On May 30, 2005, Vice President Cheney declared that the insurgency in Iraq was in its “last throes” and predicted “the level of activity that we see today from a military standpoint, I think, will clearly decline.”
Virtually every administration national security official publicly defended his statement. Then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld claimed that “last throes” could be “violent,” and told critics of Cheney’s phrase to “look it up in the dictionary.” Cheney insisted 10 months after his statement that it was “basically accurate” and “reflected reality.” One year later, he again stood by his words.
All the while, violence in Iraq has continued unabated. Since Cheney’s statement two years ago, 1,799 U.S. soldiers have been killed in Iraq, roughly half of all U.S. fatalities. At least 12,378 U.S. soldiers have been wounded.
Watch a compilation of Cheney and the reaction to his remarks (you’ll have to adjust the volume, the video quality is mixed):
Seventeen months later, in October 2006, Cheney finally acknowledged, “I would have expected that the political process we set in motion…would have resulted in a lower level of violence than we’re seeing today. It hasn’t happened yet. I can’t say that we’re over the hump in terms of violence, no.”
But new versions of “last throes” continue to emerge. On May 10, 2007, President Bush said, “The level of sectarian violence is an important indicator of whether or not the strategy that we have implemented is working. Since our operation began, the number of sectarian murders has dropped substantially.” Two weeks later, new figures showed that sectarian murders in the first three weeks of May had already surpassed numbers from January, before the escalation policy was launched.