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Complete timeline of the 2003 Invasion of Iraq: Internal opposition to invasion of Iraq

 
  

Project: Inquiry into the decision to invade Iraq

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February 28, 2002

       During a British cabinet meeting, Home Secretary David Blunkett initiates a discussion about Iraq. During the discussion, British Foreign Minister Robin Cook mentions that most of the Arab world considers Ariel Sharon, rather than Saddam Hussein, to be the largest threat to peace in the Middle East. Describing the subsequent reaction to his comments, Cook later writes in his diary: “Somewhat to my surprise this line provides a round of ‘hear, hearing’ from colleagues, which is the nearest I heard to mutiny in the cabinet.” [Sunday Times, 10/5/03; Guardian, 10/6/03; Independent, 10/6/03 Sources: Robin Cook's diary] During the meeting, Patricia Hewitt, the Trade and Industry Secretary, says “We are in danger of being seen as close to President Bush, but without any influence over President Bush.” [Independent, 10/6/03 Sources: Robin Cook's diary]
People and organizations involved: Robin Cook, David Blunkett, Patricia Hewitt
          

March 7, 2002

       According to British Foreign Minister Robin, Home Secretary David Blunkett asks where Britain had obtained the “legal authority” to invade Iraq. [Independent, 10/6/03; Guardian, 10/6/03 Sources: Robin Cook's diary]
People and organizations involved: David Blunkett
          

Summer 2002-2003

       Current and former top US military brass dispute White House claims that Iraq poses an immediate threat to the US and that it must be dealt with militarily. In late July 2002, The Washington Post reports that “top generals and admirals in the military establishment, including members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff” believe that Saddam Hussein's regime “poses no immediate threat and that the United States should continue its policy of containment rather than invade Iraq to force a change of leadership in Baghdad.” The report says that the military officials' positions are based “in part on intelligence assessments of the state of Hussein's nuclear, chemical and biological weapons programs and his missile delivery capabilities.” The newspaper says that there are several reasons why these dissident officers disagree with their civilian bosses. They worry that if Saddam Hussein is removed, Iraq could “split up, ... potentially leading to chaos and the creation of new anti-American regimes and terrorist sanctuaries in the region.” It is also possible, they say, that an invasion of Iraq could provoke Saddam Hussein into using whatever weapons of mass destruction he may have. And even if the invasion is successful, the aftermath could see “mass instability, requiring tens of thousands of US troops to maintain peace, prop up a post-Saddam government, and prevent the fragmentation of Iraq,” the military brass warns. Their position is that the US should continue its policy of containment, specifically sanctions and the enforcement of the US- and British- imposed “no-fly” zones. [The Washington Post, 7/28/02] Responding to the dissenting opinions of these military officials, Richard Perle, current chairman of the Defense Policy Board, says that the decision of whether or not to attack Iraq is “a political judgment that these guys aren't competent to make.” [The Washington Post, 7/28/02] A few days later, The Washington Post publishes another story along similar lines, reporting, “Much of the senior uniformed military, with the notable exception of some top Air Force and Marine generals, opposes going to war anytime soon, a stance that is provoking frustration among civilian officials in the Pentagon and in the White House.” Notably the division has created “an unusual alliance between the State Department and the uniformed side of the Pentagon, elements of the government that more often seem to oppose each other in foreign policy debates.” [The Washington Post, 8/1/02 Sources: Unnamed senior military officials] The extent of the generals' disagreement is quite significant, reports the Post, which quotes one proponent of invading Iraq expressing his/her concern that the brass' opinion could ultimately dissuade Bush from taking military action. “You can't force things onto people who don't want to do it, and the three- and four-star Army generals don't want to do it. I think this will go back and forth, and back and forth, until it's time for Bush to run for reelection,” the source says. [The Washington Post, 8/1/02 Sources: Unnamed US official] During the next several months, several former military officials speak out against the Bush administration's military plans, including Wesley Clark, Joseph P. Hoar, John M. Shalikashvili, Tony McPeak, Gen James L Jones, Norman Schwarzkopf, Anthony Zinni, Henry H. Shelton and Thomas G. McInerney. In mid-January 2003, Time magazine reports that according to its sources, “as many as 1 in 3 senior officers questions the wisdom of a preemptive war with Iraq.” They complain that “the US military is already stretched across the globe, the war against Osama bin Laden is unfinished, and ... a long postwar occupation looks inevitable.” [Time, 1/19/03]
People and organizations involved: James L Jones, Norman Schwarzkopf, John M. Shalikashvili, Anthony Zinni, Henry H. Shelton, Thomas G. McInerney, Joseph Hoar, Tony McPeak, Richard Perle, Kim Holmes, Wesley Clark  Additional Info 
          

