Normally I don’t post long articles, but I wanted to put this WSJ article up for the following reasons. First, because about half of these quotes are from najor American media outlets, and there is a perception among certain non-Americans on this board that the American media did nothing but whip the population into a pro-war frenzy. Second, because the British journalists quoted in the article were just as wrong as were the Americans quoted in the article – and they were also anti-war.
A different perspective does not mean a correct one, and bias does not necessarily mean one is incorrect. In this case, the biased, pro-war prognoticators seem to have been correct, and the anti-war naysayers have been left sniffling and attempting to redefine the objectives of the conflict in order to make it seem as if it was actually unsuccessful.
BTW, as a side note, I’ll acknowledge that certain Iraqis now wish the U.S. military would depart. This is not exactly surprising, especially among those who will seek to take power once the U.S. does withdraw – they simply want their power earlier rather than later. This is especially true of the leaders among the majority Shiite Muslim sect, who were suppressed under Saddam’s regime (and who apparently are divided among themselves about whether they want to establish a theocracy along Iranian lines or a non-theological democracy more long Turkish lines). This does not change the fact that they celebrated the arrival of the U.S. troops and the downfall of Saddam’s regime.
Enjoy, and please share your opinions below.
They Said What?
With Saddam Hussein’s regime now ousted, it is instructive to look back on the writing that ensued in the early (and sometimes not so early) days of the war. Though only a small selection, the snippets below illustrate the extent to which the war was misjudged, or, in some cases, spun, by analysts and reporters alike:
“At 100 hours, Iraq war is no re-run of Gulf triumph” – headline, Reuters, March 24
“It is hard not to draw comparisons with events surrounding North Vietnam’s Tet offensive in 1968. The U.S. inflicted heavy casualties on its enemies and was seen as the victor on the battlefield, but such was the psychological impact of the attack that America lost the struggle for domestic and international public opinion and ultimately withdrew.” – Victor Mallet, Financial Times, March 28
“In Baghdad the coalition forces confront a city apparently determined on resistance. They should remember Napoleon in Moscow, Hitler in Stalingrad, the Americans in Mogadishu and the Russians at Grozny. Hostile cities have ways of making life ghastly for aggressors. They are not like countryside. They seldom capitulate, least of all when their backs are to the wall. It took two years after the American withdrawal from Vietnam for Saigon to fall to the Vietcong. Kabul was ceded to the warlords only when the Taleban drove out of town. In the desert, armies fight armies. In cities, armies fight cities. The Iraqis were not stupid. They listened to Western strategists musing about how a desert battle would be a pushover. Things would get ‘difficult’ only if Saddam played the cad and drew the Americans into Baghdad. Why should he do otherwise?” – Simon Jenkins, (London) Times, March 28
“With every passing day, it is more evident that the failure to obtain permission from Turkey for American troops to cross its territory and open a northern front constituted a diplomatic debacle. With every passing day, it is more evident that the allies made two gross misjudgments in concluding that coalition forces could safely bypass Basra and Nasiriya and that Shiite Muslims in southern Iraq would rise up against Saddam Hussein. Already, the commander of American ground forces in the war zone has conceded that the war that they are fighting is not the one they and their officers had foreseen. ‘Shock and awe’ neither shocked nor awed.” – R.W. Apple, New York Times, March 29
“Cheney: Tells ‘Meet the Press’ just before war, ‘We will be greeted as liberators.’ An arrogant blunder for the ages.” – “Conventional Wisdom,” Newsweek, April 7 (published March 30)
“According to a dozen or so military men I spoke to, Rumsfeld simply failed to anticipate the consequences of protracted warfare. He put Army and Marine units in the field with few reserves and an insufficient number of tanks and other armored vehicles. (The military men say that the vehicles that they do have have been pushed too far and are malfunctioning.) Supply lines – inevitably, they say – have become overextended and vulnerable to attack, creating shortages of fuel, water, and ammunition. Pentagon officers spoke contemptuously of the Administration’s optimistic press briefings. ‘It’s a stalemate now,’ the former intelligence official told me.” – Seymour Hersh, The New Yorker, April 7 issue (published March 31)
"So what should we make of the widening divide between the confident predictions of the Bush administration civilians who set Iraq ‘liberation’ policy and the reality of the Iraq War, as experienced by generals, not to mention grunts, on the ground?
