The Path of War Timeline: Part 2

June 19th, 2005 - by admin

Larisa Alexandrovna and Muriel Kane / Raw Story – 2005-06-19 00:00:02

Fixing the Intelligence March – August 2002

March 2002
Seymour Hersh writes: “By early March, 2002, a former White House official told me, it was understood by many in the White House that the President had decided, in his own mind, to go to war… The Bush Administration took many intelligence operations that had been aimed at Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups around the world and redirected them to the Persian Gulf… Chalabi’s defector reports were now flowing from the Pentagon directly to the Vice-President’s office, and then on to the President, with little prior evaluation by intelligence professionals. (New Yorker)

” F___ Saddam. we’re taking him out.” Those were the words of President George W. Bush, who had poked his head into the office of Condoleezza Rice. It was March 2002, and Rice was meeting with three U.S. Senators, discussing how to deal with Iraq through the United Nations, or perhaps in a coalition with America’s Middle East allies. Bush wasn’t interested. He waved his hand dismissively, recalls a participant, and neatly summed up his Iraq policy in that short phrase. The Senators laughed uncomfortably; Rice flashed a knowing smile. (Time Magazine)

Dick Cheney carried the same message to Capitol Hill in late March. The Vice President dropped by a Senate Republican policy lunch soon after his 10-day tour of the Middle East – the one meant to drum up support for a U.S. military strike against Iraq… Before he spoke, he said no one should repeat what he said, and Senators and staff members promptly put down their pens and pencils. Then he gave them some surprising news. The question was no longer if the U.S. would attack Iraq, he said. The only question was when. (Time Magazine)

As early as March 2002, Blair’s foreign policy adviser, Sir David Manning, assured Condoleezza Rice of Blair’s deadset support for “regime change.” Days later, Sir Christopher Meyer, then British ambassador to the US, sent a dispatch to Downing Street detailing how he repeated the commitment to Paul Wolfowitz, the US Deputy Defence Secretary. The ambassador added that Mr Blair would need a “cover” for any military action. “I then went through the need to wrongfoot Saddam on the inspectors and the UN Security Council resolutions.” (Raw Story: Manning; Raw Story: Meyer)

Manning returned from talks in Washington warning that Bush “still has to find answers to the big questions,” which included “what happens on the morning after?… They may agree that failure isn’t an option, but this does not mean they will necessarily avoid it.” The Cabinet Office said that the US believed that the legal basis for war already existed and had lost patience with the policy of containment. (Telegraph)

March 12-13, 2002
Manning meets with Condoleeza Rice. On March 14, he reports to Blair: “I said that you would not budge in your support for regime change but you had to manage a press, a Parliament and a public opinion that was very different than anything in the States. . . . Condi’s enthusiasm for regime change is undimmed. But there were some signs, since we last spoke, of greater awareness of the practical difficulties and political risks.” (Raw Story PDF)

March 17, 2002
Sir Christopher Meyer, British ambassador to the US, meets with Paul Wolfowitz. The next day, he reports to Manning: “On Iraq I opened by sticking very closely to the script that you used with Condi rice last week. We backed regime change, but the plan had to be clever and failure was not an option. It would be a tough sell for us domestically, and probably tougher elsewhere in Europe. The US could go it alone if it wanted to. But if it wanted to act with partners, here had to be a strategy for building support for military action against Saddam. I then went through the need to wrongfoot Saddam on the inspectors.” (PDF of memo; More at Telegraph)

March 8-25, 2002
Several leaked documents show the British government considering the implications of shifting from an Iraq policy based on containment to one of regime change, along with considerations to be addressed in supporting Bush’s objectives. A memo from the British Foreign Secretary states: “The rewards from your visit to Crawford will be few. The risks are high, both for you and for the Government. I just that there is at present no majority inside the PLP for any military action against Iraq …A legal justification is a necessary but far from sufficient precondition for military action. We have also to answer the big question – what will this action achieve?” (Iraq Options Paper – P F Ricketts Memo – Jack Straw Memo)

May 2002
“Rumsfeld has been so determined to find a rationale for an attack that on 10 separate occasions he asked the CIA to find evidence linking Iraq to the terror attacks of Sept. 11. The intelligence agency repeatedly came back empty-handed. The best hope for Iraqi ties to the attack — a report that lead hijacker Mohamed Atta met with an Iraqi intelligence official in the Czech Republic — was discredited last week.

