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Key Events

Key events related to DSM (56)

General Topic Areas

Alleged al-Qaeda ties (83)
Politicization of intelligence (80)
Pre-9/11 plans for war (34)
Weapons inspections (122)
Alleged WMDs (99)
The decision to invade
Internal opposition (29)
Motives (53)
Pre-war planning (30)
Predictions (19)
Legal justification (96)
Propaganda (23)
Public opinion on Iraqi threat (13)
Diversion of Resources to Iraq (8)
Pre-war attacks against Iraq (18)

Specific Allegations

Aluminum tubes allegation (59)
Office of Special Plans (24)
Africa-uranium allegation (95)
Prague Connection (24)
Al Zarqawi allegation (10)
Poisons And Gases (5)
Drones (4)
Biological weapons trailers (18)

Specific cases and issues

Spying on the UN (8)
Outing of Jose Bustani (13)
Powells Speech to UN (13)
Chalabi and the INC (63)

Quotes from senior US officials

Chemical and biological weapons allegations (23)
Imminent threat allegations (5)
Iraq ties to terrorist allegations (15)
Nuclear weapons allegations (29)
WMD allegations (9)
Democracy rhetoric (33)
Decision to Invade quotes (16)
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Events leading up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq: The decision to invade Iraq

 
  

Project: Inquiry into the decision to invade Iraq

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Showing 1-100 of 104 events (use filters to narrow search):    next 100

1999

       Presidential candidate George W. Bush tells prominent Texas author and Bush family friend Mickey Herskowitz, who is helping Bush write an autobiography, that as president he would invade Iraq if given the opportunity. “One of the keys to being seen as a great leader is to be seen as a commander-in-chief,” Herskowitz remembers Bush saying. “My father had all this political capital built up when he drove the Iraqis out of [Kuwait] and he wasted it. If I have a chance to invade Iraq, if I had that much capital, I'm not going to waste it. I'm going to get everything passed I want to get passed and I'm going to have a successful presidency.” Herskowitz later says he believes Bush's comments were intended to distinguish himself from his father, rather than express a desire to invade Iraq. [Houston Chronicle, 10/31/2004]
People and organizations involved: George W. Bush, Mickey Herskowitz
          

December 2, 1999

       Speaking in Manchester, New Hampshire, presidential candidate George Bush says as president he would not lift the sanctions on Iraq nor attempt to negotiate with Saddam Hussein. “I'd make darn sure that he lived up to the agreements that he signed back in the early '90s. I'd be helping the opposition groups. And if I found, in any way shape or form, that he was developing weapons of mass destruction, I'd take them out. I'm surprised he's still there. I think a lot of other people are as well.” [Boston Globe, 12/3/1999; Federal Document Clearing House, 12/2/1999]
People and organizations involved: George W. Bush
          

2000

       During the 2000 presidential campaign, the Republican Party calls for “a comprehensive plan for the removal of Saddam Hussein.” Similarly, the Democratic Party's platform supports using “America's military might against Iraq when and where it is necessary.” [Project for the New American Century, 7/6/00; Strategic Affairs. 11/1/00; NewsMax, 2/3/01; Democratic National Committee, 2000 Platform, pg 46; Republican National Committee, 2000 Platform Sources: Republican National Committee, Democratic National Committee]
People and organizations involved: Republican National Committee, Democratic National Committee
          

(May 17, 2000)

       Presidential candidate George W. Bush allegedly tells Osama Siblani, publisher of the Arab American newspaper, that if he becomes president he will remove Saddam Hussein from power. “He told me that he was going to take him out, ” Siblani says in a radio interview on Democracy Now! almost five years later. Siblani will also recall that Bush “wanted to go to Iraq to search for weapons of mass destruction, and he considered the regime an imminent and gathering threat against the United States.” As Siblani will later note, as a presidential candidate Bush has no access to classified intelligence on Iraqi weapons programs. [Democracy Now!, 3/11/05 Sources: Osama Siblani]
People and organizations involved: George W. Bush, Osama Siblani
          

October 5, 2000

       During the vice presidential debates, both Joe Lieberman and Dick Cheney advocate a tough stance toward Saddam Hussein. Lieberman says he and Gore would continue to support Iraqi opposition groups “until the Iraqi people rise up and do what the people of Serbia have done in the last few days: get rid of a despot.” Cheney says it might be necessary “to take military action to forcibly remove Saddam from power.” [CATO Daily Dispatch, 10/6/2000]
People and organizations involved: George W. Bush, Richard ("Dick") Cheney, Joseph Lieberman
          

December 16, 2000

       President-elect George W. Bush announces his nomination of Powell to the position of Secretary of State. Powell, in his remarks, suggests that the US might have to “confront” Saddam Hussein. Powell says: “Saddam Hussein is sitting on a failed regime that is not going to be around in a few years' time. The world is going to leave him behind and that regime behind as the world marches to new drummers, drummers of democracy and the free enterprise system. And I don't know what it will take to bring him to his senses. But we are in the strong position. He is in the weak position. And I think it is possible to re-energize those sanctions and to continue to contain him and then confront him, should that become necessary again.” [Journal of the Air Force Association, 2/2001]
People and organizations involved: Colin Powell, George W. Bush
          

Before January 20, 2001

       There are discussions among future members of the Bush administration, including Bush himself, about making the removal of Saddam Hussein a top priority once they are in office. After the invasion of Iraq in March 2003, Richard Clarke, who serves as Bush's counterterrorism advisor, will say that the Bush team had been planning regime change in Iraq since before coming to office. “Since the beginning of the administration, indeed well before, they had been pressing for a war with Iraq,” he will write in his book, Against All Enemies. “My friends in the Pentagon had been telling me that the word was we would be invading Iraq sometime in 2002.” [Clarke, 2004] During an appearance on Good Morning America on March 22, 2004, he will say, “[T]hey had been planning to do something about Iraq from before the time they came into office.” [ABC News, 3/22/04] Evidence of pre-inaugural discussions on regime change in Iraq comes from other sources as well. Imam Sayed Hassan al-Qazwini, who heads the Islamic Center of America in Detroit, will tell the New York Times in early 2004 that he spoke with Bush about removing Saddam Hussein six or seven times, both before and after the 2000 elections. [New York Times, 1/12/04 Sources: Imam Sayed Hassan al-Qazwini]
People and organizations involved: George W. Bush, Richard A. Clarke, Richard ("Dick") Cheney
          

January 29, 2001

       Imam Sayed Hassan al-Qazwini, who heads the Islamic Center of America in Detroit, one of the nation's largest mosques, meets with President Bush in the White House about the administration's policy towards Iraq. The president says he supports a policy aimed at removing Saddam Hussein from power, though he does not discuss by what means. “No method was discussed at all,” al-Qazwini will tell the New York Times two years later. “It was a general desire for regime change.” He will also tell the newspaper that he had spoken with Bush about removing Saddam Hussein a total of six or seven times, both before and after the 2000 elections. [New York Times, 1/12/04 Sources: Imam Sayed Hassan al-Qazwini]
People and organizations involved: George W. Bush, Imam Sayed Hassan al-Qazwini
          

(January 30, 2001)

       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

       Paul Wolfowitz reportedly calls Francis Brooke, an aide to Ahmed Chalabi, late one night and promises that Saddam Hussein will be toppled while Bush is in office. According to Brooke, Wolfowitz says he will resign if it doesn't happen. Wolfowitz will later deny this account and call it “nonsense.” [New Yorker, 6/7/2004]
People and organizations involved: Paul Wolfowitz, Francis Brooke
          

(Between February 2001 and February 2003)

       Falah Aljibury, an Iraqi-born oil industry consultant with strong ties to OPEC and Big Oil, interviews potential successors to Saddam Hussein on behalf of the Bush administration. One of the candidates that he will consider is Gen. Nizar Khazrahi, who is under house arrest in Denmark awaiting trial for war crimes. [BBC Newsnight, 3/17/05; Democracy Now!, 3/21/05; Harpers Magazine, 4/05, pp 74-76 Sources: Falah Aljibury]
People and organizations involved: Falah Aljibury, Nizar Khazrahi
          

February 1, 2001

       The Bush White House holds its second National Security Council meeting. Like the first meeting (see (January 30, 2001)), the issue of regime change in Iraq is a central topic. [CBS News, 1/10/04; New York Times, 1/12/04] Officials discuss a memo titled “Plan for post-Saddam Iraq,” which talks about troop requirements, establishing war crimes tribunals, and divvying up Iraq's oil wealth. [Sources: Paul O'Neill] Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld argues that by removing Saddam Hussein, the Bush administration would “demonstrate what US policy is all about.” It would also help transform the Middle East, he claims. According to Paul O'Neill, Rumsfeld talks at the meeting “in general terms about post-Saddam Iraq, dealing with the Kurds in the north, the oil fields, the reconstruction of the country's economy, and the ‘freeing of the Iraqi people.’ ” [New York Times, 1/12/04 Sources: Paul O'Neill] Other people, in addition to O'Neill, Bush, and Rumsfeld, who are likely in attendance include Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of State Colin Powell, National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Richard B. Myers. [Sources: National Security Presidential Directives—NSPD-1, 2/13/01]]
People and organizations involved: Paul O'Neill, Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice, Richard B. Myers, George Tenet, George W. Bush, Donald Rumsfeld
          

February 12, 2001

       The Washington Times reports that the Iraqi National Congress (INC), an umbrella Iraqi opposition group, is negotiating a $98,000 contract with the Guidry Group to train INC security officers “how to use pistols, Kalishnikov rifles, 12-gauge shotguns, and a variety of other fire-arms.” Funding for the training is being provided by the US government. Francis Brooke, the group's Washington lobbyist, says, “This is important because this is the first time we are receiving lethal training with the United States government funding.” [United Press International, 2/12/2001]
People and organizations involved: Guidry Group, Francis Brooke, Iraqi National Congress
          

March 2001

       Cheney's Energy Task Force authors a variety of documents relating to the oil industries of Iraq, United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia. [New York Times, 1/12/04; CBS News, 1/10/04; Judicial Watch, 7/17/03]
Foreign Suitors for Iraqi Oilfield contracts - This document, dated March 5, 2001, includes a table listing 30 countries which have interests in Iraq's oil industry. The document also includes the names of companies that have interests, the oil fields with which those interests are associated, as well as the statuses of those interests. [Sources: Iraq Oil Foreign Suitors, page 2, Iraq Oil Foreign Suitors, page 1]

Map of Iraq's oil fields - The map includes markings for “supergiant” oil fields of 5 billion barrels or more, other oilfields, fields “earmarked for production sharing,” oil pipelines, operational refineries, and tanker terminals. [Sources: Iraq Oil Map]

