"From the very beginning, there was a conviction that Saddam Hussein was a bad person and that he needed to go." Saddam's removal is the first item of Bush's inaugural national security meeting. Then-Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill later tells journalist Ron Suskind, "It was all about finding a way to do it. That was the tone of it. The president saying, 'Go find me a way to do this.'"
Bush also says the emphasis on Iraq will accompany a de-emphasis on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Secretary of State Colin Powell says US disengagement would give Ariel Sharon free rein and bring further suffering upon the Palestinians. According to Suskind's later book, "The One Percent Doctrine," Bush replies, "Sometimes a show of force by one side can really clarify things."
US and British jets bomb targets outside the Iraqi no-fly zone, near Baghdad. Bush says the strikes are intended "to send a clear signal to Saddam."
Colin Powell, on a visit to Egypt, says that Saddam Hussein "has not developed any significant capability with respect to weapons of mass destruction. He is unable to project conventional power against his neighbors."
L. Paul "Jerry" Bremer, former chairman of the National Commission on Terrorism and later head of the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq, comments presciently at a conference, "The new administration seems to be paying no attention to the problem of terrorism. What they will do is stagger along until there's a major incident and then suddenly say, `Oh, my God, shouldn't we be organized to deal with this?'"
A Pentagon document dated March 5, 2001 and titled "Foreign Suitors for Iraqi Oilfield Contracts" includes a map of areas for potential exploration. It is brought to light by Ron Suskind in his book "The Price of Loyalty." "It talks about contractors around the world from, you know, 30-40 countries," Suskind will tell CBS. "And which ones have what intentions on oil in Iraq."
Mohammad Atta allegedly meets with senior Iraqi intelligence officials at the Iraqi embassy in Prague. The 9/11 Report (Section 7) will later debunk this claim: "The FBI has gathered evidence indicating that Atta was in Virginia Beach on April 4 (as evidenced by a bank surveillance camera photo), and in Coral Springs, Florida, on April 11, where he leased an apartment. On April 6, 9, 10, and 11, Atta's cellular telephone was used numerous times to call various lodging establishments in Florida from cell sites within Florida. No evidence has been found that Atta was in the Czech Republic in April 2001." Dick Cheney will nevertheless repeatedly invoke the meeting as evidence of a link between Al Qaeda and Saddam.
A report containing research provided by a CIA analyst known only as Joe reaches top Bush administration officials. It claims that aluminum tubes being sought by Iraq are meant for uranium centrifuges. The assessment is immediately challenged by the Energy Department, which builds centrifuges and runs the government's nuclear weapons programs. The New York Times in 2004 will report, "The next day, Energy Department officials ticked off a long list of reasons why the tubes did not appear well suited for centrifuges. Simply put, the analysis concluded that the tubes were the wrong size - too narrow, too heavy, too long - to be of much practical use in a centrifuge."
"Just because FBI and CIA have failed to find the linkages [between bin Laden and Iraq] doesn't mean that they don't exist."
- Paul Wolfowitz
The Energy Department proposes an alternative explanation for the aluminum tubes that CIA analyst "Joe" claims are for nuclear purposes. According to a later New York Times account, "It turned out, [the Department of Energy] reported, that Iraq had for years used high-strength aluminum tubes to make combustion chambers for slim rockets fired from launcher pods. Back in 1996, inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency had even examined some of those tubes, also made of 7075-T6 aluminum, at a military complex, the Nasser metal fabrication plant in Baghdad, where the Iraqis acknowledged making rockets. According to the international agency, the rocket tubes, some 66,000 of them, were 900 millimeters in length, with a diameter of 81 millimeters and walls 3.3 millimeters thick. The tubes now sought by Iraq had precisely the same dimensions - a perfect match."
On or around this date, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice is briefed by CIA director George Tenet and counterterrorism chief J. Cofer Black about terror threats. Bob Woodward, in his book "State of Denial," reports that Tenet and Black decided they had to request a dramatic, "out-of-cycle" meeting with Rice to convey their anxiety over the chance of an attack against American interests, possibly within the United States. It was, according to Woodward, the "starkest warning they had given the White House" on bin Laden and Al Qaeda. Rice, in Woodward's account, was "polite," but Tenet and Black "felt the brush-off."
When Woodward's book came out in October 2006, Rice denied that the meeting--which the State Dept. confirmed took place--was exceptional, and disputed Woodward's characterization. "What I am quite certain of is that I would remember if I was told, as this account apparently says, that there was about to be an attack in the United States," she said. [A]nd the idea that I would somehow have ignored that I find incomprehensible."
Condoleezza Rice says of Saddam, "We are able to keep arms from him. His military forces have not been rebuilt." However, she says, the administration will continue to apply "pressure."
Presidential Daily Briefing handed to Bush: "Bin Laden Determined to Strike in US." FBI information, it said, "indicates patterns of suspicious activity in this country consistent with preparations for hijackings or other types of attacks, including recent surveillance of federal buildings in New York." Ron Suskind's book "The One Percent Doctrine" will report that a CIA officer flew to Bush's ranch to call the President's attention to the document. After the briefing, Bush said, "All right. You've covered your ass, now."
In a lengthy speech to Pentagon workers, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld says that there is an "adversary that poses a threat, a serious threat, to the security of the United States of America." Rumsfeld says it is an enemy "more subtle and more implacable" than the former Soviet Union, and is "closer to home" than "the last decrepit dictators of the world." He is speaking of Pentagon bureaucracy.
The National Security Agency intercepts a message (translated Sept. 12): "The match is about to begin" and "Tomorrow is the zero hour." Three years later it will be revealed that the FBI still hasn't translated 120,000 hours of potentially valuable terrorism-related recordings.
Al Qaeda attacks the United States. Almost 3,000 people die in two attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City, one attack on the Pentagon in Washington D.C., and on an airliner that crashes in rural Pennsylvania. Dick Cheney issues a shoot-down order that is too late to be of any use, claiming that he did so after speaking via phone with the President. The 9/11 Commission will be unable to find evidence of the call.
A note from an aide who was with the Secretary of Defense at the National Military Command Center shows that just five hours after the attacks Rumsfeld says, "Best info fast. Judge whether good enough to hit S.H. at same time. Not only UBL Go massive. Sweep it all up. Things related and not."
According to Richard Clarke's book, "Against All Enemies," Bush collars Clarke and says, "I know you have a lot to do and all, but I want you, as soon as you can, to go back over everything, everything. See if Saddam did this. See if he's linked in any way." Clarke responds, "But, Mr. President, Al Qaeda did this." Bush tells him, "I know, I know, but -- see if Saddam was involved. Just look. I want to know any shred...."
Mid September 2001
The United States greatly expands the practice of "extraordinary rendition" whereby individuals suspected of having information are sent to countries known to torture prisoners.
Six days after the Sept. 11 attacks, President Bush signs a document outlining the war on terror. In a minor note, the document directs the Pentagon to begin planning military options for an invasion of Iraq.
