Thursday, April 06, 2006

Nobody Asked Me, But . . . (4/06/06)


We live in what has been called the Information Age. Yet when the history of the early part of the 21st century is written, historians may refer to it as the Age of Misinformation. They will certainly remark on the great number of pseudo-experts who were quick to offer irresponsible opinions on every subject and make rash predictions based on little or no evidence. As we enter the fourth year of a never-ending war in Iraq, it is interesting to review some of their pronouncements:

Fifteen pundits and politicians with clouded crystal balls:

1. "Iraq should become a democracy. After all, the president has repeatedly cast the impending war as an effort to bring democracy to a land that for decades has known only dictatorship. Having defeated and then occupied Iraq, democratizing the country should not be too tall an order for the world's sole superpower." --William Kristol, Editor, The Weekly Standard, 2003

2. "It is hard to imagine how anyone could doubt that Iraq possesses weapons of mass destruction." --Fred Hiatt, Opinion page editor, The Washington Post, Feb 6, 2003

3. "I believe demolishing Hussein's military power and liberating Iraq will be a cakewalk. Let me give simple, responsible reasons: (1) It was a cakewalk last time; (2) they've become much weaker; (3) we've become much stronger; and (4) now we're playing for keeps." --Ken Adelman, former Rumsfeld assistant, in the Washington Post, Feb. 13, 20034. "So it turns out that all the slogans of the anti-war movement were right after all. And their demands were just. 'No War on Iraq,' they said--and there wasn't a war on Iraq. Indeed, there was barely a 'war' at all. 'Stop the war' was the call. And the 'war' is indeed stopping. That's not such a bad record." --Christopher Hitchens,, April 9, 20035. "We really don't need the Europeans. Anyway, they will be the first in line patting us on the back following our success and saying they were with us all along. Only fear will re-establish [Arab] respect for us . . . . We need a little bit of Machiavelli." --Former CIA Director James Woolsey in the Glasgow Sunday Herald, April 13, 20036. "The war has been a magnificent success.... Liberals carp about every bombing. We're not liberating Ohio here. After we won the war in 17 days flat, with amazingly few casualties, they complained about some museum pottery being broken." --Ann Coulter speaking at Northwestern University, Nov. 21, 20037. "In a couple of years, when things calm down, the oil spigots will be on; now these pansies [the French and Germans] want in so they can be a part of it." --Rush Limbaugh, radio broadcast, 20038. "With the capture of Saddam Hussein the war in Iraq is largely over...." --Sean Hannity in his book Deliver Us from Evil, 20049. "The level of activity that we see today from a military standpoint, I think, will clearly decline. I think they're in the last throes, if you will, of the insurgency." --Vice President Dick Cheney on Larry King Live, June 20, 200510. "But, lest we build up the enemy into 10-foot-tall supermen, it's important to realize how weak they are. Most of the conditions that existed in previous wars waged by guerrillas, from Algeria in the 1950s to Afghanistan in the 1980s, aren't present in Iraq. The rebels lack a unifying organization, ideology and leader. There is no Iraqi Ho Chi Minh, Fidel Castro or Mao Tse-tung." --Max Boot, columnist, Los Angeles Times, June 23, 2005
11. "The failure of the Bush team to produce any weapons of mass destruction in Iraq is becoming a big, big story. But is it the real story we should be concerned with? No. It was the wrong issue before the war, and it's the wrong issue now. Why? Because there were actually four reasons for this war: the real reason, the right reason, the moral reason and the stated reason."
--Thomas Friedman, columnist, The New York Times, June 4, 2003
12. "Last year when I was over there, I didn't feel like it was anything we could ever win. But this year...four out of five of the Iraqi people would wave at the choppers [in which his USO group flew]. Iraqis want our great boys and girls over there. They're tasting freedom for the first time." --Country singer Toby Keith, on The Early Show, June 22, 2005

13. "And I said on my program, if the Americans go in and overthrow Saddam Hussein and it's clean, he has nothing, I will apologize to the nation, and I will not trust the Bush administration again." --Bill O'Reilly on Good Morning America, March 18, 2003
"I'm sorry." --Bill O'Reilly apologizes on Good Morning America, Feb. 11, 2004
"But then I go on Good Morning America yesterday and say that I'm personally sorry my analysis on WMDs before the war was wrong, and I'm angry about the CIA mistake.... Well, that's dishonest. I still believe removing Saddam was the right thing to do and that history will prove it. And there's also the possibility that WMDs will be found, so I might have to apologize for my apology. I don't mind. I still hope they find WMDs. --Bill O'Reilly on The O'Reilly Factor," Feb. 12, 200414. "For bureaucratic reasons we settled on one issue, weapons of mass destruction, because it was the one reason everyone could agree on." --Paul Wolfowitz, former Deputy Defense Secretary, in Vanity Fair, July 200315. "You get the feeling [in the recent elections], a kind of family feeling.... An exciting day, a historic day here in Iraq. It is the dawn of freedom." --Geraldo Rivera, on the Fox News Network, January 2005
And one who got it right:

Before the start of the Iraq War, General Eric Shinseki, then serving as Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army, testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Feb. 25, 2003. Michigan Democratic Senator Carl Levin pressed him to estimate the size of an allied occupation force that would be needed after victory in Iraq.

Weighing his words carefully, the general, a West Point graduate, offered his best professional military opinion that "something on the order of several hundred thousand soldiers is probably the figure that would be required." He added, "We're talking about post-hostilities control over a piece of geography that's fairly significant, with the kinds of ethnic tensions that could lead to other problems." General Shinseki knew whereof he spoke; he formerly commanded the allied peacekeeping effort in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Within hours, clearly irritated by the general's statement, Pentagon civilians swung into action to discredit him.

Deputy defense secretary Paul Wolfowitz appeared before the same committee and pooh-poohed the general's troop estimate as "wildly off the mark." Ignoring the underlying ethnic and religious factionalism viciously suppressed by Saddam Hussein, he claimed that Iraq had no history of the kind of ethnic strife that plagued Bosnia and Kosovo. Iraqi civilians would welcome allied forces joyously, he predicted, and Iraq would generate $15 billion to $20 billion annually in oil revenue to pay for reconstruction. His boss, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, also retaliated against General Shinseki by announcing the name of his successor as Chief of Staff more than a year before his retirement.

In the end, the muse of history has a way of sorting out winners from losers and demonstrating the wisdom of an old German proverb, Wer zuletzt lacht, lacht am besten. Translation: "He who laughs last, laughs best."


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