Five Years in Iraq

Wednesday, March 19th, 2008

For newer readers, let’s revisit what the supporters and architects of this war told us to sell it:

“The United States is committed to helping Iraq recover from the conflict, but Iraq will not require sustained aid.”

–OMB Director Mitch Daniels, quote in the Washington Post on April 21, 2003.

“Well, the Office of Management and Budget, has come up come up with a number that’s something under $50 billion for the cost. How much of that would be the U.S. burden, and how much would be other countries, is an open question.”

–Donald Rumsfeld, January 19, 2003.

Note, we’re now well past the $500 billion mark, and closing in on $1 trillion. Last year, we spent nearly $5,000 per Iraqi citizen. More:

“Costs of any [Iraq] intervention would be very small.”

–White House economic advisor Glen Hubbard, October 4, 2002.

“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 their own reconstruction.”

–Ari Fleischer, February 18, 2003.

“We’re dealing with a country that can really finance its own reconstruction, and relatively soon.”

–Paul Wolfowitz, March 27, 2003.

“A year from now, I’ll be very surprised if there is not some grand square in Baghdad that is named after President Bush.”

–Richard Perle, September 22, 2003.

“I expect we will get a lot of mitigation [from other countries re: the cost of rebuilding Iraq], but it will be easier after the fact than before the fact.”

–Paul Wolfowitz, March 27, 2003.

“Some of the higher-end predictions that we have been hearing recently, such as the notion that it will take several hundred thousand U.S. troops to provide stability in post-Saddam Iraq, are wildly off the mark.”

–Wolfowitz

“I am reasonably certain that they will greet us as liberators, and that will help us to keep requirements down.”

–Wolfowitz

“Well, I don’t think it’s likely to unfold that way. . . . The read we get on the people of Iraq is there is no question but what they want to the get rid of Saddam Hussein, and they will welcome as liberators the United States when we come to do that.”

–Dick Cheney, when asked if the American public is ready for a long, bloody battle, March 16, 2003.

“I don’t think it would be that tough a fight.”

–Cheney.

“There are other differences that suggest that peacekeeping requirements in Iraq might be much lower than historical experience in the Balkans suggests.”

–Wolfowitz, February 27, 2003

“Bring ‘em on. We’ve got the force necessary to deal with the security situation.”

–President Bush, when asked if the insurgency and resulting U.S. casualties might cause him to ask for more help from U.S. allies, July 2, 2003.

Now, let’s look at what those nutty, “unserious” libertarians warned would happen if we went to war with Iraq:

“In the words of one Iraqi: ‘We thank the Americans for getting rid of Saddam’s regime, but now Iraq must be run by Iraqis.’ To prevent that gratitude from turning to resentment and hostility, we must have the wisdom to leave as quickly as possible. If we don’t, the United States runs the risk of reliving its experience in Lebanon in the 1980s. Or worse, our own version of the Soviet experience in Afghanistan — Arabs and Muslims from the region could flock to Iraq to expel the American infidel.”

–Charles V. Pena, May 8, 2003.

“Promoters of nation-building in Iraq, including many who scorned similar efforts by a Democratic administration a few years ago, point to nation-building successes in Germany and Japan following World War II. Along these same lines, Bush declared that ‘[r]ebuilding Iraq will require a sustained commitment’ and that the United States would ‘remain in Iraq as long as necessary, and not a day more.’ But there are still more than 70,000 U.S. troops in Germany and 50,000 in Japan, and this lingering troop presence has given rise to a virulent anti-Americanism. If these ’success’ stories reflect the model for post-war Iraq, we should expect U.S. troops to remain in this troubled region for many years.”

–Christopher Preble, March 4, 2003

“In the absence of strong allies and regional bases, the successful prosecution of another war in Iraq may be more costly in time, lives and resources than the Gulf War.”

–William Niskanen, December 31, 2001

“Another war in Iraq may serve bin Laden’s objective of unifying radical Muslims around the world in a jihad against the United States, increasing the number of anti-U.S. terrorists. In contrast, the Sept. 11 attacks and the successful prosecution of the war in Afghanistan have divided the Muslim political elite.”

