The US Gameplan for Iraq

Editors’s note. In the aftermath of Colin Powell’s speech to the UN Security Council Bill Christison sets forth once his powerful analysis of the real reasons for the prospective US assault on Iraq. Regular readers of Bill’s piece on the CounterPunch site will recognize some material but we believe it’s important and useful to have his trenchant themes resumed in this single intelligence briefing which, unlike Britain’s “top secret” assessment of Iraq’s capabilities, was not plagiarized from a paper written by a student in Monterey, California. This is original work from a man who was one of the CIA’s top analysts. AC/JSC.

Why is the Bush administration willing to–some people would say wants to–go to war with Iraq? To get at this question, I’d like to put all the possible reasons that seem to me worth talking about into four categories, and then look in some detail at each category. I’d like to list the categories in an order going roughly from least important to most important, and then try to dispense quickly with the reasons for going to war that seem to me the least important, so we’ll have more time for the more important ones.

The first category I want to mention is CONSPIRACY THEORIES. These are all over the internet and maybe in other places as well. There’s a regular cottage industry out there. I want to limit my comments here to only two of the most extreme types of conspiracy theories. They both start with September 11, but they both get tied into Iraq as well. The first one is the theory that President Bush himself somehow was responsible for planning and carrying out the destruction of the Trade Center towers in New York and the damaging of the Pentagon near Washington. And the second is the theory that Bush didn’t actually do it himself, but he knew in advance that terrorists were going to do it, and that he then took steps to allow it to happen.

Today these theories often include the thought that Bush intended years ago to take over Iraq, and that he needed the September 11 events to give him an opportunity to do so. There may or may not be something to this last point, but the point itself does nothing to strengthen the original conspiracy theories, which seem to me to be patently absurd. Now, I don’t object in any way to other people devoting their time to trying to prove such theories. Maybe one out of a hundred will eventually prove to be true. But, in my view, there is so much valid evidence available of what is actually happening in the world, that I don’t want to waste my time being distracted by conspiracy theories based on flimsy bits of evidence that always seem to have other logical explanations. So if any of you are into conspiracy theories, I’ll just say, “That’s fine, but just don’t bother me with them until you have an iron-clad case–which I don’t think exists for either of the two theories on the list here.”

Lets move on to the next category. My CATEGORY TWO contains reasons why the U.S. seems eager for war against Iraq that must be mentioned, but whose importance, it seems to me, is impossible to measure. I want to be very clear here. I have put these factors into a separate category only because I think it is impossible for us to determine whether they are important or not. They may be very important. We just don’t know. Spending a lot of time to analyze or discuss them is simply not very productive. Again, if you disagree, interrupt me.

The first of these possibly important, but in my view un-analyzable, factors is the machismo of U.S. leaders when faced with tyrants of little real power–Qaddafi and Castro come to mind as well as the Iraqi president–who persist in self-destructively retaliating, as best they can, against U.S. policies they dislike. The second item in this category is a desire, in the case of George W. Bush, to get rid of a hateful tinhorn who may have tried to assassinate Bush’s father, and who has successfully beaten the odds by outlasting Bush’s father in office. And the third factor in this category is the distraction that war and the threat of war with Iraq offered from the corporate scandals that might otherwise spread more easily right into the White House. All of these three factors almost certainly contribute some weight–and possibly great weight–to Bush’s and Vice-President Cheney’s willingness–or desire–for war against Iraq, but it is simply not possible for anyone outside the White House to know how much.

Let’s move right on to CATEGORY THREE and CATEGORY FOUR. Here’s where we get into the truly important–and controversial–problems. Everything up to this point has been fairly easy to deal with. From here on it gets tough.

I want to start by talking about CATEGORIES THREE and FOUR together for a moment. I hope you understand, by the way, that these are just my categories, and you might come up with different ones. All I’m trying to do is to use these categories to help us discuss what is a complex and multi-sided problem. Anyway, my CATEGORY THREE contains reasons for the war that the Bush administration claims are the most important reasons, but which in reality are probably the least important ones to the administration itself. (I emphasize, this is my opinion.) I believe that the administration is advertising these reasons so heavily at least in part to cover up other reasons, which it is less willing to talk about but which it actually regards as more important. My CATEGORY FOUR contains these other reasons, which I believe the Bush administration sees as the real main reasons for preemptively expanding the war and bringing about regime change in Iraq. The way I break down the entries in these two categories obviously reflects my own opinions. The placement of every item in either Category Three or Category Four will probably be controversial to somebody in this room. Some people will feel that this or that item should be on the other list, or not be on either list, or perhaps that there shouldn’t even be lists like these. Believe me, I understand that I’m about to open up a large hornet’s nest.

