My God, when they say down the memory hole, they ain’t kiddin! There now seems to be a secret competition — perhaps it was announced and I just didn’t hear it — for the Iraq-hawk who can come up with the most ingenious, Orwellian, up-is-down rewriting of the history of the year-long lead-up to the Iraq war. To this point, the strongest entries are those whispers out of the Pentagon, arguing that it was Colin Powell and the State Department who made them make such a big to-do about weapons of mass destruction.
I take my hat off to those folks. That was a pretty solid entry. But when it comes to disingenuous agitprop you just never want to count Bill Safire out. And the old master comes in with a rock-solid entry in Monday morning’s column.
Safire begins by asking what the greatest intelligence failure of the war was? Something to do with WMD? Not at all. “It was the nearly unanimous opinion of the intelligence community, backed by the U.S. and British military, that the 50,000 elite soldiers of Saddam’s well-trained, well-equipped Special Republican Guard would put up a fierce battle for Baghdad.”
This is true to a limited extent — though the guys in uniform — i.e., the ones who actually fight wars — would argue that their aim was to make sure they weren’t undergunned if the Republican Guard did fight to the death.
But the contest entry comes next …
Happily, our best assessment was mistaken. Saddam’s supposed diehards cut and ran. Though Baghdad’s power and water were cut off, civilians were spared and our losses were even fewer than in Gulf War I.
What if our planners had believed Kurdish leaders who predicted that Saddam’s super-loyalists would quickly collapse? We would have sent fewer combat troops and more engineers, civilian administrators and military police. But the C.I.A. and the Pentagon had no way of being certain that the information about the Republican Guard’s poor morale and weak discipline provided by Kurds and Iraqi opposition leaders was accurate.
In other words, the lack of preparation for post-war reconstruction and the shortage of nation-builders is the fault of the CIA and the Joint Staff! If Tommy Franks and Eric Shinseki and the rest of them hadn’t been such whiners, Doug Feith would have been able to flood the place with MPs, bridge builders, Arabic-speakers and a whole tribe of Jerry Bremer clones! Who knew!
I think Safire is going to run away with this one.