Bush Ordered Iraq Plans in
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
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
``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.
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
``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.''
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
By early January 2003, Bush had made up his mind to attack
Iraq, Woodward said in his book. The war started March 19,
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
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.
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
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
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
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 email@example.com
To contact the editor of this story:
Glenn Hall at firstname.lastname@example.org
Last Updated: April 17, 2004 12:02 EDT