My CATEGORY THREE has only two entries in it. The first is the desire of the U.S. to “disarm” Iraq, specifically to eliminate any and all of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction–that is, nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons–as well as any potential for their future production. The other one is the desire to “introduce democracy” into Iraq, after actions by the United States have brought about a change of regime and the removal of Saddam Hussein. (By the way, from here on I’ll start using, at least some of the time, the term “WMD” instead of “weapons of mass destruction.”)

Let’s talk about the first of these issues– the disarmament or WMD issue. Everyone in the room here should note that I have put this in the category of not being one of the really important reasons for going to war, and I am suggesting it is largely a pretext rather than a real reason. And yet the Bush Administration is now loudly proclaiming every day that disarmament is the single issue that dominates all others, and that this issue, in the end, justifies preemptive war. That means a couple of things. It puts the onus on me to prove–or at least do my best to prove–that the disarmament of Iraq is not and should not be an issue of such great importance.

I’d like to make one other point very clear right at the start of discussing this issue. I think that both the evidence and the logic of the situation make it quite evident that Saddam Hussein has been trying to acquire nuclear weapons and other WMD since at least 1980, if not before. I think also that his intentions to acquire such weapons have never changed, and that he will–assuming he stays in power–keep right on trying to acquire these weapons. But even though I believe all this, I do not think the U.S. should go to war on account of it. Here’s my best effort to persuade you to agree with me.

As already mentioned, the U.S. now threatens to launch preemptive wars against nations trying to develop weapons of mass destruction. This is a policy change of extreme importance. In the almost 58 years since the age of nuclear weapons began, the U.S. has deliberately decided, time after time, not to launch wars against any nations for simply acquiring, rather than using, the most important type of weapons of mass destruction, nuclear weapons. Ever since shortly after World War II, we have rejected launching wars against the Soviet Union, China, England, France, Israel, India, and Pakistan, all of whom have acquired nuclear weapons. If the U.S. is really concerned about the further spread of such weapons, we should understand that other nations–not just Iraq–will over the long run never go along with U.S. desires until the U.S., Israel, and other nuclear powers themselves show a real willingness to negotiate seriously on creating an entire nuclear-weapons-free world. And this is precisely, in my opinion, what the U.S. should do.

In this connection, the recent actions of North Korea are quite instructive. Caught pretty much red-handed by U.S. intelligence in lying about their nuclear weapons program, the North Koreans brazenly told the U.S. something like this: “Sure, we have a weapons program. You Americans already have thousands of these weapons, so why shouldn’t we have some, too?” Now, in just the last few weeks, the United States has backed off–and backed off a long way when it comes to North Korea–from its shiny new preemptive war strategy, while insisting that preemptive war is still a good strategy for the much weaker Iraq. Washington is, in practice, encouraging other nations to conclude that if you can somehow acquire just a few nuclear weapons, you really can stand up to the U.S. At the same time, Washington’s bumbling and inconsistent policy is strengthening the belief around the world that weapons of mass destruction have little to do with the real reasons why the U.S. wants to go to war with Iraq.

But how, you might ask, could preventing the further spread of WMD, particularly nuclear weapons, around the world be considered by anyone in his right mind a “less important” issue? (This is, of course, precisely what I can be charged with doing.)

The answer to that is really pretty obvious. Except as a propaganda tool, every U.S. administration since Harry Truman’s has in practice made the spread of nuclear weapons, the major type of weapons of mass destruction, a less important issue than the short-term perceived needs of U.S. national security. That’s close to 58 years now that we’ve been doing this. No administration has ever been willing even to discuss giving up the United States’ own nuclear weapons. In these same years, however, most U.S. leaders and practically every American foreign policy or intelligence “expert” who ever worked on the nuclear-proliferation issue understood that, given this cast-in-concrete U.S. policy, preventing the further spread of such weapons among either friends or foes over the long run was impossible. The result is that over the past half-century, the U.S. has badly botched, and been completely hypocritical about, its alleged policy of opposing nuclear proliferation. The administrations of Presidents Kennedy and Johnson, who made the most noise against proliferation, are regarded by the Arab and Muslim worlds as the most hypocritical of all, because they acquiesced in Israel’s acquisition of nuclear weapons during the 1960s.

