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Profile: Paul O'Neill

 
  

Positions that Paul O'Neill has held:

  • Treasury Secretary under the Bush administration


 

Quotes

 
  

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Paul O'Neill actively participated in the following events:

 
  

(January 30, 2001): First National Security Council Meeting Focuses on Iraq and Israel, Not Terrorism      Complete 911 Timeline, Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

       The Bush White House holds its first National Security Council meeting. The focus is on Iraq and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. [Bamford, 2004, pp 261 Sources: Paul O'Neill]
Israeli-Palestinian conflict - “We're going to correct the imbalances of the previous administration on the Mideast conflict,” Bush reportedly tells his national security team. “We're going to tilt it back toward Israel.” His view is that the Israeli government, currently headed by Ariel Sharon, should be left alone to deal as it sees fit with the Palestinians. “I'm not going to go by past reputations when it comes to Sharon. I'm going to take him at face value. We'll work on a relationship based on how things go.” Justifying his position, he recalls a recent trip he took to Israel with the Republican Jewish Coalition. “We flew over the Palestinian camps. Looked real bad down there. ... I don't see much we can do over there at this point.” Powell, surprised by Bush's intended policy towards the 50-year old Israeli-Palestinian conflict, objects. According to Secretary of Treasury Paul O'Neil, Powell “stresse[s] that a pullback by the United States would unleash Sharon and the Israeli army.” When Powell warns the president that the “consequences of that [policy] could be dire, especially for the Palestinians,” Bush shrugs. “Sometimes a show of strength by one side can really clarify things,” he suggests. [Bamford, 2004, pp 265-266]
Iraq - The meeting then moves on to the subject of Iraq. National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice begins noting “that Iraq might be the key to reshaping the entire region.” She turns the meeting over to CIA director George Tenet who summarizes current intelligence on Iraq. He mentions a factory that “might” be producing “either chemical or biological materials for weapons manufacture.” The evidence he provides is a picture of the factory with some truck activity, a water tower, and railroad tracks going into a building. He admits that there is “no confirming intelligence.” [Bamford, 2004, pp 267] US Secretary of Treasury Paul O'Neill, later recalls: “From the very beginning, there was a conviction, that Saddam Hussein was a bad person and that he needed to go ... From the very first instance, it was about Iraq. It was about what we can do to change this regime. Day one, these things were laid and sealed.” O'Neill will say officials never questioned the logic behind this policy. No one ever asked, “Why Saddam?” and “Why now?” Instead, the issue that needed to be resolved was how this could be accomplished. “It was all about finding a way to do it,” O'Neill will explain. “That was the tone of it. The president saying ‘Go find me a way to do this.’ ” [CBS News, 1/10/04; New York Times, 1/12/04; Guardian, 1/12/04; Vanity Fair, 5/04, pg 234 Sources: Paul O'Neill] Another official who attends the meeting will later say that the tone of the meeting implied a policy much more aggressive than that of the previous administration. “The president told his Pentagon officials to explore the military options, including use of ground forces,” the official will tell ABC News. “That went beyond the Clinton administration's halfhearted attempts to overthrow Hussein without force.” [ABC News, 1/13/04 Sources: Unnamed senior official of the Bush administration] The council does more than just discuss Iraq. It makes a decision to allow the Iraqi National Congress (INC), an Iraqi opposition group, to use $4 million to fund efforts inside Iraq to compile information relating to Baghdad's war crimes, military operations, and other internal developments. The money had been authorized by Congress in late 2004. The US has not directly funded Iraqi opposition activities inside Iraq itself since 1996. [Guardian, 2/3/2005] After Paul O'Neill first provides his account of this meeting in 2004, the White House will attempt to downplay its significance. “... The stated policy of my administration toward Saddam Hussein was very clear,” Bush will tell reporters during a visit to Mexico In January 2004. “Like the previous administration, we were for regime change. ... And in the initial stages of the administration, as you might remember, we were dealing with desert badger or fly-overs and fly-betweens and looks, and so we were fashioning policy along those lines.” [New York Times, 1/12/04]
People and organizations involved: George Tenet, Colin Powell, Richard B. Myers, Paul O'Neill, Iraqi National Congress, George W. Bush, Condoleezza Rice, Donald Rumsfeld
          