“The White House’s biggest fear is that U.N. weapons inspectors will be allowed to go in,” says a top Senate foreign policy aide. (Time Magazine)

Throughout this period, and into 2003, Mr Blair was insisting in public that war was not inevitable. In May 2002 he said Iraq would be “in a far better position” without Saddam, but added: “Does that mean that military action is imminent or about to happen? No. We’ve never said that.” (The Independent)

US/UK bombing of Iraq intensifies: Despite strict No-Fly Zone guildeines, Rumsfeld had ordered a more aggressive approach What was going on? There were very strict rules of engagement in the no-fly zones. Rumsfeld later said this was simply to prevent the Iraqis attacking allied aircraft, but a British Foreign Officers’ remark told more: In reality, the “spikes of activity” were designed “to put pressure on the regime.” (Sunday Times)

May 2002
Karen Kwiatkowski says: “From May 2002 until February 2003, I observed firsthand the formation of the Pentagon’s Office of Special Plans and watched the latter stages of the neoconservative capture of the policy-intelligence nexus in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq… I saw a narrow and deeply flawed policy favored by some executive appointees in the Pentagon used to manipulate and pressurize the traditional relationship between policymakers in the Pentagon and U.S. intelligence agencies. I witnessed neoconservative agenda bearers within OSP usurp measured and carefully considered assessments, and through suppression and distortion of intelligence analysis promulgate what were in fact falsehoods to both Congress and the executive office of the president. (Salon)

June 1, 2002
In a speech at West Point, Bush commits the United States to a doctrine of preemption: “Our security will require all Americans…[to] be ready for preemptive action when necessary to defend our liberty and to defend our lives.” (White House)

July 21, 2002
Cabinet Office paper: Conditions for military action:

“1. The US Government’s military planning for action against Iraq is proceeding apace. But, as yet, it lacks a political framework. In particular, little thought has been given to creating the political conditions for military action, or the aftermath and how to shape it.

2. When the Prime Minister discussed Iraq with President Bush at Crawford in April he said that the UK would support military action to bring about regime change, provided that certain conditions were met: efforts had been made to construct a coalition/shape public opinion, the Israel-Palestine Crisis was quiescent, and the options for action to eliminate Iraq’s WMD through the UN weapons inspectors had been exhausted.

3. We need now to reinforce this message and to encourage the US Government to place its military planning within a political framework, partly to forestall the risk that military action is precipitated in an unplanned way by, for example, an incident in the No Fly Zones. This is particularly important for the UK because it is necessary to create the conditions in which we could legally support military action. Otherwise we face the real danger that the US will commit themselves to a course of action which we would find very difficult to support. (Sunday Times)

July 23, 2002
From The Downing Street Memo, minutes of an official high-level meeting between British and American officials: British intel MI6 director Sir Richard Dearlove “reported on his recent talks in Washington… Military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy. The NSC had no patience with the UN route, and no enthusiasm for publishing material on the Iraqi regime’s record. There was little discussion in Washington of the aftermath after military action.

“The Defense Secretary said that the US had already begun “spikes of activity” to put pressure on the regime. No decisions had been taken, but he thought the most likely timing in US minds for military action to begin was January, with the timeline beginning 30 days before the US Congressional elections.

“It seemed clear that Bush had made up his mind to take military action, even if the timing was not yet decided. But the case was thin. Saddam was not threatening his neighbours, and his WMD capability was less than that of Libya, North Korea or Iran. We should work up a plan for an ultimatum to Saddam to allow back in the UN weapons inspectors. This would also help with the legal justification for the use of force. (Raw Story; via Sunday Times)

MINISTERS were warned in July 2002 that Britain was committed to taking part in an American-led invasion of Iraq and they had no choice but to find a way of making it legal. The warning, in a leaked Cabinet Office briefing paper, said Tony Blair had already agreed to back military action to get rid of Saddam Hussein at a summit at the Texas ranch of President George W Bush three months earlier. The briefing paper, for participants at a meeting of Blair’s inner circle on July 23, 2002, said that since regime change was illegal it was “necessary to create the conditions” which would make it legal. . . .

