NO CASUALTIES?….So did George Bush really think there would be no casualties in the Iraq war ? as he allegedly told Pat Robertson? Last night I suggested that Robertson had actually been talking about civilian casualties in American cities, and that’s what Bush ? not unreasonably ? was brushing off.

Today, though, Juan Cole makes a plausible argument that I’m wrong:

A lot of Bush supporters were proclaiming that the Iraq war would be a “cakewalk” and Iraqis would greet the US soldiers with garlands….Bush would have been thinking about the war itself, and would have known that many Iraqi officers had already made a deal with the CIA to just leave the barracks and go home, ordering their men to do the same. And plus Bush knew about the US military’s overwhelming air superiority, and ability to make mincemeat of the Iraqi tank corps from the air.

Maybe. On the other hand, it’s worth pointing out that (a) Bush may live in a cocoon, but it’s a stretch to think that even he thought we’d fight the war with no casualties, (b) Robertson was opposed to the war and may just be trying to toot his own horn here, and (c) Robertson and Bush have a bit of bad blood between them, even if Robertson does (barely) support Bush in this election.

I suppose the most likely answer is simply that Bush thought the war would be fairly painless and there would be very few casualties. Robertson then rhetorically blew that up into “no casualties.” That fits pretty well with what we know about both Bush and Robertson.

One final note: I do think that Kerry has the right approach to this. He suggests Bush deserves the benefit of the doubt, but also wants him to address Robertson’s accusation directly. Did he actually say there would be no casualties? Or is Robertson lying? Either answer would be a campaign gift for Kerry.

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