Category Archives: Reviews


Thanks, Brooke Allen!

Brooke Allen is the author of Twentieth-Century Attitudes: Literary Powers in Uncertain Times, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year, so she certainly qualifies as a meta-expert, and the Institute of Expertology would have been proud to welcome her to full membership even if she hadn’t just written a glowing review of our recent publication, Mission Accomplished! (or How We Won the War in Iraq. But, it turns out, she has written such a review and it appears in the May 26, 2008 edition of B&N Review. We encourage you to read it (below), and to join us in as we proudly welcome Ms. Allen to our organization.


Reader’s Diary, by Brooke Allen

What were we thinking? Five years after the launch of Operation Iraqi Freedom, a hung-over America surveys the damage and wonders just how it got into this mess, while the very same politicians, journalists, and “experts” who sold us the war are now busy disclaiming all responsibility. In their marvelously (if grimly) amusing new book, Mission Accomplished! Or How We Won the War in Iraq (Simon & Schuster Paperbacks), Christopher Cerf and Victor S. Navasky have collected a chapbook of priceless quotations from the warmongers — including “the highest government officials, diplomats, Cabinet officers, four-star generals, big-foot pundits, prize-winning Middle East scholars, top think-tank strategists, the leadership of the Central Intelligence Agency, and such” — that predicted instant victory, a new world order, and liberty and oil for all.

This book has now superseded that old standby The World’s Stupidest Criminals as my favorite bathroom reading. Here, for example, is Laura Ingraham on UN arms inspector Hans Blix: “He couldn’t find a stretch-mark on Rosie O’Donnell.” And Alan Foley of the CIA: “If the president wants to go to war, our job is to find the intelligence to allow him to do so.” Charles Krauthammer’s 2003 claim that “the only people who think this wasn’t a victory are Upper West Side liberals, and a few people here in Washington” was echoed by General Tommy Franks — who of all people should have known better — a year later, when he said that “history will record” Operation Iraqi Freedom as “unequalled in excellence by anything in the annals of war.” John Yoo, Condi Rice, Christopher Hitchens, Alberto Gonzales, and of course Dubya himself (“No president has done more for human rights than I have”): all the biggies are here, trapped now in their own sticky web.



“Mission Accomplished!” is “shrewd, lucid, and tragically funny” – Huffington Post

Many thanks to The Huffington Post for last week’s stunning blurb about the Institute’s current compendium of authoritative misinformation concerning America’s military adventure in Iraq.  Here’s a reprint:

Mission Accomplished! Or How We Won The War In Iraq,” Victor Navasky and Christopher Cerf’s shrewd, lucid and tragically funny compendium of ‘experts’ offering their (erroneous, comically misguided, and even outright false) thoughts on the Iraq war, has been a great hit since its release in late March. Still hovering near the top 100 on Amazon, it is destined to become one of the essential collections for those trying to remember how the Iraq fiasco came to be. Read an excerpt here. or buy the book here

“Neoconceit and the Iraq Debacle”

Professor Daniel Martin Varisco of Hofstra University recently posted this article about Mission Accomplished! (or How We Won the War in Iraq) on

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

“Mission Revisited”: The Columbia Journalism Review Weighs In

Mission Revisited

Pundits paved the way to “Mission Accomplished”

On May 1, 2003, President Bush stood on the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln and told the world: “Major combat operations in Iraq have ended. In the Battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed. And now our coalition is engaged in securing and reconstructing that country.” The plans for securing and reconstructing weren’t so great, however, and we are five years down the road without a clear end in sight. On this anniversary, it seems worth remembering that part of the reason the president was not more strongly challenged on his assertions was a barrage of covering fire laid down by pundits. Here’s a sampler, from Mission Accomplished, a new Simon & Schuster paperback by Christopher Cerf, a writer and producer, and Victor Navasky, CJR’s chairman.

We expect every American to support our military, and if they can’t do that, to shut up. Americans, and indeed our allies, who actively work against our military once the war is under way will be considered enemies of the state by me. –Bill O’Reilly, Fox News Channel, February 26, 2003

The man who slept through many classes at Yale and partied the nights away stands revealed as a profound and great leader who will reshape the world for the better. The United States is lucky once again. –Mona Charen, syndicated columnist, March 23, 2003

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. –Fred Barnes, editor, The Weekly Standard, on Fox News, April 10, 2003

Every step of the way, they were lecturing us on how it wasn’t well thought out…we didn’t have enough troops there, it was going to be a quagmire. All of these thousands, according to naysayers, of troops are going to die….They’ve…made fools of themselves. –Sean Hannity, Hannity & Colmes, April 10, 2003

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. –Tony Snow, host of Fox News Sunday, April 13, 2003

The United States [has] committed itself…to reshaping the Middle East, so the region [will] no longer be a hotbed of terrorism, extremism, anti-Americanism, and weapons of mass destruction….the first two battles of this new era are now over. The battles of Afghanistan and Iraq have been won decisively and honorably. –William Kristol, The Weekly Standard, April 28, 2003

The war was so successful, [its critics] don’t have any arguments left….The biggest mishap liberals can seize on is that some figurines from an Iraqi museum were broken-a relief to college students everywhere who have ever been forced to gaze upon Mesopotamia pottery. –Ann Coulter, syndicated columnist, April 30, 2003

It ended quickly with few civilian casualties and with little damage to Iraq’s cities, towns, or infrastructure….It ended without the quagmire [war critics] predicted….Iraqis are freer today and we are safer. Relax and enjoy it. –Richard Perle, member of the Pentagon’s Defense Policy Board, in USA Today, May 1, 2003


“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.”



“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



“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



“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



“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



“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 

Read More: Mission Accomplished BookNavasky BookVictor Navasky BookBreaking Politics News

Buzz up! 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

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