Throughout the planning and execution of Operation Iraqi Freedom, opponents of the war have made a series of negative predictions regarding the conflict’s effect on everything from the American economy to counter-terrorist operations around the globe. Fortunately for the United States and our allies, none of these doom and gloom scenarios envisioned by the Left came to pass. However, it is important not to dismiss these erroneous prognostications as mere casualties of the unprecedented American success in Iraq. Rather, an examination of these predictions reveals the Left’s fundamental misunderstanding of almost every aspect of American foreign policy in the twenty-first century.
Throughout the build-up to Operation Iraqi Freedom, the anti-war Left repeatedly asserted that America’s focus on Iraq would jeopardize the effectiveness of the War on Terror. Stephen Zunes at The Nation claimed that "an American invasion of Iraq would not only distract from the more immediate threat posed by Al Qaeda but would likely result in an anti-American backlash that would substantially reduce the level of cooperation from Islamic countries1" for the War on Terror. Such dire predictions were often repeated by Nancy Pelosi and her Congressional comrades as justification for their refusal to grant the President authority to use force in disarming Iraq. While it is possible the Left’s sudden interest in the War on Terror is genuine, it seems more likely that because the Left believed Bush could not focus on Terror and Iraq simultaneously, their sudden hawkish stance on terrorism is an attempt to place themselves in a position by which they could reap maximum political benefits when Bush’s policy inevitably (as they believe) falters. (Of course, such an assumption belies the fallacious liberal reasoning that insists on differentiating between Saddam and the War on Terror, but that’s another issue entirely.)
Once again, the Left has drastically underestimated the President and his administration. As the first United States’ service women and men were sweeping into Iraq, the military simultaneously launched Operation Valiant Strike in Southern Afghanistan. Valiant Strike was prompted by Department of Defense radio intercepts that indicated Taliban were regrouping in several Afghani villages. Such an operation seems to indicate that the United States intelligence gathering efforts in Iraq in no way compromised counter terrorism efforts elsewhere.
Furthermore, only weeks earlier, despite the Bush administration’s alleged preoccupation with Iraq, Pakistani officials, working with the CIA, captured Khalid Shaik Mohammed, the number three operative in the al-Qaeda terror network. Although the Left argued that the pending military operation in Iraq would strain relationships with Muslim nations whose support was crucial to the War on Terror, it was precisely the cooperation from Pakistani intelligence that made Mohammed’s capture possible. In fact, Mohammed’s arrest was such a powerful rebuke of the Left’s Terror-Iraq logic that on Monday March 4th, days after Mohammed was nabbed, Senator Joe Biden was forced to omit several lines from what was billed as "a major foreign policy speech.2" Previously, Biden had stated that war in Iraq "would detract from the hunt for al-Qaeda.3" However, Biden’s decision to omit such lines as:
The president has argued that confronting Iraq will not detract from our unfinished war against terrorism. I pray he’s right, but I am afraid we’ve lost our focus
from a "major foreign policy address" following Mohammed’s apprehension seems to indicate that even the Left is being to realize its arguments lack political veracity.
On the other hand, as correctly predicted by the White House, the liberation of Iraq had an immediately positive effect on the War on Terror. Days after arriving in Baghdad, allied forces quickly captured Palestinian terrorist Abu Abbas, mastermind of the 1985 hijacking of an Italian cruise ship that resulted in the murder of an wheel-chair bound Jewish man. If Abbas’ arrest did not offer convincing enough evidence that Saddam sheltered terrorists, the Los Angeles reported soldiers from the 2nd Battalion, 23rd Regiment found "a large-scale terrorist training camp for the Palestinian Liberation Front, as well as documents indicating Iraq recently sold weapons to the terror group for its fight against Israel.4"
One of the primary reasons the international coalition against terror has remained so strong throughout the planning and execution of Operation Iraqi Freedom is that despite dire predictions from the Left, the much-ballyhooed "Arab Street" has not erupted in violent protest. Nor was Tel Aviv was struck with Iraqi missiles, thus bringing Israel into the conflict and sparking a third world war. In fact, evidence is mounting that the most widespread effect of the war, aside from neutralizing the threat of Saddam and his weapons, will be the manner in which Iran and North Korea, resident members of the Axis of Evil, along with Syria, have been brought to heel by the spectacular success of Operation Iraqi Freedom. In the wake of Saddam’s collapse, North Korea has expressed desire to begin serious multi-lateral talks about its nuclear weapons program, and despite initial misbehavior, Syria and Iran seem to have finally gotten the message loud and clear; supporting terror or perusing weapons of mass destruction will not be tolerated. These extremely positive developments certainly seem to contradict Nelson Mandela’s prediction that liberating Iraq would cause "international chaos."5