Other documents - Other documents include oil field maps and project tables for both Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates [Sources: UAE Oil Map, Saudia Arabia Oil Map, UAE Oil Project Table, Saudi Arabia Oil Project Table]

People and organizations involved: Richard ("Dick") Cheney
          

April 2001

       During a National Security Council deputy principals meeting, Paul Wolfowitz is challenged by White House counterterrorism advisor Richard Clarke after asserting that Iraq is involved in terrorism. Recalling the meeting, Clarke tells The Guardian in a March 2004 interview: “April was an initial discussion of terrorism policy writ large and at that meeting I said we had to talk about al-Qaeda. And because it was terrorism policy writ large [Paul] Wolfowitz said we have to talk about Iraqi terrorism and I said that's interesting because there hasn't been any Iraqi terrorism against the United States. There hasn't been any for 8 years. And he said something derisive about how I shouldn't believe the CIA and FBI, that they've been wrong. And I said if you know more than I know tell me what it is, because I've been doing this for 8 years and I don't know about any Iraqi-sponsored terrorism against the US since 1993. When I said let's start talking about bin Laden, he said bin Laden couldn't possibly have attacked the World Trade Center in '93. One little terrorist group like that couldn't possibly have staged that operation. It must have been Iraq.” [The Guardian, 3/23/04]
People and organizations involved: Richard A. Clarke, Paul Wolfowitz
          

April 12, 2001

       A report commissioned by former US Secretary of State James Baker and the Council on Foreign Relations, titled “Strategic Energy Policy Challenges For The 21st Century,” is completed and submitted to Vice President Dick Cheney. The report was drafted by the James A.Baker III Institute for Public Policy. Edward L. Morse, an energy industry analyst, chaired the project, and Amy Myers Jaffe was the project's director. The paper urges the US to formulate a comprehensive, integrated strategic energy policy to address the current energy crisis, which it attributes to infrastructural restraints, rapid global economic expansion, and the presence of obstacles to foreign investment in the oil-rich Middle East. The report says the world's supply of oil is not a factor in the crisis. “The reasons for the energy challenge have nothing to do with the global hydrocarbon resource base. ... The world will not run short of hydrocarbons in the foreseeable future,” the paper insists. One of the report's recommendations is to “[r]eview policies toward Iraq” with the ultimate goal of “eas[ing] Iraqi oil-field investment restrictions.” Iraq, under the leadership of Saddam Hussein remains a “destabilizing influence ... to the flow of oil to international markets from the Middle East.” It also notes, “Saddam Hussein has also demonstrated a willingness to threaten to use the oil weapon and to use his own export program to manipulate oil markets.” Therefore, the report says, the “United States should conduct an immediate policy review toward Iraq, including military, energy, economic, and political/diplomatic assessments.” [Sunday Herald, 10/05/02; Sydney Morning Herald, 12/26/02 Sources: Strategic Energy Policy Challenges For The 21st Century]
People and organizations involved: James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy of Rice University, Amy Myers Jaffe, Edward L. Morse, Richard ("Dick") Cheney, James Baker, Council on Foreign Relations  Additional Info 
          

Mid-September 2001

       At the behest of Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, former CIA director James Woolsey and a team of Justice and Defense Department officials fly to London on a US government plane to look for evidence tying Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein to the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center. It is the second such mission undertaken by Woolsey this year. He reportedly made an earlier trip in February. Woolsey is looking for evidence to support the theory (see Late July or early August 2001) that Ramzi Yousef, the mastermind behind the 1993 WTC bombing, was actually an Iraqi agent who had assumed the identity of a Pakistani student named Abdul Basit. On at least one of the trips, Woolsey visits the Swansea Institute, where Basit studied, to see if Basit's fingerprints match those of Yousef, who is now serving a life sentence in a Colorado prison. Matching fingerprints would discredit the theory. According to Knight Ridder, “Several of those with knowledge of the trips said they failed to produce any new evidence that Iraq was behind the attacks.” [Daily Telegraph, 10/26/01; Observer 10/14/01; Knight Ridder, 10/11/01] Woolsey's activities in South Wales attract the attention of British authorities who are “intrigued” that a former CIA chief is “asking these questions.” [Knight Ridder, 10/11/01] The trip, sponsored by the Pentagon, is not approved by Secretary of State Colin Powell or CIA director George Tenet. [The Village Voice, 11/21/01; Knight Ridder, 10/11/01]
People and organizations involved: Colin Powell, George Tenet, Ramzi Yousef, James Woolsey, Abdul Basit, Paul Wolfowitz, Saddam Hussein, Osama bin Laden
          

Autumn 2001 and after

       The momentum towards a policy of “regime change” in Iraq increases, independent of Bush's own decisions. “The issue got away from the president,” a senior official later tells the Washington Post. “He wasn't controlling the tone or the direction” and was influenced by people who “painted him into a corner because Iraq was an albatross around their necks.” [Washington Post, 1/12/03 Sources: Unnamed senior official]
People and organizations involved: George W. Bush
          

After September 11, 2001

       Soon after September 11, a concerted effort begins to pin the blame for the attacks on Saddam Hussein. Retired General Wesley Clark will later say on NBC's “Meet the Press” in June 2003 and in a letter published by the New York Times that “immediately after 9/11” there was a “concerted effort ... to pin 9/11 and the terrorism problem on Saddam Hussein” and use the attacks as an excuse to go after the Iraqi dictator. When asked by NBC's Tim Russert, who was behind the concerted effort, Clark will respond: “Well, it came from the White House, it came from people around the White House. It came from all over.” Clark also says, “I got a call on 9/11. I was on CNN, and I got a call at my home saying, ‘You got to say this is connected. This is state-sponsored terrorism. This has to be connected to Saddam Hussein.’ I said, ‘But—I'm willing to say it, but what's your evidence?’ And I never got any evidence.” He says the phone call came from a Middle Eastern think tank outside of the country. [New York Times, 7/18/03; MSNBC, 6/15/03]
People and organizations involved: Wesley Clark
          

(2:40 p.m.)

       Defense Secretary Rumsfeld is provided information from the CIA indicating that three of the hijackers were suspected al-Qaeda operatives. Notes composed by aides who were with Rumsfeld in the National Military Command Center on 9/11 are leaked nearly a year later. According to the notes, information shows, “One guy is [an] associate of [USS] Cole bomber.” (This is a probable reference to Khalid Almihdhar or Nawaf Alhazmi.) Rumsfeld has also been given information indicating an al-Qaeda operative had advanced details of the 9/11 attack. According to the aide's notes, Rumsfeld wants the “best info fast. Judge whether good enough hit S.H. [Saddam Hussein] at same time. Not only UBL [Osama bin Laden]. Go massive. Sweep it all up. Things related and not.” [Bamford, 2004, pp 285; CBS News, 9/4/02]
People and organizations involved: Donald Rumsfeld, Osama bin Laden, Saddam Hussein, National Military Command Center, al-Qaeda, Nawaf Alhazmi, Central Intelligence Agency, Khalid Almihdhar  Additional Info 
          

September 12, 2001

       White House counterterrorism advisor Richard Clarke meets with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, President Bush, and Secretary of State Colin Powell. Rumsfeld suggests that the US should bomb Iraq in retaliation for the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. “Rumsfeld was saying we needed to bomb Iraq,” Clarke will later recall in his book, Against All Enemies. “... We all said, ‘But no, no. Al-Qaeda is in Afghanistan,’ and Rumsfeld said, ‘There aren't any good targets in Afghanistan and there are lots of good targets in Iraq.’ ” [Clarke, 2004; Associated Press, 3/20/04; Reuters, 3/19/04; Washington Post, 3/22/2004 Sources: Richard A. Clarke] Powell agrees with Clarke that the immediate focus should be al-Qaeda. However, Powell also says, “Public opinion has to be prepared before a move against Iraq is possible.” Clarke complains to him, “Having been attacked by al-Qaeda, for us now to go bombing Iraq in response would be like our invading Mexico after the Japanese attacked us at Pearl Harbor.” President Bush notes the goal should be replacing the Iraqi government, not just bombing it, but the military warns an invasion would need a large force and many months to assemble. [Clarke, 2004] Rumsfeld's view is said to be closely aligned with that of his deputy, Paul Wolfowitz, who believes Saddam, not Osama bin Laden or al-Qaeda, should be the principal target of the “war on terrorism.” [Woodward, 2002, pp 49] Commenting on his feelings after the meeting, Clarke will later write: “At first I was incredulous that we were talking about something other than getting al-Qaeda. I realized with almost a sharp physical pain that (Defense Secretary Donald) Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz were going to try to take advantage of this national tragedy to promote their agenda about Iraq.” [New York Times, 3/28/04; Associated Press, 3/22/04; Washington Post, 3/22/04] “They were talking about Iraq on 9/11. They were talking about it on 9/12.” [Associated Press, 3/20/04; Reuters, 3/19/04; Clarke, 2004. Sources: Richard A. Clarke]
People and organizations involved: Donald Rumsfeld, Colin Powell, Richard A. Clarke, George W. Bush, Paul Wolfowitz  Additional Info 
          

September 12, 2001

       US President George Bush speaks privately with White House counterterrorism advisor Richard Clarke in the White House Situation Room. According to Clarke, Bush tells him to investigate the possibility that Iraq was involved in the attacks. “I want you, as soon as you can, to go back over everything, everything,” Bush says. “See if Saddam did this.” When Clarke responds, “But Mr. President, al-Qaeda did this,” Bush replies, “I know, I know, but... see if Saddam was involved. Just look. I want to know any shred.” Clarke insists that the CIA, FBI, and White House already concluded that there were no such links. As he exits the room, Bush “testily” says again, “Look into Iraq, Saddam.” [Washington Post, 3/22/2004 Sources: Richard A. Clarke] During a “60 Minutes” interview, Clarke will say that Bush's instructions were made in a way that was “very intimidating,” and which hinted that Clarke “should come back with that answer.” “Now he never said, ‘Make it up.’ But the entire conversation left me in absolutely no doubt that George Bush wanted me to come back with a report that said Iraq did this.” [CBS News, 3/20/04; New York Times, 3/23/04] Clarke's account is later confirmed by several eyewitnesses. [Guardian, 3/26/2004; BBC, 3/23/2004; CBS News, 3/20/04] After his meeting with Bush, Clarke works with CIA and FBI experts to produce the report requested by the president; but they find no evidence that Iraq had a hand in the attacks. It gets “bounced by the national-security advisor, or deputy,” according to Clarke. “ It got bounced and sent back, saying ‘Wrong answer .... Do it again.’ ” [Vanity Fair, 5/2004, pp 238]
People and organizations involved: Richard A. Clarke, Scott McClellan, George W. Bush, Condoleezza Rice, Stephen Hadley  Additional Info 
          

