What Condoleezza Rice is Hiding

From: OIL, POWER & EMPIRE: IRAQ AND THE U.S. GLOBAL AGENDA (Common Courage Press 2004), Chapter 1: “Go Massive. Sweep It All Up.”

Overthrowing the Hussein regime in Iraq was a key focus for the Bush administration – and a far more urgent priority than al Qaeda – both before Sept. 11 and after, because doing so was viewed as essential to maintaining the U.S. position in the strategic Persian Gulf and to implementing the administration’s vision of asserting U.S. power more forcefully around the world. In short, the Bush administration used the horror of Sept. 11 to implement regional and global strategies in the works for nearly a decade, whose objectives never centered on protecting Americans. Here are the facts, which corroborate the revelations of Paul O’Neill and Richard Clarke, and which are essential to understanding why the U.S. is now in Iraq:

* Half of Bush, Jr.’s first national security meeting was spent on Iraq and the Persian Gulf.

* At the Pentagon, Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz immediately began studying military options for ousting Hussein.

* The Wall Street Journal reported: “when the Bush administration took office in 2001, officials at the Pentagon immediately began peppering intelligence agencies with requests for studies on Baghdad’s links to terrorism. At a meeting of senior administration officials in April 2001 to discuss al Qaeda, a top Defense Department official asked Mr. Clarke [the National Security Council’s counter-terrorism coordinator] about whether Iraq had connections to Mr. bin Laden’s group. Mr. Clarke said no, according to two people in the room.”

* In July 2001, the Wall Street Journal reported that, “Senior officials have held almost weekly meetings on the issue to discuss whether to push for the [Hussein] government’s ouster.”

* In August 2001, the U.S. launched its most savage air attack on Iraq in six months.

* The Washington Post reports that the week before Sept. 11, Vice President Cheney was “worried about the strength of our whole position in the Middle East – where we stood with the Saudis, the Turks and others in the region.”

* Some five hours after hijacked jets crashed into the World Trade Center and then the Pentagon, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld told an aide to begin drawing up plans for war — on Iraq (despite the fact that that afternoon the CIA concluded that it was “virtually certain” that the bin Laden network was responsible, not Iraq or other states). Rumsfeld wanted to know if U.S. intelligence was also “good enough hit S.H. [Saddam Hussein] at same time. Not only UBL [OBL – Osama bin Laden].” His admonition: “Go massive. Sweep it all up. Things related and not.”

* On September 12, 2001, Bush’s “war cabinet” began discussing Iraq. According to the Washington Post, these discussions centered on whether to “take advantage of the opportunity offered by the terrorist attacks to go after Hussein immediately.” Bush’s top advisors reportedly agreed in principle, but there were differences over timing.

* On September 17, 2001, after six days of debate, the Bush team decided not to strike Iraq. The reasons, contrary to Rice’s assertions of an exclusive focus on al Qaeda and Sept. 11, were for tactical, not strategic, reasons. According to the Washington Post, they felt they would “need successes early in any war to maintain domestic and international support.” Bush told Bob Woodward, “[I]f we could prove that we could be successful in this theater [Afghanistan], then the rest of the task would be easier. If we tried to do too many things – two things, for example, or three things – militarily, then … the lack of focus would have been a huge risk.”

* On September 17, 2001, Bush signed secret orders authorizing war on Afghanistan and instructing the Pentagon to begin planning for battle in Iraq.

* On September 19-20 the Pentagon’s Defense Policy Board met behind closed doors to, according to The New York Times, assess “the geopolitical significance of the attacks and chart a U.S. response.” After 19 hours of discussions, “The group agreed on the need to turn on Iraq as soon as the initial phase of the war against Afghanistan was over.”

* Following the meeting, former CIA chief James Woolsey was dispatched to London on “a mission,” The New York Times reports, to gather “evidence” linking Hussein to the September 11 attacks.

* On September 20, 2001, Defense Policy Board members and other prominent right-wingers with close links to the administration drafted an open letter to President Bush that argued, “Even if evidence does not link Iraq directly to the [September 11] attack, any strategy aiming at the eradication of terrorism and its sponsors must include a determined effort to remove Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq. Failure to undertake such an effort will constitute an early and perhaps decisive surrender in the war on international terrorism.”

* According to reports in The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and The New Republic, the Bush administration had secretly decide to move against the Hussein regime by late October or early November 2001, some seven weeks after Sept. 11 and following the defeat of the Taliban. By then, Vice President Cheney, who the Wall Street Journal called Bush’s “war counselor,” had joined Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz in urging war on Iraq.

* In December 2001, The New Republic reported after late October 2001 the debate within the Administration was no longer over “whether to extend the war to Iraq — that question has largely been settled.”

* On September 12, 2002, USA Today reported,

President Bush’s determination to oust Iraq’s Saddam Hussein by military force if necessary was set last fall…he decided that Saddam must go more than 10 months ago; the debate within the administration since then has been about the means to accomplish that ….The course advocated by Rumsfeld and Cheney became policy, despite concerns by Powell and others…But whatever the response, aides say Bush’s determination to oust Saddam–the decision he made in the seven weeks following the attacks on Sept. 11–hasn’t wavered.

LARRY EVEREST can be contacted through his website: www.larryeverest.com