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Impeach Bush

Bush Ordered Iraq Plans in November 2001
Bloomberg.com
April 17, 2004

April 17 (Bloomberg) -- President George W. Bush ordered an Iraq war plan in November 2001, two months after the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, and while the U.S. military was still trying to oust the Taliban leadership in Afghanistan, according to excerpts of a new book.

``Let's get started on this,'' Bush recalled telling Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on Nov. 21, 2001, according to ``Plan of Attack,'' by Washington Post assistant managing editor Bob Woodward. ``And get Tommy Franks looking at what it would take to protect America by removing Saddam Hussein if we have to.'' Army General Franks, now retired, led the U.S. Central Command from June 2000 to August 2003.

The excerpts, published in an early version of the Post's Sunday edition, support testimony by former White House counter- terrorism adviser Richard Clarke that the Bush administration was focused on Iraq instead of Afghanistan after the Sept. 11 attacks.

Former Bush Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill, who was fired by Bush, accused the president this year of planning to oust Hussein within weeks of taking office in January 2001. O'Neill made the claim in ``The Price of Loyalty,'' a book by Pulitzer Prize-winner Ron Suskind.

``What it amounts to is what the intelligence people would call multiple-source confirmation that the Bush presidency arrived in office with an agenda,'' said Leon Fuerth, national security adviser to former Vice President Al Gore. ``They used Sept. 11 as a way to realize that agenda.''

`Preponderance of Evidence'

Woodward's book, combined with O'Neill and Clarke's accounts, ``is not going to help the president's credibility,'' said Lawrence Korb, a former assistant secretary of defense under President Ronald Reagan.

``It's pretending to do one thing and doing another,'' Korb said in an interview yesterday. ``If you look at the preponderance of evidence, it becomes pretty clear'' that Bush was focused on Iraq after the Sept. 11 attacks, Korb said.

Bush, 57, said yesterday he didn't recall whether he ordered Rumsfeld to draw up war plans two months after the Sept. 11 attacks.

``I can't remember exact dates that far back,'' Bush told reporters yesterday after talks at the White House with British Prime Minister Tony Blair, his chief Iraq ally. ``But I do know that it was Afghanistan that was on my mind. And I didn't really start focusing on Iraq until later on.''

Units of Simon & Shuster Inc., owned by Viacom Inc., published the Woodward, Clarke and Suskind books.

On Oct. 7, 2001, British and U.S. forces began an aerial campaign in Afghanistan against the Taliban regime, which harbored Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda terror network. The Dec. 7 fall of the Afghan town of Spin Boldak marked the end of Taliban control. Bin Laden, a Saudi fugitive, was never captured and continues to elude U.S. forces.

Secret Planning

Bush said secrecy in planning the Iraq war was needed to avoid ``enormous international angst and domestic speculation'' and that ``war is my absolute last option,'' Woodward reported after three and a half hours of interviews with Bush.

Franks worked in secret with a small staff, talked almost daily with Rumsfeld and met about once a month with Bush, according to the book. National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice was the only member of Bush's war cabinet whom Bush directly asked for a recommendation of whether to go to war, the book said.

``I could tell what they thought,'' the president told Woodward. ``I didn't need to ask their opinion about Saddam Hussein or how to deal with Saddam Hussein. If you were sitting where I sit, you could be pretty clear.''

Airfields Upgraded

In the summer of 2002, Bush directed $700 million for upgrading airfields, bases, fuel pipelines and munitions storage depots in the Persian Gulf region needed for U.S. troop deployment. It was funded by old appropriations and a supplemental bill Congress had approved for operations in Afghanistan.

By early January 2003, Bush had made up his mind to attack Iraq, Woodward said in his book. The war started March 19, 2003.

Before the war, Secretary of State Colin Powell told Bush if he sent U.S. troops to Iraq ``you're going to be owning this place,'' Woodward reported. Powell, a retired Army general, was chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff during the 1991 war Bush's father, President George H.W. Bush, waged to evict Hussein from Kuwait.

Strained Relations

The relationship between Vice President Dick Cheney and Powell, who believed Cheney was trying to establish a connection between Iraq and al-Qaeda, became so strained that they were barely on speaking terms, according to the book. White House communications director Dan Bartlett described Powell's agreement to make the U.S. case against Hussein at the United Nations in February 2003 ``the Powell buy-in,'' the book said.

Before the younger Bush's January 2001 inauguration, Cheney asked Clinton administration Defense Secretary William Cohen to include ``discussion about Iraq and different options'' as part of the traditional briefing given to a new president, Woodard said in his book.

Ninety coalition soldiers have died this month in Iraq in some of the deadliest fighting since U.S. and British troops ousted Hussein a year ago. About 20,000 U.S. soldiers scheduled to come home after a year of combat now will stay for another three months, Rumsfeld said on Thursday.

Public Doubts

Opposition to the decision to go to war in Iraq grew this month, a poll by the Annenberg Public Policy Center found. Fifty- one percent of those polled in the first two weeks of April said the situation in Iraq wasn't worth going to war over, compared with 43 percent who said it was worth it. That's a drop in support for the war from last month, when more respondents supported the invasion.

More than 1,250 people were interviewed April 1-14 for the poll, which has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points. Bush's job approval was 53 percent, compared with 50 percent in March, the poll said.

The Bush administration didn't begin to publicly argue for war until August 2002, when Cheney said in a speech to the National Convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars that Iraq probably possessed weapons of mass destruction and couldn't be allowed to grow stronger.

Republicans Wary

Republicans, including House Majority leader Dick Armey, former Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger, and General Brent Scowcroft, who was national security adviser to Bush's father, had all expressed reservations before Cheney's speech about the threat from Iraq.

The elder Bush's secretary of state, James Baker, urged caution in confronting Hussein in an August 2002 commentary in the New York Times: ``The costs in all areas will be much greater, as will the political risks, both domestic and international, if we end up going it alone or with only one or two other countries,'' Baker wrote.

Korb said Woodward's book may have resonance because of steady troop casualties in Iraq. ``Now that things are not going too well, people are going to say: `Wait a second. Why did we go there and you made up your mind before all the evidence was in,''' he said.

Korb is a senior fellow at the Washington-based Center for American Progress, a research institute that says one of its missions is offering ``thoughtful critique and clear alternatives'' to ``conservative proposals.''

The White House declined to comment today on Woodward's book.

In late November 2001, ``things were becoming increasingly clear that the Taliban were not going to have a hold in Afghanistan,'' White House spokesman Scott McClellan said yesterday.

At that time, Bush ``talked to Secretary Rumsfeld about planning related to Iraq,'' McClellan said, although ``there is a difference between planning and making a decision.''
 

To contact the reporter on this story:
Heidi Przybyla in Washington, or hprzybyla@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor of this story:
Glenn Hall at ghall@bloomberg.net
Last Updated: April 17, 2004 12:02 EDT  

Commentary:
When will this comedy end? Bush gets caught in one lie after another. We now have many sources saying Bush planned to attack Iraq long before any evidence of WMD and long before he told us he made up his mind to go to war. In reality he wanted to be a "war time president," but he didn't have a war to fight so he had to manufacture one. Ergo, Iraq and WMD. Over 600 soldiers have died so Bush could use this war to get reelected.