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Christopher Cerf and Victor Navasky
Kathleen Hall Jamieson
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May 2, 2008

Since President Bush declared the end to major combat operations on May 2, 2003, Americans have had a chance to revisit the official push for war in documentaries like BUYING THE WAR here on BILL MOYERS JOURNAL and in other reporting. Now Christopher Cerf and Victor Navasky have come out with a new book, MISSION ACCOMPLISHED: OR HOW WE WON THE WAR IN IRAQ, compiling the innacurate predictions pro-war experts have made before and since the invasion.

Dick Cheney at the American Enterprise Institute
During the interview with Bill Moyers, Christopher Cerf mentions the one expert he and Navasky did find whose predictions were validated and whose statements they included at the end of their book: Dick Cheney.
"Because he was interviewed in 1994 by our rival institute, the American Enterprise Institute. And he was uncanny in his predictions. He said that if we tried to invade Iraq and go all the way to Baghdad, we'd find ourselves caught between the Sunnis and the Shiites. He said that Turkey wouldn't like that, and they could come down to try to deal with the Kurds. He worried about-- we could end up as an occupying power and be there for years. He was very prescient."

Dick Cheney at the American Enterprise Institute, 1994:

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The Institute of Expertology
In the introduction to MISSION ACCOMPLISHED, Victor Navasky and Christopher Cerf write:
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 cadres of researchers, we were unable to identify a single expert who was right. At that time, despite these findings, our scholarly integrity compelled us to concede the statistical probability in theory the experts might be right as much as half the time. It was simply we hadn't found any.
Upon the 1984 publication of its first book, THE EXPERTS SPEAK: THE DEFINITIVE COMPENDIUM OF AUTHORITATIVE MISINFORMATION, THE NEW YORK TIMES called the Institute, founded by Cerf and Navasky, an "august body of experts on expertise."

"It's a very serious organization," Cerf told THE TIMES, "that studies the works of experts in every field and comments upon it." Calling themselves "meta-experts," Cerf and Navasky have kept their tongues in their cheeks with their ongoing study of experts, and the results have been a hilarious, often biting, commentary on our media culture.

The Institute's newest book, MISSION ACCOMPLISHED, focuses on experts who assured the nation that war with Iraq would be, among other things, a "cakewalk" (Ken Adelman, THE WASHINGTON POST):

"Military action will not last more that a week."

"The next six months in Iraq will settle the case once and for all."
-Thomas Friedman, THE NEW YORK TIMES

"We know beyond a shadow of a doubt that Saddam Hussein has been pursuing weapons of mass destruction."
-Fred Barnes, Fox News

"The evidence [Colin Powell] presented to the United Nations — some of it circumstantial, some of it absolutely bone-chilling in its detail — had to prove to anyone that Iraq not only hasn't accounted for its weapons of mass destruction but without a doubt still retains them. Only a fool — or possibly a Frenchman — could conclude otherwise."

Today's experts, say Cerf and Navasky, are part of a proud tradition, stretching back at least to the dawn of recorded history. The original publication of the Institute of Expertology, THE EXPERTS SPEAK, compiled a host of prescient-sounding predictions:

"I tell you Wellington is a bad general, the English are bad soldiers; we will settle the matter by lunch time."
-Napolean Bonaparte, at breakfast with his generals on the morning of the Battle of Waterloo, June 15, 1815

"[I]t seems pretty clear that no civilized people will ever again permit its government to enter into a competitives armament race."
-Nicholas Murray Butler, president of Columbia University, October 17, 1914

"You will be home before the leaves fall from the trees."
-Kaiser Wilhelm, addressing departing troops, August 1914

"Dan, it looks very good. The Vietcong are going to collapse within weeks. Not months but weeks."
-Walt Whitman Rostow, Chairman of the Policy Planning Council of the U.S. Department of State, remark to Daniel Ellsberg, July 1965

Victor S. Navasky
Victor S. Navasky is chair of the COLUMBIA JOURNALISM REVIEW and the George Delacorte Professor of Magazine Journalism at Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism. He is former editor and publisher of THE NATION magazine, for which he now serves as publisher emeritus. Navasky, a member of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, is the author of KENNEDY JUSTICE, NAMING NAMES, and A MATTER OF OPINION.

Christopher Cerf
Christopher Cerf is cofounder and president of Sirius Thinking, Ltd., an educational television production company. He helped launch NATIONAL LAMPOON and SESAME STREET. Christopher Cerf currently serves as Executive Producer and Music and Audio Producer of the PBS children's series BETWEEN THE LIONS and is chairman of the board of advisors to Random House's Modern Library. He is the coeditor of THE OFFICIAL POLITICALLY CORRECT HANDBOOK, THE GULF WAR READER, and THE IRAQ WAR READER.

Published on May 2, 2008.

Related Media:
Sarah Chayes
Sarah Chayes, author and former journalist who has been helping rebuild Afghanistan after the fall of the Taliban regime, with a look at the front lines of America's war there.

Buying the War
How did the mainstream media get it so wrong in the lead up to the Iraq War?

OAl Qaeda and Iraq
Who exactly is the enemy in Iraq and how does al Qaeda fit in? Bill Moyers talks with West Point Instructor, Brian Fishman, and Middle Eastern and International Affairs Professor Fawaz Gerges, discussing the growing power of al Qaeda and its connections to the war in Iraq.

OWhat's Next for Iraq?
What's Next for Iraq?NPR's Deborah Amos — just back from Damascus — and THE NEW YORKER's George Packer on the Iraq war and what you haven't heard from Washington.

Photographer Lori Grinker on Displaced Iraqis
Photographer Lori Grinker takes viewers to Amman, Jordan for a devastating look at the fate of Iraqis displaced by the conflict.

References and Reading:
The Institute of Expertology
Official Weblog of the Institute

Mark Fiore
As seen on the show, Mark Fiore's animated political cartoons.

"Message Machine: Behind TV Analysts, Pentagon's Hidden Hand"
by David Barstow. The New York Times. April 20, 2008.

Inside Iraq
Iraq through the eyes of Iraqi journalists working for McClatchy newspapers.

Baghdad Observer
McClatchy Baghdad bureau chief Leila Fadel blogs her experiences.

Alive in Baghdad
A weekly Web news show that focuses on the lives of Iraqis.

Also This Week:

Bill Moyers reflects on his interview with Reverend Jeremiah Wright.

Our political analyst returns to take stock of the never-ending primary season.

Victor Navasky and Christopher Cerf's new book MISSION ACCOMPLISHED looks back at what the experts told us would happen in Iraq.

Explore the media coverage surrounding the case for war in Iraq with our interactive timeline of video, headlines and documents.

It has fallen to the White House Press Secretaries to defend and explain President Bush's May 1st landing on the USS Abraham and the controversial "Mission Accomplished" banner.

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