Gayle in MD
09-16-2011, 03:06 PM
Gayle in MD
09-16-2011, 03:18 PM
Upbeat Tone Ended With War
Officials' Forecasts Are Questioned
By Dana Milbank
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, March 29, 2003; Page A01
The moment the first shots were fired last week in the war against Iraq, the Bush administration pivoted sharply to dampen public expectations of the military operation.
In the months preceding the war, President Bush was largely silent on the subject of the conflict's cost, duration and dangers, while key administration officials and advisers presented upbeat forecasts. Vice President Cheney, for example, predicted Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's troops would "step aside" and that the conflict would be "weeks rather than months," a phrase repeated by other top officials. Others in advisory roles in the administration predicted Iraqi soldiers would "throw in the towel" and Hussein would collapse like "a house of cards" -- phrases senior administration officials often echoed in private.
But when Bush announced the war on March 19, he offered a warning that has been echoed throughout the administration in the 10 days since: "A campaign on the harsh terrain of a nation as large as California could be longer and more difficult than some predict." Speaking to veterans yesterday, he warned again that "the fierce fighting currently underway will demand further courage and further sacrifice."
That assessment, combined with unexpected resistance facing coalition forces in Iraq, has produced a torrent of questions in recent days about whether the White House played down the costs of the conflict until it was underway. According to a new CBS News poll, 55 percent of Americans say the country underestimated Iraqi resistance, while 37 percent disagree.
Bush administration officials say it is far too early to dismiss the upbeat predictions. Indeed, just as early doubts about progress in Kosovo and Afghanistan were dispelled, Hussein's government could still collapse within weeks, and Iraqis could celebrate the U.S. "liberation" of their country.
Administration officials now say they were frank about the dangers all along. But in the months leading up to the war, top administration officials offered a number of forecasts that accentuated the positive.
On CBS's "Face the Nation" on March 16, Cheney said the fight would be "weeks rather than months. There's always the possibility of complications that you can't anticipate, but I have great confidence in our troops." Cheney also predicted the fight would "go relatively quickly, but we can't count on that." That same day on NBC's "Meet the Press," Cheney said, "I think things have gotten so bad inside Iraq, from the standpoint of the Iraqi people, my belief is we will, in fact, be greeted as liberators." It was then he predicted that the regular Iraqi soldiers would not "put up such a struggle," and that even "significant elements of the Republican Guard . . . are likely to step aside." Asked if Americans are prepared for a "long, costly and bloody battle," Cheney replied: "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." Cheney has spoken that way for months.
In September 2002, he said that "you always plan for the worst," but he also said, "I don't think it would be that tough a fight; that is, I don't think there's any question that we would prevail." In a speech in August, he cited a scholar's view that "the streets in Basra and Baghdad are sure to erupt in joy in the same way the throngs in Kabul greeted the Americans."
White House press secretary Ari Fleischer said yesterday that Cheney's "weeks rather than months" formulation may yet be proven correct. Facing repeated questions at his daily briefing, he declined to second the view of Lt. Gen. William S. Wallace, the Army's senior ground commander in Iraq, who said this week the war may be longer than many strategists had anticipated.
And he noted that the president did not make any predictions about the war's duration. A spokeswoman for Cheney echoed Fleischer's view that it is premature to dismiss Cheney's predictions about the conflict.
Fleischer cited three remarks Bush made about the conflict's risks. On Oct. 7, the president said "military conflict could be difficult. An Iraqi regime faced with its own demise may attempt cruel and desperate measures." On Jan. 3, he said: "I know that every order I give can bring a cost. . . . We know the challenges and the dangers we face." And in the Jan. 28, State of the Union address, Bush said: "The technologies of war have changed; the risks and suffering of war have not. For the brave Americans who bear the risk, no victory is free from sorrow. This nation fights reluctantly, because we know the cost and we dread the days of mourning that always come."
Fleischer said these comments show that Bush was upfront about the risks involved in attacking Iraq. "I think the American people, from the very beginning, when they heard the president on September 12, 2002, talk about the possibility of the United States using force to disarm Saddam Hussein, they started to understand that if we're going to use force, it, of course, entails sacrifice," he said. "I think that's one of the reasons that the American people have accepted the way they have the realities of this war, the risks of this war, and still support it as strongly as they do."
Though other officials often provided caveats about unpredictable dangers, they also spoke of the conflict in optimistic terms. For example, Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in a breakfast meeting earlier this month that the goal was "a short, short conflict." Last September, Myers said that "Iraq is much weaker than they were back in the early '90s," when it was routed in the Persian Gulf War.
Right up to the hours before Bush announced the war's start last Wednesday, leading officials voiced confidence. "The campaign will be unlike any we have ever seen in the history of warfare, with breathtaking precision, almost eye-watering speed, persistence, agility and lethality," said Vice Admiral Timothy Keating, commander of U.S. naval forces in the Gulf.
That view appeared in a Defense Department document titled "Overview of Requirements" submitted this week to Congress. It referred to "a short, extremely intense period of combat operations using a full range of U.S. and coalition forces. This phase will eliminate any significant organized resistance to U.S. coalition forces and will end the current regime."
At a news briefing with Rumsfeld yesterday, Myers spoke in a more measured way about forces approaching Baghdad. "It was necessary to try to bring down this regime as quickly as possible," he said. "I didn't say quick; I said as quickly as possible. "You've heard us both stand up here and say this is going to take some time, and the tough part is yet ahead of us."
A senior administration official who briefed reporters Monday on condition of anonymity said Rumsfeld "has right along said that he thought that fighting was likely to last weeks, not months." Rumsfeld told troops last month that "it could last, you know, six days, six weeks. I doubt six months." Rumsfeld also contradicted the Army chief of staff, who told the Senate that "several hundred thousand" troops would be needed to occupy Iraq. "Far off the mark," Rumsfeld said.
Some officials' predictions may yet be realized, even if early signs have not been encouraging. For example, Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul D. Wolfowitz said in a speech earlier this month that "the Iraqi people understand what this crisis is about. Like the people of France in the 1940s, they view us as their hoped-for liberator." Wolfowitz said yesterday that "we probably did underestimate the willingness of this regime to commit war crimes," but he said other forecasts were on course.
Other forecasts seem increasingly improbable. Richard Perle, until this week chairman of the Pentagon's Defense Policy Board, said last summer that Hussein is "much weaker than we think he is." Calling the regime a "house of cards," Perle said "support for Saddam, including within his military organization, will collapse at the first whiff of gunpowder."
In an interview on PBS, Perle said he "would be surprised if we need anything like" 200,000 troops, and predicted only 10 percent of Hussein's troops would be loyal. Though warning of "contingencies," he predicted an internal revolt against Hussein, adding: "It will be quicker and easier than many people think. He is far weaker than many people realize."
Yesterday, in an interview with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, Perle said of the war: "There is some resistance, of course. I don't know anyone who thought this would be a war without resistance."
<span style='font-size: 14pt'> And we're Still paying for Bush's War!!!! While, Repiglicans are telling sick Americans to die, cutting our social security, destroying medicare and medicaid, and demonizing TEACHERS!!
The Pigs ARE NUTS! </span>
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Gayle in MD
09-16-2011, 03:29 PM
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