Ignoring evidence that the Bush administration received repeated pre-war warnings of the potential for a sustained insurgency in Iraq, NBC host Chris Matthews and nationally syndicated columnist Kathleen Parker insisted that the continuing bloodshed had not been anticipated. On the September 25 broadcast of NBC's syndicated The Chris Matthews Show, Matthews suggested that the “enduring” nature of the Iraqi insurgency was a surprise and told viewers that he didn't “know many people who expected it to still be going on this long.” Parker added that while “there was no preparation for the long haul” in Iraq, “I don't think anyone envisioned two years down the road we'd still be fighting insurgents.”
But in contrast to Matthews and Parker's suggestions that no one anticipated that an insurgency would persist so long after the end of conventional fighting, USA Today reported on October 24, 2004, that "[m]ilitary and civilian intelligence agencies repeatedly warned prior to the invasion that Iraqi insurgent forces were preparing to fight and that their ranks would grow as other Iraqis came to resent the U.S. occupation and organize guerrilla attacks." In fact, USA Today noted that an Army War College report published in February 2003 suggested that military planners could expect a lengthy insurgency. Although the report did not offer a time frame for the length of the insurgency, it stated that "[t]he longer U.S. presence is maintained, the more likely violent resistance will develop."
Moreover, the Army War College report included a section titled "The Potential for Terrorism against U.S. Occupation Forces" in which authors Conrad C. Crane and W. Andrew Terrill warned:
The longer a U.S. occupation of Iraq continues, the more danger exists that elements of the Iraqi population will become impatient and take violent measures to hasten the departure of U.S. forces. At the same time, a premature withdrawal from Iraq could lead to instability and perhaps even civil war. By ousting the Saddam Hussein regime, the United States will have placed itself in the position where it will be held responsible by the world should anarchy and civil war develop in a post-Saddam era. Having entered into Iraq, the United States will find itself unable to leave rapidly, despite the many pressures to do so.
Crane and Terrill even predicted the horrific tactics the insurgency would use, warning, “The impact of suicide bombing attacks in Israel goes beyond their numbers, and this fact will also capture the imagination of would-be Iraqi terrorists.”
Warnings about a prolonged and violent insurgency were not limited to official intelligence and military documents. Testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on July 31, 2002, Morton H. Halperin, then a senior fellow with the Council on Foreign Relations, warned that the United States should be prepared “to fight the war in the streets of Baghdad ... and to accept the risk of very substantial casualties.” In his statement, Halperin predicted that U.S. troops could be forced to occupy Iraq “for a very long time at very great expense in treasure but also in risk to lives.” Responding to a question from Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI), Halperin suggested that “we're talking about 20 years of many American troops in the country” to ensure the survival of a government that respects human rights.
In questioning Halperin, Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-DE), who at the time was chairman of the committee, agreed that an invasion of Iraq would likely require a lengthy occupation. Biden, who ultimately voted to authorize the war, noted, "[W]e may very well radicalize the rest of the world, we may pick up a bill that's $70 billion, $80 billion, we may have to have extensive commitment of U.S. forces for an extended period of time in Iraq."
On September 27, 2002, New York Times columnist Nicholas D. Kristof -- who traveled to Iraq before the war -- predicted that “an invasion of Iraq may not be the cakewalk that the White House expects.” Citing an Iraqi militia member who planned to engage American soldiers in urban warfare “till my last drop of blood,” Kristof warned that the Iraq war could devolve into a “nightmare” of “street-to-street fighting” against former Iraqi soldiers and “farmers ... taking potshots at our troops.” Kristof asked, “Is America really prepared for hundreds of casualties, even thousands, in an invasion and subsequent occupation that could last many years?”
From the September 25 broadcast of NBC's syndicated The Chris Matthews Show:
MATTHEWS: [Weekly Standard editor] Bill [Kristol], we were all wrong, I guess, in thinking -- I thought it was going to be much bloodier going into Iraq, the initial encounter would be much bloodier. It was a quick campaign by [Gen.] Tommy Franks. But I don't know many people that expected it to still be going this long. This resistance had been vigorous, it's been enduring, and it doesn't seem like it's losing any strength. What did we get wrong here?
PARKER: And I think part of the problem politically is that the American people were never adequately prepared for how long this might go on. And [Defense Secretary Donald H.] Rumsfeld, I'm sure, has told Bush that this could happen. Insurgencies are always a risk. But there was no preparation for the long haul. They said, yes, it's going to be a long slog. But I don't think anyone envisioned two years down the road we'd still be fighting insurgents.