September 12, 2001

       Seven members of Donald Rumsfeld's so-called neocon “brain trust,” meet at an airport in Frankfurt, Germany where they are picked up by an Air Force refueling plane which brings them back to Washington. During the flight they discuss the implications of the 911 attacks for US foreign policy. [Vanity Fair, 5/2004, pp 234 Sources: William Luti, Douglas Feith] “Right there on the plane, we took out our laptops and sketched out for Secretary Rumsfeld where we thought we had to go, what it meant to get things on a war footing,” William Luti will tell Vanity Fair magazine. “Obviously we had Afghanistan on our minds straightaway. That was our immediate concern. But we also thought we had to learn about the terrorist networks, how they connected to he states.” They arrive at Andrews Air Force base a few minutes after five in the afternoon. [Vanity Fair, 5/2004, pp 234]
People and organizations involved: Douglas Feith, William Luti
          

September 13, 2001

       In an op-ed piece published in the New Republic, former CIA director James Woolsey calls on the Bush administration to re-examine evidence that could potentially tie Iraq to the 1993 bombing of the WTC. He cites a theory (see Late July or early August 2001) that Iraqi intelligence helped bomber Ramzi Yousef steal the identity of a Kuwaiti student studying at a college in Wales. If this theory is correct, he says, “then it was Iraq that went after the World Trade Center last time. Which makes it much more plausible that Iraq has done so again.” In light of this, he argues, US authorities should consider the possibility that Saddam Hussein had a hand in the 9/11 attacks. “[I]ntelligence and law enforcement officials investigating the case would do well to at least consider another possibility: that the attacks—whether perpetrated by bin Laden and his associates or by others—were sponsored, supported, and perhaps even ordered by Saddam Hussein,” he writes. “As yet, there is no evidence of explicit state sponsorship of the September 11 attacks. But absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.” [New Republic, 9/13/01] A few days later, the US Defense Department will send Woolsey to Britain (see Mid-September 2001) to investigate the alleged Iraq link to the 1993 bombing.
People and organizations involved: James Woolsey, Osama bin Laden, Saddam Hussein, Ramzi Yousef
          

September 13, 2001

       Two days after the September 11 attacks, the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA), a neoconservative think tank focused on maintaining and strengthening the US/Israeli military alliance, releases a press statement calling for regime change in Iraq. “In response to the attack on September 11, 2001 JINSA calls on the United States to: Halt all US purchases of Iraqi oil under the UN Oil for Food Program and to provide all necessary support to the Iraqi National Congress, including direct American military support, to effect a regime change in Iraq,” the statement reads. [Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA), 9/13/01]
People and organizations involved: The Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs
          

September 15, 2001-April 6, 2002

       On September 15, 2001, President Bush says of bin Laden: “If he thinks he can hide and run from the United States and our allies, he will be sorely mistaken.” [Los Angeles Times, 9/16/01 (B)] Two days later, he says, “I want justice. And there's an old poster out West, I recall, that says, ‘Wanted: Dead or Alive.’ ” [ABC News, 9/17/01] On December 28, 2001, even as the US was declaring victory in Afghanistan, Bush says, “Our objective is more than bin Laden.” [Associated Press, 8/19/02 (B)] Bush's January 2002 State of the Union speech describes Iraq as part of an “axis of evil” and fails to mention bin Laden at all. On March 8, 2002, Bush still vows: “We're going to find him.” [Washington Post, 10/1/02] Yet, only a few days later on March 13, Bush says, “He's a person who's now been marginalized. ... I just don't spend that much time on him. ... I truly am not that concerned about him.” Instead, Bush is “deeply concerned about Iraq.” [White House, 3/13/02] The rhetoric shift is complete when Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Richard Myers states on April 6, “The goal has never been to get bin Laden.” [Department of Defense, 4/6/02] In October 2002, the Washington Post notes that since March 2002, Bush has avoided mentioning bin Laden's name, even when asked about him directly. Bush sometimes uses questions about bin Laden to talk about Saddam Hussein instead. In late 2001, nearly two-thirds of Americans say the war on terrorism could not be called a success without bin Laden's death or capture. That number falls to 44 percent in a March 2002 poll, and the question has since been dropped. [Washington Post, 10/1/02] Charles Heyman, editor of Jane's World Armies, later points out: “There appears to be a real disconnect” between the US military's conquest of Afghanistan and “the earlier rhetoric of President Bush, which had focused on getting bin Laden.” [Christian Science Monitor, 3/4/02 (B)]
People and organizations involved: George W. Bush, Richard B. Myers, Osama bin Laden, Saddam Hussein
          

September 15, 2001

       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 
          

September 17, 2001

       President Bush signs a 2 1/2-page “top secret” document that outlines the administration's plan to invade Afghanistan and topple its government. According to administration officials interviewed by the Washington Post, the document also instructs the Pentagon to begin planning for an invasion of Iraq. [Washington Post, 1/12/03; The Mirror, 9/22/03; Atlantic Monthly, 10/2004 Sources: senior administration officials] The document further orders the military to be ready to occupy Iraq's oil fields if the country acts against US interests. [Washington Post, 7/23/04]
People and organizations involved: George W. Bush
          

On and around September 18, 2001

       Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz and Undersecretary of Defense Douglas Feith argue in three memos why Iraq should be included as a target in the war on terrorism. One memo, “Were We Asleep?,” is dated September 18, and suggests links between Iraq and al-Qaeda. [Washington Post, 1/12/03; The Mirror, 9/22/03 Sources: senior administration officials]
People and organizations involved: Paul Wolfowitz, Douglas Feith
          

September 19, 2001

       Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld writes a memo to Gen. Hugh Shelton, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, insisting that initial war plans should emphasize, among other things, the global nature of the conflict. [Washington Post, 8/7/2004]
People and organizations involved: Hugh Shelton, Donald Rumsfeld
          

September 19, 2001-September 20, 2001

       The Defense Policy Board (DPB) meets in secrecy in Rumsfeld's Pentagon conference room on September 19 and 20 for nineteen hours to discuss the option of taking military action against Iraq. [New York Times, 10/12/01] They also discuss how they might overcome some of the diplomatic and political pressures that would likely attempt to impede a policy of regime change in Iraq. [New York Times, 10/12/01] Among those attending the meeting are the 18 members of the Defense Policy Board, Paul Wolfowitz, Donald Rumsfeld, Bernard Lewis, Ahmed Chalabi, and Chalabi's aide Francis Brooke. [New Yorker, 6/7/2004; Vanity Fair, 5/04, pp 236; New York Times, 10/12/01] Secretary of State Colin Powell and other State Department officials in charge of US policy toward Iraq are not invited and are not informed of the meeting. A source will later tell the New York Times that Powell was irritated about not being briefed on the meeting. [New York Times, 10/12/01] During the seminar, two of Richard Perle's invited guests, Princeton professor Bernard Lewis and Ahmed Chalabi, the president of the Iraqi National Congress, are given the opportunity to speak. Lewis says that the US must encourage democratic reformers in the Middle East, “such as my friend here, Ahmed Chalabi.” Chalabi argues that Iraq is a breeding ground for terrorists and asserts that Saddam's regime has weapons of mass destruction. [Vanity Fair, 5/04, pp 232] He also asserts “there'd be no resistance, no guerrilla warfare from the Baathists, and [it would be] a quick matter of establishing a government.” [New Yorker, 6/7/2004] Attendees write a letter to President Bush calling for the removal of Saddam Hussein. “[E]ven 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. Failure to undertake such an effort will constitute an early and perhaps decisive surrender in the war on international terrorism,” the letter reads. The letter is published in the Washington Times on September 20 (see September 20, 2001) in the name of the Project for a New American Century (PNAC), a conservative think tank that believes the US needs to shoulder the responsibility for maintaining “peace” and “security” in the world by strengthening its global hegemony. [Project for a New American Century, 9/20/01; Manila Times, 7/19/03] Bush reportedly rejects the letter's proposal, as both Cheney and Powell agree that there is no evidence implicating Saddam Hussein in the attacks. [New York Times, 10/12/01 Sources: Unnamed senior administration officials and defense experts]
People and organizations involved: Henry A. Kissinger, James Woolsey, Adm. David E. Jeremiah, Ahmed Chalabi, Bernard Lewis, James R. Schlesinger, Dan Quayle, Harold Brown, Newt Gingrich, A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm, Defense Policy Board, Paul Wolfowitz, Donald Rumsfeld, Francis Brooke
          

September 20, 2001

       Douglas Feith suggests in a draft memo [Washington Post, 8/7/2004] that the US should consider “hitting terrorists outside the Middle East in the initial offensive, perhaps deliberately selecting a non-al-Qaeda target like Iraq.” Other regions he proposes attacking include South America and Southeast Asia. He reasons that an initial attack against such targets would “surprise ... the terrorists” and catch them off guard. [Newsweek, 8/8/2004 Sources: 9/11 Commission Report] According to Newsweek, the content of Feith's memo derives from the work of the Counter Terrorism Evaluation Group (see Shortly after September 11, 2001), a project headed by Michael Maloof and David Wurmser. The group suggested that an attack on the remote Triborder region, where Paraguay, Argentina, and Brazil meet and where Iranian-backed Hezbollah is said to have a presence, would have a ripple effect among international Islamic militant groups. [Newsweek, 8/8/2004] Feith later says his memo merely expands upon ideas put forth by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld in a memo (see September 19, 2001) the secretary wrote the day before to Gen. Hugh Shelton, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. [Washington Post, 8/7/2004] The logic behind proposing strikes against targets outside of the Middle East, Feith says, was based on the need to “cast a wide net” and achieve “additional objectives,” such as creating fissures in the enemy network, highlighting “the global nature of the conflicts,” showing “seriousness of US military purpose,” and demonstrating that the “war would not be limited geographically to Afghanistan.” [Washington Post, 8/7/2004]
People and organizations involved: F. Michael Maloof, Douglas Feith, David Wurmser
          

September 20, 2001

       British Prime Minister Tony Blair meets with President George Bush at the White House. During dinner that night, also attended by Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice, and British ambassador Sir Christopher Meyer, Blair tells Bush that he wants to concentrate on ousting the Taliban in Afghanistan. Bush replies, “I agree with you Tony. We must deal with this first. But when we have dealt with Afghanistan, we must come back to Iraq.” Blair says nothing to disagree. [Observer, 4/4/04; BBC, 4/3/03; Independent, 4/4/04; Vanity Fair, 5/04, pp 238 Sources: Christopher Meyer]
People and organizations involved: Christopher Meyer, Condoleezza Rice, George W. Bush, Colin Powell, Tony Blair
          

