Monday, March 3, 2008

Another anniversary: As we approach the end of Year Five of the newest Hundred Years' War

As of February 28, we passed another five-year milestone. Greg Mitchell reminds us of what Wolfowitz and Rumsfeld were saying about what was then the impending Iraq War:

Today marked the fifth anniversary of the day deputy Pentagon chief Paul Wolfowitz assured Congress that the U.S. would need no more than 100,000 troops to secure postwar Iraq and get the hell out. Here's how The New York Times reported it at the time: "In a contentious exchange over the costs of war with Iraq, the Pentagon's second-ranking official today disparaged a top Army general's assessment of the number of troops needed to secure postwar Iraq. House Democrats then accused the Pentagon official, Paul D. Wolfowitz, of concealing internal administration estimates on the cost of fighting and rebuilding the country.

"Mr. Wolfowitz, the deputy defense secretary, opened a two-front war of words on Capitol Hill, calling the recent estimate by Gen. Eric K. Shinseki of the Army that several hundred thousand troops would be needed in postwar Iraq, 'wildly off the mark.' Pentagon officials have put the figure closer to 100,000 troops. Mr. Wolfowitz then 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. He said it was impossible to predict accurately a war's duration, its destruction and the extent of rebuilding afterward....

"'I think you're deliberately keeping us in the dark,' said Representative James P. Moran, Democrat of Virginia. 'We're not so naïve as to think that you don't know more than you're revealing.'...

"At a Pentagon news conference with President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan, Mr. Rumsfeld echoed his deputy's comments.

A further excerpt from the Eric Schmitt article follows.

In his testimony, Mr. Wolfowitz ticked off several reasons why he believed a much smaller coalition peacekeeping force than General Shinseki envisioned would be sufficient to police and rebuild postwar Iraq.

He said there was no history of ethnic strife in Iraq, as there was in Bosnia or Kosovo. He said Iraqi civilians would welcome an American-led liberation force that ''stayed as long as necessary but left as soon as possible,'' but would oppose a long-term occupation force. And he said that nations that oppose war with Iraq would likely sign up to help rebuild it.

''I would expect that even countries like France will have a strong interest in assisting Iraq in reconstruction,'' Mr. Wolfowitz said. He added that many Iraqi expatriates would likely return home to help....

Enlisting countries to help to pay for this war and its aftermath would take more time, he said. ''I expect we will get a lot of mitigation, but it will be easier after the fact than before the fact,'' Mr. Wolfowitz said.

Mr. Wolfowitz spent much of the hearing knocking down published estimates of the costs of war and rebuilding, saying the upper range of $95 billion was too high, and that the estimates were almost meaningless because of the variables.

Moreover, he said such estimates, and speculation that postwar reconstruction costs could climb even higher, ignored the fact that Iraq is a wealthy country, with annual oil exports worth $15 billion to $20 billion. ''To assume we're going to pay for it all is just wrong,'' he said.

At the Pentagon, Mr. Rumsfeld said the factors influencing cost estimates made even ranges imperfect. Asked whether he would release such ranges to permit a useful public debate on the subject, Mr. Rumsfeld said, ''I've already decided that. It's not useful.''
The Hundred Years' War is a reference to both an event that marked the late Middle Ages, and presidential contender John McCain's recent statements to the effect that the US would be in Iraq for 100 years.

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