this idea straight from your “higher father” or was the devil in the details?]
• Osama who? Is that the guy the Dems are nominating?
“I don’t know where he [Osama Bin Laden] is. You know, I just don’t spend that much time on him… Truly I am not that concerned about him.” George W. Bush, March 13, 2002. [Hell, if you’ve seen one terrorist, you’ve seen ‘em all. So can we take down that “Wanted” Dead or Alive” poster yet?]
After their exhaustive search of accomplished pronouncements about the mission that was and still is and should never have been, Cerf and Navasky conclude:
“But after having completed our in-depth study and analysis of five years of expert commentary on the Iraq War, despite the near-unanimity and the high status and IQ of our subjects, we now must allow for the possibility that (with one exception, discussed below), the experts all got it wrong… The fact that the Iraq experts all agreed with each other should have been the tip-off.”
For an interview of the authors with Bill Moyers, click here.
Daniel Martin Varisco