September 20, 2001

       The Project for the New American Century (PNAC), an influential neoconservative think tank, publishes a letter addressed to President Bush, insisting that the war on terrorism include as one of its objectives the removal of Saddam Hussein from power— “even if evidence does not link Iraq directly to the attack.” “Failure to undertake such an effort will constitute an early and perhaps decisive surrender in the war on international terrorism.” PNAC also says the US should demand that Iran and Syria cease all support of Hezbollah, and if they fail to do so, the US should “retaliate” against those two countries as well. Israel is praised in the letter as “America's staunchest ally against international terrorism.” [Project for the New American Century, 9/20/01]
People and organizations involved: Project for the New American Century
          

September 25, 2001

       In a secret 15-page memo to Deputy White House Counsel Timothy Flanigan, Justice Department lawyer John Yoo reasons that it is “beyond question that the president has the plenary constitutional power to take such military actions as he deems necessary and appropriate to respond to the terrorist attacks” of 9/11. Those actions can be extensive. “Force can be used,” Yoo writes, “both to retaliate for those attacks, and to prevent and deter future assaults on the nation. Military actions need not be limited to those individuals, groups, or states that participated in the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.” This power of the president, Yoo states, rests both on the US Congress' Joint Resolution of September 14 and on the War Powers Resolution of 1973. “Neither statute, however, can place any limits on the president's determinations as to any terrorist threat, the amount of military force to be used in response, or the method, timing, and nature of the response. These decisions, under our Constitution, are for the president alone to make.” He argues further that the September 14 resolution does not represent the limits to the president's authority. “It should be noted here that the Joint Resolution is somewhat narrower than the president's constitutional authority,” as it “does not reach other terrorist individuals, groups or states which cannot be determined to have links to the September 11 attacks.” the president's broad power can be used against selected individuals suspected of posing a danger to the US, even though it may be “difficult to establish, by the standards of criminal law or even lower legal standards, that particular individuals or groups have been or may be implicated in attacks on the United States.” Yoo concludes: “[W]e do not think that the difficulty or impossibility of establishing proof to a criminal law standard (or of making evidence public) bars the president from taking such military measures as, in his best judgment, he thinks necessary or appropriate to defend the United States from terrorist attacks. In the exercise of his plenary power to use military force, the president's decisions are for him alone and are unreviewable.” [Sources: Memo: The President's Constitutional Authority To Conduct Military Operations Against Terrorists And Nations Supporting Them] The contents of this memo are not disclosed until mid-December 2004. [Newsweek, 12/27/2004; Newsweek, 12/18/2004]
People and organizations involved: John C. Yoo, Timothy E. Flanigan
          

October 8, 2001

       Ex-CIA Director James Woolsey, as part of his attempt to gather evidence that could tie Iraq to the 9/11 attacks, contacts the Taliban. He works with Mansour Ijaz, a US businessman of Pakistani origin, who is a lobbyist for Pakistan in the US, an occasional Fox News commentator, and has extensive political ties in the US. Woolsey is also vice-chairman of the board of Ijaz's company. Woolsey and Ijaz work with Khalid Khawaja, a friend of bin Laden and ex-ISI operative. The three plus an unnamed US journalist arrange to meet with Taliban leader Mullah Omar in Kandahar, Afghanistan, on October 8. The Taliban agree to tell Woolsey about a meeting between Iraqi and al-Qaeda officials that took place in 1997, and possibly other similar information. Apparently in return they hope to avert the US invasion of Afghanistan. However, the US bombing begins on October 7, and the meeting is called off. [Dawn, 02/15/02; Financial Times, 3/6/03] At least part of this team will later play another behind-the-scenes role. After being given a tip that Mansour Ijaz is connected to leading militant Muslims in Pakistan, reporter Daniel Pearl will connect with Khalid Khawaja, who in turn connects him with militant Muslims who kidnap and eventually kill him. A leading Pakistani newspaper claims that at one point Newsweek is about to accuse Khawaja of involvement in the plot to kidnap Pearl, but Ijaz vouches for Khawaja and convinces Newsweek to pull back their accusations. [Dawn, 02/15/02; Vanity Fair, 8/02]
People and organizations involved: James Woolsey, Khalid Khawaja, Mansour Ijaz, Taliban, Mullah Omar, al-Qaeda, Iraq, Daniel Pearl
          

Shortly before October 26, 2001

       In an interview with the London Daily Telegraph, former CIA Director James Woolsey suggests that the US “ought to seriously consider removing Saddam's regime if he has been involved in any terror in recent years against us.” He contends that Saddam Hussein's alleged assassination attempt on President George Herbert Walker Bush in 1993 and Iraq's defiance of UN resolutions are sufficient enough in and of themselves to warrant the use of military force to topple the regime. [Daily Telegraph, 10/26/01]
People and organizations involved: James Woolsey
          

Early November 2001

       According to a September 2002 USA Today article, the decision to invade Iraq is made at this time. Significantly, the decision is made independent of normal policy-making procedures—a National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iraq was not requested, members of Congress were not consulted, and the concerns of senior military officers and intelligence analysts were ignored. Explaining why the White House did not request a NIE on Iraq, an unnamed US intelligence official explains it didn't want to detail the uncertainties regarding the threat Iraq allegedly poses to the US. A senior administration official says the White House did not believe an NIE would be helpful. However in September 2002, an NIE will finally be requested as a result of pressure from Congress. The classified version of the document will include many qualified and nuanced statements, but the shorter, unclassified version, which is given to Congress, will not include these uncertainties (see October 1, 2002). [USA Today, 9/10/02 Sources: officials at the White House, State Department, Pentagon, intelligence agencies, Congress and elsewhere]
People and organizations involved: George W. Bush, US Congress
          

Early November 2001

       Wayne Downing, a retired Army general who is heading counterterrorism in the White House, is drawing up plans for a US invasion of Iraq on his own initiative. [Washington Post, 1/12/03 Sources: Unnamed senior administration official]
People and organizations involved: Wayne Downing  Additional Info 
          

November 21, 2001

       George W. Bush and Donald Rumsfeld speak in private. Bush asks the Defense Secretary what kind of plan the Pentagon has for invading Iraq. “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,” Bush says. When Rumsfeld says its current plan is outdated, Bush instructs him to devise a new one. “Let's get started on this,” Bush says. “And get Tommy Franks looking at what it would take to protect America by removing Saddam Hussein if we have to.” Bush requests that discussion about Iraq remain low-key. “I knew what would happen if people thought we were developing a potential war plan for Iraq,” Bush later explains to journalist Bob Woodward. Bush does not share the details of his conversation with Condoleezza Rice, only telling her that Rumsfeld will be working on Iraq. [Woodward, 2004 cited in Associated Press, 4/16/04; Woodward, 2004 cited in New York Times, 4/17/04; Woodward, 2004 cited in Washington Post, 1/18/04; CBS News, 4/18/04 Sources: George Bush and other top officials interviewed by Washington Post editor Bob Woodward] When General Tommy Franks—who already has his hands full with the operation in Afghanistan—learns that the administration is considering plans to invade Iraq, he utters “a string of obscenities.” [Woodward, 2004 cited in Associated Press, 4/16/04 Sources: Top officials interviewed by Washington Post editor Bob Woodward] General Franks will meet with Bush and brief him on the plan's progress on December 28 (see December 28, 2001).
People and organizations involved: George W. Bush, Thomas Franks, Donald Rumsfeld, Condoleezza Rice
          

November 27, 2001

       At the request of President Bush (see November 21, 2001), Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld telephones Gen. Tommy Franks with instructions to work on war plans for Iraq. “General Franks, the president wants us to look at options for Iraq,” the general will later recall being told. In his memoirs, Franks will write: “ ‘Son of a bitch,’ I thought. ‘No rest for the weary.’ ” Franks will brief Bush on the progress of his work a month later (see December 28, 2001). [Salon, 5/19/05; Franks, 2004 Sources: Thomas Franks] Over the next few months, Bush will ask for and receive increasingly detailed briefings from Franks about the forces that would be needed if the US were to move against Iraq. The need to prepare for an invasion of Iraq, according to insiders interviewed by the Atlantic Monthly, hinders the US effort against bin Laden and the Taliban. [Atlantic Monthly, 10/2004]
People and organizations involved: George W. Bush, Donald Rumsfeld, Thomas Franks
          

(December 2001)

       An unnamed US envoy in Middle East, possibly W. Robert Pearson, the US ambassador to Turkey [Salon, 5/19/05] , tells Newsweek, “The question is not if the United States is going to hit Iraq; the question is when.” [Newsweek, 1/7/02 Sources: Unnamed US official]
          

December 10, 2001

       US Congressmen write a letter to President Bush urging him to take military action against Iraq. Among those who sign the letter are Jesse Helms (R), Joseph Lieberman (D), John McCain (D), Henry Hyde (R), and Trent Lott (R). The letter states, “As we work to clean up Afghanistan, it is imperative that we plan to eliminate the threat from Iraq. This December will mark three years since United Nations inspectors last visited Iraq. There is no doubt that since that time, Saddam Hussein has reinvigorated his weapons programs. ... Reports indicate that biological, chemical and nuclear programs continue apace and may be back to pre-Gulf War levels. We believe we must directly confront Saddam, sooner rather than later.” [US Department of State, 12/5/01; Scripps Howard News Service, 12/15/01]
People and organizations involved: Henry Hyde, Trent Lott, John McCain, Joseph Lieberman, Jesse Helms
          

December 11, 2001

       The House International Relations Committee drafts House Joint Resolution 75, which states that if Iraq refuses to allow UN inspectors to investigate freely in Iraq, the refusal will constitute an “act of aggression against the United States.” The bill is sponsored by Representatives Lindsey Graham (R), Porter Goss (R), and Henry Hyde (R). A different version of this resolution is passed by the House on December 20 (see December 20, 2001). [H.J Res 75; World Net Daily, 12/11/01]
People and organizations involved: Henry Hyde, Porter J. Goss, Lindsey Graham
          

