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Unspinning the War on Iraq

Bush’s Lips Move, But He Says Nothing

by JASON LEOPOLD

Every year, right around the anniversary of 9/11 the Bush administration spins the public about the reasons 1,864 American soldiers have died fighting for a lie in Iraq. And every year, it’s just as crucial that the media tell the public the truth about the reasons the war was started.

So here goes.

The disinformation campaign the White House launched last weekend should leave no doubt that the war in Iraq was hatched well before 9/11 and is part of a broader strategy to remake the entire Middle East into a so-called Pax Americana, a blueprint drafted by hardcore neoconservatives years ago that called for overthrowing Middle East dictators and installing U.S. approved governments in the region.

It’s entirely likely that the administration will attempt to sell Congress and the public another war in the near future, the next likely target being Iran. How else should we interpret the following statement Bush made in Utah Monday, during a speech he made to Veterans of Foreign Wars?

"The third part of our strategy in the war on terror is to spread the hope of freedom across the broader Middle East," Bush said.

As public support for the Iraq war erodes, President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney have taken their propaganda campaign on the road, once again linking the war in Iraq to the 9/11 terrorist attacks, in hopes that the administration can dramatically change perception of the military conflict in Iraq, even though a half-dozen federal investigations have concluded that Iraq played no role in 9/11.


In the book "The Price of Loyalty," Bush’s former Treasury Secretary, Paul O’Neill said that the Iraq war was planned just days after the president was sworn into office.

"From the very beginning, there was a conviction, that Saddam Hussein was a bad person and that he needed to go," O’Neill said, adding that going after Saddam Hussein was a priority 10 days after the Bush’s inauguration and eight months before Sept. 11.

"From the very first instance, it was about Iraq. It was about what we can do to change this regime," Ron Suskind, author of The Price of Loyalty, wrote in his book . "Day one, these things were laid and sealed."

As treasury secretary, O’Neill was a permanent member of the National Security Council. He says in the book he was surprised at the meeting that questions such as "Why Saddam?" and "Why now?" were never asked.

O’Neill was fired from his post for disagreeing with Bush’s economic policies. In typical White House fashion, senior administration officials have labeled O’Neill a "disgruntled employee", whose remarks are "laughable" and have no basis in reality.

Moreover, claims by O’Neill that the U.S. and Britain were operating from murky intelligence during the buildup to war came six days after Bush’s inauguration. It was then that British intelligence communicated to the CIA, the Pentagon and National Security Adviser Rice’s office that an Iraqi defector told British intelligence officials that Saddam Hussein had two fully operational nuclear bombs, according to two senior Bush advisers.

The London Telegraph reported the defector’s claims on Jan. 28, 2001.

"According to the defector, who cannot be named for security reasons, bombs are being built in Hemrin in north-eastern Iraq, near the Iranian border," according to the Telegraph report. The defector said: "There are at least two nuclear bombs which are ready for use. Before the UN inspectors came, there were 47 factories involved in the project. Now there are 64."

That information turned out to be grossly inaccurate but it was cited by Vice President Dick Cheney during a speech in 2002 as a means to build the case for war.

However, O’Neill’s allegations that Bush planned an Iraq invasion prior to 9-11 are backed up by dozens of on-the-record statements and speeches made by the president’s senior advisers, including Rumsfeld, Secretary of State Colin Powell and National Security Adviser Condoleeza Rice, during Bush’s first four months in office.

In dozens of transcripts posted on the Defense Department’s web site between January and May 2001, months before 9-11, Rumsfeld said the United States needed to be prepared for surprises, such as launching preemptive wars against countries like Iraq.

"If you think about it, Dick Cheney’s (Secretary of Defense) confirmation hearing in 1989 — not one United States senator mentioned a word about Iraq," Rumsfeld said in a May 25, 2001 interview with PBS’ NewsHour. "The word "Iraq" was never mentioned in his entire confirmation hearing. One year later we’re at war with Iraq. Now, what does that tell you? Well, it tells you that you’d best be flexible; you’d best expect the unexpected."

In fact, Rumsfeld discusses the above scenario in a half-dozen other interviews in May 2001 and appears to suggest, by specifically mentioning Iraq, that history would eventually repeat itself.

Responding to a reporter’s question on January 26, 2001 about the Bush administration’s policy toward Saddam Hussein’s regime days after his Senate confirmation hearing, Rumsfeld said "I think that the policy of the country is that it is not helpful to have Saddam Hussein’s regime in office."

In his inaugural address on January 20, 2001 President Bush also alluded to the possibility of war, although he did not mention Iraq by name.

"We will confront weapons of mass destruction, so that a new century is spared new horrors," Bush said. "The enemies of liberty and our country should make no mistake We will defend our allies and our interests."

Further evidence suggests that when the Bush administration took office it was worried that the U.S. was losing international support for the sanctions it placed on Iraq ten years earlier leaving the door open to the possibility that Saddam Hussein would be let out of his proverbial box. President Bush sent Powell on a trip to the Middle East in late February 2001 to study the situation in Iraq to decide whether the administration should keep the sanctions in place or whether it should start to lay the groundwork for a preemptive strike.

But Powell returned to the U.S. and championed the sanctions saying, Iraq posed absolutely no threat to the U.S., during testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on March 8, 2001, much to the dismay of Vice President Cheney, Rumsfeld and his deputy, Paul Wolfowitz, all of whom believed in using military force to oust Saddam Hussein.

"When we took over on the 20th of January, I discovered that we had an Iraq policy that was in disarray, and the sanctions part of that policy was not just in disarray; it was falling apart," Powell said during his Senate testimony.

"We were losing support for the sanctions regime that had served so well over the last ten years, with all of the ups and downs and with all of the difficulties that are associated that regime, it was falling apart. It had been successful. Saddam Hussein has not been able to rebuild his army, notwithstanding claims that he has. He has fewer tanks in his inventory today than he had 10 years ago. Even though we know he is working on weapons of mass destruction, we know he has things squirreled away, at the same time we have not seen that capacity emerge to present a full-fledged threat to us."

JASON LEOPOLD is the author of the explosive memoir, News Junkie, to be released in early 2006 by Process/Feral House Books. Visit Leopold’s website at www.jasonleopold.com for updates.