Let’s move nearer to the present. As early as March 2001, the Bush administration went through a phase of blaming Russia for helping other nations to obtain nuclear weapons. On the 23rd of that month, Donald Rumsfeld stated on national television, “Let’s be very honest about what Russia is doing. Russia is an active proliferator. They are part of the problem. They are selling and assisting countries like Iran and North Korea and India with these technologies which are threatening other people, including the United States”

Russia continues to this day providing aid to Iran, and U.S. criticism of Russia for doing so also continues, although since September 11 the rhetoric has cooled because Moscow is now Bush’s good ally in the War on Terror. But such statements as Rumsfeld’s have made a very unfavorable impression in nations that do not entirely support U.S. policies. They believe the United States itself has been an “active proliferator” since World War II, most particularly with respect to Israel. Rumsfeld and most U.S. policymakers, past and present, seem not to understand how profoundly mistrusted we are because of our lenient attitude toward Israel’s nuclear capability. Many other nations will never accept a status quo that perpetuates Israeli possession of nuclear weapons and at the same time prevents them from ever acquiring such weapons. They will always be suspicious that the U.S. really opposes nuclear proliferation only for its enemies, while acting too often as a hidden enabler of proliferation for its friends.

This entire confusing mess has finally come home to roost at the beginning of 2003. The U.S. has spent years pursuing inconsistent policies on proliferation, in practice downgrading the importance of the issue while noisily playing up its importance in propaganda. The current U.S. administration has been doing the same. And the propaganda volume control has been turned to the very maximum in order to obfuscate the real reasons why the administration shows such eagerness to expand, preemptively, the war with Iraq.

Now, just as crunch-time is arriving for Iraq, along comes North Korea to embarrass the big, hypocritical bully and ramp up quiet eruptions of what must be very satisfying schadenfreude in more nations of the world than Washington can easily count. It’s not worth bothering even to discuss the weird statements coming out of Rome on the Potomac that attempt to explain why we cannot use our new preemptive war strategy on North Korea right now, even though in military terms, as already mentioned, that nation would appear to be a considerably greater danger than Iraq to its own neighbors and even to the U.S. None of the arguments swirling around Washington address in a meaningful way the most important points we should be talking about.

The first point that needs more discussion is that, even if the U.S. quickly and successfully polishes off Iraq, in an immediate military sense anyway, and then a few weeks later goes and does the same to North Korea, the world has already seen the most aggressive U.S. administration since Teddy Roosevelt blink, and blink big time. The perceived value and reliability of the U.S., as a protective shield against potential enemies of our allies, will inevitably diminish. In this regard, think immediately of Japan and Taiwan, which look on the U.S. as a shield against North Korea and, more importantly, against China. Think also, in a somewhat longer time frame, of other Southeast Asian countries from Thailand to Australia that might question the “stayability” of the U.S. Whatever else happens, a sea-change is probable in the U.S. relationship with Asia. (But you should also think of positive changes, both in Asia and elsewhere, that might be more likely to emerge over time than seemed possible even a few months ago. A multipolar world has its pluses.)

The second point to be aware of is that, if the stalemate between North Korea and the U.S. drags on for more than a few weeks, other nations in the world will, as already mentioned, see even greater value in having their own nuclear weapons, and perhaps also other types of WMD. The Bush administration can argue all it wants that it does not have to hurry in solving the North Korean problem. Its arguments will be nonsense. Each week that passes will to some degree increase the likelihood that one nation or another, or even some subnational group, will initiate or expand a WMD program. At a minimum, nuclear weapons alone will have made it possible for North Korea to stand up to the U.S. for a longer period than most of us up to now would have thought possible.