President Bush tells CIA chief George Tenet, "I want to know about links between Saddam and al Qaeda. The Vice President knows some things that might be helpful." Vice President Cheney tells Tenet about a report that one of the hijackers, Mohammed Atta, met with senior Iraqi intelligence officials in Prague. Tenet promises to investigate. Two days later, Tenet reports back: CIA's Prague office thinks the Atta story "doesn't add up." Moreover, the intelligence community knows that Atta's credit card and phone were used in Virginia during the period in question. Cheney, however, will continue to cite the alleged meeting in public appearances.
According to the 9/11 Commission Report, on this date undersecretary of defense Douglas J. Feith wrote to Donald Rumsfeld and "expressed disappointment at the limited options immediately available in Afghanistan and the lack of ground options. [He] suggested instead hitting terrorists outside the Middle East in the initial offensive, perhaps deliberately selecting a non-al Qaeda target like Iraq."
Bush and Blair meet for a private White House dinner. According to the former British Ambassador to Washington, Blair told Bush not to get distracted from the war on terror. Bush replied, "I agree with you, Tony. We must deal with this first. But when we have dealt with Afghanistan, we must come back to Iraq."
A letter to President Bush from the neoconservative Project for the New American Century says, "Even if evidence does not link Iraq directly to the 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." New Republic editor Marty Peretz signs on.
President Bush is informed in a highly classified briefing that the US intelligence community cannot link Saddam Hussein to the 9/11 attacks and that there is little evidence pointing to collaborative ties between Iraq and Al Qaeda.
President Bush announces Operation Enduring Freedom, aimed at dismantling Afghanistan's Taliban regime, which is harboring al Qaeda.
Late November 2001
Osama bin Laden is pinned down at Tora Bora. The CIA asks the US military to supply additional troops to help capture him. The White House asks Pakistani President Musharraf to put Pakistani troops on the Afghan-Pakistan border to cut off bin Laden's escape routes. Neither request is fulfilled, and bin Laden escapes.
According to Bob Woodward's "Plan of Attack": "President Bush, after a National Security Council meeting, takes Don Rumsfeld aside, collars him physically, and takes him into a little cubbyhole room and closes the door and says, 'What have you got in terms of plans for Iraq? What is the status of the war plan? I want you to get on it. I want you to keep it secret."' Woodward adds that, immediately after Rumsfeld and [General Tommy] Franks work out a deal under which Franks can spend any money he needs. "And so he starts building runways and pipelines and doing all the preparations in Kuwait, specifically to make war possible."
According to Bob Woodward, Rumsfeld orders Franks to begin work on an Iraq war plan. Bush will meet with military leaders regarding the plan on a regular basis starting late December, despite public assurances that the administration is seeking a diplomatic solution to its showdown with Saddam.
In an interview with Newsweek, Bush declares "Saddam is evil."
Vice President Cheney, appearing on Meet the Press, claims it has "been pretty well confirmed that [Mohammed Atta] did go to Prague and he did meet with a senior official of the Iraqi intelligence service in Czechoslovakia last April, several months before the attack."He will continue to say this even after the FBI, CIA, and Czech intelligence back off the claim. The 9/11 Commission will debunk it thoroughly.
Tommy Franks tells Donald Rumsfeld that he has a plan for softening up Iraq. "I'm thinking in terms of spikes, Mr. Secretary," he writes in his book "American Soldier." "Spurts of activity followed by periods of inactivity. We want the Iraqis to become accustomed to military expansion, and then apparent contraction." The Downing Street memos have proof that these spikes were used. In July 2002 British Defense Secretary Geoff Hoon is quoted as saying that the US "had already begun 'spikes of activity' to put pressure on the regime." This seem to contradict President Bush, who said, in Oct 2002, that "I have not ordered the use of force. I hope the use of force will not become necessary."
According to Woodward's Plan of Attack, General Tommy Franks briefs Bush on the Pentagon's Iraq war planning at his Crawford ranch. Bush had directed the start of such planning five weeks earlier. Afterwards, Bush tells reporters they spoke about Afghanistan.
After two weeks of increasingly harsh interrogation, including waterboarding, al-Libi breaks down and starts to talk. But he provides information he is not in a position to know, telling his interrogators that al Qaeda operatives received chemical weapons training from the Iraqi government. The DIA (Defense Intelligence Agency) will express concerns early on that al-Libi is telling his questioners what they want to hear. Nevertheless, al-Libi's information will be the basis for the Bush Administration's repeated claim that Iraq provided Al Qaeda with training on chemical and biological weapons. Al-Libi will later recant his testimony.
John Yoo of the Office of Legal Counsel in the Justice Department prepares a memo addressed to high Pentagon officials. It declares that the laws of war, including the Geneva Conventions, do not apply to Taliban or al Qaeda prisoners, nor to the military commissions set up to try such prisoners. The memo essentially argues that the president has unrestricted powers to conduct military operations.
Alberto Gonzalez seconds Yoo, saying, "In my judgment, this new paradigm renders obsolete Geneva's strict limitations on questioning of enemy prisoners and renders quaint some of its provisions."
William Howard Taft IV, the State Department's Legal Director, responds to John Yoo's January 9 memo, calling Yoo's analysis "seriously flawed." Taft writes: "In preceding conflicts, the United States managed thousands of prisoners without disavowing its obligations under the [Geneva] Conventions. There is no doubt that we may do the same in the current instance." Taft ends scathingly, "Your position is, at this point, erroneous in its substance and untenable in practice. Your conclusions are as wrong as they are incomplete.
One week after the first detainees arrive at Guantanamo, President Bush decides that they will not receive prisoner-of-war protection under the Geneva Conventions.
Alberto Gonzalez renders Geneva obsolete for US purposes in a policy-setting memo. When Secretary of State Colin Powell reads it, he immediately sets up a meeting with the President, telling him the document, if followed, "will reverse over a century of US policy and practice."
Bush calls Iraq, Iran, and North Korea the "Axis of Evil" in his State of the Union address. The man who coined the phrase, Bush speechwriter David Frum, will later write in his book that he came up with it in answer to the question, "Can you sum up in a sentence or two our best case for going after Iraq?"
A report from the DIA (Defense Intelligence Agency) informs top officials that captured Al Qaeda operative al-Libi is likely a fabricator. Periodically after this point, high-level members of the Bush Administration, including the President, will cite al-Libi's information in public appearances. Colin Powell relies heavily on accounts provided by al-Libi for his speech to the United Nations Security Council on February 5, 2003, saying that he was tracing "the story of a senior terrorist operative telling how Iraq provided training in [the use of chemical] weapons to Al Qaeda."
The same DIA report states, "Saddam's regime is intensely secular and is wary of Islamic revolutionary movements [like al Qaeda]. Moreover, Baghdad is unlikely to provide assistance to a group it cannot control."
Sen. Bob Graham in 2004 relates an exchange that occurred at this time: "I was asked by one of the senior commanders of Central Command to go into his office. We did, the door was closed, and he turned to me, and he said, 'Senator, we have stopped fighting the war on terror in Afghanistan. We are moving military and intelligence personnel and resources out of Afghanistan to get ready for a future war in Iraq.'"
Bush, citing the highly suspect testimony of captured Al Qaeda operative al-Libi, says in a radio address, "Iraq has also provided al Qaeda with chemical and biological weapons training."
Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld tells Tony Snow of Fox News: "Iraq is probably not a nuclear threat at the present time."
The FBI issues a terrorism alert telling authorities to look out for more than a dozen Yemeni or Saudi men who may be planning an attack in the United States or Yemen. The next day Attorney General John Ashcroft calls on "all Americans to be on the highest state of alert."
Former US Ambassador Joseph Wilson travels to Niger to check out claims, based on a purported memorandum of understanding, that Saddam tried to obtain yellowcake uranium there. He learns that any authentic memorandum of understanding concerning yellowcake sales would have required the signatures of Niger's Prime Minister, Foreign Minister and Minister of Mines. No one has signed such a document. He also concludes that as Niger pre-sold all its uranium to Japanese and European partners, it would have none left to sell to Iraq.
A CIA report describing the findings of Joseph Wilson's trip to Niger - findings discrediting the claim that Saddam attempted to obtain yellowcake uranium from that country - is circulated widely throughout the intelligence community. It is not flagged for high-level White House officials, and they do not see it.
"Chalabi's defector reports [are] 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," according to an October 2003 report by Seymour Hersh in The New Yorker. The piece quotes Greg Thielmann, top intelligence official for the State Department, as saying, "There was considerable skepticism throughout the intelligence community about the reliability of Chalabi's sources, but the defector reports were coming all the time. Knock one down and another comes along. Meanwhile, the garbage was being shoved straight to the President."
Seymour Hersh reports in The New Yorker, in October 2003, that by this time "it was understood by many in the White House that the President had decided, in his own mind, to go to war." Hersh adds, "The undeclared decision had a devastating impact on the continuing struggle against terrorism. 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. Linguists and special operatives were abruptly reassigned, and several ongoing anti-terrorism intelligence programs were curtailed."
The President seems to affirm this when he pokes his head into a meeting between Rice and three senators and says, "Fuck Saddam, We're taking him out."
One year later, in March 2003, President Bush will tell the public, "I've not made up our [sic] mind about military action."
The State Department's intelligence bureau, INR, publishes an assessment entitled, "Niger: Sale of Uranium to Iraq Is Unlikely." According to the 2004 Senate Select Committee on Intelligence report, the INR analyst who drafted the document said it was produced at the behest of the Vice President's office.
The Downing Street memo known as the"Iraq: Options Paper" is prepared by Tony Blair's defense aides to outline military options for regime change in Iraq.
It reads, in part: "Iraq continues to develop WMD, although our intelligence is poor. Saddam has used WMD in the past and could do so again if his regime were threatened, though there is no greater threat now than in recent years that Saddam will use WMD.
"The US has lost confidence in containment. Some in government want Saddam removed. The success of Operation Enduring Freedom, distrust of UN sanctions and inspection regimes, and unfinished business from 1991 are all factors. Washington believes the legal basis for an attack on Iraq already exists. Nor will it necessarily be governed by wider political factors. The US may be willing to work with a much smaller coalition than we think desirable.
"Regime change has no basis in international law."
President Bush, in a press conference, says of Bin Laden: "I'll repeat what I said. I truly am not that concerned about him."
British intelligence reports that there is only "sporadic and patchy" evidence about Saddam's alleged WMD. "We believe Iraq retains some production equipment, and some small stocks of CW [chemical warfare] agent precursors, and may have hidden small quantities of agents and weapons... There is no intelligence on any BW [biological warfare] agent production facilities."
A US attempt to oust Jose Bustani from his position as the director-general of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) fails. Bustani, who leads a worldwide effort to eliminate and control WMD, has had a successful five-year term; Colin Powell has praised his "very impressive" work. But after Bustani argues that getting Saddam Hussein to sign international chemical weapons treaties would provide an alternative to war, the United States accuses him of "financial mismanagement," "demoralization" of his staff, "bias," and "ill-considered initiatives." The US pushes for a no-confidence vote at the UN, which it loses on this day. The United States threatens to undercut funding for the OPCW, and by April 2002 Bustani is gone.
Late March 2002
Dick Cheney tells Republican senators that the question is no longer if the US will invade Iraq, but when.
The Downing Street memo later known as the "Peter Ricketts Letter" is written by political director Peter Ricketts to Foreign Secretary Jack Straw. It weighs the political implications of joining the US drive to oust Saddam.
It reads, in part: "The truth is that what has changed is not the pace of Saddam Hussein's WMD programmes, but our tolerance of them post-11 September. This is not something we need to be defensive about, but attempts to claim otherwise publicly will increase skepticism about our case.
" even the best survey of Iraq's WMD programmes will not show much advance in recent years ont he nuclear, missile or CW/BW fronts: the programmes are extremely worrying but have not, as far as we know", been stepped up.
"US scrambling to establish a link between Iraq and Al Qaida is so far frankly unconvincing. To get public and Parliamentary support for military operations, we have to be convincing that:
- the threat is so serious/imminent that it is worth sending our troops to die for;
- it is qualitatively different from the threat posed by other proliferators who are closer to achieving nuclear capability (including Iran).
"But we are still left with a problem of bringing public opinion to accept the imminence of a threat from Iraq. This is something the Prime Minister and President need to have a frank discussion about. For Iraq, regime change: does not stack up. It sounds like a grudge between Bush and Saddam."
Appearing on CNN's Late Edition, Cheney says of Saddam, "This is a man of great evil, as the president said. And he is actively pursuing nuclear weapons at this time."
In advance of Blair's trip to Texas, British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw addresses a memo to the prime minister. It will become the Downing Street memo known as the "Jack Straw memo."
It reads, in part: "The rewards from your visit to Crawford will be few. The risks are high, both for you and for the Government. I judge that there is at present no majority inside the [Parliamentary Labor Party] for any military action against Iraq, (alongside a greater readiness in the PLP to surface their concerns). Colleagues know that Saddam and the Iraqi regime are bad. Making that case is easy. But we have a long way to go to convince them as to:
(a) the scale of the threat from Iraq and why this has got worse recently:
(b) what distinguishes the Iraqi threat from that of e.g. Iran and North Korea so as to justify military action;
(c) the justification for any military action in terms of international law: and
(d) whether the consequence of military action really would be a compliant, law-abiding replacement government.
" there has been no credible evidence to link Iraq with UBL and Al Qaida. Objectively, the threat from Iraq has not worsened as a result of 11 September. What has however changed is the tolerance of the international community (especially that of the US), the world having witnessed on September 11 just what determined evil people can these days perpetrate.
"THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN IRAQ, IRAN AND NORTH KOREA. By linking these countries together in this 'axis of evil' speech, President Bush implied an identity between them not only in terms of their threat, but also in terms of the action necessary to deal with the threat, but also in terms of the action necessary to deal with the threat. A lot of work will now [be] need[ed] to delink the three, and to show why military action against Iraq is so much more justified than against Iran and North Korea.
"We have also to answer the big question - what will this action achieve? There seems to be a larger hole in this than on anything. Most of the assessments from the US have assumed regime change as a means of eliminating Iraq's WMD threat. But none has satisfactorily answered how that regime change is to be secured, and how there can be any certainty that the replacement regime will be better.
