• Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Subscribe
  • RSS

Baghdad Bob Was Right After All

Iraqi Information Minister Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf speaks during news conference in Baghdad March 24..

Emily DePrang looks back at “‘Baghdad Bob’ and His Ridiculous, True Predictions.”

In March of 2003, Saddam’s Minister of Information was everybody’s favorite inadvertent comedian. Sporting a kicky black beret and delightfully bombastic lexicon, Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf appeared on TV daily to predict American failure and deny the Baghdad invasion–sometimes even as U.S. tanks appeared behind him. “He’s great,”President George W. Bush said of Sahaf, admitting that he occasionally interrupted meetings to watch Sahaf’s briefings. “Someone accused us of hiring him and putting him there. He was a classic.”

Sahaf became the subject of T-shirts, mugs, adoring websites, a pop song, and an action figure. Besides adding levity to news cycles otherwise filled with fuzzy green explosions, Sahaf represented everything that made Iraq’s invasion seem not quite like a real war. Wars are serious, and this guy was adorable. Even if you opposed the Iraq invasion, you had to admit it’s hard to respect a government whose official mouthpiece told a reporter, “Shock and awe? It seems that we are the awe on them. They are suffering from the shock and awe, okay?”

But it turns out that “several of his more ludicrous predictions have since come true–some in the ways he meant, and, more chillingly, some in ways no one (else) could have foreseen.”

THE PREDICTION:

“The crook Rumsfeld said yesterday that they are hunting mass destruction weapons in Baghdad and Tikrit, and yesterday I replied to that cheap lie.”

I assure you that those villains will recognize, will discover in appropriate time in the future how stupid they are and how they are pretending things which have never taken place.”

THE REALITY

As a 2012 CIA study concluded definitively, Saddam Hussein didn’t have weapons of mass destruction. Nor did Iraq have 18 mobile laboratories for making anthrax and botulism, as Secretary of State Colin Powell claimed before the United Nations in February 2003, nor had Saddam Hussein recently tried to buy large quantities of uranium from Africa, as President Bush asserted in his 2003 State of the Union address. A decade of war was based on things that had never taken place.

THE PREDICTION

“They are trying to say that the Iraqi is easy to capture, in order to deceive the world that it is a picnic… One day, they [will] start facing bitter facts.”

“The decisive battle is throughout Iraq. They do not know in what mud they are wading.”

[...]

THE REALITY

Sahaf wasn’t just right about the fact that Iraqis would reject American invasion. He was right about how. As predicted, troops were most vulnerable when in transit, especially from “the people of the countryside,” thanks to improvised explosive devices (IEDs). Of the more than 6,600 soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, almost exactly as many were killed by IEDs as by firefights. “After a decade of war in Iraq and Afghanistan costing more than $1 trillion, U.S. troops continue to die and be maimed by a weapon that can be cobbled together with spare parts costing less than $30,” journalist William Levesque wrote in the Tampa Bay Times in 2012.

And the warning that resistance attacks would “only go up”? Well, they came down eventually–about five years later. But in 2003, the year “major combat operations” officially began and ended in Iraq, 486 American servicemen and women died there. By the time the last U.S. tanks rolled out of Iraq in 2011, the grassroots resistance Sahaf predicted had taken 4,474 American lives.

Some of the other examples, such as taking as a “prediction” his quote that”The infidels are committing suicide by the hundreds on the gates of Baghdad” and pointing out that the military suicide rate has gone up drastically are, to say the least, a stretch. But Baghdad Bob did turn out to be less foolish than it appeared a decade ago.

 

 

 

 

Related Posts:

About James Joyner
James Joyner is the publisher of Outside the Beltway, an associate professor of security studies at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College, and a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. He has a PhD in political science from The University of Alabama. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter.

Comments

  1. OzarkHillbilly says:

    But Baghdad Bob did turn out to be less foolish than it appeared a decade ago.

    Donald Rumsfeld: “The idea that it would take several hundred thousand U.S. forces I think is far off the mark,”

    Paul Wolfowitz:“We have no idea what we will need until we get there on the ground, Every time we get a briefing on the war plan, it immediately goes down six different branches to see what the scenarios look like. If we costed each and every one, the costs would range from $10 billion to $100 billion.”

    Richard Perle: “Iraq is a very wealthy country. Enormous oil reserves. They can finance, largely finance the reconstruction of their own country. And I have no doubt that they will.”

    Lawrence Lindsey: “The likely economic effects [of a war in Iraq] would be relatively small…. Under every plausible scenario, the negative effect will be quite small relative to the economic benefits.”

    Kenneth Pollack: “It is unimaginable that the United States would have to contribute hundreds of billions of dollars and highly unlikely that we would have to contribute even tens of billions of dollars.”

    Glenn Hubbard: “The costs of any intervention would be very small.”

    Ari Fleischer: “Iraq has tremendous resources that belong to the Iraqi people. And so there are a variety of means that Iraq has to be able to shoulder much of the burden for their own reconstruction.”

    Donald Rumsfeld: “When it comes to reconstruction, before we turn to the American taxpayer, we will turn first to the resources of the Iraqi government and the international community.”

    Paul Wolfowitz: “There is a lot of money to pay for this that doesn’t have to be US taxpayer money, and it starts with the assets of the Iraqi people. We are talking about a country that can really finance its own reconstruction and relatively soon.”

    Mitchell Daniels: “The United States is very committed to helping Iraq recover from the conflict, but Iraq will not require sustained aid.”

    So, who was it who was the fool again?

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 39 Thumb down 0

  2. Tony W says:

    and, more chillingly, some in ways no one (else) could have foreseen.”

    Except, of course, those who were paying attention at the time, and not just taking the GWB administration’s propaganda at face value.