July 31, 2002

       Joseph P. Hoar, a retired Marine Corps general who commanded American forces in the Persian Gulf after the 1991 war, warns the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that the proposed invasion is both “risky” and possibly unnecessary. [New York Times, 8/1/02]
People and organizations involved: Joseph Hoar
          

August 2002

       Retired Army General Henry H. Shelton, a former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, tells The Washington Post, “If we get drawn into something in Iraq, then our focus will go very heavily there, and it will be hard to sustain the momentum in the war on terrorism. That's the biggest danger that I see.” [The Washington Post, 9/1/02]
People and organizations involved: Henry H. Shelton
          

August 2002

       General James L. Jones, the four-star commander of the Marine Corps who will be taking over as NATO's supreme allied commander, tells The Washington Times that toppling Iraq's government and defeating its army will be much more difficult than it was to remove the Taliban. “Afghanistan was Afghanistan; Iraq is Iraq,” he explains. “It would be foolish, if you were ever committed to going into Iraq, to think that the principles that were successful in Afghanistan would necessarily be successful in Iraq. In my opinion, they would not.” The general suggests that a large force will be needed to successfully invade the country. [Telegraph, 8/23/02]
People and organizations involved: James L Jones
          

August 4, 2002

       Appearing on CBS's “Face the Nation,” Brent Scowcroft warns that a unilateral invasion of Iraq could destabilize the Middle East and undermine efforts to defeat global terrorist groups. Scowcroft says: “It's a matter of setting your priorities. There's no question that Saddam is a problem. He has already launched two wars and spent all the resources he can working on his military. But the President has announced that terrorism is our number one focus. Saddam is a problem, but he's not a problem because of terrorism. I think we could have an explosion in the Middle East. It could turn the whole region into a cauldron and destroy the War on Terror.” [Times, 8/5/02]
People and organizations involved: Brent Scowcroft  Additional Info 
          

August 12, 2002

       Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger writes an op-ed piece which is published in the paper edition of The Washington Post. In it, Kissinger argues against a unilateral preemptive strike against Iraq without first creating a new international security framework that allows for nations to conduct preemptive strikes only under specific limited conditions. Otherwise, Kissinger argues, such an action would set a dangerous precedent that other nations might attempt to use in justifying their own policies. [New York Times, 8/16/02; Times of London, 8/13/02; Fox News, 8/16/02; Independent, 8/17/02]
People and organizations involved: John Larson  Additional Info 
          

August 13, 2002

       Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger joins Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and his advisors for a meeting. Describing the meeting, the New York Times reports three days later that they “have decided that they should focus international discussion on how Iraq would be governed after Mr. Hussein—not only in an effort to assure a democracy but as a way to outflank administration hawks and slow the rush to war, which many in the department oppose.” [New York Times, 8/15/02]
People and organizations involved: Henry A. Kissinger, Colin Powell
          

August 15, 2002

       Former Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleberger says on ABC News that unless Mr. Hussein “has his hand on a trigger that is for a weapon of mass destruction, and our intelligence is clear, I don't know why we have to do it now, when all our allies are opposed to it.” [New York Times, 8/15/02]
People and organizations involved: Lawrence Eagleburger
          

August 15, 2002

       Brent Scowcroft is the source of major embarrassment for the administration when he authors an op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal arguing against the need to remove Saddam Hussein from power. He says that the toppling of Saddam's regime would destabilize the Middle East and thus “turn the whole region into a cauldron and destroy the War on Terror.” Noting that “there is scant evidence to tie Saddam to terrorist organizations, and even less to the Sept. 11 attacks,” he calls on Bush to abandon his designs on Saddam Hussein and instead refocus his foreign policy on the war on terrorism. [Wall Street Journal] It is suggested that Scowcroft's criticisms probably reflect the feelings of the President's father. The Los Angeles Times reports: “Several former officials close to Scowcroft said they doubted he would have gone public with that posture without clearing the move first with the senior Bush, heightening questions about the latter's view on confronting Iraq. The former president has not commented publicly, which has only fed speculation.” [Los Angeles Times, 8/17/02]
People and organizations involved: Brent Scowcroft, George Herbert Walker Bush  Additional Info 
          