December 20, 2001

       House Joint Resolution 75 is passed by the House and sent to the Senate where it is referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations. It is not as strongly worded as the initial draft (see December 11, 2001), which included a provision stating that the refusal to admit inspectors would constitute an “act of aggression against the United States.” The final version instead reads: “Iraq's refusal to allow United Nations weapons inspectors immediate, unconditional, and unrestricted access to facilities and documents covered by United Nations Security Council Resolution 687 and other relevant resolutions presents a mounting threat to the United States, its friends and allies, and international peace and security.” The bill is sponsored by Representatives Lindsey Graham (R), Porter Goss (R) and Henry Hyde (R). [H.J Res 75] This bill will die in the Senate. The congressional bill that conditionally authorizes Bush to take military action against Iraq is not passed until October 11, 2002 (see October 8 and 11, 2002).
People and organizations involved: Porter J. Goss, Henry Hyde, Lindsey Graham
          

December 28, 2001

       General Tommy Franks, the head of US Central Command, visits Bush at his ranch in Crawford, Texas and briefs him on the progress of his Iraq war plan. Bush requested an updated plan from the Defense Department on November 21 (see November 21, 2001). [Woodward, 2004 cited in Washington Post 1/18/04 Sources: Top officials interviewed by Washington Post editor Bob Woodward]
People and organizations involved: George W. Bush, Thomas Franks
          

Early 2002

       Most of Task Force 5's members are called home from Afghanistan to prepare for operations in Iraq. In early 2002, there were roughly 150 Task Force 5 commandos in Afghanistan. After the massive transfer, Task Force 5's numbers dip to as low as 30 men. Task Force 5 is a top-secret elite group that includes CIA paramilitary units and military “special mission units,” or SMUs. One of the SMUs is the former Delta Force. The name of the other unit, which specializes in human and technical intelligence operations, is not known. “These elite forces, along with the battlefield intelligence technology of Predator and Global Hawk drone aircraft, were the scarcest tools of the hunt for jihadists along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border,” the Washington Post notes in June 2004. According to Flynt Leverett, a career CIA analyst assigned to the State Deparmtent, “There is a direct consequence for us having taken these guys out prematurely. There were people on the staff level raising questions about what that meant for getting al-Qaeda, for creating an Afghan security and intelligence service [to help combat jihadists]. Those questions didn't get above staff level, because clearly there had been a strategic decision taken.” [Washington Post, 6/22/04]
People and organizations involved: Flynt Leverett
          

January 13, 2002

       US and British warplanes strike at least five targets in southern Iraq. The strikes—described by the Washington Post as the “heaviest ... in at least a year” —target an air defense command site at Tallil, 170 miles southeast of Baghdad, and four repeater stations in southeastern Iraq. According to Iraqi sources, civilian targets in the southern city of Basra are also hit. The Iraqis say that six people are injured as a result of the attacks. [Washington Post, 1/15/2003]
          

January 16, 2002

       CIA Director George Tenet informs Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak during a meeting in Sharm el Sheikh that the Bush administration has already decided to attack Iraq and asks Mubarak not to publicly express Egypt's opposition to the planned invasion. The Egyptian president warns that such an attack could destabilize the entire Middle East. [Ha'aretz, 2/17/02 Sources: Unnamed source interviewed by the Lebanese newspaper Al-Mustaqbal]
People and organizations involved: Hosni Mubarak, Letter from CIA Director George Tenet to Bob Graham
          

January 29, 2002

       President Bush's State of the Union speech describes an “axis of evil” consisting of Iraq, Iran, and North Korea. When Bush advisor Richard Perle was asked one month before 9/11 about new challenges the US faced, he replied by naming these exact three countries (see August 6, 2001). Bin Laden is not mentioned in the speech. [CNN, 1/29/02] The speech is followed by a new public focus on Iraq and a downplaying of bin Laden.
People and organizations involved: Iraq, North Korea, Iran, George W. Bush
          

February 2002

       Vice President Dick Cheney prepares for a March trip to the Middle East. According to public statements by the Bush administration, Cheney will be conferring with Arab leaders on US Iraq policy. However, a senior Bush administration official tells the Philadelphia Inquirer: “He's not going to beg for support. He's going to inform them that the president's decision has been made and will be carried out, and if they want some input into how and when it's carried out, now's the time for them to speak up.” [Philadelphia Inquirer, 2/13/02 Sources: Unnamed Bush administration official]
People and organizations involved: Donald Rumsfeld
          

February 12, 2002

       A Bush administration official tells Knight Ridder: “This is not an argument about whether to get rid of Saddam Hussein. That debate is over. This is ... how you do it.” [Knight Ridder, 2/13/02 Sources: Unnamed Bush administration official]
          

February 15, 2002

       Bush signs an intelligence finding, directing the CIA to conduct operations within Iraq as part of an ultimate plan to overthrow Saddam's government. The CIA warns Bush that staging a coup to depose the leader would be impossible. [Woodward, 2004 cited in Washington Post 1/18/04 Sources: Top officials interviewed by Washington Post editor Bob Woodward]
People and organizations involved: George W. Bush
          

February 19, 2002

       General Tommy Franks allegedly tells Sen. Bob Graham (D) of Florida, who is on a visit to US Central Command: “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.” [Council on Foreign Relations, 3/26/04 Sources: Bob Graham] (In his memoirs, Graham quotes Franks as saying that “military and intelligence personnel are being re-deployed to prepare for an action in Iraq.” [Knight Ridder, 6/18/2004; Graham and Nussbaum, 2004, pp 125] ) Franks denies making the comment. [Knight Ridder, 6/18/2004] The New Yorker magazine also reports on a redeployment of resources to Iraq at this time (see Early March 2002). [New Yorker, 10/20/03]
People and organizations involved: Thomas Franks, Bob Graham
          

February 28, 2002

       John Bolton and other US officials fly to Europe and meet with Jose Bustani, head of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). They demand that Bustani quietly resign from his position. Bustani refuses. He later explains to the New York Times, “They said they did not like my management style, but they said they were not prepared to elaborate.” [Associated Press, 6/5/2005; Guardian, 4/16/2002]
People and organizations involved: Jose M. Bustani, Bush administration, John R. Bolton
          

March 2002

       The office of John Bolton, the undersecretary of state for arms control, issues a “white paper” asserting that Jose Bustani, head of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), is seeking an “inappropriate role” in the United States' confrontation with Iraq. The paper is distributed to the member-states of the OPCW. [Associated Press, 6/5/2005]
People and organizations involved: Bush administration, John R. Bolton, Mickey Herskowitz
          

Spring 2002

       The Bush administration shifts its attention from Afghanistan and al-Qaeda to Iraq. White House counterterrorism advisor Richard Clarke later recalls: “They took one thing that people on the outside find hard to believe or appreciate. Management time. We're a huge government, and we have hundreds of thousands of people involved in national security. Therefore you would think we could walk and chew gum at the same time. I've never found that to be true. ... It just is not credible that the principals and the deputies paid as much attention to Afghanistan or the war against al-Qaeda as they should have.” [Atlantic Monthly, 10/2004] Laurence Pope, an ambassador to Chad, similarly recalls in 2004 that the change in focus that spring had a particularly damaging effect on operations in Afghanistan. “There was a moment of six months or so when we could have put much more pressure on the tribal areas [to get al-Qaeda], and on Pakistan, and done a better job of reconstruction in Afghanistan. In reality, the Beltway can only do one thing at a time, and because of the attention to Iraq, what should have happened in Afghanistan didn't.” [Atlantic Monthly, 10/2004] US Intelligence agencies are also affected by the shift in priorities. The CIA's limited supply of Arabic-speakers and Middle East specialists are redeployed to help meet the increasing demand for intelligence on Iraq. Michael Scheuer, a career CIA officer who was head of the agency's anti-bin Laden team from the late 1990s until his retirement in 2004, says, “With a finite number of people who have any kind of pertinent experience there [was] unquestionably a sucking away of resources from Afghanistan and al-Qaeda to Iraq, just because it was a much bigger effort.” [Atlantic Monthly, 10/2004]
People and organizations involved: Michael Scheuer, Laurence Pope, Richard A. Clarke, Bush administration
          

(Spring 2002)

       The US Air Force's only two specially-equipped RC135 U spy planes—credited with having successfully intercepted the radio transmissions and cellphone calls of al-Qaeda's leaders—are pulled from Afghanistan to conduct surveillance over Iraq. [Guardian, 3/26/2004]
          

Early March 2002

       According to a former White House official interviewed by Seymour Hersh during the fall of 2003, Bush makes the decision to invade Iraq at this time and begins diverting resources away from the “war on terrorism” to the planned invasion of Iraq. “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 New Yorker, 10/20/03 Sources: Unnamed Former White House official]
People and organizations involved: George W. Bush  Additional Info 
          

March 2002

       Fifth Group Special Forces—an elite group whose members speak Arabic, Pashtun, and Dari—is pulled from its mission in Afghanistan and sent to Iraq where the group is assigned the task of locating Saddam Hussein. Its mission in Afghanistan is reassigned “to people who [speak] no Dari, Pashtun or Arabic, and [have] no rapport” with the Afghans. Members of Fifth Group, who spent six months developing a network of local sources and alliances and who believe they were close to finding Osama bin Laden, are upset with the orders. “We were going nuts on the ground about that decision,” one of them will later recall. [Guardian, 3/26/2004]
          

March 2002

       Vice President Dick Cheney drops by a Senate Republican policy lunch and instructs everyone that what he is about to say should not be repeated to anyone. He then explains that the question is no longer if the US will attack Iraq, but when. [Time, 5/5/02]
People and organizations involved: Richard ("Dick") Cheney
          

March 14, 2002

       Sir David Manning, the British prime minister's foreign policy adviser, meets with President George Bush's national security advisor, Condoleezza Rice. In a summary of the meeting written for Tony Blair, Manning says: “We spent a long time at dinner on Iraq. It is clear that Bush is grateful for your support and has registered that you are getting flak. I said that you would not budge in your support for regime change but you had to manage a press, a parliament, and a public opinion that was very different than anything in the States. And you would not budge on your insistence that, if we pursued regime change, it must be very carefully done and produce the right result. Failure was not an option.” [Los Angeles Times, 6/15/2005; Daily Telegraph, 3/21/05; Guardian, 4/21/05 Sources: Memo from David Manning to Tony Blair, 3/14/2002] Manning reports that the “big questions” have not been thoroughly considered by the US president. Bush, he notes, “has yet to find the answers ... [about] how to persuade international opinion that military action against Iraq is necessary and justified” and how to deal with “what happens on the morning after.” [Washington Post, 6/12/2005 Sources: Memo from David Manning to Tony Blair, 3/14/2002] With regard to the problem of international opinion, Manning says he suggested to Rice that “[r]enewed refusal by Saddam to accept unfettered inspections would be a powerful argument” in convincing others to support an invasion. [Guardian, 4/21/05; Daily Telegraph, 3/21/05; Los Angeles Times, 6/15/2005]
People and organizations involved: Condoleezza Rice, Tony Blair, David Manning
          