    It was obvious to many of us from the beginning that this was a war to enrichen Halliburton & Friends, and to avenge for Bush’s Daddy’s tarnished legacy in the GOP for not marching on Baghdad when he had the chance.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 16 Thumb down 0

  3. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    I should apologize for totally harshing your collective mellows, but this Big Lie you’re pushing really needs to be challenged…

    Poorly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 30

  4. JKB says:

    Well, isn’t that special. Bagdad Bob was smarter than an overwhelming bipartisan membership of the US Congress who voted repeatedly for US military action in Iraq, including many Democrats like Hilary Clinton who now claim, the knew nothing, did nothing.

    Or perhaps the UN resolution supported by more countries than the North Korean expedition that is warming up. Unlike the Clinton incursion into the Balkans, or the Obama assault on Libya neither of which even tried to get UN support. And the very large of actual coalition partners who worked in the Iraqi operations.

    It’s true, mistakes were made, arrogance happened and the Democrats sought to exploit every US military misfortune to undermine the US for their political one-upsmanship.

    But Bagdad Bob was right so those of a mind should revel in his genius and laugh at the United States.

    Poorly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 20

  5. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAAHAAAHAHAHAHAAAAA…..

    Just exactly how much more demonstrably idiotic can you get?

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 20 Thumb down 1

  6. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @JKB:

    But Bagdad Bob was right so those of a mind should revel in his genius and laugh at the United States.

    We aren’t laughing at the US, we’re laughing at you.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 18 Thumb down 0

  7. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: Just exactly how much more demonstrably idiotic can you get?

    I don’t think I can get quite as idiotic as you, if you’re wondering…

    Fact: the presence of WMDs in Iraq was only one of a long list of justifications for the AUMF.
    Fact: WMDs were found in Iraq.
    Fact: The WMDs dated from before the first Gulf War, and were supposedly destroyed as part of the armistice after that war.
    And Fact: your side has been pushing the Big Lie that “there were no WMDs in Iraq” from day one.

    Poorly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 21

  8. Hal 10000 says:

    I find this a bit glib. Some of those “correct” predictions were stretches or took many years to materialize. The ones that were correct were the sort of generic doomsday predictions everyone made (and most of those failed to come true). And what made Baghdad Bob silly was not nebulous predictions about the future, but ridiculously false statements about what was happening right then and there. He was claiming the regime was winning on the battlefield when they were getting destroyed. This is like when a football player breaks a record and everyone says he “predicted it” because he once boasted to a friend back in college that he would break the record.

    We don’t need to cherry-pick Baghad Bob’s many many statements to know that the Bush Administration screwed up royally in Iraq.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 0

  9. al-Ameda says:

    Paul Wolfowitz:“We have no idea what we will need until we get there on the ground, Every time we get a briefing on the war plan, it immediately goes down six different branches to see what the scenarios look like. If we costed each and every one, the costs would range from $10 billion to $100 billion.”

    He was only off by a factor of 40, right? Short by just $3.9 trillion.

    That said – and lets not lose sight of this – Obama squandered $500M on loan guarantees to Solyndra, which although it resulted in no losses of lives and no power accruing to Iran – was the most egregious and corrupt financial scandal of modern times.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 15 Thumb down 1

  10. anjin-san says:

    But Bagdad Bob was right so those of a mind should revel in his genius and laugh at the United States Conservatives.

    FTFY

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  11. anjin-san says:

    Just exactly how much more demonstrably idiotic can you get?

    Something tells me he will show us…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 0

  12. Scott O says:

    FWIW, I remember hearing at the time someone who claimed to be familiar with Arab culture saying that Baghdad Bob’s statements would be viewed very differently by the Iraqi people. We see someone making ridiculous statements but they would see someone being defiant till the end.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  13. @Jenos Idanian #13: I noticed that Jenos isn’t too concerned about the documentation that was released on Wikileaks which shows that the United States military knew about an additional 15,000 Iraqi civilian deaths and refused to acknowledge them.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  14. anjin-san says:

    @ Timothy Watson

    Jenos is properly outraged about dead brown people if he thinks it might damage Obama. Aside from that, he does not give a crap.

    It’s reminiscent of the way conservatives gave Bush a pass on 3000 or so dead Americans on 9.11, but declared the death of 4 Americans in Libya to be one of the greatest disasters in the history of our country.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 1

  15. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @Timothy Watson: And I can see what a pressing concern those people are to you — have you ever brought them up for any reason whatsoever than to score rhetorical points against those you disagree with?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 11

  16. al-Ameda says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:
    Four facts:
    FACT: On-site inspections showed there to be no WMDS (and do not try to tell me that the sarin gas cannisters left over from war over a decade ago were what the administration considered to be a threat to America).
    FACT: Bush went to war in Iraq despite growing empirical evidence that there were no WMDs.
    FACT: America strengthened the power of Iran in the region by waging the 2nd war in Iraq.
    FACT: Conservatives do not care about those facts.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 21 Thumb down 0

  17. mantis says:

    Jay Tea thinks thousands upon thousands of lives are worth the cost of finding some useless junk from a war in the 80s. Sociopathic freak.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 0

  18. Barry says:

    @Tony W:

    Adding on to the original “…, some in ways no one (else) could have foreseen.”: I have a working memory, and recall Cheney’s and Powell’s comments in the 90′s about the problems with trying to conquer Iraq, so anybody (read: neocons) who claims that things could not have been forseen is a liar.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  19. C. Clavin says:

    @ Jenos…
    $4T for a truck load of mustard. Muighty expensive…I hope it’s Grey Poupon.
    I’d call you an idiot…but that would be an insult to idiots.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0