Conventional Wisdom Watch, by Newsweek. A down-arrow for Dick Cheney: “Tells ‘Meet the Press’ just before war, ‘We will be greeted as liberators.’ An arrogant blunder for the ages.” Nope, Newsweek. Yours was the “arrogant blunder for the ages.” And on April 7!
VON HOFFMAN AWARD II: “In Baghdad the coalition forces confront a city apparently determined on resistance. They should remember Napoleon in Moscow, Hitler in Stalingrad, the Americans in Mogadishu and the Russians at Grozny. Hostile cities have ways of making life ghastly for aggressors. They are not like countryside. They seldom capitulate, least of all when their backs are to the wall. It took two years after the American withdrawal from Vietnam for Saigon to fall to the Vietcong. Kabul was ceded to the warlords only when the Taleban drove out of town. In the desert, armies fight armies. In cities, armies fight cities. The Iraqis were not stupid. They listened to Western strategists musing about how a desert battle would be a pushover. Things would get ‘difficult’ only if Saddam played the cad and drew the Americans into Baghdad. Why should he do otherwise?” – Simon Jenkins, the Times of London, in an article called – yes! – “Baghdad Will Be Near Impossible to Conquer,” March 28.
VON HOFFMAN AWARD III: “[Al-Jazeera has shown] 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 … One can only wince at the way weak-minded policy hacks in the Pentagon and White House have spun out the ‘ideas’ of Lewis and Ajami into the scenario for a quick romp in a friendly Iraq … pity the Iraqi civilians who must still suffer a great deal more before they are finally ‘liberated’.” – Edward Said, London Review of Books, April 17.
VON HOFFMAN AWARD IV: “It looked grimly like that scene in A Bridge Too Far, Richard Attenborough’s epic on the Arnhem disaster, in which a British officer walks slowly up the great span with an umbrella in his hand to see if he can detect the Germans on the other side. But I knew the Americans were on the other side of this bridge and drove past it at great speed. Which provided a remarkable revelation. While American fighter-bombers criss-crossed the sky, while the ground shook to the sound of exploding ordnance, while the American tanks now stood above the Tigris, 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, the Independent, April 9, i.e. the day of liberation.
VON HOFFMAN AWARD V: “The huge psychological victory for the coalition produced by the arrival of US tanks in front of the media centre in Baghdad has not finished off the regime, even though this coup came so soon after their shock arrival at the international airport. A compilation of the military detail in reports from journalists in Baghdad and an ear for the changing spin from Centcom gives a less victorious picture of the battle for the Iraqi capital than is shown in the media. For example, for three hours on Saturday Centcom said the US was in Baghdad to stay, not on a raid. Then, after some armoured vehicles had been damaged and some troops killed and injured, it became a raid as the troops withdrew. The selective and censored TV coverage obscures a military reality that has been neither as successful nor as difficult as it has seemed. Now, reports of total victory may be premature.” – Dan Plesch, the Guardian, April 9, the day of liberation.
VON HOFFMAN AWARD VI: “As the war drags on, any stifled sympathy for the American invasion will tend to evaporate. As more civilians die and more Iraqis see their “resistance” hailed across the Arab world as a watershed in the struggle against Western imperialism, the traditionally despised Saddam could gain appreciable support among his people. So, the Pentagon’s failure to send enough troops to take Baghdad fairly quickly could complicate the postwar occupation, to say nothing of the war itself.” – Robert Wright, Slate, April 1.
VON HOFFMAN AWARD VII: “Is Wolfowitz really so ignorant of history as to believe the Iraqis would welcome us as ‘their hoped-for liberators’?” – Eric Alterman, The Nation.
P.S.This award (for awful wartime predictions) is still wide open. Send me your late entries, with a URL address to verify. There’s more accounting to do.