Just as the Left misjudged the Arab Street’s reaction to the military conflict, the anti-war crowd were also unprepared for the scenes of jubilation that eventually exploded across the liberated Iraqi street. The Left met Vice President Cheney’s assertion that "we will be greeted as liberators" with scorn and ridicule. Newsweek declared Cheney’s comments "an arrogant blunder for the ages,6" In fact, the Iraqi’s initial hesitation to embrace Allied troops seemed to vindicate the Newsweek’s snide dismissal of Cheney, as well as The Nation‘s judgment that "[Deputy Defense Secretary] Wolfowitz [is] ignorant of history."7 However, in their rush to crucify the Bush administration for displaying "arrogance and ignorance," the Left failed to take into account that before the United States could be greeted as liberators, the Iraqi people needed to be convinced that this time they truly would be liberated. Doubtlessly, memories of gassed rebel Kurds and rumors of roaming death squads fanatically loyal to Saddam did little to foster a celebratory mood in the early days of Operation Iraq Freedom. Furthermore, the United States’ own failure to follow through with promises to help topple Saddam after the first Gulf War likely played a role in the initial Iraqi reluctance to embrace the Allied forces. However, once it became clear that the Butcher of Baghdad was truly finished, signs of liberation, complete with hugs, kisses and flowers, suddenly filled the streets. There were even reports of Iraqi new born babies being named "George." Clearly, the Iraqis, having suffered under Saddam’s tyranny for so long, possess a deeper appreciation for Freedom than some of those on the Left who have lived in it all their lives.
Just as the Left erroneously predicted the mood of the Iraqi people, they also grossly underestimated domestic support for Operation Iraqi Freedom. Barely one week into the conflict, Ted Koppel had apparently seen enough to announce to the world, with mind-numbing condescension, "In a famous couple of lines from the movie a Few Good Men, Jack Nicolson, playing a Marine Colonel, snarls, ‘You want the truth? You can’t handle the truth.’ Well this is no movie. We’ll do our best to give you the truth in the hope and the belief you can handle the truth." Despite Mr. Koppel’s apprehension, with 80 percent of the American public in approval of the War,8 it seems most citizens handled Operation Iraqi Freedom just fine, thank you very much. Ironically, the only citizens who seemed to have any trouble handing the truths of the War were liberal politicians and their media lap dogs.
Occasionally, to avoid "handling the truth," the media simply made things up. Speaking to state-run Iraqi television, Peter Arnett reported that "within the United States there is a growing challenge to President Bush about the conduct of the War and also opposition to the War." By "growing challenge" Mr. Arnett must have really meant to say "decreasing challenge," unless of course he was speaking solely on behalf of the Hollywood community, because when Arnett made his comments, domestic support for the War had reached over 70 percent, and would soon hit 80 percent. The media, including Arnett, seemed increasing determined to ignore such polls while holding up the anti-war protesters as the true indicators of the national mood. According to ABC news correspondent Chris Cuomo, in "American history, protests [like the current anti-war demonstrations] have been prescient indicators of the national mood."9 Subsequently, reasons Cuomo "the government may do well to listen to what’s said [at these protests.]"10 Thankfully, neither the Administration nor the American people paid any attention to the media or the rapidly aging hippies blocking traffic. Instead, 80 percent of America rallied behind President Bush and what would prove to be one of the most effective and just military campaigns in the history of warfare.
Often to avoid directly criticizing a military campaign that, despite liberal assertions to the contrary, carried the support of over 80% of the American public, President Bush’s political opponents have repeatedly expressed concern over the "economic" ramifications of Operation Iraqi Freedom. When defending her congressional vote that opposed military action in Iraq, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi cited the "…cost to our budget, probably $100 billion11" and "the cost to our economy."12 Ms. Pelosi’s concerns echoed a report issued last September by the House Budget Committee’s Democratic staff which estimated "the initial military operation alone" would cost between $43 billion and $93 billion, best case scenario.13 However, on April 16th 2003, with all major military engagements concluded, the Pentagon announced that Operation Iraqi Freedom’s current cost to the United States budget was 20 billion dollars. Dov Zakheim, the Pentagon’s controller reported, "military operations in Iraqi have cost $10 billion, personnel costs have been about $6 billion and the cost of munitions about $3 billion. Despite the concern of Ms. Pelosi and her comrades on the House Budget Committee staff, the price of Operation Iraqi Freedom has thus far, as pointed out by the Washington Times, been less than the $22.1 billion in "pork-barrel spending" in the 2003 budget.14
Similarly to Liberals’ bloated estimates of Operation Iraqi Freedom’s cost to the budget, predictions of economic doom and gloom also appear to be a product of the Left’s overactive imagination. As reported in the April 21st issue of Time Magazine, since Operation Iraqi Freedom began, "oil prices have plunged and the stock market rallied. Despite all the anxiety over the war retail sales surged 2.1 percent in March, and the University of Michigan’s consumer-sentiment index rose in early April to 83.2 from 77.6. Initial jobless claims have edged lower, indicating that layoffs may be decelerating."15 Even Alan Greenspan appears bullish, commenting just last week that the economy was "prone more to long-term growth and not stagnation." As Time remarked, "for [Greenspan], that’s downright exuberant.16" With Corporate uncertainty over the war retreating faster than the Republican Guard, any predictions of economic downturn seem to be little more than another Liberal mirage. In fact, it appears that the end of Saddam’s regime may have provided Corporate America and consumers alike with the extra confidence needed to increase spending, and thus help kick America’s economic recovery into full gear.