–Niskanen

“Yet no matter how emotionally satisfying removing a thug like Saddam may seem, Americans would be wise to consider whether that step is worth the price. The inevitable U.S. military victory would not be the end of America’s troubles in Iraq. Indeed, it would mark the start of a new round of headaches. Ousting Saddam would make Washington responsible for Iraq’s political future and entangle the United States in an endless nation-building mission beset by intractable problems.”

–Ted Galen Carpenter, January 14, 2002

“If Iraq’s forces don’t quickly crumble, the U.S. might find itself involved in urban conflict that will be costly in human and political terms.”

–Doug Bandow, August 12, 2002

“The Gulf War Cost $80 billion (in 2002 dollars). Because the United States would probably be faced with a long occupation of Iraq to stabilize the country after the invasion, the cost is likely to be higher this time around. And unlike the Gulf War, no financial support from other nations can be expected to defray the costs.”

–Ivan Eland, August 19, 2002

“The MacArthur Regency worked in Japan because the U.S. occupiers entered a country sick to death of war, with a tradition of deference to authority…

…That process is particularly unlikely to be repeated in Iraq, a fissiparous amalgam of Sunnis, separatist Shiites and Kurds. Keeping the country together will require a strong hand and threatens to make U.S. servicemen walking targets for discontented radicals.”

–Gene Healy, January 1, 2003

Worth keeping in mind should we get a President McCain, who will inevitably start rattling his saber at Iran.

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21 Responses to “Five Years in Iraq”

  1. #1 |  Curt | 

    Great stuff, the quote from Ted Galen Carpenter is the best and should be put on a billboard across from the White House.

    But I’m not sure about one of your quotes.

    Bandow’s quote doesn’t seem applicable… “Iraq’s forces” did crumble quickly and still we found ourselves in a mess. He misses Carpenter’s point about “a new round of headaches.”

  2. #2 |  Stuart Draper | 

    It was great to read the various quotes and to see the gap in reality of their words compared to the current status of this disaster.
    I feel it also important to remember the events that occurred at the beginning of the invasion. I made an eight minute documentary about the looting of the Iraqi National Museum. I had the good fortune of interviewing Dr. Donny George, the former director of the Museum, and learned a great deal about this tragic, historical, and still misunderstood event. Below is a link to the video. I hope it is insightful about one aspect of the this war that is still raging five years later.
    -Stuart Draper

    http://www.scribemedia.org/2008/02/07/looting-the-iraqi-national-museum/

  3. #3 |  Nando | 

    This is all well known to most of the people who read your blog. Frankly, I’m really tired of hearing about the past. We know that the administration got it wrong and that we probably shouldn’t have gone into Iraq in the first place (or at least planned it better).

    I don’t care to hear about what went wrong, who failed to plan, who didn’t listen to whom, or who was right all along. What I do care to listen to is a plan on where we go from here. I want to know when and how to pull out and how to repair our diplomatic and policy blunders. I’m tired of living in the mistakes of the past.

    The milk is already spilled, now let us find a way to clean it up.

  4. #4 |  Doug Bandow » Blog Archive » All Those Great Predictions of an Inexpensive Cakewalk in Iraq | 

    [...] My friend Radley Balko reminds us about the foolish predictions made by some of the “great minds” that got us into the Iraq war.  For instance: For newer readers, let’s revisit what the supporters and architects of this war told us to sell it: “The United States is committed to helping Iraq recover from the conflict, but Iraq will not require sustained aid.” [...]

  5. #5 |  Bill | 

    It is true that “the milk is already spilled”. But it is also true that two of the three remaining candidates for president are running on their experience. Since that experience includes voting for the use of force in Iraq, it seems important to revisit this issue. Should we really count experience in making bad decisions as a qualification for leadership?

  6. #6 |  Tokin42 | 

    I don’t think the history on this is anywhere near ready to be written. From strictly a military standpoint, I think anyone who served as recently as 20 years ago would be amazed at how quickly lessons learned are implemented into actual training. The major success of the last year has a lot more to do with tactics than the few thousand extra forces. While it has absolutely not been a smashing success I certainly wouldn’t call it an unqualified disaster either.