February 2001: Bush Administration Abandons Global Crackdown on Terrorist Funding      Complete 911 Timeline

       According to Time magazine, “The US was all set to join a global crackdown on criminal and terrorist money havens [in early 2001]. Thirty industrial nations were ready to tighten the screws on offshore financial centers like Liechtenstein and Antigua, whose banks have the potential to hide and often help launder billions of dollars for drug cartels, global crime syndicates—and groups like Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda organization. Then the Bush administration took office.” [Time, 10/15/01] After pressure from the powerful banking lobby, the Treasury Department under Paul O'Neill halts US cooperation with these international efforts begun in 2000 by the Clinton administration. Clinton had created a National Terrorist Asset Tracking Center in his last budget, but under O'Neill no funding for the center is provided and the tracking of terrorist financing slows down. [Time, 10/15/01; Foreign Affairs, 7/01]
People and organizations involved: Bush administration, Clinton administration, Paul O'Neill
          

September 15, 2001      Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

       George W. Bush, CIA Director George Tenet, Dick Cheney, Colin Powell, Donald Rumsfeld, Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill, National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III, Paul Wolfowitz, and perhaps other officials as well, meet at Camp David to discuss war plans in Afghanistan. The meeting reportedly begins at 9:30 AM with a prayer. [Vanity Fair, 5/04, pp 232; Washington Post, 1/31/02] There is discussion on a paper submitted by the Defense Department depicting Iraq, the Taliban, and al-Qaeda as priority targets. Paul Wolfowitz pushes for regime change in Iraq, claiming that there is a 10 to 50 percent chance that Iraq was involved in the attacks. [Washington Post, 7/23/04; Vanity Fair, 5/04, pp 232; Woodward, 2002, pp 83] Wolfowitz will later recall in an interview with Vanity Fair: “On the surface of the debate it at least appeared to be about not whether but when. There seemed to be a kind of agreement that yes it should be, but the disagreement was whether it should be in the immediate response or whether you should concentrate simply on Afghanistan first. To the extent it was a debate about tactics and timing, the president clearly came down on the side of Afghanistan first. To the extent it was a debate about strategy and what the larger goal was, it is at least clear with 20/20 hindsight that the president came down on the side of the larger goal.” [Defense Department, /29/2005]
People and organizations involved: Paul O'Neill, Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell, Donald Rumsfeld, Richard ("Dick") Cheney, Robert S. Mueller III, Paul Wolfowitz, George Tenet, George W. Bush  Additional Info 
          

(January 12, 2004)      Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

       Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld telephones former treasury secretary Paul O'Neill and warns him that it might be against his best interest to go ahead with the publishing of The Price of Loyalty, an insider account of how Iraq quickly became the administration's focus once in office. The book, authored by journalist Ron Suskind, is based upon O'Neill's experience as secretary of the treasury. [Atlantic Monthly, 10/2004]
People and organizations involved: Donald Rumsfeld, Paul O'Neill, Ron Suskind
          

Mid-January 2004: Paul O'Neill Says He Never Saw Any Evidence that Iraq Had Weapons of Mass Destruction      Complete 911 Timeline, Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

       In an interview with Time magazine, former US Secretary of Treasury Paul O'Neill says he never saw or heard of any real evidence that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. “In the 23 months I was there, I never saw anything that I would characterize as evidence of weapons of mass destruction,” he explains. “There were allegations and assertions by people.... But I've been around a hell of a long time, and I know the difference between evidence and assertions and illusions or allusions and conclusions that one could draw from a set of assumptions. To me there is a difference between real evidence and everything else. And I never saw anything in the intelligence that I would characterize as real evidence.” [Time, 1/11/04]
People and organizations involved: Paul O'Neill
          

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