Saturday, July 14, 2007

Nostradamus and the Neo-Cons

Not so comical now.

I'm still in Asia. Here's something semi-serious about Iraq.

Pre-War Predictions Assessed

Are we near the endgame in Iraq, at least for the Coalition? With Dubya himself admitting his country has "war fatigue" - and senior Republicans contemplating withdrawal - it looks that way.

Which makes this, perhaps, a good time to look back at the various predictions made about the war, over the last few years.

Here are some of the statements made by members of the Coalition.

"My belief is that we will, in fact, be greeted as liberators... I think it will go relatively quickly." US Vice President Dick Cheney, March 2003.

"The Iraqi people understand what this crisis is about. Like the people of France in the 1940s, they view us as their hoped-for liberator." Deputy Defense Secretary Wolfowitz, March 2003.

Tony Blair, Spring 2003: "That we will encounter more difficulties and anxious moments in the days ahead is certain. But no less certain, indeed more so, is coalition victory."

"I think we are in the last throes, if you will, of the insurgency." Dick Cheney, June 2005. "I believe you are going to see the rise of democracy in many countries in the broader Middle East, which will lay the foundation for peace." George Bush, June 2005. "Saddam Hussein will be responsible for many, many more deaths even in one year than we will be in any conflict." Tony Blair, January 2003.

Four years later, after 100,000-600,000 deaths, two million refugees, an ongoing insurgency and the bloody retreat of Coalition forces, those predictions don't look so good.

But who was right? Saudi Minister Faisal told the BBC before the war that "US and British troops will be bogged down in Iraq for years. The real beneficiary will be the government in Iran." That now looks pretty accurate.

Also accurate were the German politicians who foresaw "hundreds of thousands of deaths", and Jacques Chirac, who predicted civil war, in a private dinner with Tony Blair, weeks before the conflict. Then there was the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, who wrote: "We risk the lives of hundreds and thousands in a region that could rapidly spiral down into chaos." Even Richard Littlejohn, the much-ridiculed Sun columnist, said this, in January 2002: "This war could last for decades."

However, the most bizarrely accurate predictions came from quite another sources, and a rather unlikely one at that. Comical Ali.

Remember him - Mohammed Saeed al-Sahhaf? He was Saddam's war spokesman, who was globally ridiculed for predicting the triumph of Baathist forces - even as the Abrams tanks visibly rumbled into Baghdad. Sahhaf now lives quietly in the United Arab Emirates, with his family, following a brief arrest.

But perhaps he should consider a new job as a soothsayer. Because some of his predictions about the Iraq war now read as horribly and unamusingly prescient.

Take this one: "Do not be hasty because your disappointment will be huge. You will reap nothing from this aggressive war.. except disgrace and defeat." Or this one: "Washington has thrown its soldiers on the fire". He also said: '"We will embroil them, confuse them, and keep them in the quagmire."

Just before the US forces marched in, he said this: "They are deceiving their soldiers and officers that.. invading Iraq will be a picnic. This is a stupid lie. What they are facing is a definite death."

In the light of this, here's one reasonable prediction we can all make: we won't be invading anyone else any time soon.

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