A third point: North Korea has made it clearer than ever that in a world of nation-states, the only world we’ll have for some time to come, small countries are increasingly able to obtain nuclear weapons and other WMD. One small country, Israel, got them in the late 1960s, but its ties with an acquiescent United States made it a special case. North Korea already has become, or is on the verge of becoming, the second small country to acquire nuclear weapons. (Pakistan and India are both much larger and more powerful, and not really in the category of “small.”) The Bush administration is seriously in error if it believes that it can ever so dominate the rest of the world militarily that it can suppress all nuclear and other WMD threats against itself. The best rational judgment one can make is that the opportunity for global domination is already lost to this and any future administration. Not only the threats but also the actuality of further nuclear and other WMD proliferation will almost certainly increase in the next few years. The present events involving North Korea, and the U.S. reaction thereto, only encourage such a development.

The process will only be slowed, not stopped, even if there is a U.S. conquest of Iraq, followed by a later conquest of North Korea, followed by a later conquest of Iran, followed by a later conquest of–whom? Libya–Syria–Indonesia–Brazil–Argentina–other countries or groups? Either the present nations having weapons of mass destruction, including the U.S., will have to negotiate away their own WMD, or we’ll have to allow other nations to have them, or we are likely to have something close to perpetual wars arising from the U.S. instigation of preemptive wars. My own judgment is that for a long time to come, the U.S. will continue to refuse to give up its own WMD, and that therefore the U.S. should allow other nations to acquire WMD (since we can’t stop them all in any case), and continue to rely on containment and deterrence to prevent other nations from actually using WMD.

This seems to me to be the least bad of a bad group of alternatives. Even this least bad alternative, however, will probably over time lead to greater global chaos. If today there is no possibility of U.S. agreement to a multilateral global nuclear and other WMD disarmament, including U.S. disarmament, just possibly the increasing dangers of global chaos will bring closer the time when such an agreement does become possible. We should in any event not employ preemptive war simply to stop other nations from acquiring rather than using weapons of mass destruction, because as each year passes, that policy becomes less possible to implement.

My own problem with preemptive war, by the way, goes even deeper. Wars inevitably kill innocent people, often in large numbers. That’s an obvious clich?, but it is true. Even if Congress gave the CIA and the rest of the U.S. intelligence community unlimited resources and reorganized the complete intelligence apparatus of the country so that it became infinitely more efficient that it’s ever been, one thing is crystal clear: IT IS BEYOND BELIEF THAT THE U.S. WOULD EVER HAVE INTELLIGENCE GOOD ENOUGH TO MAKE LAUNCHING A PREEMPTIVE WAR MORALLY ACCEPTABLE. There is always an element of guesswork with respect to a potential enemy’s intentions, and those intentions can change instantly–and at the last moment.

This question of intentions is vital. It is not enough, despite the Bush administration’s arguments to the contrary, to know that some possible enemy possesses and has the capability to use weapons of mass destruction. You need to know–and know for sure–the intentions of that possible enemy as well. Even if you have a 90-percent degree of confidence in your judgment of what another country, or a sub-national group, truly intends to do, initiating a preemptive war and killing innocent people is still a prohibitively immoral action. You should also understand that even your 90-percent degree of confidence is nothing but a guess. Any way you slice it, you are killing people on the basis of a guess. And to believe that any nation’s intelligence services can ever provide a 100 percent degree of confidence is just one more form of arrogance.

This is particularly the case when there is good reporting available that the honesty of U.S. intelligence analysts may have been subverted by an administration that seeks to manufacture intelligence information that supports its case that war against Iraq is necessary. I want to read a few lines from a senior CIA analyst who retired from the Agency far more recently than I. This is from a column written by this analyst that has appeared in Miami and Birmingham, Alabama, and perhaps other newspapers. It was written in the form of a letter to President Bush on the eve of his State-of-the-Union address. The title of the column is kind of cute; it is “Caveat Preemptor.” Here are a few quotes from it.

“Mr. President:

“Until last week many Americans were inclined to take your top aides at their word that the looming war with Iraq is not about oil or vengeance but rather about Iraq’s continuing pursuit of “weapons of mass destruction.” Now, all but the most unquestioning loyalists are having second thoughts.

“Doubt grew exponentially as France and Germany, with whom we have extensive intelligence sharing arrangements, took strong issue with your administration’s claims about Iraq. It is the view of those two major allies and others that the evidence that Iraq is continuing to pursue new weapons of mass destruction is far from conclusive and that it falls far short of justification for starting a war.