March 17, 2002

       British Ambassador to the US Sir Christopher Meyer attends lunch with Paul Wolfowitz and other Bush administration officials in Washington and assures them that the British would support the use of military force against Iraq. Meyer informs Sir David Manning, Tony Blair's foreign policy adviser, in a memo the following day: “On Iraq I opened by sticking very closely to the script that you used with Condi Rice last week. We backed regime change, but the plan had to be clever and failure was not an option. It would be a tough sell for us domestically, and probably tougher elsewhere in Europe. The US could go it alone if it wanted to. But if it wanted to act with partners, there had to be a strategy for building support for military action against Saddam. I then went through the need to wrongfoot Saddam on the inspectors and the UN SCRs [Security Council Resolutions] and the critical importance of the MEPP [Middle East Peace Process] as an integral part of the anti-Saddam strategy.” [Los Angeles Times, 6/15/2005; BBC, 4/29/05; Guardian, 4/21/05 Sources: Memo from Christopher Meyer to David Manning, 3/18/2002]
People and organizations involved: Bush administration, Christopher Meyer, Paul Wolfowitz, David Manning
          

Late March 2002

       After Dick Cheney's 10-day trip across the Middle East, during which he was told by several Middle East leaders that their respective governments would not support an invasion of Iraq, an official tells the Telegraph of London: “I don't think it will change the administration's thinking. We are quite determined on this account.” [Telegraph, 3/24/02]
          

April 2002

       According to Arnaud de Borchgrave, the editor-at-large of the Washington Times, he learns in April 2002 from neoconservatives that the planned war against Iraq is not about WMD, but about reshaping the Middle East. In a February 2004 op-ed, he writes: “WMDs were not the principal reason for going to war against Saddam Hussein's Iraq; they were the pretext. ... When this writer first heard from prominent neoconservatives in April 2002 that war was no longer a question of ‘if’ but ‘when,’ the casus belli had little to do with WMDs. The Bush administration, they explained, starkly and simply, had decided to redraw the geopolitical map of the Middle East. The Bush Doctrine of preemption had become the vehicle for driving axis-of-evil practitioners out of power.” [Washington Times, 2/10/2004]
People and organizations involved: Arnaud de Borchgrave
          

April 6-7, 2002

       British Prime Minister Tony Blair, on a visit to Bush's ranch in Crawford, Texas [Independent, 2/27/05] , tells the president that the UK intends to “support military action to bring about regime change.” [Guardian, 5/2/05; Daily Telegraph, 5/4/05] But Blair also says that certain conditions will have to be met. He says that efforts will have to be made to “construct a coalition,” “shape public opinion,” and demonstrate that all options to “eliminate Iraq's WMD through the UN weapons inspectors” have been exhausted. Additionally, the Israeli-Palestinian crisis should be quiescent, he says. [Los Angeles Times, 5/12/05] During a joint press conference with Bush on the first day of their summit at Crawford, Blair is asked by a reporter if Bush has convinced him “on the need for military action against Iraq” and whether or not regime change “is now the policy of the British government.” Blair does not respond with a direct answer to either of the questions. [Downing Street, 4/6/02; White House, 4/6/02]
People and organizations involved: George W. Bush, Tony Blair
          

May 2002

       When asked at a news conference in Tampa about what kind of military force would be needed to invade Iraq, Gen. Tommy Franks answers, “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.” Two years later, Franks will be on the record saying Rumsfeld instructed him to draw war plans up in November 2001 (see November 27, 2001). [Washington Post, 5/24/2002; CBS News, 4/18/04]
People and organizations involved: Thomas Franks, George W. Bush
          

Summer 2002

       Claire Short, the British secretary for international development who later resigns in protest of the impending invasion of Iraq, will say in June 2003 that three senior British Intelligence officials told her before the war that Bush and Blair's decision to attack Iraq had been made sometime during the summer of 2002 and that it would likely begin in mid-February 2003. “Three extremely senior people in the Whitehall system said to me very clearly and specifically that the target date was mid-February.” Furthermore, Short will learn, the decision by Blair's government to participate in the US invasion of Iraq bypassed proper government procedures and ignored opposition to the war from Britain's intelligence quarters. [Guardian, 6/18/03 Sources: Claire Short]
People and organizations involved: Claire Short
          

June 2002-March 2003

       The frequency of US and British aerial attacks against targets in Iraq's “no-fly” zones increases dramatically as part of Operation Southern Focus. [London Times, 5/29/2005; New York Times, 7/20/2003; Washington Post, 1/15/2003; Time, 11/27/2002; Independent, 11/24/2002] According to the London Times, US and British planes drop twice as many bombs on Iraq during the second half of 2002 as they did during the entire year of 2001. [London Times, 5/29/2005] Between June 2002 and March 19, 2003, US and British planes fly 21,736 sorties over southern Iraq, dropping 606 bombs on 391 carefully selected targets. [Washington Post, 1/15/2003; London Times, 6/27/2005; New York Times, 7/20/2003] As Timur Eads, a former US special operations officer, notes in January 2003: “We're bombing practically every day as we patrol the no-fly zones, taking out air defense batteries, and there are all kinds of CIA and Special Forces operations going on. I would call it the beginning of a war.” [Boston Globe, 1/6/2003] The airstrikes, which occur primarily in the southern no-fly zone, are also becoming more strategic, targeting Iraq's surface-to-air missiles, air defense radars, command centers, communications facilities, and fiber-optic cable repeater stations. [Washington Post, 1/15/2003; Time, 11/27/2002; Independent, 11/24/2002] The repeater stations are bombed in order to disrupt the network of fiber-optic cables that transmit military communications between Baghdad and Basra and Baghdad and Nasiriya. “They wanted to neutralize the ability of the Iraqi government to command its forces; to establish control of the airspace over Iraq; to provide air support for Special Operations forces, as well as for the Army and Marine forces that would advance toward Baghdad; and to neutralize Iraq's force of surface-to-surface missiles and suspected caches of biological and chemical weapons,” the New York Times reports in July 2003. [New York Times, 7/20/2003] “We're responding differently,” one Pentagon official explains to Time magazine in November 2002. “[We're] hitting multiple targets when we're fired upon—and they're tending to be more important targets.” [Time, 11/27/2002] Some time after the invasion, a US general reportedly says (see July 17, 2003) at a conference at Nevada's Nellis Air Force Base “that he began taking out assets that could help in resisting an invasion at least six months before war was declared.” [San Francisco Chronicle, 6/19/2005 Sources: Charlie Clements]
People and organizations involved: United States, Britain
          

(Mid-August 2002)

       During a National Security Meeting at the White House, Condoleezza Rice suggests ending the attacks on Iraq's “no-fly” zones. But Gen. Tommy Franks disagrees. In his autobiography, “American Soldier,” he says he told Rice he wanted to continue the bombing in order to make Iraq's defenses “as weak as possible.” In his book, Franks uses the term “spikes of activity” to refer to the increase in bombing raids. [London Times, 6/19/05]
People and organizations involved: Thomas Franks, Condoleezza Rice
          

First week of July 2002

       Richard Haass, the director of the policy-planning staff at the State Department, meets with National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice. “I raised this issue about were we really sure that we wanted to put Iraq front and center at this point, given the war on terrorism and other issues,” he later recalls in an interview with the New Yorker. “And she said, essentially, that that decision's been made, don't waste your breath.” [New Yorker, 3/31/2003; The Mirror, 9/22/03]
People and organizations involved: Condoleezza Rice, Richard Haass
          

Mid-March 2002

       Deputy CIA Director John E. McLaughlin informs senior members of the president's national security team that the CIA is cutting back operations in Afghanistan. [Washington Post, 6/22/04]
People and organizations involved: John E. McLaughlin, National Security Council, Central Intelligence Agency
          

July 21, 2002

       The British Cabinet Office issues an eight-page briefing note to prepare officials for an upcoming meeting (see July 23, 2002) on Britain's role in the United States' confrontation with Iraq. The paper, titled “Conditions for Military Action,” addresses a number of issues including US invasion and post-war planning, legal justification for the use of military force, and what the US and British hope to achieve through “regime change.” [London Times, 5/2/05; Newsweek, 6/15/2005 Sources: Downing Street Briefing, 7/19/2002]
British support for use of military force against Iraq - The briefing summarizes the main points of Prime Minister Tony Blair's April meeting (see April 6-7, 2002) with President Bush, recalling that Blair pledged British support for “military action to bring about regime change” as long as “certain conditions” were met. Blair told Bush that the US and Britain would have to first develop a strategy to build a coalition and “shape public opinion.” Additionally, Britain would prefer that all “options for action to eliminate Iraq's WMD through the UN weapons inspectors [are] exhausted” and that the Israel-Palestine crisis be quiescent before going to war against Iraq. [Sources: Downing Street Briefing, 7/19/2002]

US objectives in Iraq - The briefing paper reports that US military planners see the removal of Saddam Hussein as the primary objective, to be “followed by [the] elimination of Iraqi WMD [weapons of mass destruction].” The briefing notes that within the British government there are doubts that “regime change,” by itself, would be sufficient to gain control over any WMD present in Iraq. [Sources: Downing Street Briefing, 7/19/2002]

Creating conditions necessary for legal justification - Noting that “US views of international law vary from that of the UK and the international community,” the briefing paper makes it clear that the British government believes “[r]egime change per se is not a proper basis for military action under international law.” Because Blair told Bush in April that the British would support military action against Iraq, it will be necessary develop a realistic political strategy that would involve, among other things, working with the US to create “the conditions necessary to justify government military action.” It is suggested in the briefing note that an Iraqi refusal to cooperate with weapons inspections could help create such conditions. Saddam Hussein would “likely” agree to admit inspectors and allow them to operate freely during the first six months of inspections when UNMOVIC is in the process of establishing a monitoring and verification system. After this point, the briefing notes, Hussein would probably begin limiting cooperating with inspectors. This would likely not occur until January 2003. Another alternative—one that would provide a legal basis for “regime change” much sooner—is that “an ultimatum could be cast in terms which Saddam would reject ... and which would not be regarded as unreasonable by the international community.” [Los Angeles Times, 5/12/05; Daily Telegraph, 5/4/05; Guardian, 5/2/05; London Times, 5/2/05 Sources: Downing Street Briefing, 7/19/2002]

