Mission Accomplished! or How We Won the War in Iraq

by Christopher Cerf

A companion volume to the classic, irreverent catalog of trivia gathers lies, misinformation, and errors propagated by experts in a variety of fields of endeavor in a humorous, biting compilation of what the experts did not know, got wrong, misrepresented, or lied about. Original. 75,000 first printing.

Mission Accomplished! or How We Won the War in Iraq



Saddam Hussein: "A Force for Peace in the Middle East"

In 1983 and 1984, Donald Rumsfeld, then a special envoy for the Reagan administration, traveled to Baghdad for meetings with President Saddam Hussein designed to "improve understanding" between the United States and Iraq. Rumsfeld brought Hussein several gifts, including a set of medieval spiked hammers and a pair of golden cowboy spurs. In its report on these meetings, the Christian Science Monitor noted that, as a sign of warming relations between the two nations, the U.S. government had recently "removed Iraq's name from a list of countries alleged to support terrorism."

Access to Persian Gulf oil and the security of key friendly states...are vital to U.S. national security...Normal relations between the United States and Iraq would serve our longer-term interests and promote stability in the Gulf and the Middle East.

President George H. W. Bush, National Security Directive 26, paving the way for $1 billion in new U.S. loan guarantees to Iraq, October 2, 1989

I have been sitting here and listening to you for about an hour, and I am now aware that you are a strong and intelligent man and that you want peace. I believe, Mr. President, that you can be a very influential force for peace in the Middle East.

Senator Howard Metzenbaum (D-OH), speaking to Iraqi President Saddam Hussein at a meeting between Hussein and American senators in Mosul, Iraq, April 12, 1990

I enjoy meeting candid and open people [like you].

Senator Alan K. Simpson (R-WY), Republican Whip of the Senate, speaking to Iraqi President Saddam Hussein at a meeting between Hussein and American senators in Mosul, Iraq, April 12, 1990

Access to Persian Gulf oil and the security of key friendly states are vital to U.S. national security...Iraq...is clearly a power with interests inimical to our own.

President George H. W. Bush, National Security Directive 54, launching the First Gulf War, January 15, 1991


Premonitions of Liberation

Editors' Note: Pedants may argue that these "premonitions of liberation" more properly belong on page 42, where the attitudes of authoritative Americans on the eve of invasion are presented. Perhaps such objections would be justified.

Indeed, if this were a work of formal scholarship, we would have used the following few pages to present an abstract of our study. But we are, of course, committed to making our data comprehensible to the lay community. Therefore, rather than provide an obfuscatory précis, we herewith present what nonscientists might think of as a preview of coming attractions.

Dancing in the streets of Baghdad will be even more joyous than that in Kabul after its liberation.

Kenneth Adelman, member of the Defense Policy Board at the U.S. Department of Defense, February 13, 2002

After liberation, the streets in Basra and Baghdad are sure to erupt in joy.

Vice President Dick Cheney, August 26, 2002

If we come to Baghdad, Damascus and Tehran as liberators, we can expect overwhelming popular support.

Michael Ledeen, Freedom Scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, September 2002

We shall be greeted, I think, in Baghdad and Basra with kites and boom boxes.

Fouad Ajami, professor of Middle East studies at Johns Hopkins University, assessing the likely outcome of an American invasion of Iraq, October 7, 2002

There will...occur in Iraq a...[show of military force] rapid and accurate and overwhelming enough to deal with an army or a country many times the size of Iraq...And that will be greeted by the majority of Iraqi people and Kurdish people as a moment of emancipation, which will be a pleasure to see...Bring it on.

Christopher Hitchens, journalist, January 28, 2003

I think they will be greeted with sweets and flowers in the first months and simply have very, very little doubts that that is the case...This is a remarkable situation in which the population of a country that's about to have a war waged over its head positively wants the war.

Kanan Makiya, Islamic scholar, March 17, 2003

I don't want to make a prediction...but you're going to find, and this is very important, you're going to find Iraqis out cheering American troops.

Paul Wolfowitz, U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense, February 23, 2003

The terrified and brutalized people of Iraq will rejoice at the downfall of Saddam Hussein. And when we finally smash his evil regime suddenly those countries that doubt us will have their eyes opened.

Richard Perle, Chairman, Defense Policy Board, February 23, 2003

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.

Paul Wolfowitz, U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense, March 11, 2003

My belief is we will, in fact, be greeted as liberators.

Vice President Dick Cheney, March 16, 2003

I believe...that the Iraqi people will greet us as liberators.