August 16, 2002

       After a spate of criticism of his administration's Iraq policy from several prominent Republican former US government officials, President George Bush says from his ranch in Mount Crawford, Texas: “I am aware that some very intelligent people are expressing their opinions about Saddam Hussein and Iraq. I listen very carefully to what they have to say. I'll continue to consult.... I will use all the latest intelligence to make informed decisions about how best to keep the world at peace, how best to defend freedom for the long run.... Listen, it's a healthy debate for people to express their opinion. People should be allowed to express their opinion. But America needs to know, I'll be making up my mind based upon the latest intelligence and how best to protect our own country plus our friends and allies.” But he also adds, “There should be no doubt in anybody's mind that this man is thumbing his nose at the world, that he has gassed his own people, that he is trouble in his neighborhood, that he desires weapons of mass destruction.” [New York Times, 8/17/02; CNN, 8/16/02; Fox News, 8/16/02]
People and organizations involved: George W. Bush  Additional Info 
          

August 18, 2002

       In a Washington Post op-ed piece, Zbigniew Brzezinski reprimands the Bush administration for its reckless foreign policy, saying that “war is too serious a business and too unpredictable in its dynamic consequences—especially in a highly flammable region—to be undertaken because of a personal peeve, demagogically articulated fears or vague factual assertions.” He adds that “[i]f it is to be war, it should be conducted in a manner that legitimizes US global hegemony and, at the same time, contributes to a more responsible system of international security.” He then makes several recommendations for improving US foreign policy, including a summary of “a wrong way for America to initiate a war.” [The Washington Post, 8/18/02]
People and organizations involved: Zbigniew Brzezinski  Additional Info 
          

August 18, 2002

       Retired General Norman Schwarzkopf, who commanded allied forces during the Gulf War, warns against invading Iraq without the support of allies. He explains: “In the Gulf War we had an international force and troops from many nations. We would be lacking if we went it alone at this time.... It is not going to be an easy battle but it would be much more effective if we didn't have to do it alone.” [Times, 8/19/02]
People and organizations involved: Norman Schwarzkopf
          

August 23, 2002

       In a speech to the Economic Club of Florida in Tallahassee, retired Marine General Anthony Zinni, who recently served as the president's special envoy to the Middle East, argues that there are more pressing issues than Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq. Specifically, he points to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, instability in Afghanistan, the continuing existence of the al-Qaeda network, and the theocracy in Iran. He adds that the proposed war with Iraq would be expensive and would put considerable strain on the military's resources, which already are “stretched too tight all over the world.” Furthermore, notes the general, invading Iraq would further antagonize America's allies in the Middle East. “We need to quit making enemies that we don't need to make enemies out of,” he says. He also notes, “It's pretty interesting that all the generals see it the same way and all the others who have never fired a shot and are hot to go to war see it another way.” [Tampa Tribune, 8/24/02]
People and organizations involved: James L Jones
          

August 25, 2002

       The New York Times publishes an opinion article by James Baker, a former secretary of state and a close friend of the Bush family. In his piece, Baker writes that the US must raise a coalition and secure a broad base of support before attempting to remove Saddam Hussein by force. Although it may be possible to successfully invade the country and depose its regime, he argues, America's image would suffer irreparable damage as a consequence. Therefore, according to Baker, a unilateral preemptive strike in the midst of massive opposition from US allies in Europe and the Middle East would be detrimental to American strategic interests. [New York Times, 8/25/02]
People and organizations involved: James Baker
          

August 26, 2002

       In a speech to the Nashville convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Vice President Richard Cheney says Saddam Hussein will “seek domination of the entire Middle East, take control of a great portion of the world's energy supplies, directly threaten America's friends throughout the region and subject the United States or any other nation to nuclear blackmail.” He also states unequivocally that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction. “Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction,” he says. “There is no doubt that he is amassing them to use against our friends, against our allies and against us ... What he wants is time, and more time to husband his resources to invest in his ongoing chemical and biological weapons program, and to gain possession of nuclear weapons.” Therefore he argues, the answer is not weapons inspections. “Against that background, a person would be right to question any suggestion that we should just get inspectors back into Iraq, and then our worries will be over. Saddam has perfected the game of shoot and retreat, and is very skilled in the art of denial and deception. A return of inspectors would provide no assurance whatsoever of his compliance with UN resolutions.” [New York Times, 8/26/02] Cheney's speech marks the first major statement from the White House regarding the Bush administration's Iraq policy following a flood of criticisms from former officials. Significantly, the speech was not cleared by the CIA or the State Department. [Newsweek, 9/9/02 Sources: Unnamed sources interviewed by Newsweek] Furthermore, Cheney's comments dismissing the need for the return of inspectors, were not cleared by President Bush. [Newsweek, 9/9/02 Sources: Andrew Card] Three days after the speech, a State Department source tells CNN that Powell's view clashes with that which was presented in Cheney's speech, explaining that the Secretary of State is opposed to any military action in which the US would “go it alone ... as if it doesn't give a damn” what other nations think. The source also says that Powell and “others in the State Department were ‘blindsided’ by Cheney's ‘time is running out’ speech ... and were just as surprised as everyone else,” CNN reports. [CNN, 8/30/02 Sources: Unnamed source interviewed by CNN]
People and organizations involved: Dick Cheney, Colin Powell  Additional Info 
          

