Powell Warned of Bloody Price for Unilateral War on Iraq

by JASON LEOPOLD

If the United States decides to wage a war with Iraq without the full support of the United Nations it will be “much more complicated and bloody” than the siege in Afghanistan after 9-11 and the first Gulf War combined, Secretary of State Colin Powell warned President Bush privately early last year, Bob Woodward wrote in the book “Bush at War.”

“It’s nice to say you can do it unilaterally,” Powell said to Bush about attacking Iraq, Woodward wrote. “Except you can’t. A successful military plan would require we need allies… International support has to be garnered.”

So what has changed between the time Powell warned Bush about alienating a majority of our allies in the United Nations and now, when Powell’s rhetoric before the U.N. Security Council this month is understood to mean that if the U.N. doesn’t back a full-scale war with Iraq the U.S. and Britain will attack Iraq alone if necessary?

Absolutely nothing. Despite the fact that Powell has recently changed his tone before the U.N., he knows full well that if the U.S. made good on its threats it will face a bloody battle in the Iraqi desert or on the streets of Baghdad.

A “unilateral war would be tough, close to impossible” Powell told Bush, according to Woodward’s book.

One can only assume that Powell’s sudden departure from the earlier warnings he made to the President is just Powell being a team player and agreeing with the “hawks” even though he knows better, said Sherry Bebitch Jeffe, a political and media analyst at the University of Southern California’s school of Public Policy and Development.

“If anything, international support for a war in Iraq has eroded over the past five months,” Jeffe said. “So it’s likely that those risks Powell presented to President Bush last year still exist. Powell’s rhetoric is just that. He knows better having spent most of his life in the military that without international support the U.S. is facing a dangerous situation if it decides to go to war alone.”

Dr. Hussein Shahristani, once Iraq’s top nuclear scientist who spent 11 years in solitary confinement for refusing Saddam Hussein’s order to build an atomic bomb, said in an interview Sunday on 60 Minutes that he believes the U.S. is rushing into a war without fully understanding the threat it faces. Shahristani was tortured for refusing to comply with the Saddam’s order and fled Iraq during the first Gulf War. He said would like nothing more than to see Saddam removed from power but he warned the Bush Administration not to start a war with Iraq without the support of the U.N.

As the U.S. moves closer to war it’s important to take another look at how the Bush Administration got here and how through lying, manipulation and with the events that brought this country to its knees, the Bush Administration has used this in attempt to make a case for war.

Of the half-dozen books that have been written about Bush since he was sworn into office two years ago, the recurring theme throughout all of them is the strong desire by the Administration to find a reason to start a war with Iraq–be it allegations that the country is concealing weapons of mass destruction or using 9-11 as an excuse to launch an immediate assault–without caring about how such a war would alienate the U.N. and the public or the fact that the U.S. cannot make a good case to justify a war with Iraq.

Woodward wrote in “Bush at War” that Vice President Dick Cheney was “hell bent for action against Saddam. It was as if nothing else existed.”

Following the 9-11 terrorist attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center, Woodward wrote that Rumsfeld “could take advantage of the terrorist attacks and make Iraq a target immediately.”

Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz said, without a shred of evidence to back it up, that there was a 10 to 50 percent chance that Saddam Hussein was involved in 9-11, Woodward wrote.

David Frum, the former White House speechwriter who coined the phrase “Axis of Evil,” wrote in “The Right Man,” his book about the year he spent in the Bush Administration, that the U.S. received intelligence information from Czechoslovakia that it could not confirm that a meeting took place between Mohammed Atta, the lead 9-11 hijacker, and an Iraqi intelligence officer in Prague in April 2001 “suggesting some degree of cooperation between the al-Qaeda and the Iraqi dictator.”

That information, which has never been confirmed by U.S. intelligence, according to Frum, became the excuse the Bush Administration would use to attack Iraq and link 9-11 to Saddam Hussein. But according to Woodward, who spent ample time with Bush before writing his book, the President had no evidence that Iraq was involved in 9-11. He only had a gut feeling.

“I believe Iraq was involved but I am not going to strike them now. I don’t have the evidence at this point,” Bush said to his war cabinet, which includes Rumsfeld, Cheney, Powell and Wolfowitz, Woodward wrote.

Hard evidence linking Iraq to 9-11 never materialized. Still, the Bush Administration debated the idea of using 9-11 as an excuse to attack Iraq and remove Saddam from power, which Frum wrote in his book “was quite a gamble but also quite a prize.”