“It is just possible that an ultimatum could be cast in terms which Saddam would reject,” the document says. But if he accepted it and did not attack the allies, they would be “most unlikely” to obtain the legal justification they needed. Suggestions that the allies use the UN to justify war contradicts claims by Blair and Bush, repeated during their Washington summit in June, 2005, that they turned to the UN in order to avoid having to go to war. (Sunday Times)

Late July 2002
“At the end of July 2002, they need $700 million, a large amount of money for all these tasks. And the president approves it. But Congress doesn’t know and it is done. They get the money from a supplemental appropriation for the Afghan War, which Congress has approved. …Some people are gonna look at a document called the Constitution which says that no money will be drawn from the Treasury unless appropriated by Congress. Congress was totally in the dark on this.” (CBS News)

August 2, 2002
Scott Ritter states: “Are the weapons that were loaded up with VX destroyed? Yes. Is the equipment used to produce VX on a large scale destroyed? Yes.

“The fact Tony Blair cannot put on the table any substantive facts about a re-constituted Iraqi chemical weapons programme is proof positive that no such evidence exists.” (Tribune)

August 7, 2002
Cheney says of Saddam Hussein, “What we know now, from various sources, is that he… continues to pursue a nuclear weapon.” (New Yorker)

August 2002
U.S., UK conduct secret bombing campaign. “The [air] attacks were intensified from May, six months before the United Nations resolution that Tony Blair and Lord Goldsmith, the attorney-general, argued gave the coalition the legal basis for war. By the end of August the raids had become a full air offensive. (Sunday Times)

Powell reports trouble getting U.S. allies on board for a war with Iraq… As Bush leaves for an August vacation in Crawford, Texas, he agrees to take his case to the U.N. and asks his advisers to start preparing the speech. (PBS)

August 26, 2002
Cheney suggests Saddam had a nuclear capability that could directly threaten “anyone he chooses, in his own region or beyond.” (New Yorker)

September 5, 2002
When It became clear that Saddam Hussein would not provide justification to launch the air war, the U.S. and UK launched it anyway, beneath the cloak of the no-fly zone. More than a hundred allied aircraft attacked the H-3 airfield, Iraq’s main air defence site. At the furthest extreme of the southern no-fly zone, far away from the areas that needed to be patrolled to prevent attacks on the Shias, it was destroyed not because it was a threat to the patrols, but to allow allied special forces operating from Jordan to enter Iraq undetected. (New Statesman)

September 8, 2002
Cheney tells a TV interviewer, “We do know, with absolute certainty, that [Saddam] is using his procurement system to acquire the equipment he needs in order to enrich uranium to build a nuclear weapon.”

Condoleezza Rice says, “We don’t want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud”— a formulation that was taken up by hawks in the Administration. (New Yorker)

September 9, 2002
The International Institute for Strategic Studies releases a report that says Iraq was, “only months away if it were able to get hold of weapons grade uranium . . . from a foreign source.” The IISS had bad information. Their argument was compounded by a UK Dossier that relied on the IISS report. (US News)

September 14,2002
Bush says, “Saddam Hussein has the scientists and infrastructure for a nuclear-weapons program, and has illicitly sought to purchase the equipment needed to enrich uranium for a nuclear weapon.” There was no confirmed intelligence for the President’s assertion. (New Yorker)

September 16, 2002
Iraq unconditionally accepts the return of UN inspectors. (BBC)

September 17, 2002
Bush’s National Security Strategy asserts that the US will never again allow its military supremacy to be challenged and embraces unilateral preemptive military strikes. (White House)

September 19, 2002
Washington Post cites the IISS report to show that the aluminum tubes sought by Iraq were unlikely to have been intended for a nuclear program. (Washington Post)

September 24, 2002 George Tenet and other senior intelligence officials brief the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Iraq’s weapons capability as Congress prepares to vote on authorizing war in Iraq. According to Seymou Hersh, this briefing includes claims about both the aluminum tubes and the Niger uranium. Two days later, Colin Powell will also cite the Niger uranium before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. (New Yorker)

September 24, 2002
(The “sexed up” dossier) Tony Blair is convinced new sources of intelligence from inside Iraq provide “persuasive and overwhelming” evidence that Saddam Hussein is reassembling and expanding his weapons programme… Blair is confident that the 55-page dossier on weapons of mass destruction will convince many doubters. He told colleagues: “Saddam is developing his weapons programme and doing it as fast as he can.” (Guardian)

September 26, 2002
Rice says Qaeda operatives have found refuge in Baghdad, and accuses Hussein of helping Osama bin Laden’s followers develop chemical weapons. (CBS News)

(Concluded in Part 3)

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