    The question isn’t “Should we have…” but.. “What now”. Pulling out, like a lot of people want, would cause a major power vacuum that would very likely draw in all the neighbors. It may be hard for some of you to imagine but it would get incredibly worse than it is now.

    2nd it would completely ruin any credibility we have with people who like to fly planes into buildings. They hit us because they weren’t afraid of our response given our tendency to run every time we got smacked since reagan pulled out of lebanon and they’d know they got out of a tight spot and beat us. They’ve been decimated worldwide over the last 5 years and pulling out would absolutely hand them a victory out of defeat.

  7. #7 |  JCoke | 

    1st- “Should we have” is and always will be an important question especially when we have most of our government adhering to the same kind of foreign policy that got us in there. We may have already screwed up on Iraq, but there are countless other countries we can fuck up as well.

    2nd- Our decision to invade Iraq let the terrorists know that we will respond to their threats and attacks with stupidity, and wind up with things like military commitments to Iraq, where we lose tons of money and soldiers. As a result of our invasion, many Iraqis hate us, and many are sympathetic with anyone that will fight them (AQ). The terrorists have not been “decimated”, they are still in Syria, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and control local police forces and militias in Iraq. Chaining ourselves to a flawed decision for prides sake is just hurting us more.

  8. #8 |  Mark J. | 

    Regarding my support for the Iraq War:

    I feel like the dad that has just lost his shirt in a lawsuit because his stupid kid was in an at-fault car accident. No matter how mad I get, how loud I scream, or how much I wish I could go back in time and help him make a smarter decision, in the end, I’m still the dumbass who gave him the keys.

  9. #9 |  Greg N. | 

    This notion of quoting the pre-war predictions from libertarians is useless. Libertarians always claim that war will be a protracted nightmare. One Cato study in late 1990 predicted that, because of the power of the Israeli lobby, the U.S. would be in a war that “involved Israel” by the year 2000, and that the Persian Gulf war would make the U.S. spend the 1990’s involved in a “dangerous form of conventional combat in mid-intensity conflicts (MICs) in the Middle East and Moslem southwest Asia.” It then predicted that the first Gulf War could cost “hundreds of thousands of American lives” (There were actually 148 battle-related deaths).

    Even a broken clock is right twice a day. And sooner or later, some war is going to reflect the generally wild and off-base predictions of libertarian foreign policy “experts” (where did Roy Childs study IR before joining Cato’s foreign policy team?).

    I was for the war back in ’03 (and remained so through about 2006). It seemed reasonable that Hussein was enough of a threat that he should be removed, and whatever weapons program he had dismantled. Some weren’t convinced by the evidence back then; I was. Too credulous? Sure, I guess. But I don’t lose sleep over it, because I don’t think it was unreasonable in 3/03.

    I never believed in the nation-building part of the war, though. Disarmament and regime change was all I thought justified.

    Of course, like most reasonable people, I realize at this point that the effort has not worked, and I think we should start packing up and getting the troops out of there as fast as is consistent with safety and prudence, etc.

    Yes, the libertarians got it right. This time. Next time, who knows? But if they get it wrong (like the first Gulf War), you can be sure someone will be waiting to quote all the wrong predictions and show how libertarians really are unserious after all.

    And can you really deny that some so-called libertarians really are “nutty” and “unserious”? Have you been to anti-state.com, or antiwar.com? Lew Rockwell ring a bell?

  10. #10 |  Greg N. | 

    “Embracing a strategy based on a stiff-necked moralism reminiscent of Woodrow Wilson at his worst may appeal to those who long for an internationalist utopia, but the outcome is likely to be a war that will cost thousands, perhaps tens of thousands, of lives.”–Christopher Layne and Ted Galen Carpenter, on the first Gulf War.

  11. #11 |  Lee Hamel | 

    #5, there are 4 candidates still running for President — you are omitting Ron Paul.

  12. #12 |  Mike Schneider | 

    > Note, we’re now well past the $500 billion mark, and
    > closing in on $1 trillion. Last year, we spent nearly $5,000
    > per Iraqi citizen.

    Better them than the welfare leeches here.

    — I’d rather the government piled up money into a paper pyramid and set it on fire rather than give it to those Great Society assholes.