US invasion plan - According to the briefing paper, US military planners seem to favor an invasion plan that would provide a “running start” to the ground invasion. It would consist of “[a]ir strikes and support for opposition groups in Iraq [that] would lead initially to small-scale land operations.” It would likely begin around November 2002 “with no overt military build-up,” followed by the ground invasion that could commence as early as January 2003. The other option under consideration is the “generated start” plan, which would involve a longer build-up. [London Times, 5/2/05 Sources: Downing Street Briefing, 7/19/2002]

US post-war plan - The briefing paper notes that US “military planning for action against Iraq is proceeding apace” —but with “little thought” to issues such as “the aftermath and how to shape it.” It predicts that a “post-war occupation of Iraq could lead to a protracted and costly nation-building exercise.” The Pentagon's plans “are virtually silent on this point,” the document notes, warning of the possibility that “Washington could look to [the British] to share a disproportionate share of the burden.” [Washington Post, 6/12/2005 Sources: Downing Street Briefing, 7/19/2002]

People and organizations involved: Tony Blair, George W. Bush
          

July 23, 2002

       Top British officials attend a meeting to discuss the UK's potential role in the Bush administration's confrontation with Iraq. According to the minutes of the meeting, transcribed by Matthew Rycroft, Sir Richard Dearlove, head of the British intelligence service, MI6, says that during his last visit to Washington he noticed a “perceptible shift in attitude. Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and [weapons of mass destruction]. But the intelligence and the facts were being fixed around the policy.” Furthermore, he states, Bush's National Security Council indicated it “had no patience with the UN route, and no enthusiasm for publishing material on the Iraqi regime's record.” He also noted that there “was little discussion in Washington of the aftermath after military action.” [Salon (op-ed), 5/6/05; Los Angeles Times, 5/12/05 Sources: Downing Street Memo, 7/23/2002] Foreign Minister Jack Straw appears to agree with Dearlove's assessment, saying that it seems clear that President Bush has already decided on using military force to depose Saddam Hussein. But Straw notes that the Bush administration's case against Saddam was “thin.” The Iraqi leader “was not threatening his neighbors, and his WMD capability was less than that of Libya, North Korea, or Iran,” the minutes say, summarizing his remarks. [Los Angeles Times, 5/12/05; Guardian, 5/2/05] There is no indication in the minutes that anyone present at the meeting disputed Dearlove's or Straw's observations. [Sources: Downing Street Memo, 7/23/2002] Furthermore, the account provided by the intelligence official and Straw are corroborated by a former senior US official who is later interviewed by Knight Ridder. It is “an absolutely accurate description of what transpired,” the official will say. [Knight Ridder, 5/2/05] Straw proposes that the next step would be to “work up an ultimatum to Saddam to allow back in the UN weapons inspectors,” which “would also help with the legal justification for the use of force.” [Los Angeles Times, 5/12/05; Guardian, 5/2/05] Britain's attorney general, Lord Peter Goldsmith, warns that “the desire for regime change [is] not a legal base for military action,” the minutes say. But Blair says that “it would make a big difference politically and legally if Saddam refused to allow in the UN inspectors.” [Los Angeles Times, 5/12/05] Finally, the officials agree that the British government “should continue to work on the assumption that the UK would take part in any military action” but “not ignore the legal issues.” [Guardian, 5/2/05] The minutes do not provide any indication that officials discussed how war might be avoided. [Salon, 6/10/2005] The minutes of this meetings will be revealed by the British Sunday Times three years later (see May 1, 2005). Commonly referred to as the “Downing Street Memo,” the minutes will re-spark the controversy over politicized intelligence.
People and organizations involved: Michael Boyce, Jonathan Powell, Sally Morgan, Richard Wilson, John Scarlett, Francis Richards, Alastair Campbell, Peter Goldsmith, Richard Dearlove, Geoff Hoon, Jack Straw, Tony Blair  Additional Info 
          

Late July -September 2002

       President Bush allegedly approves a request from the Pentagon for $700 million to help fund military preparations underway in the Gulf for war against Iraq. The charge is made by Bob Woodward in his book, Plan of Attack, released in the spring of 2004. [Woodward, 2004; CBS News, 4/18/04] The White House and Pentagon will deny the charge claiming that Bush only approved the spending of $178.4 million out of a requested total of $750 million. According to the Pentagon, $178.4 million is spent on 21 projects in Kuwait, Qatar, and Oman. At least 11 of them are in Kuwait, which becomes the major staging ground for operations in Iraq. In that country alone, $24 million is spent constructing an ammunition storage and supply system for an Army brigade, and $15 million worth of communications equipment is installed at the Arifjan Base Camp. The military also builds a $3 million detention facility and a $6.5 million inland petroleum-distribution system. In Qatar, $36.4 million goes toward the construction of a forward headquarters facility for Central Command. [Wall Street Journal, 4/22/2004, pp A4] The money for these projects is taken from a supplemental appropriation for the Afghan War without congressional approval. [CBS News, 4/18/04]
People and organizations involved: George W. Bush
          

(Early August 2002)

       British Prime Minister Tony Blair and US President George Bush discuss over the phone their intention to topple Saddam Hussein's government. An unnamed White House official who later reads the transcripts of the 15-minute phone call will explain to Vanity Fair that it was clear from their conversation that the decision to invade Iraq had already been made. The magazine reports in April 2004: “Before the call, the official says, he had the impression that the probability of invasion was high, but still below 100 percent, Afterward, he says, ‘it was a done deal.’ ” [Vanity Fair, 5/04, pp 284 Sources: Unnamed White House official]
People and organizations involved: George W. Bush, Tony Blair
          

August 3, 2002

       US Undersecretary of State for Arms Control John Bolton tells John Humphries of the BBC: “Let there be no mistake... our policy... insists on regime change in Baghdad and that policy will not be altered whether the inspectors go in or not... we are content that at the appropriate moment we will have the requisite degree of international support.” When Humphries asks, “But if you don't have it, and all the indications are that at the moment you won't, then what?” Bolton responds, bluntly: “We will have it Mr. Humphries.” [BBC, 4/29/2005]
People and organizations involved: John R. Bolton
          

August 5, 2002

       US military planners decide that the operation to depose Saddam Hussein will begin with an air offensive—under the guise of enforcing the so-called “no-fly” zone —and Special Forces operations aimed at weakening Iraqi air defenses. This will begin without any formal declaration or authorization from the UN. Meanwhile the US and British will build up forces in Kuwait in preparation for a full-scale ground invasion. [London Times, 5/29/2005] The tonnage of ordnance dropped on targets in Iraq's “no-fly” zones will increase dramatically over the next few months (see August 1-31, 2002) (see September 1-30, 2002) (see October 1-31, 2002).
          

August 27, 2002

       After a meeting between President Bush and Saudi ambassador Bandar bin Sultan, Ari Fleischer tells the press, “The president stressed that he has made no decisions, that he will continue to engage in consultations with Saudi Arabia and other nations about steps in the Middle East, steps in Iraq.” [CNN, 8/27/02]
People and organizations involved: Ari Fleischer, George W. Bush, Bandar bin Sultan
          

Before September 2002

       US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld orders commanders to focus US and British aerial strikes in Iraq on the country's air defense communications centers, command buildings, and fiber-optic links, in order to degrade Iraq's air defense network. [Washington Post, 12/12/2002; Washington Post, 1/15/2003]
People and organizations involved: Donald Rumsfeld
          

September 5, 2002

       One hundred American and British warplanes attack Iraq's H-3 airfield, a major air defense installation in western Iraq located far away from the Shia-populated areas that the US and Britain patrols are supposedly protecting. The attacks mark the first time jets have striked against a target in western Iraq while patrolling the southern “no-fly” zone. According to US central command, the operation—described by one newspaper as “the biggest single operation over the country [in] four years” —was launched in “response to recent Iraqi hostile acts against coalition aircraft monitoring the southern no-fly zone.” The US asserts that “coalition strikes in the no-fly zones are executed as a self defense measure in response to Iraqi hostile threats and acts against coalition forces and their aircraft.” The London Telegraph, however, reports that the operation “seemed designed to destroy air defenses to allow easy access for special forces helicopters to fly into Iraq via Jordan or Saudi Arabia to hunt down Scud missiles before a possible war within the next few months.” [Daily Telegraph, 9/6/2002; Statesman, 5/30/2005]
          

September 8, 2002

       When asked on NBC's “Meet the Press” how long US troops would be in Iraq after the expected US invasion, how much it would cost, and whether or not the military operation would be a cakewalk, Vice President Dick Cheney insists that “first of all, no decision's been made yet to launch a military operation.” Addressing host Tim Russert's question, he explains, “We clearly would have to stay for a long time,” and admits that it “could be very costly.” [NBC (transcripts), 9/8/02; Daily Telegraph, 3/21/05]
People and organizations involved: Richard ("Dick") Cheney
          

September 16, 2002

       US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld says that President Bush has not decided to go to war. [Associated Press, 9/16/02]
People and organizations involved: Donald Rumsfeld, George W. Bush
          

September 20, 2002

       White House and Pentagon officials publicly disclose that the Department of Defense has finished a highly detailed plan for attacking Iraq that was delivered to President Bush's desk in early September by Gen. Tommy R. Franks. White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer says, “The president has options now, and he has not made any decisions.” The New York Times interviews senior officials who explain that the plan includes specific details, including the “number of ground troops, combat aircraft and aircraft carrier battle groups that would be needed,” and the “detailed sequencing for the use of air, land, naval and Special Operations forces to attack thousands of Iraqi targets, from air-defense sites to command-and-control headquarters to fielded forces.” Officials also tell the Times that any attack would begin “with a lengthy air campaign led by B-2 bombers armed with 2,000-pound satellite-guided bombs to knock out Iraqi command and control headquarters and air defenses.” The principal goal of the air attacks, they say, “would be to sever most communications from Baghdad and isolate Saddam Hussein from his commanders in the rest of the country.” [New York Times, 9/21/02] The disclosure of this information notably comes only a few days after Iraq has offered to unconditionally admit weapons inspectors (see September 16, 2002).
People and organizations involved: Thomas Franks, Ari Fleischer, George W. Bush
          

October 16, 2002

       President Bush signs the congressional resolution (see October 2, 2002) authorizing him to use military force against Iraq. “I have not ordered the use of force. I hope the use of force will not become necessary,” he says shortly before signing the document. “Hopefully this can be done peacefully. Hopefully we can do this without any military action.” He says he has “carefully weighed the human cost of every option before us” and that he will only send troops “as a last resort.” [White House, 10/16/02]
People and organizations involved: George W. Bush
          

