On the August 24 broadcast of his nationally syndicated radio show, Rush Limbaugh claimed that the Iraq war "has always been portrayed as something that's gonna be hard" and that "the ease with which all this was gonna happen was never stated." In fact, several Bush administration officials, including Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld, did predict a short and easy process of regime change in Iraq, ignoring warnings from the intelligence community that the aftermath to the initial battles in Iraq would pose numerous difficult challenges.
Responding to a sound bite from NBC's Today, in which MSNBC host Chris Matthews asserted that members of the Bush administration "were wrong" in their original estimation that the Iraq war would be quick and easy, Limbaugh stated:
LIMBAUGH: No, Chris. Again, you missed it, and nobody ever said that it's gonna be like walkin' in and playin' baseball the next day. That's in your dreams. This has always been portrayed as something that's gonna be hard; it's part of the war on terror and no end date was ever given, and the ease with which all this was gonna happen was never stated.
In a subsequent segment on his August 24 show, Limbaugh acknowledged the presence of "a contingent of people on the left who will never forget the fact that some in the Defense Department said the Iraqis will be cheering us in the streets as we arrive, and that it will be a cakewalk and that we don't need to plan for any aftermath," but he failed to address the claims of this "contingent."
In fact, despite Limbaugh's denials, several top Bush administration officials have made specific predictions about the duration and difficulty of achieving regime change in Iraq:
- On the March 16, 2003, broadcast of CBS' Face the Nation, Cheney stated: "I think [the war will] go relatively quickly." When host Bob Schieffer pressed the vice president to offer a more precise estimate of how long the war would take, Cheney replied: "Weeks rather than months." On NBC's Meet the Press the same day, Cheney stated, "my belief is we will, in fact, be greeted as liberators [by the Iraqi people]."
- In a February 7, 2003, appearance at Aviano Air Base in Italy, Rumsfeld projected that the Iraq war "could last six days, six weeks. I doubt six months."
- In a February 13, 2002, Washington Post op-ed, Ken Adelman, at the time a member of the Defense Policy Board, stated: "I believe demolishing Hussein's military power and liberating Iraq would be a cakewalk. Let me give simple, responsible reasons: (1) It was a cakewalk last time; (2) they've become much weaker; (3) we've become much stronger; and (4) now we're playing for keeps."
Moreover, as Media Matters for America previously noted, the Bush administration failed to foresee or plan for an extended U.S. occupation and reconstruction of Iraq, despite numerous warnings from the intelligence community before the war. Prior to the start of the Iraq war, the consensus among the intelligence community was that "winning the peace in Iraq could be much harder than winning a war," Knight Ridder reported on October 17, 2004. A February 7, 2003, memo from three State Department bureau chiefs warned that "a failure to address short-term public security and humanitarian assistance concerns could result in serious human rights abuses which would undermine an otherwise successful military campaign, and our reputation internationally." Yet evidence suggests these warnings were largely ignored. Then-deputy secretary of defense Paul D. Wolfowitz acknowledged these failures in a July 23 Washington Post article, stating that defense officials made several assumptions that "turned out to underestimate the problem."
From the August 24 broadcast of The Rush Limbaugh Show:
LIMBAUGH: [Today host] Matt Lauer says, "Is the insurgency that's wearing on people -- is it the insurgency that's starting to wear people down about this, Chris?"
MATTHEWS [clip]: It's this insurgency, which we didn't expect, obviously, and this sense of murkiness; when's it ever going to end? Now, in all fairness too, the administration people and the hawks who supported the war from Day 1 said, "Oh, this is going to be like World War II. We're going to win. It's going to be a clear victory. We're going to march into Tokyo and into Berlin, and they're going to be practicing democracy the next day and playing baseball, and everything's going to be great." They were wrong. It isn't World War II; it doesn't have that clarity. I think it's the murkiness.
LIMBAUGH: No, Chris. Again, you missed it, and nobody ever said that it's gonna be like walkin' in and playin' baseball the next day. That's in your dreams. This has always been portrayed as something that's gonna be hard; it's part of the war on terror and no end date was ever given, and the ease with which all this was gonna happen was never stated. A lot of this has been assumed, but I think the thing that's wearing on people, and I want to ask the pollsters to do something. The next time you pollsters go out there and take a poll on the mood of the American people when it comes to the war in Iraq, don't just give us two groups of people -- those opposed and those for -- and then tell us that the numbers supporting the president of the war are plummeting. Ask a third question: Do you think we oughtta be doing more militarily? Could the murkiness be that people are frustrated that we are this superpower, and we are not mowing 'em down, like people think that we can? Could it be that some people oppose this or feel murky or have the heebie-jeebies simply because they don't understand why we are pussyfooting around, in their view, rather than going in there and kicking butt? And I will bet you, Chris, that if you do that third question on a poll, you and your buddies, insulated inside the walls of the beltway, will be stunned to find out how many Americans are fed up with the pace because we are not kicking butt. It's not that they don't want us to win, and it's not that they want us to come home because they think we're gonna lose. It's because they don't understand why we aren't pouring it on. You ask that third question, and I'll bet you would be stunned.
CALLER: Rush, thank you for taking my call. I calmed down a little bit. Chris Matthews is absolutely lying. In fact, President Bush said the opposite. This is like no other war; it's going to take a long time; we're in there for the long haul; we have to keep a strong will, and I'm tired of hearing propaganda; they're lying.
LIMBAUGH: Well, in Matthews's defense, I think what Matthews is saying, and I'm not saying he's right, but there's a contingent of people on the left who will never forget the fact that some in the Defense Department said the Iraqis will be cheering us in the streets as we arrive, and that it will be a cakewalk and that we don't need to plan for any aftermath. This is what they think they heard Wolfowitz and Rumsfeld say. Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz did not say precisely that. The left has had this mantra -- and I mean, it's still mouthed and uttered frequently, "We mismanaged the peace. We didn't plan for the peace. We didn't plan for the aftermath." Once they get going on their mantras, there's no amount of facts that'll penetrate them and change their minds. It's also partly due to the fact that the left distinguishes Iraq from the war on terror. They don't think they're linked at all; they have nothing to do with one another, so while Bush did say what he said about the way on terror, overall, as you just cited and quoted, the left doesn't think he ever said that and meant that about Iraq. But look, my point is let them live in their fantasyland. [Caller], let them live -- you know, the facts of the matter are that they're not persuading anybody, and they're only tearing themselves apart. Anybody that will pointedly, purposely ignore the truth so that their own agenda and definition of events triumphs cannot possibly succeed, not in the climate that exists today. Thirty years ago, yeah; 20 years ago, they could write their own history every day; they could write the agenda every day; there was nobody to counter it. There was nobody to challenge it; nobody to present an alternative point of view anywhere else in the media. It doesn't exist today. Another thing, they haven't come to grips with, so don't lose any sleep over it, and certainly, you know, don't get angry -- well, I mean, you're gonna get angry about it, but at the end, laugh at it.