  13. #13 |  JCoke | 

    money gone is money gone. But in this case, it is going to a war that is killing plenty of Americans and Iraqis. I’d rather give the money to an alcoholic Great Society leech. Or better yet, find an opportunity to begin reducing the national debt.

  14. #14 |  Mike Schneider | 

    > But in this case, it is going to a war that is killing plenty
    > of Americans and Iraqis.

    The Americans dying in Iraq are those who volunteered to go there. (Has there been a single prosecution of an AWOL case in the last five years?) As far as Iraqis, they were getting killed in greater numbers before the war.

    — Did you know that more people are killed by murder every year in Hugo Chavez’s glorious Utopian paradise Venezuela than are killed by war in Iraq? 18,000 were snuffed in 2007. Iraq and Venezuela are virtually identical in size and population. But you don’t hear about the horrific carnage in Venezuela on a daily basis, do you?

    Why is that, you wonder?

    It’s because everything you think you know is spoon-fed to you by the press, which controls the agenda by deciding what you’ll hear today (and, more importantly, what you won’t hear), and makes you salivate like a Pavlovian dog whenever it rings your bell.

  15. #15 |  Rough Ol’ Boy » Blog Archive » Happy Birthday! | 

    [...] war were a child, it would be finishing up kindergarten.  To mark the occasion, go this Agitator post to compare pre-war statements from the supposedly very sober and serious neoconservatives who [...]

  16. #16 |  Student Life | 

    [...] war were a child, it would be finishing up kindergarten.  To mark the occasion, go this Agitator post to compare pre-war statements from the supposedly very sober and serious neoconservatives who [...]

  17. #17 |  JCoke | 

    The Americans in Iraq are the ones who volunteered to protect our country, not be dumped in one Middle Eastern country after another. You may think it is ok for them to abandoned, but it is a bad thing for any soldier to die, and it is worse when nothing is being accomplished by it.

    The reason that the press doesn’t report daily on Venezuelan massacres is pretty simple- we are not directly responsible for it. We haven’t invaded that country and have nothing to do with the atrocities there. People get killed all over the world and there is no matter how many countries we invade and destroy, that will still happen.

  18. #18 |  Bill | 

    Lee(#11), you’re absolutely right–my bad, because I would have loved to see Paul win. I should have said something like “of the three with a snowball’s chance of winning”, unfortunately.

  19. #19 |  Bill | 

    Wow, Mike, that’s bad statistics….unless you only count American lives. But I suspect that those 18,000 killed in Venezuela weren’t Americans either.

    The most conservative estimates of Iraqi losses that I’ve seen run to about 82,000 in the 5 years of the war. Those are only deaths that have been reported in the English language media. The source, Iraq Body Count, acknowledges that “it should be noted that many deaths will likely go unreported or unrecorded by officials and media.” Even so, they reported 26,000 Iraqi deaths from March of 06 to march of 07.

    Less conservative estimates can run from “151,000 violent deaths out of 400,000 excess deaths due to the war” (Iraqi Health Ministry) to 601,027 violent deaths out of 654,965 excess deaths” (the Lancet) only up to June, 2006

    But despite the fact that your statistics are at worst horribly biased, and at best not very supportive of your point, it’s a safe bet that American soldiers, on the U.S. government’s payroll, are not responsible for the murders you describe in Venezuela. We don’t have a dog in that fight. But our government’s decisions are responsible for what is happening in Iraq today.

  20. #20 |  Masson’s Blog - A Citizen’s Guide to Indiana » How the War was Sold | 

    [...] the War was Sold By Doug The Agitator has a good collection of pre-War quotes showing, in part, how the War in Iraq was sold to the American public. I [...]

  21. #21 |  Barry | 

    Coming in at the 10 year anniversary, I’ve still go to reply to Tokin42:

    “2nd it would completely ruin any credibility we have with people who like to fly planes into buildings. They hit us because they weren’t afraid of our response given our tendency to run every time we got smacked since reagan pulled out of lebanon and they’d know they got out of a tight spot and beat us. They’ve been decimated worldwide over the last 5 years and pulling out would absolutely hand them a victory out of defeat.”

    You method to gain credibility is that when A hits us, we hit B, whom A hates, and cause lots of others to rally against us/for B/for A.

    Wow.

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