Boot criticized Democratic objections to cost, difficulty of Iraq conflict, ignored Bush administration's optimistic predictions


In his November 30 column, Los Angeles Times columnist Max Boot criticized the "excuses" put forth by Democratic lawmakers who have questioned the basis for the Iraq war and the Bush administration's handling of the conflict. He claimed that Democrats now "want to run up the white flag" because they "only wanted to do something if the cost would be miniscule" and because they expected the war to be a "cakewalk." But Boot entirely ignored that it was Bush administration officials who, in the weeks and months prior to the invasion, promised a cheap and easy victory -- indeed, even a "cakewalk."

In the column, Boot accused the Democrats of "defeatism" and criticized them for expecting the cost of the war to be minimal:

Just a few years ago, it seemed as if the Democrats had finally kicked the post-Vietnam, peace-at-any-price syndrome. Before the invasion of Iraq, leading Democrats sounded hawkish in demanding action to deal with what Kerry called the "particularly grievous threat" posed by Saddam Hussein. But it seems that they only wanted to do something if the cost would be minuscule. Now that the war has turned out to be a lot harder than anticipated, the Democrats want to run up the white flag.

Boot characterized such expectations on the part of Democrats as unrealistic and misguided. But it was the Bush administration that repeatedly promoted low cost estimates for the Iraq war. For example, on the October 4, 2002, edition of CNBC's Business Center, then-White House economic adviser Glen Hubbard claimed that "costs of any such intervention would be very small." In January 2003, then-White House budget director Mitch Daniels predicted the total appropriations for the war would "be in the range of $50 billion to $60 billion." In March 2003, he asserted the conflict would "not require sustained aid." Further, The New York Times reported on February 28, 2003, that then-deputy secretary of defense Paul D. Wolfowitz had "dismissed articles in several newspapers this week asserting that Pentagon budget specialists put the cost of war and reconstruction at $60 billion to $95 billion in this fiscal year."

In the weeks after the war began, Bush administration officials continued to offer highly optimistic cost projections. On the April 23, 2003, edition of ABC's Nightline, U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) administrator Andrew S. Natsios stated that the cost of reconstruction would not exceed $1.7 billion. "The rest of the rebuilding of Iraq will be done by other countries who have already made pledges ... and Iraqi oil revenues," he said. "The American part of this will be $1.7 billion. We have no plans for any further -- on funding for this."

In fact, an October 2005 report by the Congressional Research Service concluded that the U.S. government had, so far, appropriated $251 billion for the war in Iraq.

In his column, Boot also castigated Democrats for believing the war would be a "cakewalk":

The Democrats' other excuse is that they never imagined that Bush would bollix up post-invasion planning as badly as he did. It's true that the president blundered, but it's not as if things usually go smoothly in the chaos of conflict. In any case, it's doubtful that the war would have been a cakewalk even if we had been better prepared.

In fact, senior Bush administration officials and advisers predicted an easy victory on numerous occasions prior to the invasion of Iraq. On the December 6, 2001, edition of CNN's Wolf Blitzer Reports, former U.S. arms control director Kenneth Adelman -- a member of the Defense Policy Board, a Pentagon advisory panel to which he was appointed by Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld -- actually used the word "cakewalk" in predicting the results of the Iraq intervention:

ADELMAN: I don't agree that you need an enormous number of American troops. I think that reviewing the bidding, that you look at what Saddam Hussein did in 1991. He was not a great fighter. His army is down to one-third than it was before, and I think it would be a cakewalk.

Adelman repeated the claim in a February 13, 2002, Washington Post op-ed headlined "Cakewalk In Iraq." Adelman wrote: "I believe demolishing Hussein's military power and liberating Iraq would be a cakewalk."

At a February 7, 2003, townhall meeting, Rumsfeld said the war "could last, you know, six days, six weeks. I doubt six months." And on the March 26, 2003, edition of NBC's Meet the Press -- mere days before the war began -- Vice President Dick Cheney predicted, "We will, in fact, be greeted as liberators." He further stated on the March 16, 2003, edition of CBS' Face the Nation, "I think it will go relatively quickly ... [in] weeks rather than months."

Media Matters for America has documented other examples of Boot misinforming his readers on the subject of Iraq (see here and here).

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