Bush's Wars, by Terry Anderson
How has America fared in its forays into the 'Graveyard of Empires' (Afghanistan) and the 'Improbable Country' (Iraq)?
George W. Bush told an interviewer last year that he would not be alive to hear history’s final verdict on his acts as president of the United States. But Terry Anderson, professor of history at Texas A&M University and a Vietnam veteran, isn’t waiting. He has written 'Bush’s Wars', a reasonably engaging account of the military actions in Afghanistan and Iraq begun by Mr. Bush in 2001 and 2003, respectively. Neither is close to being finished 2-1/2 years after he left the White House.Skip to next paragraph
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There have been scores of books on the two wars, of course, with various focuses and perspectives, and Anderson draws on many of them, among other sources, to create a modest, 282-page overview that begins with a short primer on the Graveyard of Empires (Afghanistan) and the Improbable Country (Iraq).
If there is much that the reader remembers – or should remember – in this work, there also are some surprising details. Among other unsettling revelations in “Bush’s Wars” is an examination of the numerous prewar misapprehensions cherished by Bush’s “neocon” advisers. What they anticipated would happen if the US invaded Iraq is, in hindsight, stunningly inaccurate:
•Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld predicted publicly that the war would take “[f]ive days or five weeks or five months” at the outside.
•The administration estimated the war would cost $50 billion to $60 billion to wage; Anderson reports the actual operational tally at $750 billion and rising, not including debt service, replacement of military hardware, and ongoing care for wounded veterans, which added together will more than double that figure. (The war in Afghanistan has cost more than $350 billion to wage so far.)
•Assistant Secretary of Defense Richard Perle proclaimed, “Iraq is a very wealthy country ... they can finance, largely finance, the reconstruction of their own country.” In fact, Iraq had been decimated by two previous wars and United Nations sanctions.
This notion of a US invasion of Iraq as a geopolitical cakewalk was all the more surprising because, to gin up support for the war, the Bush administration and its supporters transformed Saddam Hussein into the mother of all boogeymen. In September 2002, Bush launched the mushroom cloud argument by declaring that Iraq was “six months away from developing a [nuclear] weapon. I don’t know what more evidence we need.”