“In [your recent speeches, your advisers] had you making alarmist claims that our allies know do not square with the judgments of the US and wider allied intelligence communities. I’ll mention just two:

“[1] –Singling out the high-strength aluminum tubes Iraq has been trying to purchase, you said they “are used to enrich uranium for nuclear weapons.” You probably recall that this has always been a highly contentious view within US intelligence and scientific circles, and that the British “White Paper” of Sept. 24, 2002 stated that there was “no definitive intelligence” that the tubes were destined for a nuclear program. The UN inspectors in Iraq have now concluded that the tubes were not meant for enriching uranium but rather for making ordinary artillery rockets, as the Iraqis have said. And the press has the story. [By the way (this is me talking now, not my CIA ex-colleague), Bush in his State of the Union speech last week on January 28, repeated his charge regarding these aluminum tubes. Colin Powell mentioned them again in the UN Security Council and recognized that they were a controversial issue. I think we’ll just have to watch this one for a while. Now back to my ex-colleague’s OpEd column.]

“[2]–You also claimed that Iraq could produce a nuclear weapon “in less than a year.” Our allies are finding it difficult to reconcile that with the formal estimate of the US intelligence community that Iraq will not be able to produce a nuclear weapon until the end of the decade, if then.

” [Y]ou now seem captive to the “intelligence” coming from Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and his deputy Paul Wolfowitz. You will recall how[unhappy] Wolfowitz was last fall, when the CIA insisted that reports tying Iraq to al-Qaeda lacked credibility

“To be sure, CIA’s conclusions are often unwelcome. The question is whether they are more accurate than the ones you are getting from the Pentagon.

“That words can have far-reaching consequences is shown by North Korea’s decision, after you labeled it part of the “axis of evil” in last year’s address, to renege on its commitment to forgo nuclear weapons . No one should have been surprised when the North Koreans concluded that, without a strengthened nuclear deterrent, they would be next in line after Iraq for a US ‘preemptive’ attack.”

To sum this up, the U.S. does not have a consistent or meaningful policy on preventing the further spread of weapons of mass destruction, and most senior U.S. officials know full well that we will never devote a top priority to preventing that further spread as long as we are unwilling to give up our own such weapons. Furthermore, the recent events with respect to North Korea provide more evidence that U.S. willingness to expand the war in Iraq almost certainly arises from some cause or causes other than the weapons-of-mass-destruction issue. This very day, Secretary of State Powell has presented the best case he could make on weapons violations by Iraq. Even if he had proved beyond a doubt that Iraq was continuing to develop and produce weapons of mass destruction right now–a point that will be the subject of intense controversy in the–it would still be wrong, in my opinion, to make that a cause for war, for all the reasons I’ve already mentioned.

I’d better move on now to the other item in CATEGORY THREE, the desire of the U.S. to “introduce democracy” into Iraq, after actions by the United States have brought about a change of regime and the removal of Saddam Hussein.

Here’s another matter on which the present foreign policy of the U.S. is, in my opinion, dead wrong. Supporting the concept of encouraging the gradual spread of greater democracy in the Middle East and elsewhere is obviously a good thing–but only if it is done by peaceful means. Whatever kind and quality of democracy develops in any country should be brought about largely by the people in that country. It is criminal, in my opinion, to go around the world introducing by military force, and killing people to do it, something that we in our American wisdom define as “democracy.” Our own version of democracy is quite incomplete and quite imperfect, and we should be humble enough to realize that, and also humble enough to let other people around the world do it their own way. Above all, it should not be necessary that one prerequisite of any other country’s “democracy” be that it remain perpetually subservient to the United States–which would seem to be one aspect of the kind of “democracy” that Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld and his deputy, Paul Wolfowitz, and apparently also the president himself, would like to see throughout the Arab world. Another point to be made here is that U.S. mouthings about democracy do not have a believable ring of truth to them to people in the world’s poorer countries, or to me either, given the high degree of U.S. support for non-democratic governments in these parts of the world over the last half-century. That’s why I regard this item as another cover-up and pretext, and not a real reason.

All we have left now is the last category, CATEGORY FOUR. This contains the reasons for war that the Bush administration doesn’t want to talk too much about, but which, in my view, it actually regards as the most important reasons. I’ve put three entries into this category–and again, I emphasize that some of you might prefer to see different items listed here, or might want one or more of my items removed. The first reason here is oil–the desire for greater U.S. control of Iraqi (and thus indirectly other Middle Eastern) oil resources. The second reason is the U.S. desire to extend the U.S. drive for global domination. The third and last reason on this list is the desire of many dominant leaders of the Bush administration in the U.S., in partnership with the Sharon government in Israel, that a conquest of Iraq become the first stage of a “strategic transformation” of the entire Middle East.