"Something went wrong here. On March 11, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz declared of the soon-to-be-invaded Iraqis, ‘Like the people of France in the 1940s, they view us as their hoped-for liberators.’ And he and others have consistently low-balled the number of troops needed, too; early projections numbered as few as 40,000. Yet once the shooting started, and the Iraqis started resisting, Lt. Gen. William Wallace, commander of V Corps, said, in a candid moment – unlikely to be repeated – ‘The enemy we’re fighting is different from the one we’d war-gamed against.’
“What does one call this kind of divide? The once-and-future term is ‘credibility gap.’” – James P. Pinkerton, Newsday, April 1
“Iraq is winning battles in the propaganda war with a modest media strategy. . . . From a crude Baghdad set, Iraqi ministers each day knock down Western media reports and list their latest claims of conquest, sometimes wielding chrome-plated Kalashnikovs. Unlike America and its allies, theirs is a simple message delivered directly: ‘We will defeat the infidel invaders.’” – Reuters, April 1
“As the war drags on, any stifled sympathy for the American invasion will tend to evaporate. As more civilians die and more Iraqis see their ‘resistance’ hailed across the Arab world as a watershed in the struggle against Western imperialism, the traditionally despised Saddam could gain appreciable support among his people. So, the Pentagon’s failure to send enough troops to take Baghdad fairly quickly could complicate the postwar occupation, to say nothing of the war itself. The Bush administration’s prewar expectation of broad Iraqi support for the invasion may turn out to be a self-defeating prophecy.” – Robert Wright, Slate.com, April 1
“Yet if this isn’t Vietnam, neither is it the Afghanistan campaign, where we were hailed as liberators. I was in Afghanistan during that war, and the difference is manifest. Afghans were giddy and jubilant, while Iraqis now are typically sullen and distrustful – and thirsty. And that’s our biggest long-term problem. For all the talk about our forces being short of armored divisions, or our supply lines being stretched so taut that marines were down to one meal a day, those are tactical issues that will be forgotten six months from now. The fundamental and strategic challenge is that so far many ordinary Iraqis regard us, as best I can tell, as conquerors rather than liberators.” – Nicholas Kristof, New York Times, April 4
“As for the Iraqi people, it just isn’t clear that they’re particularly happy about all this.” – Joe Klein, Time, April 14 issue (published April 6)
“Even here in the anti-Saddam Shia heartland of southern Iraq, no one is giving U.S. troops a standing ovation. Applause? When I asked Lt. Col. Richard Murphy, part of the U.S. relief operation, how Iraqis were greeting his men, he answered bluntly and honestly: ‘I have not detected any overt hostility.’ Overt hostility? We’ve gone from expecting applause to being relieved that there is no overt hostility. And we’ve been here only 20 days.” – Thomas Friedman, New York Times, April 9
“A couple of weeks into the war, it’s now apparent just how ideologically blinkered the administration’s view of Iraq actually was, and how that view has already imperiled our troops, the Iraqi people and any larger strategic objectives the war was supposed to serve. In its overreliance on a small number of neo-friendly Iraqi expatriates to gauge the mood of the Iraqi people, in its belief that our forces would be greeted as liberators, the administration has made almost the identical error that the Eisenhower and Kennedy administrations made at the Bay of Pigs. In each instance, ideology and hope were substituted for factual assessment; in each instance, the people have not risen to join U.S.- backed forces (in Cuba) or U.S. forces (in Iraq) to overthrow their tyrant. In Iraq the administration has underestimated the size and intensity of the forces committed to fighting for Saddam Hussein – forgetting everything we have learned about the infrastructure of a modern totalitarian state.” – Harold Meyerson, The American Prospect, May issue (published April 11)
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Updated April 23, 2003
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