No single element of Operation Iraq Freedom has been subjected to as many outrageous and plainly false predictions as the actual military campaign itself. On March 25, just over a week after Operation Iraqi Freedom officially begin, Ted Koppel urged Americans to "Forget the easy victories of the last twenty years: this war is more like the ones we knew before." Two weeks later, American tanks were rolling through Baghdad, completely inversing Koppel’s prediction: This war was nothing like the ones we knew before. Not even the first Gulf War. As of Thursday April 15, 157 U.S and British Troops had died during Operation Iraq Freedom, less than half the 358 coalition deaths in Desert Storm.17 During the 1991 Gulf War, the US led-coalition needed approximately six weeks to gain control of a territory a tenth the size of the territory liberated during Operation Iraqi Freedom. After Desert Storm, it was reported that 35,000 Iraqi civilians had been killed, while Abu Dhabi TV recently reported 1,252 Iraqi civilians had been killed in the current conflict. Although any civilian loss of life is deeply regrettable, there has never been a military conflict in which an army went to such incredible lengths to prevent the death of civilians. As reported by the New Republic, "Attacking units stood on their heads to avoid needless (and in some cases needed) harm-lawyers accompanied field units to advise them when not to shoot! Coalition soldiers put themselves at risk to aid wounded Iraqis."18 Lawyers on the battlefield; Just like Vietnam, right Ted?
Yet, despite all the evidence suggesting Operation Iraqi Freedom is the very manifestation of jus in bello, History Channel host Arthur Kent, on the April 5th edition of Larry King commented:
Why didn’t the U.S and British military develop some new tactics and strategies so that we could avoid this shameful situation where the people of Basra, where the people of Baghdad are besieged? Because you know, we talked about British and American blood being spilled here but for the long-term security of the American people, to try to rebuild the image of the United States abroad, it’s how much Iraqi blood is spilled that really matters here. And there is too much civilian death going on here and the U.S military flunked the test of devising a way to have an inside-out removal of this regime instead of setting up these almost medieval siege situations.19
Mr. Kent’s comments simply do not represent reality; there was not a "medieval siege" of Baghdad. Rather than embodying fact, comments like Mr. Kent’s represent the fanciful thinking of the Left. The actual facts of the War are irrelevant to talking heads like Mr. Kent; their comments on the War are purely political in nature, designed solely to discredit the current administration, any trace of objective journalism long since discarded.
Journalist Peter Arnett perhaps best summed up the Left’s opinion of the military campaign when he reported to state-run Iraqi television:
"Clearly, the American war planners misjudged the determination of the Iraqi forces…And I personally do not understand how that happened, because I’ve been here many times and in my commentaries on television I would tell the Americans about the determination of the Iraqi forces, the determination of the government and the willingness to fight for the country. But me, and other others who felt the same way, were not listened to by the Bush administration…Now America is re-appraising the battlefield, delaying the war, maybe a week, and re-writing the war plan. The first war plan has failed because of Iraqi resistance [and] now they are trying to write another war plan."20
Mr. Arnett’s comments stand as the most glaring example of liberal media bias demonstrated during the conflict. Arnett’s statement to Iraqi television was not based on fact but fantasy. Arnett and the rest of the Left wanted Rumsfeld’s battle plan to fail; they wanted the Iraqi’s to show heroic determination. In fact, the only thing more breathtaking than Arnett’s transparent desire for American setbacks is his arrogance. Arnett, a journalist for National Geographic, has the audacity to suggest that the Bush administration should have consulted with him before executing their battle plan. Thankfully, much of the success of Operation Iraqi Freedom came precisely because the President and the Pentagon paid absolutely no heed to the media. The result? A war that lasted less than a week, with massive enemy desertions and a record low number of casualties. There was even hardly any of the door-to-door combat that had been repeatedly discussed in the media. The last time the media ran a war, 48,000 US soldiers died and Saigon fell. To the communists. A little more than a week after Arnett’s comments, 157 allied soldiers had given their lives and Baghdad fell. To the allies.