It’s probably unnecessary, I know, but I ask you all to note that there are multiple reasons on this list. There are three of them. This is important, because many experts and other sophisticated people are writing stuff and giving talks these days on what this war in Iraq is all about, and too many of them in my opinion are saying or implying that OIL is the only real reason behind the U.S. government’s policies on the war. In my view, all of the three reasons on the list here are real reasons, and it’s also my view that each of them is equally important. It’s not correct–again, my opinion–that any one of these three is more important than the other two.

So, in my view, these three reasons combined will be the real causes of an expanded preemptive war against Iraq–if that war actually takes place. And after Bush’s State of the Union speech, it’s hard to see what can stop it. It’s possible–in fact I think it’s likely–that a final coup attempt will be made to oust Saddam Hussein before the U.S. military offensive actually starts. In Bob Woodward’s recent book, Bush at War, it comes out clearly that Bush was very favorably impressed with the CIA’s covert action abilities in Afghanistan, and there is good evidence that he has provided the money–wrongly in my opinion–for a major expansion of these capabilities. Unless the judgment is made that there’s no possibility of a successful coup, it’s hard for me to believe that Bush would not order the attempt to be made.

Some Iraqi, either an exile or someone inside the country, would have to be found, of course, who would willingly allow himself to be controlled by the U.S. and who would immediately invite the U.S. military in to occupy the entire country. If that happened, U.S. ground units might then be able to complete the occupation rapidly, with minimal U.S. and allied casualties, and with fewer Iraqi casualties than any other scenario would permit. However, the possibilities for failure of such an operation would be great. Even if it were successful, hatreds of the U.S. throughout the Muslim world would still rise, and the likelihood of further terrorism against the U.S. would increase.

So my best guess is still that warfare is going to be necessary if the Bush administration remains hell-bent on getting rid of Saddam Hussein. And my belief still is that these three reasons are the ones that will most likely lead the U.S. into a bigger war against Iraq regardless of the degree to which Baghdad cooperates in implementing the U.N. resolution on disarmament.

With respect to the first reason, oil, Iraq has, after Saudi Arabia, the next-largest known oil reserves in the world, and U.S. oil and other corporations that are friends and supporters of Bush and Cheney would be delighted to see a regime change in Iraq that resulted in a government more subservient to the United States. It seems fairly evident that Bush and Cheney would also be delighted to please them. I don’t think this needs any further discussion.

The second reason listed here is at least as important as oil. Iraq is almost certainly regarded in the administration as the first of several major hindrances to the U.S. drive for global hegemony and domination. The other two nations in President Bush’s “axis of evil” (and others to be added) will, in good time, presumably also have to be neutralized, even though North Korea, for the moment anyway, has thrown a monkey wrench into U.S. global domination plans.

The third and last reason why the U.S. government wants to go to war, and one that the Bush administration really doesn’t want to publicize, is the desire on the part of many of the most senior U.S. officials, and no doubt most senior officials in the present government of Israel as well, to completely overturn, by military action if necessary, the status quo that has existed in the Arab nations of the Middle East for the past several decades. In the U.S., these senior officials are led by Vice-President Cheney, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, and the number-two and number-three men in the Defense Department, Paul Wolfowitz and Douglas Feith.

For the past ten years these officials, plus a number of others now in the Bush administration, have been urging the removal of Saddam Hussein by military action. The writings of this group have often explicitly stated that the removal of Saddam should be only a precursor to other large changes in the Middle East, all of which, it was alleged without proof, would be favorable to the U.S., but all of which would definitely be favorable to Israel. According to good evidence, Rumsfeld himself pressed hard for war against Iraq immediately after the September 11 attacks. According to David Martin, a very conscientious and careful reporter who is the CBS News National Security Correspondent, ” barely five hours after American Airlines Flight 77 plowed into the Pentagon, Rumsfeld was telling his aides to come up with plans for striking Iraq–even though there was no evidence linking Saddam Hussein to the attacks.”