September 2002

       Retired General Wesley Clark writes a piece in the Washington Monthly, titled, “An Army of One: In the war on terrorism, alliances are not an obstacle to victory. They're the key to it,” in which he argues that it is a “fundamental misjudgment” to continue the war on terrorism in the absence of NATO support. He refers to NATO's war in Kosovo repeatedly in his essay using it as an example of how he thinks a just and effective war should be fought. He also says that cooperation with its European allies is crucial if the Bush administration wants to prevent future terrorist attacks, noting that most of the terrorist planning and preparations for the 9-11 attacks took place in terrorist cells in Europe. [The Washington Monthly, 9/2002]
People and organizations involved: Wesley Clark  Additional Info 
          

September 4, 2002

       The Washington Post publishes an op-ed piece by James Webb, a former assistant secretary of defense and secretary of the Navy, warning that the neoconservatives' plan to invade Iraq would commit the US to a long term occupation of Iraq. “The issue before us is not simply whether the United States should end the regime of Saddam Hussein, but whether we as a nation are prepared to physically occupy territory in the Middle East for the next 30 to 50 years. Those who are pushing for a unilateral war in Iraq know full well that there is no exit strategy if we invade and stay. This reality was the genesis of a rift that goes back to the Gulf War itself, when neoconservatives were vocal in their calls for ‘a MacArthurian regency in Baghdad.’ Their expectation is that the United States would not only change Iraq's regime but also remain as a long-term occupation force in an attempt to reconstruct Iraqi society itself.” [The Washington Post, 9/4/02]
People and organizations involved: James Webb
          

September 13, 2002

       Dennis Kucinich, a Democratic representative from Ohio and outspoken critic of the administration's plan to invade Iraq, says: “There is no imminent threat by Iraq against the United States. Iraq does not have nuclear capabilities that anyone has been able to specifically determine, nor does it have the ability to deliver such a weapon, nor does it have the intent to do so. It could be said by Iraq that they are facing the imminent threat.... Oil is a factor. How much [of a factor] is anybody's guess, but to discount it as a factor is, I think, to be misleading.... It's not a conspiracy theory to bring it in because, after all, it is the second largest oil supply in the world.” [CNS News, 9/16/02]
People and organizations involved: Dennis Kucinich
          

October 10, 2002

       In a speech during Middle East Institute's annual conference, retired Marine General Anthony Zinni, presents an extensive argument against the Bush administration's plans for invading Iraq. He makes several points. [Middle East Institute, 10/10/02]
In order for the planned military operation against Iraq to be successful it must have international support. [Middle East Institute, 10/10/02]

In order to ensure a quick war, the US must use overwhelming force. [Middle East Institute, 10/10/02]

Civilian casualties, collateral damage, and destruction of the infrastructure must be kept to a minimum. [Middle East Institute, 10/10/02]

Israeli involvement would create massive instability. [Middle East Institute, 10/10/02]

The invasion must not provoke a reaction from the Arab Street. [Middle East Institute, 10/10/02]

The transition to a post-Saddam Iraq will not be easy. He explains: “If we think there is a fast solution to changing the governance of Iraq, then we don't understand history, the nature of the country, the divisions, or the underneath-suppressed passions that could rise up. God help us if we think this transition will occur easily.” [Middle East Institute, 10/10/02]

The burden of the war and post-war reconstruction must be shared. [Middle East Institute, 10/10/02]

It will not be possible to simply impose a democracy on Iraq. [Middle East Institute, 10/10/02]

Terrorism cannot be defeated by military means alone. He asks several questions that are rarely asked in public: “Why are young people flocking to these causes? Could the issues be political, economic and social? Could disenfranchisement or oppression be what drives them rather than the religious fanaticism that may be the core element to only a few? How do we cooperate to fix these problems? How do we help a part of the world that's trying to come to grips with modernity?” [Middle East Institute, 10/10/02]

