10/21/2004: Juan Cole weighs in....
White House spinmeister Karl Rove is denying that Bush said any such thing. But actually I think the conversation recounted is entirely plausible. A lot of Bush supporters were proclaiming that the Iraq war would be a "cakewalk" and Iraqis would greet the US soldiers with garlands. Robertson, a former Marine and a rightwinger, may well have been alarmed that all this cakewalk talk could harm the Republican Party if the war was harder-fought than advertised.Though I have to admit, I never thought I'd see the bAdministration calling Pat Robertson a liar...
So you can imagine Robertson warning Bush to tone down the over-optimistic talk and to ready the public for casualties.
Bush would have been thinking about the war itself, and would have known that many Iraqi officers had already made a deal with the CIA to just leave the barracks and go home, ordering their men to do the same. And plus Bush knew about the US military's overwhelming air superiority, and ability to make mincemeat of the Iraqi tank corps from the air.
So Bush expected few or no casualties. And March 19-April 9, during the period the US was overthrowing the Baath regime and actively attacking the Iraqi military, only a litle over a hundred US servicemen were killed, as I remember. That is not "no casualties," especially for them and their families, but it is a small number. The US and its allies lost 6,000 men at the Battle of Guadalcanal in World War II, and that was just one battle (the Japanese lost 24,000).
Clearly Bush did not foresee further casualties as the result of a guerrilla war after the main war. There were other US government analysts who did fear that kind of trouble, especially at the CIA and in the State Department, but they were actively ignored.
It may well be that the real significance of Robertson's statement is an indication that the US evangelicals are rethinking their support of the Iraq War. If that were true, it would signal big problems for Bush in the forthcoming election.
Len on 10.21.04 @ 07:04 PM CST