"I just wonder if they will ever tell us the truth." - Harold Casey, Louisville, KY, October 2004.
"Your gutless liberal media at work"
The quote is from Gene Lyons: One party government, lap-dog press Daily Dunklin Democrat 06/29/05.
And he's definitely being ironic in his line about the "liberal media."
The column is about the American press' handling of the Downing Street Memo and similar Brittish documents on the lead-up to the Iraq War. My favorite line is when he introduces his summary of what the Downing Street Memo is: "For readers who have been either vacationing on Mars or getting all their news from the so-called mainstream media ..."
And he observes (emphasis added):
It's been proven beyond a reasonable doubt that had Bush and Blair allowed U.N. inspectors to finish the job, they'd have established that Iraq had no forbidden stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction. [Bush and blair] invaded anyway.
Even so, during the 2004 campaign, Bush often repeated this brazen falsehood: "We gave (Saddam) a chance to allow the inspectors in, and he wouldn't let them in."
Yet the most damaging aspect of the Downing Street memos is what they reveal about the arrogant incompetence of the White House ideologue who thought occupying Iraq would be a "cakewalk."
From the start, Blair's advisers warned him that "U.S. military plans are virtually silent" about the likelihood that conquering Iraq would lead to a post-war occupation and "a protracted and costly nation-building exercise." Straw, the British foreign secretary, wanted to know how "there can be any certainty that the replacement regime will be any better. Iraq has no history of democracy, so no one has this habit or experience."
I would note here that the neoconservative worthy who is normally credited with with the "cakewalk" metaphor is Ken Adelman, who was not actually part of the Bush administration. Still Lyons' point is on the mark, although I'm guessing he meant something more like "the White House ideologues ..." I don't think he misused the "cakewalk" quotation, either, but it's the kind of thing that obsessive Republican comma-dancers love to pounce on.
And while we're speaking of the cakewalk, let's take a quick stroll down memory lane to those exciting days just before Bush launched his war to get rid of Iraq's nonexistent "weapons of mass destruction." Here's Mr. Cakewalk himself: Cakewalk in Iraq by Ken Adelman Washington Post 02/13/05.
Sneering at a Brookings Institute paper that suggested that 100,0000-200,000 troops would be needed for the war - we still have 139,000 or so there now and they aren't nearly enough to fight a counterinsurgency war - Adelman wrote:
I believe demolishing Hussein's military power and liberating Iraq would be a cakewalk. Let me give simple, responsible reasons: (1) It was a cakewalk last time; (2) they've become much weaker; (3) we've become much stronger; and (4) now we're playing for keeps.
Gordon and O'Hanlon mention today's "400,000 active-duty troops in the Iraqi military" and especially the "100,000 in Saddam's more reliable Republican Guard and Special Republican Guard," which "would probably fight hard against the United States -- just as they did a decade ago during Desert Storm." Somehow I missed that. I do remember a gaggle of Iraqi troops attempting to surrender to an Italian film crew. The bulk of the vaunted Republican Guard either hunkered down or was held back from battle.
Two things strike me about this little nostalgic tidbit. One is it's mention of the size of Iraq's army: 400,000 troops plus 100,000 Republican Guard types. Saddam needed 500,000 troops, not counting police, to keep Iraq together and defend its borders. Even assuming a government with no popular support, these are figures well worth keeping in mind. The administration is currently claiming there are 170,000 "security" personnel in training, a figure which includes police. Somewhere between zero and three thousand of those are battle-ready troops.
Do the math. Then ask yourself, is Iraq going to be militarily self-sufficient in two years?
If in the first two and a half years of war, we've trained maybe three thousand effective troops ... well, the math isn't very attractive.
The other things that stands out is his comment "now we're playing for keeps." In the immediate sense, he was most presumably referring to Bush II's war aim of ousting Saddam's regime, in contrast to Bush I's decision to not attempt to do so in the Gulf War.
But now we have a much better sense of what "playing for keeps" meant. As in, you broke it, you own it. Reconstructing a country while fighting a counterinsurgency war is not a cakewalk in any normal understanding of the term.
But, ironically, this is one of the main difficulties the US faces in Iraq, which is similar to one encountered in the Vietnam War. The insurgents are fighting for their homeland, their tribes, their religious sect, their ethnic groups. The US is fighting to help a pro-Iranian, Shia government survive in a country about which most Americans know little and care less. Who has the bigger stakes in this fight from their own perspective? Who is more likely to play for keeps?
Five hundred thousand troops under Saddam. We're now got 0.6% of that ready to go. By an optimistic count.
A cakewalk, they said.