"Iraq has had NO history of democracy so no-one has this habit or experience."
President Bush tells Britain's ITV: "I made up my mind that Saddam needs to go."
US officials discover that detainee Yaser Esam Hamdi, previously thought to be a Saudi, was in fact born in Louisiana, and they evacuate him from Guantanamo Bay to Norfolk, VA. Hamdi will be held in solitary confinement for more than two years without charges. His court case, challenging the United States' authority to hold enemy combatants indefinitely, will rise to the Supreme Court. The Court will rule that detainees are owed some measure of due process and must be charged.
Bush: "The other day we hauled in a guy named Abu Zubaydah. He's one of the top operatives plotting and planning death and destruction on the United States." Members of the Administration call Zubaydah a "chief operator" and a "member of Osama bin Laden's inner circle."
When Bush is informed of Zubaydah's true stature within Al Qaeda (he is essentially a travel agent, having no role in operations, and is mentally ill to boot), Bush says to Tenet, "I said he was important. You're not going to let me lose face on this, are you?" Tenet's reply: "No sir, Mr. President." The CIA has top medical professionals fly to Pakistan to fix up the wounds Zubaydah sustained in his capture. "We got him in very good health, so we could start to torture him," says one CIA official.
Reports emerge that American forces could have caught or killed bin Laden at Tora Bora. Reporters confront Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld with the story. He says he does not "know today of any evidence" that bin Laden "was in Tora Bora at the time, or that he left Tora Bora at the time." Later reports will make clear that the military was asked by the CIA at the time to supply troops to help close off bin Laden's escape routes. The military declined.
Jose Bustani is removed from his job as the head of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), in a special session of the UN called by the United States. The US dislikes him because he advocates solutions to the Iraq standoff short of war. After an earlier vote failed to remove Bustani, the US threatened to withhold OPCW's funding. Because the US provides over 20 percent of total funds, this act would hobble the organization. AP will later report that John Bolton, then undersecretary of state for arms control, led the charge for Bustani's removal.
A year after Bustani loses his job, a UN tribunal will rule that the US charges against Bustani were "extremely vague" and that he was wrongly dismissed. He is awarded damages.
A Saudi delegation including head of state Prince Saud dines with George Bush and his advisers in Texas. The Saudis presents a list of requests, including that the United States will show greater concern for the Palestinians. President Bush agrees to nothing and makes no request for help on the war on terror, losing a key opportunity for diplomacy. The Saudis wonder if Bush read the very short preparatory document they had sent a few days in advance. Bush never got the document; it had been diverted to Vice President Cheney's office.
Details of the President's daily briefing of August 6, 2001, are revealed, including its title: "Bin Laden determined to strike in US." The same day, another pre-9/11 memo is discovered revealing that an FBI agent in Arizona had urged his superiors to more thoroughly investigate Middle Eastern men enrolling in flight schools in the US. Almost none of the information garnered by the FBI in monitoring flights schools was shared with the CIA before 9/11.
Tommy Franks is asked for details on how he would invade Iraq. He responds, "That's a great question and one for which I don't have an answer because my boss has not yet asked me to put together a plan to do that." (FDCH Political Transcripts, 05/21/02.) In fact, Franks was asked to start planning in Nov. 2001.
President Bush goes on record as opposing the formation of the 9/11 Commission.
Cheney and Libby begin visits to the CIA to have direct exchanges with analysts, creating an environment in which analysts often feel pressured to make intelligence and assessments match what the White House wants. "The analysts at the CIA. were beaten down defending their assessments," a former CIA official later tells The New Yorker's Seymour Hersh.
The US asks the French to investigate the claim that Niger sold uranium to Iraq because French companies control mines in Niger. A French official sent a team of six to Niger to investigate. "We told the Americans, 'Bullshit. It doesn't make any sense,'" said the official.
Condoleezza Rice interrupts a deputy raising doubts about an Iraq war: "Save your breath. The President has already made up his mind."
Beginning of Operation Southern Focus, a bombing campaign against Iraqi defenses intended to lay the groundwork for invasion. The military admits in the summer of 2003 that it flew 21,736 sorties over southern Iraq between this time and the start of the war, attacking 349 targets. Bush tells the public four months later he hopes to avoid the use of force.
Colleen Rowley, the FBI agent who tried and failed to get her superiors to fully investigate Zacarias Moussaoui, testifies before Congress. She will be on the cover of TIME Magazine's 2002 Person of the Year issue, which is dedicated to whistleblowers.
A CIA report entitled "Iraq and al Qa'ida: Interpreting a Murky Relationship" says, "Reporting is contradictory on hijacker Mohammed Atta's alleged trip to Prague and meeting with an Iraqi intelligence officer, and we have not verified his travels."
Late July 2002
General Franks requests $700 million for war preparations. The President agrees and Congress is not informed. The money comes from a supplemental appropriation for the war in Afghanistan that Congress previously approved, Bob Woodward reports in "Plan of Attack."
Sources in the British government tell the British press that the decision to go to war has been made. "President Bush has already made up his mind. This is going to happen. It is a given," says one source. The quote will not be reprinted by any mainstream American news sources except the conservative National Review, which attempts to downplay its importance in June 2005.
The so-called "Cabinet Office Paper" is written to prep Tony Blair's closest aides for a discussion on war in Iraq. It reads, "US military planning unambiguously takes as its objective the removal of Saddam Hussein's regime, followed by elimination of Iraqi WMD. A post-war occupation of Iraq could lead to a protracted and costly nation-building exercise. As already made clear, the US military plans are virtually silent on this point."
The White House Iraq Group is created. Its members include Karl Rove, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Condoleezza Rice, Stephen J. Hadley, as well as Karen Hughes and Mary Matalin. Its job is to sell the Iraq War to the public.
A Justice Dept memo co-authored by Assistant Attorney General Jay S. Bybee and John Yoo asserts that torture only includes physical pain so great that it leads to "death [or] organ failure," and that "mental pain requires lasting psychological harm." The memo also argues that the criminal law prohibiting torture "may be unconstitutional if applied to interrogations undertaken of enemy combatants pursuant to the President's Commander-in-Chief powers."
General Tommy Franks presents President Bush with an updated war plan.
The Washington Times reports that all of the Joint Chiefs have signed on to an Iraq invasion. Some have resisted for months, but "they can read the handwriting on the wall," says a source close to the administration.
"As we think through Iraq, we may or may not attack. I have no idea yet. But it will be for the objective of making the world more peaceful." - President Bush, in an interview with Bob Woodward for the book "Bush at War."
The same day, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld says: "There are al Qaeda in Iraq. There are."
Late August 2002
Air strikes against Iraq, which have been ongoing through the summer, reach the level of a full air offensive.
At a speech in Nashville, Vice President Cheney says, "Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction. There is no doubt he is amassing them to use against our friends, against our allies, and against us."
Some 30 Americans are sent as CIA moles to Iraq, reports James Risen in his 2006 book "State of War." They all have relatives in Iraq who are close to Iraq's weapons program, and are supposed to come back with information on WMD. All report that Iraq's unconventional weapons programs have been abandoned, and that the nuclear program hasn't been active for years. This intelligence is buried in the CIA, which suspects the moles were duped. No one informs President Bush, and one month later the intelligence community will release an intelligence estimate saying firmly that Iraq "is reconstituting its nuclear program."
