The assertion of the "Downing Street Memo" that "the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy" of invasion has understandably become a rallying point for the war's opponents. But in some ways more devastating are other recently disclosed documents in which British officials warned that "there was little discussion in Washington of the aftermath after military action." The British worried at the time that "U.S. military plans are virtually silent" on the fact that "a postwar occupation of Iraq could lead to a protracted and costly nation-building exercise."
The most damaging document supporting this claim is not secret, and remains one of the most important artifacts of the prewar debate. It is the transcript of "Meet the Press" from March 16, 2003, in which Vice President Cheney gave voice to the administration's optimistic assumptions that have now been laid low by reality.
Host Tim Russert asked whether "we would have to have several hundred thousand troops there" in Iraq "for several years in order to maintain stability." Cheney replied: "I disagree." He wouldn't say how many troops were needed, but he added that "to suggest that we need several hundred thousand troops there after military operations cease, after the conflict ends, I don't think is accurate. I think that's an overstatement."
Russert asked: "If your analysis is not correct, and we're not treated as liberators but as conquerors, and the Iraqis begin to resist, particularly in Baghdad, do you think the American people are prepared for a long, costly, and bloody battle with significant American casualties?"
Cheney would have none of it. "Well, I don't think it's likely to unfold that way, Tim, because I really do believe that we will be greeted as liberators. I've talked with a lot of Iraqis in the last several months myself, had them to the White House. . . . The read we get on the people of Iraq is there is no question but what they want [is to] get rid of Saddam Hussein and they will welcome as liberators the United States when we come to do that."
Russert: "And you are convinced the Kurds, the Sunnis, the Shiites will come together in a democracy?"
Cheney: "They have so far." And the vice president concluded: "I think the prospects of being able to achieve this kind of success, if you will, from a political standpoint, are probably better than they would be for virtually any other country and under similar circumstances in that part of the world."
Was Cheney disguising the war's costs for political purposes? It's more likely that he believed every word he said. That suggests that the administration was not misleading the American people nearly so much as it was misleading itself.
I think the truth lies somewhere in between.
If in between means they are both craven and stupid!
They cherry-picked their evidence to justify their pre-fabricated conclusions; lied to us and lied to the world about what the state of the evidence was as well as their own self-professed desire to avoid war; and then deluded themselves as to what was to occur.
I pointed it out in an earlier post, but remember the Nelson Report from early this year, as reported by Atrios and others:
Bush makes clear that all he wants are progress reports, where they exist, and those facts which seem to support his declared mission in Iraq...building democracy. "That's all he wants to hear about," we have been told. So "in" are the latest totals on school openings, and "out" are reports from senior US military commanders (and those intelligence experts still on the job) that they see an insurgency becoming increasingly effective, and their projection that "it will just get worse."
Our sources are firm in that they conclude this "good news only" directive comes from Bush himself; that is, it is not a trap or cocoon thrown around the President by National Security Advisor Rice, Vice President Cheney, and DOD Secretary Rumsfeld.
There is absolutely no reason, given the Downing Street documents, that Bush did exactly the same thing before the war -- no doubt assisted by having "Cheney Wormtongue" whispering in the weak-minded Dear Leader's ear.
And, now, as posted below, we are in far worse shape for the future than we were on September 10, 2001.