Tuesday, August 22, 2006

We weren't misled. We simply misunderstood.

From yesterday's presidential news conference, re: Iraq:

Q: A quick follow-up. A lot of the consequences you mention for pulling out seem like maybe they never would have been there if we hadn't gone in. How do you square all of that?

BUSH: ... You know, I've heard this theory about, you know, everything was just fine until we arrived and, you know, kind of -- the "stir up the hornet's nest" theory. It just doesn't hold water as far as I'm concerned. The terrorists attacked us and killed 3,000 of our citizens before we started the freedom agenda in the Middle East. They were --

Q: What did Iraq have to do with that?

BUSH: What did Iraq have to do with what?

Q: The attack on the World Trade Center.

BUSH: Nothing, except for it's part of -- and nobody's ever suggested in this administration that Saddam Hussein ordered the attack.
Iraq had nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks? Gosh. Half the country just sort of, you know, kind of arrived at that conclusion spontaneously? That's gotta be a record. Or some kind of Bermuda Triangle thing. Mr. Straight Shooter wouldn't, you know, sort of spin things, would he?

From The Numbers War in the May Atlantic:

For most of the war, a kind of reprise of the Vietnam body-count dispute has been taking place over the size and strength of the insurgency. In the fall of 2003, the Pentagon hosted regular briefings for think-tank experts in which it put the insurgent strength at around 5,000. Even then there were signs that officials were not being fully forthcoming. At one such meeting, a participant noted the large number of insurgents being killed or detained (information tracked monthly in O’Hanlon’s Iraq Index) and asked Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld whether this showed that the insurgency faced clear annihilation. “I asked him, ‘Don’t the numbers look pretty good?’” the participant says. “But he declined to make that claim. He was acknowledging that things weren’t quite as they appeared.”

O’Hanlon’s and Cordesman’s statistics have often served as leading indicators of how the situation in Iraq is changing. Their estimates of the insurgency’s magnitude, juxtaposed with the number of fighters killed and detained, continue to indicate an opposition much larger and stronger than is being acknowledged. (Cordesman noted early on that, contrary to popular opinion in this country, the insurgency appeared to consist primarily of Iraqis and not foreign infiltrators.) Last year, for example, the Pentagon routinely estimated that there were around 20,000 insurgents under arms. The Iraq Index reported 23,500 insurgents killed or detained across 2005 alone—so had the insurgency been static, it would have been wiped out entirely sometime around early November.
From the AP:

Republican Sen. John McCain, a staunch defender of the Iraq war, on Tuesday faulted the Bush administration for misleading Americans into believing the conflict would be "some kind of day at the beach."
"I think one of the biggest mistakes we made was underestimating the size of the task and the sacrifices that would be required," McCain said. "Stuff happens, mission accomplished, last throes, a few dead-enders. I'm just more familiar with those statements than anyone else because it grieves me so much that we had not told the American people how tough and difficult this task would be."
My take on today's train-wreck, by Lestatdelc dissects the speech at Daily Kos.

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