October 31, 2002

       General Tommy Frank's full US battle plan, codenamed 1003V, is completed. [Independent, 9/29/04]
People and organizations involved: Thomas Franks
          

November 7, 2002

       A reporter asks President Bush if he thinks a war against Iraq might be a bad idea given widespread concerns that it could “generate a tremendous amount of anger and hatred at the United States ... [thus] creating many new terrorists who would want to kill Americans.” Bush responds that the US should not avoid taking action out of fear that it might “irritate somebody [who] would create a danger to Americans.” He also adds that no decision has been made with regard to using force against Iraq. “Hopefully, we can do this peacefully,” he says. “And if the world were to collectively come together to do so, and to put pressure on Saddam Hussein and convince him to disarm, there's a chance he may decide to do that. And war is not my first choice ... it's my last choice. But nevertheless, it is ... an option in order to make the world a more peaceful place.” [White House, 11/7/02]
People and organizations involved: George W. Bush
          

December 2002

       US military officials admit that they recently used an incident of Iraqi fire on jets in the northern “no-fly” zone to justify an attack against targets in southern Iraq. [Washington Post, 1/15/2003]
          

December 4, 2002

       During a question and answer period following President Bush's signing of the Dot Kids Implementation and Efficiency Act of 2002, the president is asked about the weapon inspectors' progress in Iraq and if he believes “the signs are not encouraging that they're doing their job.” Bush responds: “This isn't about inspectors. The issue is whether Saddam Hussein will disarm. Will he disarm in the name of peace.” He also condemns Iraq's shooting of US and British planes that have been patrolling the so-called “no-fly” zones over northern and southern Iraq (see June 2002-March 2003) and contends that these actions demonstrate that Saddam does not intend to comply with UN Resolution 1441 (see November 8, 2002). Bush also implies that no decision has been made to use military force against Iraq. “The best way for peace is for Mr. Saddam Hussein to disarm,” he insists. “It's up to him to make his decision.” [White House, 12/4/02]
People and organizations involved: George W. Bush
          

December 6, 2002

       UNMOVIC weapons inspection leader Hans Blix calls on the US to share its secret intelligence with inspectors. “Of course we would like to have as much information from any member state as to evidence they may have on weapons of mass destruction, and, in particular, sites,” he says. “Because we are inspectors, we can go to sites. They may be listening to what's going on and they may have lots of other sources of information. But we can go to the sites legitimately and legally.” Notes the New York Times: “On one hand, administration officials are pressing him to work faster and send out more inspectors to more places to undermine Baghdad's ability to conceal any hidden programs. At the same time, Washington has been holding back its intelligence, waiting to see what Iraq will say in its declaration.” [New York Times, 12/7/02]
People and organizations involved: Hans Blix
          

December 31, 2002

       At his ranch in Texas, President Bush tells a reporter who questions whether the world is safer heading into 2003: “I hope this Iraq situation will be resolved peacefully. One of my New Year's resolutions is to work to deal with these situations in a way so that they're resolved peacefully.” To another reporter's question, he similarly states: “I hope we're not headed to war in Iraq. I'm the person who gets to decide, not you. I hope this can be done peacefully.” [White House, 12/31/02; Atlantic Monthly, 10/2004]
People and organizations involved: George W. Bush
          

Early January 2003

       According to Bob Woodward's book, Plan of Attack, National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice visits George Bush's ranch in Crawford, Texas. Bush tells her: “We're not winning. Time is not on our side here. Probably going to have to, we're going to have to go to war.” [Woodward, 2004 cited in The Washington Post, 4/17/04] When the contents of Woodward's book are reported in mid-April 2004, many people interpret Bush's statement as a decision to go to war. But Rice will deny that that was the case. “... I just want it to be understood: That was not a decision to go to war,” she will say. “The decision to go to war is in March. The president is saying in that conversation, I think the chances are that this is not going to work out any other way. We're going to have to go to war.” [Woodward, 2004 cited in Associated Press, 4/17/04]
People and organizations involved: Condoleezza Rice, George W. Bush
          

(January 2003)

       US military officials insist that US and British aerial attacks against targets in Iraq are being conducted only in response to Iraqis firing on planes patrolling the so-called “no-fly” zones. The increased number of aerial strikes (see June 2002-March 2003) is a response, they say, to Iraq's increased hostility toward US and British jets, not preparation for a ground attack as some critics have suggested. “The Iraqi regime has increased its attacks on the coalition, so the coalition has increased its efforts to protect its pilots,” Jim Wilkinson, a spokesman for the US Central Command in Tampa, says. “Every coalition action is in direct response to Iraqi hostile acts against our pilots, or the regime's attempts to materially improve its military infrastructure south of the 33rd parallel.” But according to the Washington Post, these officials have also “acknowledge[d] that military planners are taking full advantage of the opportunity to target Iraq's integrated air defense network for destruction in a systemic fashion that will ease the way for US air and ground forces if President Bush decides war is the only option for disarming Iraq.” Loren B. Thompson, a defense analyst at the Lexington Institute who has ties to defense contractors and the Pentagon, says the attacks on Iraq's southern air defenses will allow the US military “to send in almost anything it wants—bombers, fighters, and helicopters with Special Operations Forces” when the official invasion begins. It will also make it safer for the slow-moving C-17 transports to move troops inside Iraq. Similarly, retired Air Force Col. John Warden, who helped plan the US air campaign against Iraq in 1991, explains, “Anything that would need to be knocked out that is knocked out now saves some sorties once the war starts.” The attacks, he notes, have “some obvious value in the event of a war.” Anthony H. Cordesman, a former defense official at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, also disputes the notion that the increased US air attacks are purely retaliatory. “You enforce containment when you carry out these strikes, and you deter Iraq from any kind of military adventure,” he explains. “And when you conduct these strikes, you are preparing part of the battleground for a war.” [Washington Post, 1/15/2003]
          

January 2003

       An unnamed CIA case officer with the agency's Directorate of Operations (DO) will later say that during a January 2003 weekly office meeting, his or her boss told about fifty CIA employees: “You know what—if Bush wants to go to war, it's your job to give him a reason to do so.” The case officer later explains to national security expert James Bamford how he felt upon hearing those instructions. “And I said, ‘All right, it's time, it's time to go.’ I remember, when it happened I looked around and I said, ‘This is awful.’ He said it at the weekly office meeting. And I just remember saying, ‘This is something that the American public, if they ever heard, if they ever knew, they would be outraged.’ The fact that we're sitting in the meeting and we're not outraged at this, and we can't do anything—it was just against every moral fiber of my being. He said, ‘If President Bush wants to go to war, ladies and gentlemen, your job's to give him a reason to do so.’ He said it to about fifty people. And it's funny because everyone still talks about that—‘Remember when [he] said that.’” [Bamford, 2004, pp 333-334] Another DO case officer later says of the meeting: “The fact that someone could say that in the agency and get away with it is just disgusting. He said that to his full staff. I can't believe that someone would say that openly and get away with it. But there was a lot of that. ... And for me that was the final straw. It was criminal the way we were implicitly deceiving people. ... You know, what I heard from everyone was that this had been planned for a long time.” [Bamford, 2004, pp 337]
          

January 13, 2003

       US President George Bush and Secretary of State Colin Powell meet alone in the Oval Office for twelve minutes. According to Woodward's book, Plan of Attack, Bush says, “The inspections are not getting us there.... I really think I'm going to have to do this,” adding that he is firm in his decision. Powell responds, “You're sure? ... You understand the consequences.... You know that you're going to be owning this place?” Bush indicates that he understands the implications and asks, “Are you with me on this? ... I think I have to do this. I want you with me.” Powell responds: “I'll do the best I can. ... Yes, sir, I will support you. I'm with you, Mr. President.” Woodward will also say in his book that Bush had never—ever—asked his Secretary of State for his advice on the matter of Iraq. “In all the discussions, meetings, chats and back-and-forth, in Powell's grueling duels with Rumsfeld and Defense, the president had never once asked Powell, Would you do this? What's your overall advice? The bottom line?” Woodward will write. [Woodward, 2004 cited in New York Times, 4/17/04; Woodward, 2004 cited in Washington Post 4/18/04 Sources: Top officials interviewed by Washington Post editor Bob Woodward]
People and organizations involved: George W. Bush, Colin Powell
          

Before February 5, 2003

       An unnamed Pentagon analyst warns a top CIA official in an email that one of the allegations Powell is planning to make in his February 5 presentation to the UN is based on intelligence from a single informant of dubious reliability. The analyst—who was the only member of US intelligence to interview the source—said it wasn't even certain if the informant, known as “Curveball,” was “who he said he was.” [Newsweek, 7/19/04] The CIA official quickly responded to the analyst's warning: “Let's keep in mind the fact that this war's going to happen regardless of what Curveball said or didn't say,” he wrote. “The Powers That Be probably aren't terribly interested in whether Curveball knows what he's talking about.” [Newsweek, 7/19/04]
          

February 7, 2003

       When President Bush is asked by a reporter if he believes Iraq can be “disarmed” without the use of force, the president responds that it's up to Saddam Hussein. He asserts that Saddam Hussein has been playing “a game with the inspectors” for the last 90 days. “But Saddam Hussein is—he's treated the demands of the world as a joke up to now, and it was his choice to make,” Bush says. “He's the person who gets to decide war and peace.” [White House, 2/7/03]
People and organizations involved: George W. Bush
          

February 24, 2003

       An unnamed senior UN diplomat tells The Washington Post that he had been told by US officials: “You are not going to decide whether there is war in Iraq or not. That decision is ours, and we have already made it. It is already final. The only question now is whether the council will go along with it or not.” [The Washington Post, 2/25/03 Sources: Unnamed (non-US) senior U.N diplomat]
          

March 2003

       According to Robin Cook, Tony Blair says, “Left to himself, Bush would have gone to war in January. No, not January, but back in September.” [Independent, 10/6/03 Sources: Robin Cook's diary]
People and organizations involved: Robin Cook
          

March 6, 2003

       During a press conference, Bush is asked if the US will provide journalists, humanitarian workers, and weapons inspectors enough time to leave Iraq before the war begins, if it comes to that. Bush responds that people will be given a chance, but also recommends to journalists, “If you're going, and we start action, leave.” He also insists that no decision has been made to use military force. “I've not made up our mind about military action,” Bush says. “Hopefully, this can be done peacefully.” At the conclusion of the press conference, Bush again says that he has not made any decision to use force. “I want to remind you that it's his choice to make as to whether or not we go to war. It's Saddam's choice. He's the person that can make the choice of war and peace.” [White House, 3/6/03]
People and organizations involved: George W. Bush
          
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