In tomorrow’s edition of the Washington Post, a front page commemoration of the Iraq invasion anniversary that I doubt the White House, in the midst of spin and celebration, will appreciate:
A year ago tonight, President Bush took the nation to war in Iraq with a grand vision for change in the Middle East and beyond.
The invasion and occupation of Iraq, his administration predicted, would come at little financial cost and would materially improve the lives of Iraqis. Americans would be greeted as liberators, Bush officials predicted, and the toppling of Saddam Hussein would spread peace and democracy throughout the Middle East.
Things have not worked out that way, for the most part. There is evidence that the economic lives of Iraqis are improving, thanks to an infusion of U.S. and foreign capital. But the administration badly underestimated the financial cost of the occupation and seriously overstated the ease of pacifying Iraq and the warmth of the reception Iraqis would give the U.S. invaders. And while peace and democracy may yet spread through the region, some early signs are that the U.S. action has had the opposite effect.
… Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz, in February 2003, dismissed reports that Pentagon budget specialists had put the cost of reconstruction at $60 billion to $95 billion during the first year — in retrospect, relatively accurate forecasts. In testimony to Congress on March 27, 2003, Wolfowitz said Iraq “can really finance its own reconstruction, and relatively soon.” In fact, the administration has already sought more than $150 billion for the Iraq effort.
… Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz derided a general’s claim that pacifying Iraq would take several hundred thousand U.S. troops. And Rumsfeld, in February 2003, predicted that the war “could last six days, six weeks. I doubt six months.”
The capture of Iraq did proceed rapidly, allowing Bush to proclaim on May 1 that “major combat operations” were over and to declare “victory” in the “Battle of Iraq.”
But those upbeat assertions were undermined by an Iraqi resistance that proved much more difficult. Washington had not counted on the scope, capabilities and endurance of the resistance after formal hostilities had ended — or that Iraqis might eventually turn on their liberators. By yesterday, 574 American and 100 other coalition troops had died in Iraq. As many as 6,400 Iraqi soldiers are believed to have died in combat, and the insurgency continues to claim the lives of Iraqi civilians.
It’s funny — the Google ad at the bottom of the article is for Iraqi Reconstruction: “Help rebuild Iraq on GSA Schedule,” it trumpets.