By Jake Rossen
By Jesse Marx
By Michelle LeBow
By Alleen Brown
By Maggie LaMaack
By CP Staff
By Jesse Marx
Editor's note: In the interest of relative brevity I've stinted on citing and quoting sources in some of the items below. You can find links to news stories that elaborate on each of these items at my online Bush Wars column, www.bushwarsblog.com.
1) The administration was not bent on war with Iraq from 9/11 onward.
Throughout the year leading up to war, the White House publicly maintained that the U.S. took weapons inspections seriously, that diplomacy would get its chance, that Saddam had the opportunity to prevent a U.S. invasion. The most pungent and concise evidence to the contrary comes from the president's own mouth. According to Time's March 31 road-to-war story, Bush popped in on national security adviser Condi Rice one day in March 2002, interrupting a meeting on UN sanctions against Iraq. Getting a whiff of the subject matter, W peremptorily waved his hand and told her, "Fuck Saddam. We're taking him out." Clare Short, Tony Blair's former secretary for international development, recently lent further credence to the anecdote. She told the London Guardian that Bush and Blair made a secret pact a few months afterward, in the summer of 2002, to invade Iraq in either February or March of this year.
Last fall CBS News obtained meeting notes taken by a Rumsfeld aide at 2:40 on the afternoon of September 11, 2001. The notes indicate that Rumsfeld wanted the "best info fast. Judge whether good enough hit S.H. [Saddam Hussein] at same time. Not only UBL [Usama bin Laden].... Go massive. Sweep it all up. Things related and not."
Rumsfeld's deputy Paul Wolfowitz, the Bushmen's leading intellectual light, has long been rabid on the subject of Iraq. He reportedly told Vanity Fair writer Sam Tanenhaus off the record that he believes Saddam was connected not only to bin Laden and 9/11, but the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing.
The Bush administration's foreign policy plan was not based on September 11, or terrorism; those events only brought to the forefront a radical plan for U.S. control of the post-Cold War world that had been taking shape since the closing days of the first Bush presidency. Back then a small claque of planners, led by Wolfowitz, generated a draft document known as Defense Planning Guidance, which envisioned a U.S. that took advantage of its lone-superpower status to consolidate American control of the world both militarily and economically, to the point where no other nation could ever reasonably hope to challenge the U.S. Toward that end it envisioned what we now call "preemptive" wars waged to reset the geopolitical table.
After a copy of DPG was leaked to the New York Times, subsequent drafts were rendered a little less frank, but the basic idea never changed. In 1997 Wolfowitz and his true believers--Richard Perle, William Kristol, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld--formed an organization called Project for the New American Century to carry their cause forward. And though they all flocked around the Bush administration from the start, W never really embraced their plan until the events of September 11 left him casting around for a foreign policy plan.
2) The invasion of Iraq was based on a reasonable belief that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction that posed a threat to the U.S., a belief supported by available intelligence evidence.
Paul Wolfowitz admitted to Vanity Fair that weapons of mass destruction were not really the main reason for invading Iraq: "The decision to highlight weapons of mass destruction as the main justification for going to war in Iraq was taken for bureaucratic reasons.... [T]here were many other important factors as well." Right. But they did not come under the heading of self-defense.
We now know how the Bushmen gathered their prewar intelligence: They set out to patch together their case for invading Iraq and ignored everything that contradicted it. In the end, this required that Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, et al. set aside the findings of analysts from the CIA and the Defense Intelligence Agency (the Pentagon's own spy bureau) and stake their claim largely on the basis of isolated, anecdotal testimony from handpicked Iraqi defectors. (See #5, Ahmed Chalabi.) But the administration did not just listen to the defectors; it promoted their claims in the press as a means of enlisting public opinion. The only reason so many Americans thought there was a connection between Saddam and al Qaeda in the first place was that the Bushmen trotted out Iraqi defectors making these sorts of claims to every major media outlet that would listen.
Here is the verdict of Gregory Thielman, the recently retired head of the State Department's intelligence office: "I believe the Bush administration did not provide an accurate picture to the American people of the military threat posed by Iraq. This administration has had a faith-based intelligence attitude--we know the answers, give us the intelligence to support those answers." Elsewhere he has been quoted as saying, "The principal reasons that Americans did not understand the nature of the Iraqi threat in my view was the failure of senior administration officials to speak honestly about what the intelligence showed."
3) Saddam tried to buy uranium in Niger.