The very next day, September 12, “at 4 p.m., the NSC [National Security Council] reconvened.” This comes from Bob Woodward’s new book that I’ve already mentioned. Woodward continues: “Rumsfeld insisted on a point he had made before. ‘Are we going against terrorism more broadly than just al Qaeda?’ Why shouldn’t we go against Iraq, not just al Qaeda? he asked. Rumsfeld was speaking not only for himself when he raised the question. His deputy, Paul Wolfowitz, was committed to a policy that would make Iraq a principal target of the first round in the war on terrorism. Rumsfeld was raising the possibility that they could take advantage of the opportunity offered by the terrorist attacks to go after Saddam immediately.” Although at that time, one day after the terrorist attacks, Bush decided that they had to concentrate first on al Qaeda and Afghanistan, he was sympathetic to Rumsfeld’s views and, a few months later, by the Spring of 2002, he agreed that Iraq should be the next target. Note that the initial rationale here had nothing to do with Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction; it was that September 11 offered an “opportunity” to go after Saddam.

On September 22, 2002, the New York Times Magazine carried a detailed study of Wolfowitz. According to this profile, Wolfowitz “has an almost missionary sense of America’s role. In the current case, [the Middle East,] that means a vision of an Iraq not merely purged of cataclysmic weaponry, not merely a threat disarmed, but an Iraq that becomes a democratic cornerstone of an altogether new Middle East. Wolfowitz’s moralistic streak may explain the affinity between the born-again and resolutely unintellectual president and this man he calls ‘Wolfie.’ A senior official who has watched the two men interact says that Wolfowitz and the president have reinforced each other in their faith in ‘a strategic transformation of the whole region.’ ”

Now, I want to emphasize that many Israelis, and many American-Jewish people here in the U.S., oppose this war with Iraq. Nevertheless, evidence that has accumulated over recent years shows that there is a great deal of support in the present Israeli government for this concept that regime change in Iraq should be the first stage of a “strategic transformation” of the entire Middle East. It is clearly not in Sharon’s interest to play an overt and active role in pushing the U.S. in this direction, but Uri Avnery, a leading Israeli peace activist who opposes the occupation and founded Gush Shalom in the early 1990s, makes a good case that Sharon himself does favor the transformation by force of the Muslim Middle East. Before becoming a peace activist, Avnery wrote two extensive biographical studies of Sharon, with Sharon’s cooperation. Commenting on the various schemes of Wolfowitz and others in Washington, Avnery wrote in early September of 2002:

“A grandiose, world-embracing and logical design. What does it remind me of? Indeed the style sounds vaguely familiar. In the early ’80s, I heard about several plans like this from Ariel Sharon (which I published at the time.) His head was full of grand designs for restructuring the Middle East, the overthrow of regimes and installing others in their stead, moving a whole people (the Palestinians) and so forth. I can’t help it, but the winds blowing now in Washington remind me of Sharon. I have absolutely no proof that the Bushies got their ideas from him, even if all of them seem to have been mesmerized by him. But the style is the same. ”

On the question of urging the U.S. into a war against Iraq, an even more recent article by Avnery says that the pro-Israel lobby in the U.S. is pushing the Bush administration to start a war. Also on the question of starting the war, the Christian Science Monitor of August 30, 2002 carried an article under the headline, “Israel Sees Opportunity in Possible U.S. Strike on Iraq.” In this article, the Israeli deputy defense minister stated that, “If the Americans do not do this now [that is, start the war], it will be harder to do it in the future. And as deputy defense minister, I can tell you that the United States will receive any assistance it needs from Israel.”

On October 1, 2002, Akiva Eldar, a leading commentator in the Israeli daily Ha’aretz, who opposes the almost 36-year-old occupation of Palestinian territories, wrote an article detailing the activities in Israel in 1996–that’s more than half a dozen years ago–of two Americans who now hold very senior positions in the Bush administration, Richard Perle and Douglas Feith. These two “joined a small group of researchers who were asked to help Benjamin Netanyahu in his first steps as prime minister” after his election in 1996. The document they prepared for Netanyahu, according to Eldar, “presents an ambitious plan for a U.S.-Israeli partnership –not one focused narrowly on territorial disputes.” It even included “plans for Israel to help restore the Hashemite throne in Iraq”–that is, to help bring about regime change in Iraq and restore a monarchy there. (Now that’s a truly superior way to introduce democracy, isn’t it?) The article goes on to show that in September 2002 Richard Perle, one of the American experts and now a key Pentagon adviser, organized a briefing for top U.S. defense leaders on how to transform the Middle East that included a graphic labeling, among other things, Palestine as Israel, Jordan as Palestine, and a new Iraq as “the Hashemite Kingdom.”