Senator John McCain (R-AZ), March 20, 2003


A poll commissioned by the Coalition Provisional Authority in May 2004, just thirteen months after U.S. troops entered Baghdad, showed that Iraqis who viewed American-led forces as "liberators" numbered only 2 percent of those polled.

Copyright © 2008 by Christopher Cerf Associates, Inc., and Victor S. Navasky

Illustrations copyright © 2008 by Robert Grossman


It is, of course, twenty-four years since the Institute of Expertology issued its first findings. For those who may have been too young to see our study, or are too old to remember it, we recall that, not withstanding the best efforts of the Institute's worldwide cadre of researchers, we were unable to identify a single expert who was right. At the time, despite these findings, our scholarly integrity compelled us to concede the statistical probability that in theory the experts might be right as much as half the time. It was simply that we hadn't found any.

And this was despite our expansive definition of who qualifies as an expert. We use the term expert to designate people who, by virtue of celebrity, official status, formal title (military or civilian), academic degree, professional license, public office, journalistic beat, quantity of publications, and/or use of highly technical jargon, are presumed to know what they are talking about. Trust us, they don't.

However, when we decided to undertake a scholarly monograph with the working title "Expertology and the Iraq War: How Could So Many Have Been Misled by So Few?," we began to fear that our hypothesis -- that once again the experts got it wrong -- was erroneous. Our researchers deluged us with information, all of which showed such a historic unanimity of opinion on the war questions that the intellectual foundations of the Institute itself were shaken.

Certainly, indeed clearly, as Secretary of State Rice (one of the typically articulate experts represented in this particular volume) likes to say, we can state without fear of contradiction, based on a careful review of the Institute of Expertology archives, that never before in history has there been such a distinguished cast of experts as the one we have assembled here on the Iraq War. These are not your average experts. Our database consists of the highest government officials, diplomats, cabinet officers, four-star generals, bigfoot pundits, prize-winning Middle East scholars, top think-tank strategists, heads of congressional committees, the leadership of the Central Intelligence Agency, and such. Moreover, the database is transpartisan, featuring leading neoconservatives and liberals alike.

Thus, as responsible scholars, we tentatively had to consider the possibility that our scores of highly trained expertise experts at the Institute of Expertology were wrong in saying the experts were never right. In the case of America's adventure in Iraq, we seemed to have a clear exception to the Iron Law of Expertise. For never before in history has such a large and diverse group of experts been so unanimously in favor of a particular national policy as has this group in the case of the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Could it be that we at the Institute were wrong?

Let us say in our defense that our work in the past covered many fields of expertise, including science, religion, music, literature, and economics. In those cases, the problems of identifying expertise were more complex and multifaceted. Frequently the experts disagreed with one another. In this study, however, we are concerned with but a single question: the wisdom of the United States invading and waging war in Iraq. On this clear question, we have uncovered an astonishing level of unanimity across the board. In the face of such unanimity, how could we, as scientific expertologists, say, "The experts were wrong"?

The temptation was to succumb to the weight of what appeared to be the evidence. Moreover, as patriotic Americans, we were as eager as our fellow countrymen to take pride in our country's triumphs so persuasively proclaimed by our brilliant, keenly intelligent, high-IQ, perspicacious homegrown opinion leaders -- "Made in the USA."

Of course, as scrupulous scholars, we planned to report and not suppress the fact that there was and is a small group of dissenters from this Great Consensus, but they are for the most part ordinary citizens or extreme left (and far right) wingers who really don't count, and so we don't count them. They would, in truth, only pollute our sample.

But after having completed our in-depth study and analysis of five years of expert commentary on the Iraq War, despite the near-unanimity and the high status and IQ of our subjects, we now must allow for the possibility that (with one exception, discussed below), the experts all got it wrong. We should have been suspicious of these overachievers based on our earlier studies. (Indeed, in our previous report we quoted Arthur R. Jensen, professor emeritus of educational psychology at Berkeley, who said, "The most important fact about intelligence is that we can measure it.") The fact that the Iraq experts all agreed with each other should have been the tip-off.

In the interests of objectivity, what we have decided to do, therefore, is publish this interim report, leaving open the possibility that the experts may all be right or they may all be wrong. We are confident that we will not have long to wait to learn precisely which faction was right and which was wrong. Indeed, we expect the answer in six months. A leading expert, the New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, has assured us that, as he said in 2003 (and again in 2004, 2005, etc.), "The next six months in Iraq" will settle the case once and for all.

By the way, we should mention here that we are more than cognizant that our critics and enemies will object that many of those we quote have changed their opinions over time and that we do not note this in our text. For example, we do not note that Richard Cohen, a Washington Post columnist who wrote in February 2003 that the evidence Colin Powell presented to the United Nations proved so conclusively that Iraq retained weapons of mass destruction that "only a fool -- or possibly a Frenchman -- could conclude otherwise," later changed his mind about the war. He could stand in for many others. However, we do not include them in our sample for the same reason we don't count the original opponents of the war: namely, they would pollute our sample. Changing one's mind is an example of what is called in the field "negative expertology" and is the subject of a separate scientific study.

In any case, it is not for us, who are, after all, impartial social scientists, to pass judgment on the motives or character of those who supported the war and later retracted. No doubt many did so from high-minded motives, but we leave that determination to scholars in future studies that will set the record straight pundit by pundit.

On the other hand, much of the press -- like the columnist Cal Thomas, who wrote that Saddam Hussein was in such breach of UN resolutions "that only the duped, the dumb and the desperate could ignore it," or Laura Ingraham, who reported that "Hans Blix couldn't find stretch marks on Rosie O'Donnell" -- held firm to their convictions. Were they right in doing so? The next six months will definitively tell the story.

Finally, we wish to draw the reader's attention to our epilogue. One of the outcomes of the Iraq study -- whatever its final findings -- is that it did produce one expert who was right. To avoid presenting this expert out of context, we resist the temptation to quote him here. (On the matter of context, we are the first to concede that some of the quotations in this book may be said to be out of context. But that is only because the context itself was constantly changing: Why did we go into Iraq in the first place, for instance: WMDs? To bring democracy to the Middle East? Regime change? To combat terrorism? Oil?)

We can, however, assert with confidence that anyone who gets as far as the epilogue will have to agree that our study -- whatever its final findings -- has produced one expert on whose foresight both the experts and we expertologists are in unanimous agreement.

Christopher Cerf

Victor S. Navasky

Founders, the Institute of Expertology


George W. ("Mission Accomplished") Bush, President of the United States of America

Dick ("The streets of Baghdad are sure to erupt in joy") Cheney, Vice President of the United States of America

Condoleezza ("We don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud") Rice, U.S. Secretary of State

Donald ("Stuff Happens") Rumsfeld, U.S. Secretary of Defense

Richard ("Saddam will take the UN down with him") Perle, Chairman, Defense Policy Board

Tom ("The next six months will tell the story") Friedman, New York Times columnist

George ("It's a slam dunk!") Tenet, Director, Central Intelligence Agency

L. Paul ("Insurgents pose no strategic threat") Bremer III, Director of the Coalition Provisional Authority

Fred ("We know beyond a shadow of a doubt that Saddam Hussein has been pursuing aggressively weapons of mass destruction") Barnes, editor, The Weekly Standard

Colin ("Every statement I make [at the UN] is backed up by sources, solid sources"] Powell, U.S. Secretary of State

Jacob ("The interesting question is why pessimism continues to flourish in the face of military success") Weisberg, Slate reporter

Paul ("Iraq was the logical place to begin") Berman, International Herald Tribune reporter

Bill ("Military action will not last more than a week") O'Reilly, The O'Reilly Factor host

David ("The blood of hundreds of thousands of Americans is on the hands of the anti-war activists") Horowitz, Los Angeles Times reporter

William ("Democratizing the country should not be too tall an order for the world's sole superpower") Kristol, Weekly Standard editor

Douglas J. ("This month will be a turning point") Feith, U.S. Undersecretary of Defense for Policy

Mitch ("Iraq will not require sustained aid") Daniels, U.S. Budget Director

Hazin ("We will cut off their hands and behead them") Shaalan, Iraqi Minister of Defense

Charles ("We must be prepared to torture") Krauthammer, syndicated columnist

Alberto ("I don't recall") Gonzales, U.S. Attorney General

John ("Reasonable people will disagree about when torture is justified") Yoo, Former Deputy Assistant Attorney General

Rush ("Abu Ghraib is no different from what happens at the Skull and Bones initiation") Limbaugh, The Rush Limbaugh Show host

Ann ("We should kill their leaders, and convert them to Christianity") Coulter

Copyright © 2008 by Christopher Cerf Associates, Inc., and Victor S. Navasky

Illustrations copyright © 2008 by Robert Grossman

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Full Title: Mission Accomplished! or How We Won the War in Iraq: The Experts Speak
Author: Christopher Cerf / Victor S. Navasky
Illustrator: Robert Grossman
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Date Published: March 25, 2008
Format: eBook, Blio
Platform: XPS Enabled
Length: 304 pages
Language: English
ISBN: 141657025X / 9781416570257
Categories: Politics & Government / General
Humor / General
Reference / General
Audience: General Adult