AREN'T YOU PROUD of us? For most of this past week, as an overwhelmingly successful, lightning-quick Anglo-American military assault liberated Iraq's capital city, and ordinary Baghdadis poured into the streets to kiss our GIs and stomp on pictures of Saddam Hussein, THE SCRAPBOOK has remained the soul of magnanimity and restraint.
Here in our office there's this giant archive of newsclips, transcripts, and Internet postings we collected in the months preceding the war, wherein a world community of jackasses confidently predicted that the events lately unfolding on our television screens could not and would not ever take place. And you can imagine the temptation, we're sure: A lesser SCRAPBOOK would throw open the file boxes and run through the streets with treasures like these, laughing hysterically.
"This invasion of Iraq, if it goes off, will join the Bay of Pigs, Vietnam, Desert One, Beirut, and Somalia in the history of military catastrophe. What will set it apart, distinguishing it for all time, is the immense--and transparent--political stupidity."
--Chris Matthews, San Francisco Chronicle, August 25, 2002
"Iraqis hate the United States government even more than they hate Saddam, and they are even more distrustful of America's intentions than Saddam's. . . . [I]f President Bush thinks our invasion and occupation will go smoothly because Iraqis will welcome us, then [he] is deluding himself."
--New York Times columnist Nicholas D. Kristof, October 4, 2002
But being the soul of magnanimity and restraint, we're not going to do any such thing. Instead, THE SCRAPBOOK is going to run through the streets, laughing hysterically at all the people who were so blinded by hatred of President Bush--or general anti-Americanism, or their own sheer foolishness--that they continued to prophesy doom even after the war had begun and was already being won. People like a certain former U.N. weapons inspector turned Baath party apologist turned peace-movement celebrity:
"The United States is going to leave Iraq with its tail between its legs, defeated....We do not have the military means to take over Baghdad and for this reason I believe the defeat of the United States in this war is inevitable. . . . [W]e will not be able to win this war, which in my opinion is already lost."
--Scott Ritter, on a South African radio station, March 25, 2003
It takes all kinds, of course. You've got your late-career journalist gasbag, phoning it in from the dinner-party front lines:
"With every passing day, it is more evident that the allies made . . . gross military misjudgments. . . . The very term 'shock and awe' has a swagger to it, no doubt because it was intended to discourage Mr. Hussein and his circle. But it rings hollow now."
--New York Times "news analyst" R.W. Apple Jr., March 30, 2003
You've got your war novelist, phoning it in from his experiences in Vietnam, 30 years ago:
"Visions of cheering throngs welcoming them as liberators have vanished in the wake of a bloody engagement whose full casualties are still unknown. . . . Welcome to hell. Many of us lived it in another era. And don't expect it to get any better for a while."
--James Webb, in the New York Times, March 30, 2003
And you've got your usefully idiotic, broadcast-media war correspondent, phoning it in from wherever his Baath party minders want him to:
"The first war plan has failed because of Iraqi resistance. . . . Clearly the American war planners misjudged the determination of the Iraqi forces. And I personally do not understand how that happened, because I've been here many times and in my commentaries on television I would tell the Americans about the determination of the Iraqi forces. . . . But me, and others who felt the same way, were not listened to by the Bush administration."
--Peter Arnett on Iraqi state television, March 30, 2003
Then there are our "allies" in Old Europe, the governments of Germany and France. Mustn't forget them:
"Gruesome days for the German foreign minister: Every morning at nine, [Joschka Fischer's] staff briefs him on the situation in Iraq in the ministry's underground situation room. His worst fears are coming true: The U.S. military appears to be stuck in its tracks in the desert, and civilian casualties are multiplying. It has never been so painful to have been in the right, murmurs the foreign minister, with a worried look on his face. . . . President Chirac accuses the Americans of having made both a strategic and a political mistake: 'They thought they would be greeted as liberators and that the regime would collapse like a house of cards. But they underestimated Iraqi patriotism. They would have been better off listening to us.'"
--Der Spiegel, March 31, 2003
This man directs the "University of Texas Inequality Project," where "our work so far has emphasized the use of Thiel's T statistic to compute inequality indexes from industrial data." In his spare time, he foretells the near-term deaths of millions:
"If history is a guide, you cannot subdue a large and hostile city except by destroying it completely. Short of massacre, we will not inherit a pacified Iraq. . . . To support 'the groundwork' for this effort is to support a holocaust, quite soon, against Iraqi civilians and also against the troops on both sides. That is what victory means."
--James K. Galbraith on the American Prospect website, April 1, 2003
Did you know that your average Iraqi fellow would much rather watch his relatives be raped or eaten by dogs than have to shake hands with an American Marine on the sidewalk?
"Regardless of their political affiliations, patriotic Iraqis prefer to bear the yoke of Saddam's brutal and corrupt dictatorship than to suffer the humiliation of living in a conquered nation. . . . The thought of infidel troops marching through their cities, past their mosques, patting them down, ordering them around, disgusts them even more than Saddam's torture chambers."
--Cartoonist and conspiracy-theory book author Ted Rall, April 2, 2003
They don't call it "conventional wisdom" for nothing. Mere days before the fall of Baghdad, one of America's newsweeklies, the "hip" one, makes a fatuous blunder for the ages:
"Cheney [down arrow] Tells 'Meet the Press' just before war, 'We will be greeted as liberators.' An arrogant blunder for the ages."
--Newsweek, April 7, 2003 edition
Mere hours before the fall of Baghdad, an English fifth columnist in the grand old tradition files an "eyewitness" report:
"Vast areas of Baghdad--astonishing when you consider the American claim to be 'in the heart' of the city--remain under Saddam Hussein's control."
--Robert Fisk in London's Independent, April 9, 2003
And finally, there are these two spectacular embarrassments, both of which are still on the newsstands, even today:
"Al-Jazeera has had reporters inside Mosul, Baghdad and Nasiriya...and they have presented a much more detailed, more realistic account of what has befallen Baghdad and Basra, as well as showing the resistance and anger of the Iraqi population, dismissed by Western propaganda as a sullen bunch waiting to throw flowers at Clint Eastwood lookalikes. . . . The idea that Iraq's population would have welcomed American forces entering the country after a terrifying aerial bombardment was always utterly implausible."
--Edward Said in the April 17, 2003, London Review of Books
"Is Wolfowitz really so ignorant of history as to believe the Iraqis would welcome us as 'their hoped-for liberators'?"
--Eric Alterman in the April 21, 2003, issue of the Nation
Here, indeed, we are witnessing some of the worst wartime (self-)destruction ever recorded in human history.