He questions whether an invasion is even necessary, instead suggesting that there are numerous other issues to deal with of higher priority. [Middle East Institute, 10/10/02]

Finally, he says that violence and war are not the solution. “Like those generals who were far greater than I am, I don't think that violence and war is the solution. There are times when you reluctantly, as a last resort, have to go to war. But as a general that has seen war, ... I will tell you that in my time, I never saw anything come out of fighting that was worth the fight.” [Middle East Institute, 10/10/02]

People and organizations involved: Anthony Zinni
          

Late February 2003

       John Brady Kiesling, a career diplomat of 20 years, resigns from his post as a political counselor at the United States Embassy in Athens, citing his opposition to the administration's Iraq policy. In his faxed letter to Colin Powell—a copy of which is obtained by the New York Times—Kiesling writes, “Our fervent pursuit of war with Iraq is driving us to squander the international legitimacy that has been America's most potent weapon of both offense and defense since the days of Woodrow Wilson.” Asked by the New York Times, how others in the State Department feel about Bush's plans to invade Iraq, he explains: “No one of my colleagues is comfortable with our policy. Everyone is moving ahead with it as good and loyal. The State Department is loaded with people who want to play the team game—we have a very strong premium on loyalty.” After Kiesling's resignation, two more US diplomats will resign, John Brown, PhD. (see March 10, 2003), and Mary Wright (see March 19, 2003). [New York Times, 2/27/03 Sources: John Brady Kiesling's letter of resignation to Colin Powell]
People and organizations involved: John Brady Kiesling
          

Late February 2003

       Tony McPeak, a retired four-star general who headed the US Air Force during Desert Storm, criticizes the Bush administration's failure to stabilize Afghanistan and build a multilateral coalition to disarm Iraq. He says Bush should start over. “The world would breathe a sigh of relief, and we'd go back and do it right,” the former general says. “I mean, the world would fall in love with this guy. It's not that hard to fix.” [Associated Press, 2/25/03]
People and organizations involved: Tony McPeak
          

March 10, 2003

       John Brown, PhD.—a career US diplomat of 22 years, who has served in London, Prague, Krakow, Kiev, Belgrade and Moscow—submits his letter of resignation to Secretary of State Colin Powell. “I am joining my colleague John Brady Kiesling in submitting my resignation from the Foreign Service—effective immediately—because I cannot in good conscience support President Bush's war plans against Iraq,” he says, noting, “Throughout the globe, the United States is becoming associated with the unjustified use of force. ... The President's disregard for views in other nations, borne out by his neglect of public diplomacy, is giving birth to an anti-American century.” His resignation follows that of Kiesling two weeks earlier (see Late February 2003) and precedes that of Mary Wright a week later (see March 19, 2003). [Sources: John Brown's letter of resignation to Colin Powell]
People and organizations involved: John Brown
          

March 19, 2003

       Mary Wright, the second highest-ranking diplomat at the US embassy in Ulan Bator, Mongolia, resigns from her post after serving 15 years at the State Department. In her letter of resignation she derides the administration for snubbing America's allies. “In our press military action now, we have created deep chasms in the international community and in important international organizations. Our policies have alienated many of our allies and created ill will in much of the world.... I feel obligated morally and professionally to set out my very deep and firm concerns on these policies and to resign from government service as I cannot defend or implement them.” She also warns that the Bush administration has set a precedent that will ultimately make Americans less safe. “I believe the administration's policies are making the world a more dangerous, not a safer place.... This preemptive attack policy will ... provide justification for individuals and groups to ‘preemptively attack’ America and American citizens,” she says. Her resignation follows that of John Brady Kiesling (see Late February 2003) and John Brown (see March 10, 2003). [BBC, 3/27/03; Reuters 3/21/03 Sources: Mary Wright's letter of resignation to Colin Powell]
People and organizations involved: Mary Wright
          

August 18, 2003

       Brady Kiesling, a former political counselor at the US embassy in Athens who resigned from his post in protest of the invasion of Iraq (see Late February 2003), writes in an open letter published in the Greek daily, To Vima, that President George W. Bush is a “very weak” man and that his decision to invade Iraq had been made under pressure from Donald Rumsfeld, who used the war to increase his own power. “Easy to convince, (Bush) blindly believed in Rumsfeld's assurances that the occupation of Iraq would pay for itself,” the former diplomat writes. [AFP, 8/17/003 Sources: John Brady Kiesling]
People and organizations involved: John Brady Kiesling
          


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