U.S. Army General James "Spider" Marks is named the top intelligence officer for the coalition forces planning to invade Iraq. He begins looking at the intelligence on WMD. He finds the information in disarray and top officials disinterested. Intelligence analysts offer him 946 sites in Iraq that could hold WMD, but the information is old, poorly sourced, or not sourced at all. "There was no sense of urgency to get this as granular, as specific as possible, so that I could turn it over to a young private or a young sergeant that was going to come upon this WMD site and do something with that," Marks later tells Congressional Quarterly.
President Bush summons congressional leadership to the White House to make the case for war in Iraq. The next day a larger body of lawmakers is taken to the Pentagon to discuss Iraqi policy with Cheney, Rumsfeld, and CIA director Tenet.
Sen. Bob Graham hosts Tenet in a meeting of the Senate intelligence committee. Graham later writes, "CIA Director George Tenet was asked what the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) provided as the rationale for a preemptive war in Iraq. I was stunned when Tenet said that no NIE had been requested by the White House and none had been prepared." Graham asks for one to be presented to Congress. It will go on to be one of the most controversial documents in the Iraq War period.
"From a marketing point of view you don't introduce new products in August." - White House Chief of Staff Andy Card on selling the Iraq war to the American public.
In a news conference with Tony Blair, President Bush claims that an IAEA report says Iraq is six months from developing a nuclear weapon. Because there is no new report from the IAEA saying this, most news agencies interpret the President to be referring to a 1998 report. When the IAEA objects and says that none of their 1998 reports argue anything of the kind, Scott McClellan tries to clear up the confusion. "He's referring to 1991 there. In '91, there was a report saying that after the war they found out they were about six months away." There are no IAEA reports from 1991 saying this.
National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice appears on CNN, saying the aluminum tubes "are only really suited for nuclear weapons programs, centrifuge programs. "we don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud."
On Meet the Press, Vice President Dick Cheney says that Saddam Hussein "is trying, through his illicit procurement network, to acquire the equipment he needs to be able to enrich uranium - specifically aluminum tubes . There's a story in the New York Times this morning . We do know, with absolute certainty, that he is using his procurement system to acquire the equipment he needs to build a nuclear weapon."
TheNew York Times later writes that "almost a year before, Ms. Rice's staff had been told that the government's foremost nuclear experts seriously doubted that the tubes were for nuclear weapons... The experts, at the Energy Department, believed the tubes were likely intended for small artillery rockets."
Vice President Cheney also says on Meet the Press: "Mohamed Atta, who was the lead hijacker, did apparently travel to Prague on a number of occasions. And on at least one occasion, we have reporting that places him in Prague with a senior Iraqi intelligence official a few months before the attack on the World Trade Center."
Tim Russert: "What does the CIA say about that?"
Vice President Cheney: "It's credible." The CIA in fact deemed this not credible a few days after Cheney first mentioned it.
Bush tells the UN General Assembly that Iraq is a "grave and gathering danger," and that "Iraq has made several attempts to buy high-strength aluminum tubes used to enrich uranium for a nuclear weapon. Should Iraq acquire fissile material, it would be able to build a nuclear weapon within a year."
Cheney also says, "We will work with the UN Security Council for the necessary resolutions." But author Ron Suskind will later write that it was clear "to anyone in the innermost circle around the President [that UN resolutions] would be a faithless exercise; an exercise for show."
Dick Cheney tells Rush Limbaugh, "What's happening, of course, is we're getting additional information that, in fact, [Saddam] is reconstituting his biological, chemical and nuclear weapons programs and that's what really precipitates the concern now."
White House economic advisor Lawrence Lindsay estimates the high limit on the cost of the Iraq War to be 1-2 percent of GNP, or about $100-$200 billion. Mitch Daniels, Director of the Office of Management and Budget, will later discount this, estimating the cost at $50-$60 billion.
Donald Rumsfeld repeatedly tells reporters, "The President hasn't made a decision with respect to Iraq."
Iraq agrees to let UN weapons inspectors return the country "without conditions." The Bush Administration dismisses the offer.
Colin Powell tells Congress, "The President has not decided on a military option. Nobody wants war as a first resort."
Rumsfeld tells Congress: "[Saddam has] amassed large, clandestine stockpiles of biological weapons, including Anthrax, botulism, toxins, and possibly Smallpox. He's amassed large, clandestine stockpiles of chemical weapons, including VX, Sarin and mustard gas. His regime has an active program to acquire nuclear weapons."
Vice President Cheney: "We now have irrefutable evidence that [Saddam] has once again set up and reconstituted his program to take uranium, to enrich it to sufficiently high grade, so that it will function as the base material as a nuclear weapon . And there's no doubt about the fact that the level of effort has escalated in recent months."
Rice says, "There clearly are contacts between al-Qaida and Iraq that can be documented. There clearly is testimony that some of these contacts have been important contacts and there's a relationship here." The CIA will later express frustration at statements like these. Former head of the CIA's bin Laden-hunting group, Michael Scheuer, will later describe an effort he led to find out if the statements could be substantiated. "Tenet, to his credit, had us go back 10 years in the Agency's records, and look and see what we knew about Iraq and al-Qaeda . We examined about 20,000 documents, probably something along the line of 75,000 pages of information. And there was no connection between [al Qaeda] and Saddam."
President Bush says in a Rose Garden speech, "the Iraqi regime possesses biological and chemical weapons." A Defense Intelligence Agency report distributed in the White House around the time of the speech says there is "no reliable information on whether Iraq is producing or stockpiling chemical weapons or whether Iraq has or will establish its chemical agent production facilities."
Donald Rumsfeld calls the link between Iraq and al Qaeda "accurate and not debatable."
Bush addresses the nation: "The danger to our country is grave and it is growing. The Iraqi regime possesses biological and chemical weapons, is rebuilding the facilities to make more and, according to the British government, could launch a biological or chemical attack in as little as 45 minutes after the order is given. The regime has long-standing and continuing ties to terrorist groups, and there are al Qaeda terrorists inside Iraq. This regime is seeking a nuclear bomb, and with fissile material could build one within a year."
At the request of Congress, a National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) is produced. It is supposed to represent the best the intelligence community can offer, and contains the claims that will eventually be justifications for war. Many turn out to be completely wrong. The NIE does include dissents, mostly from the State Department's intelligence bureau, INR. They are largely ignored by policymakers.
In advance of the NIE's release, the Vice President and his Chief of Staff made several unprecedented visits to the CIA, which many say had the effect of distorting the intelligence assessment process. One former CIA officer tells PBS, "I was at the CIA for 24 years. The only time a Vice President came to the CIA building was for a ceremony, to cut a ribbon, to stand on the stage. But not to harangue analysts about finished intelligence."
One of the primary authors of the NIE will later say of its creation, "This wasn't an inquiry into how can Iraq threaten the United States; it wasn't an inquiry into what are Al Qaeda sources of support. It instead was basically research in support of a specific line of argument I regret having had a role in it."
