Pathological Optimism

by digby

From the LA Times:

The report spotlighted two documents prepared in January 2003 by the National Intelligence Council. One document was titled "Regional Consequences of Regime Change in Iraq," the other "Principal Challenges in Post-Saddam Iraq."

These papers warned that:

• Establishing "an Iraqi democracy would be a long, difficult and probably turbulent process, with potential for backsliding into Iraq's tradition of authoritarianism."

• Unless the occupying forces prevented it, "score settling would occur throughout Iraq between those associated with Saddam's regime and those who have suffered most under it."

• Among the majority Shiite population, which Saddam had kept out of power, a political form of Islam could take root, "particularly if economic recovery were slow and foreign troops remained in the country for a long period."

• Iran would probably try to shape the post-Hussein Iraq, in a bid to position itself as a regional power.

• Al Qaeda would probably take advantage of the war to increase its terrorist activities, and the lines between it and other terrorist groups "could become blurred."

Each of these assessments was prescient. And Bush now cites the danger posed by Al Qaeda forces in Iraq as a major reason for resisting calls that the U.S. begin decreasing its troop levels and set a firm deadline for withdrawal.

In early 2003, even as their deputies were receiving the intelligence community papers, top administration officials — among them Vice President Dick Cheney and then-Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld — publicly speculated that U.S. troops would be greeted warmly as liberators and gave no hint that some analysts were raising red flags about difficulties to come.

Here's the smoke they were blowing for public consumption:

Vice President Cheney

"I think that the people of Iraq would welcome the U.S. force as liberators; they would not see us as oppressors, by any means. And our experience was after the Gulf War in '91 that once the United States acted and provide leadership that in fact, the community, the region was more peaceful for some considerable period of time. That is what made possible a lot of progress in peace process between the Israelis and Palestinians back in the early '90s." (Cheney, CNN American Morning, 9/9/02)

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld

"Think of the faces in Afghanistan when the people were liberated, when they moved out in the streets and they started singing and flying kites and women went to school and people were able to function and other countries were able to start interacting with them. That's what would happen in Iraq." (Media Roundtable, 9/13/02)

Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz

"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. They know that America will not come as a conqueror. Our plan, as President Bush has said, is to remain as long as necessary, and not one day more. And the Iraqis also recognize that the economic and political reconstruction of their country will be difficult. It will take their best efforts with the help of the United States and our coalition partners. But they are driven by the dream of a just and democratic society in Iraq." (Wolfowitz, Remarks to VFW conference, 3/11/03)

"Until the regime is gone it's going to be very hard to do anything. Even in cities that are liberated. I think when the people of Basra no longer feel the threat of that regime, you are going to see an explosion of joy and relief." (Wolfowitz, News Conference, 3/25/03)

Secretary of State Colin Powell

"We understand the implications of such a change of regime action and have made a commitment, to ourselves, anyway, as we start down this road that we would have obligations to see it through. We would hope that if it came to that, there would be such a sea change in the region, rather than it being seen as an assault, it would be seen as a liberation, and it would be seen as the beginning of a new era in that part of the world, as Mr. Lantos has spoken of. And we are working our way through the issues that have been raised by such contingency. And it's another reason why we went to the international community last week, because if we ever get to that point, we want the international community in there; it will take the international community to help stabilize the situation and create the kind of region that we talked about earlier." (Powell, HIRC, 9/19/02)

Press Secretary Ari Fleischer

"The point, again, to be - to work with our international coalition, to work through the U.N., to work through our military, to make certain that there is stability in the region. But I think that can be a force for stability and a force for improvement of people's lives. And take a look at what's happening in Afghanistan now, and the event that the president had in Afghanistan today to mark what's happened in the improvement of people's lives from where they were a year ago. The fact is that people want to be free. Around the world, it doesn't matter what country they are, whether it's the United States or anywhere in the world. Nobody wants to live under a brutal dictatorship. And the people of Afghanistan view the United States as liberators...Now that's not to predict what the ultimate outcome could be if we go to war, because nobody is saying a war will not have difficulties and there would not be casualties. My point is, the likelihood is much more like Afghanistan, where the people who live right now under a brutal dictator will view America as liberators, not conquerors." (Fleischer, Press Briefing, 10/11/02)

TBOGG has more on how much the Iraqis love us.

And Steve Benen, over at TPM, highlights another reason why the administration's Little Mary Sunshines all pooh-poohed the intelligence they didn't like and stove-piped the intelligence they did: they refused to hire anyone who had a clue about the region.