But it was Powell who was the lone dissenter and told Bush that he must put Iraq on the backburner and focus on dismantling al-Qaeda cells because “Americans were focused on al-Qaeda, Woodward’s book says.

Moreover, Powell told Bush that if he does consider attacking Iraq it’s crucial that he gets the public’s support first. Bush said recently, in response to the millions of anti-war protestors who marched in opposition to a war with Iraq last week, that the anti-war movement will not sway his efforts to use military force against Iraq if necessary.

“Any action needs public support,” Powell told Bush, Woodward wrote in his book. “It’s not what the international coalition supports it’s what the American people want to support.”

The American people have spoken.

JASON LEOPOLD can be reached at: jasonleopold@hotmail.com

Like What You’ve Read? Support CounterPunch
September 02, 2015
Paul Street
Strange Words From St. Bernard and the Sandernistas
Jose Martinez
Houston, We Have a Problem: False Equivalencies on Police Violence
Henry Giroux
Global Capitalism and the Culture of Mad Violence
Ajamu Baraka
Making Black Lives Matter in Riohacha, Colombia
William Edstrom
Wall Street and the Military are Draining Americans High and Dry
David Altheide
The Media Syndrome Between a Glock and a GoPro
Yves Engler
Canada vs. Africa
Ron Jacobs
The League of Empire
Andrew Smolski
Democracy and Privatization in Neoliberal Mexico
Stephen Lendman
Gaza: a Socioeconomic Dead Zone
Norman Pollack
Obama, Flim-Flam Artist: Alaska Offshore Drilling
Binoy Kampmark
Australian Border Force Gore
Ruth Fowler
Ask Not: Lost in the Crowd with Amanda Palmer
Kim Nicolini
Remembering Wes Craven’s The Hills Have Eyes
September 01, 2015
Mike Whitney
Return to Crisis: Things Keep Getting Worse
Michael Schwalbe
The Moral Hazards of Capitalism
Eric Mann
Inside the Civil Rights Movement: a Conversation With Julian Bond
Pam Martens
How Wall Street Parasites Have Devoured Their Hosts, Your Retirement Plan and the U.S. Economy
Jonathan Latham
Growing Doubt: a Scientist’s Experience of GMOs
Fran Shor
Occupy Wall Street and the Sanders Campaign: a Case of Historical Amnesia?
Joe Paff
The Big Trees: Cockburn, Marx and Shostakovich
Randy Blazak
University Administrators Allow Fraternities to Turn Colleges Into Rape Factories
Robert Hunziker
The IPCC Caught in a Pressure Cooker
George Wuerthner
Myths of the Anthropocene Boosters: Truthout’s Misguided Attack on Wilderness and National Park Ideals
Robert Koehler
Sending Your Children Off to Safe Spaces in College
Jesse Jackson
Season of the Insurgents: From Trump to Sanders
August 31, 2015
Michael Hudson
Whitewashing the IMF’s Destructive Role in Greece
Conn Hallinan
Europe’s New Barbarians
Lawrence Ware
George Bush (Still) Doesn’t Care About Black People
Joseph Natoli
Plutocracy, Gentrification and Racial Violence
Franklin Spinney
One Presidential Debate You Won’t Hear: Why It is Time to Adopt a Sensible Grand Strategy
Dave Lindorff
What’s Wrong with Police in America
Louis Proyect
Jacobin and “The War on Syria”
Lawrence Wittner
Militarism Run Amok: How Russians and Americans are Preparing Their Children for War
Binoy Kampmark
Tales of Darkness: Europe’s Refugee Woes
Ralph Nader
Lo, the Poor Enlightened Billionaire!
Peter Koenig
Greece: a New Beginning? A New Hope?
Dean Baker
America Needs an “Idiot-Proof” Retirement System
Vijay Prashad
Why the Iran Deal is Essential
Tom Clifford
The Marco Polo Bridge Incident: a History That Continues to Resonate
Peter Belmont
The Salaita Affair: a Scandal That Never Should Have Happened
Weekend Edition
August 28-30, 2015
Randy Blazak
Donald Trump is the New Face of White Supremacy
Jeffrey St. Clair
Long Time Coming, Long Time Gone
Mike Whitney
Looting Made Easy: the $2 Trillion Buyback Binge
Alan Nasser
The Myth of the Middle Class: Have Most Americans Always Been Poor?