President Bush: "Of course, I haven't made up my mind we're going to war with Iraq. I've made up my mind we need to disarm the man."
President Bush: "The Iraqi regime is a threat of unique urgency."
Jonathan Landay of Knight Ridder reports that intelligence officials and weapons experts are having doubts about the way the Bush Administration handles dissent on intelligence.
"The White House and the Pentagon, these officials said, are pressuring intelligence analysts to highlight information that supports Bush's Iraq policy and suppress information and analysis that might undercut congressional, public or international support for war."
George Tenet reads a draft of a speech George Bush is set to deliver in Cincinnati on October 7. It includes the claim that Saddam has "been caught attempting to purchase" uranium in Niger. The CIA tells Stephen Hadley and others at the White House that the statement is incorrect.
President Bush delivers a key speech in Cincinnati making the case for war. It contains almost every falsehood and misrepresentation used by the Bush Administration in the pre-war period.
Knight Ridder reporters Warren P. Strobel, Jonathan S. Landay and John Walcott write:
"A growing number of military officers, intelligence professionals and diplomats in [Bush's] own government privately have deep misgivings about the administration's double-time march toward war.
These officials charge that administration hawks have exaggerated evidence of the threat that Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein poses -- including distorting his links to the al-Qaida terrorist network -- have overstated the amount of international support for attacking Iraq and have downplayed the potential repercussions of a new war in the Middle East.
"They charge that the administration squelches dissenting views and that intelligence analysts are under intense pressure to produce reports supporting the White House's argument that Saddam poses such an immediate threat to the United States that pre-emptive military action is necessary."
In response to Bush's October 7 speech in which the President made his case for war against Iraq, anonymous officials tell the Guardian that Bush "relied on a slanted and sometimes entirely false reading of the available US intelligence" and that analysts are being pressured into finding intelligence that supports the administration's policy. "Basically, cooked information is working its way into high-level pronouncements and there's a lot of unhappiness about it in intelligence, especially among analysts at the CIA," says the CIA's former head of counter-intelligence.
The Senate and House both vote overwhelmingly to give Bush authorization to go to war. The bill reads: "The President is authorized to use the Armed Forces of the United States as he determines to be necessary and appropriate in order to (1) defend the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq; and (2) enforce all relevant United Nations Security Council Resolutions regarding Iraq." Authorization is not tied to any UN resolutions.
President Bush tells the public, "I have not ordered the use of force. I hope the use of force will not become necessary."
Naji Sabri, Iraq's foreign minister, makes a deal to reveal Iraqi state secrets, according to the later account of Tyler Drumheller, former CIA chief in Europe. The White House is excited to have a high-level spy in the Iraqi government until he tells them Saddam has no weapons of mass destruction. "The group that was dealing with preparation for the Iraq war came back and said they're no longer interested," Drumheller later tells CBS. Secretary of State Rice says Sabri was just "a single source among multiple sources," and therefore that his information couldn't be regarded as definitive. But, as Drumheller would point out, "They certainly took information that came from single sources on uranium, on the yellowcake story, and on several other stories."
High-level CIA operatives stationed in the Middle East gather in London for a secret meeting. They are told war is inevitable, and just a few months away, according to James Risen's book, "State of War."
"We know he's got chemical weapons." - President Bush
"War is not my first choice, it's my last choice." - President Bush
The UN Security Council passes Resolution 1441, which the Bush Administration eventually uses as legal justification for military action in Iraq. The original draft of the resolution had to be reworked because it too clearly tipped the Bush Administration's intention - to get Saddam to balk and thus justify war. Hans Blix, the head of the UN weapons inspection team in Iraq, said of the first draft, "It was so remote from reality [it] was written by someone who didn't understand how [inspections] function." (Vanity Fair, May 2004) The second draft, which passes, calls for Iraq to disarm or face "serious consequences."
"Five days or five weeks or five months, but it certainly isn't going to last any longer than that. It won't be a World War III." - Donald Rumsfeld, predicting the length of the war in Iraq, on a call-in radio program.
Weapons inspections resume in Iraq, headed by Hans Blix.
Donald Rumsfeld receives a memo requesting that he sign off on "Category III" interrogation techniques for use on prisoners. He does so. It is later shown that Category III interrogation techniques are consistent with torture as defined in US federal law, something the DOD knew at the time of the memo.
Paul O'Neill and Lawrence Lindsay are forced off President Bush’s economic team. Many suspect that Lindsay's public estimate for the cost of the war ($100-200 billion, as against the administration's official estimate of $50-60 million) plays a role.
Iraq submits a 12,200-page declaration to the UN purporting to document all its unconventional arms.
The US discounts the report because it fails to account for various weapons that a UN inspection team said it "could have produced," and because it does not mention the tubes purchased for a uranium centrifuge or the attempts to procure uranium from Niger.
Secretary of State Colin Powell declares, "The Iraqi regime is required by Resolution 1441 to report those attempts. Iraq, however, has failed to provide adequate information about the procurement and use of these tubes. Most brazenly of all, the Iraqi declaration denies the existence of any prohibited weapons programs at all." The State Department issues a fact sheet saying that "The [Iraqi] Declaration ignores efforts to procure uranium from Niger."
The CIA's leadership goes to the White House to present the evidence for WMD in Iraq. Bush is underwhelmed, telling Tenet, "Nice try, but that isn't gonna sell Joe Public This is the best we've got?"
Tenet responds, "It's a slam dunk case!"
Director of the OMB Mitch Daniels tells the New York Times that the estimate for the cost of the war is $50-60 billion, not $100-200 billion, as Lawrence Lindsay had earlier said.
President Bush tells a reporter, "You said we're headed to war in Iraq - I don't know why you say that. I hope we're not headed to war in Iraq. I'm the person who gets to decide, not you."
The former head of Bush's office of faith-based initiatives, John DiIulio, tells Esquire, "There is no precedent in any modern White House for what is going on in this one: a complete lack of a policy apparatus. What you've got is everything - and I mean everything - being run by the political arm. It's the reign of the Mayberry Machiavellis." DiIulio later says he regrets the comments.
"The CIA finally [balks] at being assigned over and over to confirm what it viewed as phony intelligence," according to a later report in The Washington Post. In an angry dispute, CIA Deputy Director John McLaughlin tells Cheney's aide I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, "I'm not going back to the well on this. We've done our work."
Two reports from the National Intelligence Council warn Bush that an Iraq invasion could spark sectarian violence and an anti-US insurgency. One says an occupation could "increase popular sympathy for terrorist objectives." They also express skepticism about the Niger uranium story.
"The Iraqi regime is a threat to any American and to those who are friends of America." - President Bush, rallying troops at Fort Hood.
Mohamed ElBaradei, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (and, two years later, a Nobel Peace Prize recipient), contradicts President Bush on the aluminum tubes intelligence in a presentation to the UN. ElBaradei says the "tubes sought by Iraq in 2001 and 2002 appear to be consistent with reverse engineering of rockets. While it would be possible to modify such tubes for the manufacture of centrifuges, they are not directly suitable for it." The New York Times reports that the CIA, the DIA (Defense Intelligence Agency), and the NSA agree with the Bush Administration's view, while some in the INR (State) and the DOE (Energy) agree with ElBaradei. A senior Bush official tells the Times, "I think the Iraqis are spinning the IAEA."