All of this indicates at least that Perle and, no doubt, his Defense Department colleague Douglas Feith are pressing in Washington for the same thing now that they were urging in Israel almost seven years ago. All of this, and much other evidence, also indicates that the present government of Israel wants a U.S. conquest of Iraq–one that will lead to “transformation” of the Middle East–to be carried out as quickly as possible. If a U.S.-Israeli partnership with such goals does become official U.S. policy, it will mean a new era of colonialism for the entire Middle East–a colonialism dominated by the U.S. and Israel. It is difficult, for me anyway, to imagine a better recipe for more terrorism and for perpetual war.

I want to end with a comment that may be implicit in my earlier remarks, but I’d like to make it explicit. We place a high value on American lives. We do not–and all the world sees this–seem to place anything like the same value on other lives. Note the report of a couple of weeks ago that the proposed U.S. military strategy for the war on Iraq includes launching 700 to 800 precision-guided missiles onto Baghdad in the first 48 hours of an attack. This is reportedly more missiles than were launched during the entire previous Gulf War of 1990-1991. The purpose of this attack would be to destroy the complete infrastructure of Saddam Hussein’s regime and all his command-and-control mechanisms. But it is obvious that, however precise these missiles are, a large number of ordinary Iraqi people would also be killed. The Pentagon did not deliberately release this information. It was uncovered by the same enterprising CBS reporter, David Martin, whom I mentioned earlier, and I’d guess it probably embarrassed the Pentagon. More recently, just this past weekend on February 2, a long article appeared in the New York Times that I think was deliberately provided to the Times by the Pentagon. This newer article describes how 3,000 precision-guided bombs and missiles will be used on the entire country of Iraq in the first 48 hours of the attack, but says nothing about how many will be dropped on heavily populated Baghdad. The initial 48-hour bombardment will use 10 times the number of precision-guided weapons employed in the first two days of the 1991 Gulf War. This new article also emphasizes the standard official line that the U.S. will do everything possible to minimize civilian casualties and damage to the civilian infrastructure. But it contains no reference at all to the difficulties of minimizing civilian casualties in metropolitan areas. So I’d guess the air attack on Baghdad is still on.

I simply cannot justify in my own mind a war that will lead to major civilian casualties. If it turned out that there were not heavy casualties, I still could not justify a war for any of the three reasons I’ve already discussed as being the real causes of the war, or for all of them combined. And even if the issue of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction were the real reason–which I think is clearly not the case–that issue would not in my opinion justify a preemptive war either. At a minimum, we ought instead to continue the present U.S. policies of containment and deterrence. THIS WAR AGAINST IRAQ IS COMPLETELY UNJUSTIFIED, and we the people of the United States should be ashamed of ourselves if we allow it happen.


1. President Bush himself caused Sep. 11 events.

2. Bush knew of Sep. 11 events in advance, and allowed them to happen.


1. Machismo of U.S. Leaders.

2. Bush’s desire get rid of dictator who tried to assassinate his father.

3. Belief that Iraq war would distract people from corporate scandals or other Bush problems.


Category 3: Reasons the Bush administration publicly claims are the most important, but which may actually be the least important to the administration.

Category 4: The real reasons–those that actually are likely to be the most important ones to the Bush administration.


1. U.S. desire to “disarm” Iraq–to eliminate Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction.

2. U.S. desire to “introduce democracy” into Iraq.


1. Oil–U.S. desire for greater control over Iraqi oil resources.

2. U.S. drive for global domination.

3. Desire in the Bush administration, and in the Sharon government of Israel, that conquest of Iraq be first stage of “strategic transformation” of the entire Muslim Middle East.

Bill Christison was an analyst for the CIA from 1950 to 1979. At various times, he worked on Soviet and European affairs, on global nuclear proliferation, and later, on Asian and African affairs. In the 1970s, he served as a National Intelligence Officer and as the Director of the CIA’s Office of Regional and Political Analysis. He now lives in Santa Fe, NM. He can be reached at: