One of the biggest failings of the Bush administration? Their failure to anticipate.
They love to trot this phrase out, and I just can’t fathom why people let it be a patch on the miscalculations and outright blunders — not to mention ulterior motives — of this White House. And they always say the same thing: “I don’t think anybody could have anticipated,” a carefully parsed phrase which evokes an image of you or I scratching our heads along with them. Problem is, we are not privy to the information they are, and so the careful phrase is technically true — “anybody” couldn’t have anticipated, but the White House sure as hell could.
The first use was after September 11, when I think it was Condoleeza Rice who said that they couldn’t have anticipated that someone would fly a plane into a building. Nevermind that FDR had the White House roof painted black and eliminated the west wing skylights for fear of being a target for suicide pilots. This White House never learns from the past, and therefore, can’t anticipate.
Years have gone by, and the White House continued to use the “didn’t anticipate” excuse, until finally — today — it was used by Dick Cheney to excuse the horrific blunder that is Iraq:
“I don’t think anybody anticipated the level of violence that we’ve encountered,” he said. He added: “We didn’t anticipate . . . the devastation that 30 years of Saddam’s rule had wrought, if you will, on the psychology of the Iraqi people.”
First: I anticipated that level of violence before the war even started. And so did a huge number of “anybodies,” including pundits and journalists and bloggers and Joe Schmos.
Second, this is a brilliant new twist: blaming the violence in Iraq on Saddam Hussein, making the case that the people there are scarred psychologically by his regime. Not by the fact that life in Iraq has grown immeasurably worse under the U.S. occupation and continued war. Not by the terrorists who flowed into the country once Saddam’s iron-fisted rule was broken and the borders became porous.
Despite Cheney’s assertion that no one foresaw how difficult the post-invasion phase would be, defense and Middle East experts have said that administration officials during the run-up to the war ignored their warnings about potential obstacles ahead.