CNN's Wolf Blitzer uncritically aired Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld's false assertion that "there was not an anticipation that the level of the insurgency" in Iraq "would be approximating what it is." But some people -- including military and foreign policy experts -- did anticipate a violent insurgency if the United States invaded Iraq.
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On the September 28 edition of CNN's The Situation Room, host Wolf Blitzer uncritically aired Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld's false assertion that "there was not an anticipation that the level of the insurgency" in Iraq "would be approximating what it is." A September 28 CNN.com article described Rumsfeld's comment as "admit[ting] that no one was well-prepared for what would happen after major combat ended." In fact, as Media Matters for America has documented, some people did anticipate a violent insurgency if the United States invaded Iraq, including the Army War College and former members of the George H.W. Bush administration.
USA Today reported on October 24, 2004, that "[m]ilitary and civilian intelligence agencies repeatedly warned prior to the invasion that Iraqi insurgent forces were preparing to fight and that their ranks would grow as other Iraqis came to resent the U.S. occupation and organize guerrilla attacks." The same USA Today article also noted an Army War College report published in February 2003 suggesting that military planners should expect a lengthy insurgency. Although the report did not offer a time frame for the length of the insurgency, it stated that "[t]he longer U.S. presence is maintained, the more likely violent resistance will develop." One part of the Army War College report stated that the United States could eventually become trapped between an "impatient" Iraqi population, which would resort to "violent measures to hasten the departure of U.S. forces," and the fact that "a premature withdrawal from Iraq could lead to instability and perhaps even civil war."
Warnings about a prolonged and violent insurgency were not limited to official intelligence and military documents. Testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on July 31, 2002, Morton H. Halperin, then a senior fellow with the Council on Foreign Relations, warned that the United States should be prepared "to fight the war in the streets of Baghdad ... and to accept the risk of very substantial casualties." In his statement, Halperin predicted that U.S. troops could be forced to occupy Iraq "for a very long time at very great expense in treasure but also in risk to lives." New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof wondered, in a September 27, 2002, column, if "America [is] really prepared for hundreds of casualties, even thousands, in an invasion and subsequent occupation that could last many years," because "an invasion of Iraq may not be the cakewalk that the White House expects."
Media Matters has also noted that projections of post-invasion instability in Iraq had surfaced in 1991 following the first Gulf War.
From the September 28 edition of CNN's The Situation Room:
BLITZER: Donald Rumsfeld is one of the men responsible for conducting the war in Iraq. Recently, he talked about the raging insurgency in Iraq in a special CNN documentary. Take a listen to this.
RUMSFELD [video clip]: Well, I think that anyone who looks at it with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight has to say that there -- there was not an anticipation that the level of the insurgency would be anything approximating what it is.
BLITZER: In a new CNN poll, 35 percent of Americans say they have a favorable opinion of Donald Rumsfeld. That's down from a 58-percent favorable rating back in 2003.
But what do Americans really know about the defense secretary? That new CNN documentary we just mentioned profiles Donald Rumsfeld. It's called Man of War and is narrated, reported by our own CNN special contributor Frank Sesno. Frank's joining us now live from the CNN Center.