Hans Blix appears before the UN on the same day as ElBaradei to comment on the Iraqi weapons declaration and to present an update on inspections. He reports that inspectors have found no "smoking guns" in Iraq after two months' work, and that they have not encountered any impediments from the Iraqis.
Donald Rumsfeld shows Saudi ambassador Prince Bandar the administration's war plans for Iraq and says, "You can count on this. This is going to happen." Two days later, Bush tells Colin Powell he has decided to go to war.
A State Department intelligence analyst working on Iraq's nuclear program sends an email to several members of the intelligence community arguing that "the uranium purchase agreement was probably a hoax."
President Bush signs National Security Presidential Directive No. 24, assigning to the Pentagon control over post-war Iraq. According to George Packer's book "The Assassin's Gate," the State Department's "Future of Iraq" project has been making plans for Iraq's reconstruction for almost a year; the Defense Department will use little of State's work and will shut its officials out from crucial posts. With the directive, the Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance (ORHA), is created. Subsumed by the Coalition Provisional Authority six months later, it will be the first post-war authority in Iraq.
The IAEA tells the Washington Post that the aluminum tubes often cited as evidence of Saddam's nuclear ambitions are perfect fits for 81mm rockets used in many rocket launchers. One actually bears the imprint "Rocket." Says one official, "It may be technically possible that the tubes could be used to enrich uranium, but you'd have to believe that Iraq deliberately ordered the wrong stock and intended to spend a great deal of time and money reworking each piece."
IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei tells the UN Security Council that inspections have turned up no evidence of nuclear weapons programs in Iraq. "[I]t appears that the aluminum tubes would be consistent with the purpose stated by Iraq and, unless modified, would not be suitable for manufacturing centrifuges."
The UN issues a press release regarding Iraq's response to Resolution 1441. "It would appear that Iraq had decided in principle to provide cooperation on substance in order to complete the disarmament task through inspection." The press release reports that UN weapons inspectors, after 60 days on the job, have inspected 106 locations and found "no evidence that Iraq had revived its nuclear weapons programme."
President Bush, in his State of the Union address, says the infamous l6 words: "The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa." Various intelligence agencies know this to be false. The CIA made sure the claim was removed from an October 2002 speech Bush gave in Cincinnati.
Bush's speech contains other highly questionable claims: "[Saddam] has attempted to purchase high-strength aluminum tubes suitable for nuclear weapons production." Iraq has "mobile biological weapons labs" designed to produce "germ warfare agents." Saddam builds and keeps "weapons of mass destruction."
In a report entitled "Iraqi Support for Terrorism," the CIA revisits the claim that Mohammad Atta met with an Iraqi intelligence official in Prague. "Some information asserts that Atta met with IIS chief.al-Ani, but the most reliable reporting to date casts doubt on this possibility... A CIA and FBI review of intelligence and open-source reporting leads us to question the information."
British Prime Minister Tony Blair and President Bush meet in the Oval office to discuss the impending invasion of Iraq. A memo of the private meeting written by two senior British officials later reveals that Bush and Blair were aware that no WMDs had been found and that it was possible that they never would be, but Bush, determined to invade, spent the meeting discussing ways in which the two could justify the invasion. Bush also says that it would be a quick victory and it was 'unlikely [that] there would be internecine warfare between the different religious and ethnic groups.' During a news conference following Bush and Blair’s meeting, Bush tells the press that "Saddam is not disarming...this issue will come to a head in a matter of weeks, not months."
Officials in the Bush Administration come together to prepare for Secretary of State Powell's February 5 speech to the UN, in which Powell will put all credible US evidence on the table and make the case for war to the international community. Powell reads an early draft based on work down by Cheney aide I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby and, finding the material poorly sourced and misleading, throws several pages in the air and exclaims, "I'm not reading this. This is bullshit."
The preparations will go on for four days and three nights. Intense scrutiny will be applied to assertions made routinely by Cheney and others, in hopes that Powell will commit himself to only the very best of American intelligence. One 38-page list of allegations against Iraq is whittled down to six pages by Powell and his team.
Colin Powell addresses the UN in an attempt to sway world opinion in favor of war in Iraq. Powell makes a series of inaccurate statements that will badly tarnish his reputation.
Bush follows Powell's presentation with a national address, reiterating the administration's standard claims: Iraq possesses weapons of mass destruction, possesses at least seven mobile factories for germ warfare, and harbors terrorist networks. Bush adds that Iraq has developed spray devices for chemical and biological weapons that could be attached to unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). A UAV launched from a vessel off the American coast could reach hundreds of miles inland.
Donald Rumsfeld ballparks the length of the coming war at a town hall meeting, on an Air Force base. "It could last, you know, six days, six weeks. I doubt six months."
Three State Department bureau chiefs prepare a secret memo for their superior and cite "serious planning gaps for post-conflict public security and humanitarian assistance." They write that "a failure to address short-term public security and humanitarian assistance concerns could result in serious human rights abuses which would undermine an otherwise successful military campaign, and our reputation internationally." They advocate that the State Department stand strong against the Pentagon, which is ignoring the State Departments work in preparation for post-invasion Iraq.
Hans Blix appears before the UN Security Council and says his inspectors have enjoyed uninhibited access to 300 sites over a period of 11 weeks. Everything is in accordance with the Iraqi weapons declaration, and no weapons of mass destruction have been found. He singles out Colin Powells assertion to the UN that trucks found in Iraq are mobile weapons labs, saying that the trucks, photographed weeks apart, could have easily been engaged in "routine activity."
Anti-war rallies take place in nearly 600 cities across the globe, including in Rome, where 3 million march in the world's largest protest.
Retired Army Lt. General Jay Garner, who has been tapped to head the body in charge of Iraq reconstruction efforts, initially known as the Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance (ORHA), brings relevant parties together for a "rock drill" to hash out unanswered questions about post-invasion Iraq. Garner had previously spearheaded humanitarian efforts in the Kurdish areas of northern Iraq, but at the time of his appointment was president of defense contractor SYColeman, which designs missile communications and targeting systems.
A weekend of diagrams and presentations reveals serious holes in the war plan, two of the most important being that there is no plan for policing or any thoughts on the makeup of an Iraqi government. Garner’s second-in-command notes the plans he witnessed were "overly optimistic" and lacked "reality." A report about the "rock drill" forecasts much of what goes awry in Iraq.
General Eric Shinseki tells the Senate Armed Services Committee that the Defense Department's estimate of troops needed for occupying Iraq is too low and says "several hundred thousand soldiers" will be needed. (FDCH Political Transcript, 02/25/03) Paul Wolfowitz, appearing before Congress two days later, responds that Shinseki's estimate is "wildly off the mark." Says Wolfowitz, It's hard to conceive that it would take more forces to provide stability in post-Saddam Iraq than it would take to conduct the war itself and to secure the surrender of Saddams security forces and his Army. Hard to imagine.
