Ten Years Later: The Pre-War Rhetoric

On the 10th anniversary of our invasion of Iraq, it’s certainly worth looking back to see some of the statements made by supporters of that invasion before it began. Paul Wolfowitz, Donald Rumsfeld, President Bush and many others weren’t just wrong, they had invented their own alternate reality that wasn’t even close. Radley Balko offered a big list of their quotes a few years ago:

“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.

“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.”


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


“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.”


“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.

But the Republicans have still not learned their lesson on this. Mitt Romney surrounded himself with foreign policy advisers from the Bush administration during last year’s election and would have undoubtedly put those same people back in positions of authority if he’d been elected.


  1. Gvlgeologist, FCD says

    Well, it wouldn’t surprise me if there was a latrine there named after W.

  2. says

    Looking back at this list, I guess we should be thankful that they didn’t fuck things up any worse.

    “We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality—judiciously, as you will—we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors…and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.”

  3. says

    Let’s see Richard Nixon, hounded from office, resigned on August 9, 1974. He died on April 22, 1994 and the hagiography began.

    So, does that mean that approximately 20 years after they leave office the shitstain will slide off of all these asswipes to reveal the solid gold underneath?

  4. pacal says

    What makes it even more pathetic is that what actually happened was easily forseeable and was in fact foreseen, but such people were dismissed out of hand. Especially laughable in retrospect was all the stuff about the Iraqis being greeting the Americans has liberators and being oh so grateful. It turned out the Iraqis were glad to get rid of Sadaam but did not trust American motives. In fact the liberation, (And yes getting rid of Sadaam was a type of liberation.), did not in slightest remove the deep distrust of American motives that exist throughout the Middle East and is shared by Iraqis. And of course all those people who warned that liberating Iraq would “liberate”, unless careful plans were drawn up Iraqis religious and ethnic divisions were ignored.

    One of the least covered aspects of the Iraqi war was how unpopular America was in liberated Iraq, if the underreported opinion polls were any guide. What has been covered, although not in my opinion to the extent it deserves to be covered, is the catalogue of blunders that characterized the truly asinine level of post war planning before the war and the idiot level of decision making just after the initial invasion.

    The results were a stunningly costly war, an Iraqi government riddled by murderous factionalism that is not all that pro-American. All in all a mess and a disaster. To say nothing of the staggering human cost.

  5. TGAP Dad says

    Will we finally take to heart the lessons learned the hard way in Iraq and Afghanistan? The Spanish-American war and Vietnam indicate that we won’t. Now we’re hearing the drums beat again, with (unsubstantiated) claims that Syria is using chemical weapons on civilians, and that Iran has a nuclear weapons program. Say tuned…

    There is one angle to this retrospective that angers me: the focus on how “successful” the war was. If it had in act been easier, cheaper, or over more quickly, it would not have made it any less wrong to invade I the first place. W willingly let ourselves be led into this war because the Bush/Cheney junta sold the whole WMD angle to a compliant media, and we were still pissed about 9/11 and wanted our pound of flesh.

  6. slc1 says

    Re TGAP Dad @ #5

    I think that the nuclear weapons program of Iran has been substantially substantiated to all but the Israel bashers. In addition, the fact that Syria has a very large supply of chemical weapons has also been substantiated. The question as to whether they have been used by the Syrian government is still up in the air. IMHO, more important is what happens to them if and when the Assad kleptocracy falls, which, according to King Abdullah of Jordan, is only a matter of time. In addition, of more immediate concern is the large number of refugees currently fleeing the fighting in Syria, which may amount to a million as we sit here today. The presence of these refugees, particularly in Lebanon and Jordan is a destabilizing influence on those countries.

  7. Infophile says

    @6 slc1: Simply having nuclear weapons doesn’t make a country a threat – if it did, the US would have invaded France long ago. There has to be a realistic possibility they’ll use them against us before we should even talk about invasion (and it should be all but an inevitability before invasion becomes a thinkable option). Now, one could perhaps make the argument that North Korea is reaching this point, or will soon (they can’t deliver nukes to US shores any time soon, but Japan is another matter, and they’re under US protection), but Iran is simply too much of a stretch. They may be working to obtain nukes, and there may be people in Iran clamouring to nuke Israel, but that doesn’t mean those people have any actual political power. For all the people in the US saying we should nuke countries in the Middle East, no one with any power would even think of it, for the possible repercussions. The case is much worse for Iran – if, hypothetically, they did nuke every superpower with nukes themselves, the US and UK (and possibly others) have armed nuclear submarines that can still counterattack, and very likely will. Iran doesn’t have a suicide wish. (North Korea, on the other hand, makes me wonder.)

  8. slc1 says

    Re Infophile @ #7

    A nuclear armed Iran is not a direct threat to the US but it certainly is to our allies in the Middle East. Iran is currently the source of most of the instability in the Middle East via their support for Hamas, Hizbollah, and the Assad regime in Syria, not to mention their support for radical Shiite militias in Iraq. Give them nuclear weapons and it immediately becomes much harder to contain their ambitions, just as it is difficult to contain the ambitions of North Korea because of their nuclear weapons.

  9. dogmeat says

    A nuclear armed Iran is not a direct threat to the US but it certainly is to our allies in the Middle East. Iran is currently the source of most of the instability in the Middle East via their support for Hamas, Hizbollah, and the Assad regime in Syria, not to mention their support for radical Shiite militias in Iraq.

    This is simply a Middle East “domino theory,” and it is just as much unsubstantiated fear mongering as the original. Given that Iran, and North Korea for that matter, already do have chemical and biological weapons, why haven’t they provided those weapons to the anti-Israeli organizations? What evidence do you have that Iran, given nuclear capability, would provide those weapons to these organizations? Simply having a capability does not mean they will utilize that ability, especially given the fact that they haven’t done so previously.

    Why should Israel have nuclear weapons but not her neighbors?

  10. caseloweraz says

    It’s important to consider the number of warheads. After the “big five” (the U.S., Russia, Britain, France, and China) come Israel with perhaps 200, India and Pakistan with about 100 each. North Korea has 10 or fewer. South Africa had six, but dismantled them. Source: Wikipedia.

    So if Iran gets a few assembled, it could conceivably do major damage to Israel — but it would die immediately thereafter. Its leadership is well aware of that liability.

    That’s why I’m grateful to the wisdom in the words of Pacal and Infophile. I think it would be a bad thing if Iran gets nuclear weapons. But it’s far from the existential threat that Israel (read: Netanyahoo) makes it out to be.

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