Rumsfeld names Shinseki's successor one year before the end of Shinseki's term, making him a lame duck and an example to the rest of the military. Three months after Shinseki's comments, former Army secretary Thomas White will admit that he was right.
Rumsfeld demands that two of Jay Garner’s most qualified team members be let go. One is Tom Warrick, who has led the State Department’s work on regime change issues and has attended a conference of Iraqi opposition leaders, many of whom are opposed to Ahmed Chalabi and his Iraq National Congress taking control.
Diplomat John Brady Kiesling resigns his post at the US embassy in Greece with a scathing letter to Colin Powell. "Our fervent pursuit of war with Iraq is driving us to squander the international legitimacy that has been America's most potent weapon. We have begun to dismantle the largest and most effective web of international relationships the world has ever known. Our current course will bring instability and danger, not security. We have not seen such systematic distortion of intelligence, such systematic manipulation of American opinion, since the war in Vietnam."
"Mr. Secretary, I have enormous respect for your character and ability. You have preserved more international credibility for us than our policy deserves, and salvaged something positive from the excesses of an ideological and self-serving Administration. But your loyalty to the President goes too far."
OHRA chief Gen. Jay Garner prepares a document for Rumsfeld decrying the fact that his team has only $27 million to rebuild Iraq. Garner forecasts the cost of reconstruction to be upwards of $12 billion. Shortly before Garner deploys to the Middle East, Rumsfeld tells him, "If you think we're spending our money on that, you're wrong. We're not doing that. They're going to spend their money rebuilding their country." By fall 2006, the US spends $2 billion a week in Iraq.
Iraq destroys four missiles, meeting a U.N. deadline to begin disarming.
IAEA official tells U.S. that the Niger uranium documents are forgeries so error-filled that "they could be spotted by someone using Google."
Hans Blix, the chief U.N. weapons inspector, appears before the Security Council and says that searches have found "no evidence" of mobile biological production facilities in Iraq. He also says that the Iraqis are cooperating with the inspectors. The IAEA's ElBaradei also speaks and says, "After three months of intrusive inspections, we have to date found no evidence or plausible indication of the revival of a nuclear weapon program in Iraq." He says the Niger uranium documents are "not authentic."
Joseph Wilson appears on CNN and is asked to comment on ElBaradei's appearance at the U.N. the day before, in which ElBaradei called the Niger uranium document forgeries. Wilson says it's an embarrassment that the U.S. intelligence community couldn't come to this conclusion on its own. "It would have taken a couple of phone calls. We have had an embassy there since the early '60s. All this stuff is open." He doubts that ElBaradei's announcement was the first time the U.S. had reason to think the documents were fakes. "I think it's safe to say that the U.S. government should have or did know that this report was a fake before Dr. ElBaradei mentioned it in his report at the U.N. yesterday."
In Wilson's book, "The Politics of Truth," he will claim that this appearance prompted the "workup" meeting between top Cheney aides that led to the decision to smear him and the disclosure of his wife's identity.
President Bush tells the nation, "We are doing everything we can to avoid war in Iraq."
Halliburton is awarded a $7 billion reconstruction contract over the objections of Army Corps of Engineers procurement officer Bunnatine Greenhouse. Testifying before Congress, she later calls the contract "the most blatant and improper contract abuse I have witnessed." She is demoted in short order.
On CBS's Face the Nation, Condoleezza Rice says, "We know from a detainee that - the head of training for al-Qaeda - that they sought help in developing chemical and biological weapons because they weren't doing very well on their own. They sought it in Iraq. They received the help." Al-Libi, the detainee in question, has been doubted by American intelligence since February 2002. All of his intel was obtained under torture, and in 2004 the CIA will recall all intelligence assessments based on his testimony.
Frank Miller, an official handpicked by Condoleezza Rice to handle postwar policy issues, briefs national security deputies and the President on postwar plans. Miller assures them that only the top one percent of Baath Party officials will be purged from the government and that deBathification will leave the Iraqi army largely intact. George Packer writes in The Assassin's Gate, "Everyone up to the president approved these eleventh-hour decisions. And yet, somehow, they would never matter in Iraq. They seemed to exist so that, in case anyone ever asked, someone would say, 'Yes, the president was briefed and he signed off.'"
Miller adds that it is important that deBaathification doesn't cripple the Iraqi military because the army will be integral to the postwar plan. Coalition forces do not have the manpower to control Iraq nor do the troops understand the political situation in the country.
As it becomes increasingly clear that a U.N. resolution justifying the use of force will not pass (Bulgaria is the only country other than the original sponsors to publicly support it), President Bush, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, and Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar meet in the Portuguese Azores for an "emergency summit." At its conclusion, the three leaders restate their commitment to a March 17 deadline for the U.N. to authorize war. Bush says, "tomorrow is a moment of truth for the world."
Cheney appears on Meet the Press.
He says, "My belief is we will, in fact, be greeted as liberators."
On the fact that ElBaradei doubts Saddam Hussein has a nuclear program: "I think Mr. ElBaradei frankly is wrong. And I think if you look at the track record of the International Atomic Energy Agency and this kind of issue, especially where Iraq's concerned, they have consistently underestimated or missed what it was Saddam Hussein was doing."
After saying several times that Saddam is trying to build a nuclear weapons, Cheney says: "And we believe he has, in fact, reconstituted nuclear weapons." Six months later after the beginning of the war, Cheney will claim that he misspoke.
Three days before the bombing of Baghdad begins, 169 members of the Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance fly to Kuwait. Confusion abounds. No one has an org chart of the Iraqi ministries. USAID contractor Albert Cevallos is asked by Army civil affairs officers: "What's the plan for policing?" Cevallos replies: "I thought you knew the plan. Haven't you talked to ORHA?" "No," they reply, "no one talked to us."
Anxious, several members of ORHA - precursor to the Coalition Provisional Authority - draw up a list of sixteen key sites around Baghdad that the military should protect after the fall of the city. The first and second are the central bank and the Iraqi Museum. The last is the Oil Ministry.
Many officials are there because of connections, not expertise. Head of ORHA's civil administration team is Michael Mobbs, a former law partner of Pentagon official and prominent neoconservative Douglas Feith; Mobbs has been appointed at Feith's insistence.
With little international support, the U.S., Britain, and Spain officially scrap the quest to obtain a new U.N. resolution on Iraq. Four and a half months have passed since U.N. Resolution 1441, and a new resolution would signal the world's belief that Iraq had failed the terms of that resolution and now faced the consequences. The "coalition of the willing" announces it will enforce the U.N. resolution without the U.N.'s approval.
Bush addresses the nation on the eve of war and says, "Should Saddam Hussein choose confrontation, the American people can know that every measure has been taken to avoid war, and every measure will be taken to win it." He gives Saddam and his sons 48 hours to leave Iraq or face military action.
A Washington Post article runs, inside the paper on page A-13, under the headline, "Bush Clings To Dubious Allegations About Iraq." It reads, in part: "As the Bush administration prepares to attack Iraq this week, it is doing so on the basis of a number of allegations against Iraqi President Saddam Hussein that have been challenged - and in some cases disproved - by the United Nations, European governments, and even US intelligence reports."
The U.S. invasion of Iraq officially begins.