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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
Weapons inspections (122)
Alleged WMDs (99)
The decision to invade (104)
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: Pre-9/11 plans for war

 
  

Project: Inquiry into the decision to invade Iraq

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May 1991

       President George H. W. Bush signs a covert “lethal finding” authorizing the CIA to spend a hundred million dollars to “create the conditions for removal of Saddam Hussein from power.” [New Yorker, 6/7/2004] The CIA forms the Iraqi Opposition Group within its Directorate of Operations to implement this policy. [Ritter, 2005, pp 128] Awash in cash, the agency hires the Rendon Group to influence global political opinion on matters related to Iraq. According to Francis Brooke, an employee of the company who's paid $22,000 per month, the Rendon Group's contract with the CIA provides it with a ten percent “management fee” on top of whatever money it spends. “We tried to burn through $40 million a year,” Brooke will tell the New Yorker. “It was a very nice job.” The work involves planting false stories in the foreign press. The company begins supplying British journalists with misinformation which then shows up in the London press. In some cases, these stories are later picked up by the American press, in violation of laws prohibiting domestic propaganda. “It was amazing how well it worked. It was like magic,” Brooke later recalls. Another one of the company's tasks is to help the CIA create a viable and unified opposition movement against Saddam Hussein (see June 1992). This brings the Rendon Group and Francis Brooke into contact with Iraqi exile Ahmed Chalabi (see After May 1991). [New Yorker, 6/7/2004]
People and organizations involved: Rendon Group, Francis Brooke, George Herbert Walker Bush
          

March 8, 1992

       The Defense Planning Guidance, “a blueprint for the department's spending priorities in the aftermath of the first Gulf War and the collapse of the Soviet Union,” is leaked to the New York Times. [New York Times, 3/8/92; Newsday, 3/16/03] The document causes controversy, because it hadn't yet been “scrubbed” to replace candid language with euphemisms. [New York Times, 3/11/92; Observer, 4/7/02; New York Times, 3/10/92] The document argues that the US dominates the world as sole superpower, and to maintain that role, it “must maintain the mechanisms for deterring potential competitors from even aspiring to a larger regional or global role.” [New York Times, 3/8/92 (B); New York Times, 3/8/92] As the Observer summarizes it, “America's friends are potential enemies. They must be in a state of dependence and seek solutions to their problems in Washington.” [Observer, 4/7/02] The document is mainly written by Paul Wolfowitz and I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, who hold relatively low posts at the time, but become deputy defense secretary and Vice President Cheney's chief of staff, respectively, under George W. Bush. [Newsday, 3/16/03] The authors conspicuously avoid mention of collective security arrangements through the United Nations, instead suggesting the US “should expect future coalitions to be ad hoc assemblies, often not lasting beyond the crisis being confronted.” [New York Times, 3/8/92] They call for “punishing” or “threatening punishment” against regional aggressors before they act. Interests to be defended preemptively include “access to vital raw materials, primarily Persian Gulf oil, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles, [and] threats to US citizens from terrorism.” [Harper's, 10/02] Senator Lincoln Chafee (R) later says, “It is my opinion that [George W. Bush's] plan for preemptive strikes was formed back at the end of the first Bush administration with that 1992 report.” [Newsday, 3/16/03] In response to the controversy, US releases an updated version of the document in May 1992, which stresses that the US will work with the United Nations and its allies. [Washington Post, 5/24/92; Harper's, 10/02]
People and organizations involved: Lincoln Chafee, United States, Soviet Union, Lewis ("Scooter") Libby, Paul Wolfowitz
          

June 1992

       The Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), headed by Masud Barzani, and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), headed by Jalal Talabani, meet in Vienna along with nearly 200 delegates from dozens of Iraqi opposition groups to form an umbrella organization for Iraqi dissident groups. [New Yorker, 6/7/2004; Federation of American Scientists, 8/8/1998] The event is organized by the Rendon Group, which has been contracted by the CIA to organize the wide spectrum of Iraqi dissidents into a unified movement against Saddam Hussein. Rendon names the group the “Iraqi National Congress” (INC). The CIA pays the Rendon Group $326,000 per month for the work, funneled to the company and the INC through various front organizations. [CounterPunch, 5/20/2004; Rolling Stone, 11/17/2005 Sources: Unnamed former CIA operative] Thomas Twetten, the CIA's deputy directorate of operations, will later recall: “The INC was clueless. They needed a lot of help and didn't know where to start.” [The New Republic, 5/20/2002; Bamford, 2004, pp 296-297] Rendon hires freelance journalist Paul Moran and Zaab Sethna as contract employees to do public relations and “anti-Saddam propaganda” for the new organization. [SBS Dateline, 7/23/2003]
People and organizations involved: Masud Barzani, Jalal Talabani, Central Intelligence Agency, Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, Kurdistan Democratic Party, Iraqi National Congress, Rendon Group, Paul Moran, Zaab Sethna, Thomas Twetten
          

July 8, 1996

       The Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies, an Israeli think tank, publishes a paper titled “A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm.” [Guardian, 9/3/02; Washington Times, 10/7/03; Chicago Sun-Times, 3/6/03] The paper, whose lead author is Richard Perle, advises the new, right-wing Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu to break with the policies of the previous government by adopting a strategy “based on an entirely new intellectual foundation, one that restores strategic initiative and provides the nation the room to engage every possible energy on rebuilding Zionism ....” Much along the lines of an earlier paper by Israeli Oded Yinon , the document urges the Israelis to aggressively seek the downfall of their Arab neighbors—especially Syria and Iraq—by exploiting the inherent tensions within and among the Arab States. Specifically, it recommends that Israel work with Turkey and Jordan to remove Saddam Hussein from power as a means of “foiling Syria's regional ambitions.” [Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies, 7/8/96; Carnegie Endowment for Peace, 3/19/03; Guardian, 9/3/02 Sources: A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm] Other suggestions for Israel include abandoning the Oslo Accords, developing a foreign policy based on a traditional balance of power strategy, reserving its right to invade the West Bank and Gaza Strip as part of a strategy of “self-defense,” abandoning any notion of “land for peace,” reestablishing a policy of preemptive strikes, forging closer ties to the US while taking steps towards self-reliance, and seeking an alternative to Yasser Arafat as leader of the PLO. [Guardian, 9/3/02; Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies, 7/8/96 Sources: A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm]
People and organizations involved: Douglas Feith, Jeffrey T. Bergner, Richard Armitage, Richard V. Allen, Benjamin Netanyahu, Richard Perle, A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm, James Colbert, Charles Fairbanks, Jr., Jonathan Torop, Meyrav Wurmser, Robert Loewenberg, David Wurmser
          

November 12, 1997

       David Wurmser, director of the Middle East program at the American Enterprise Institute, writes an op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal arguing that the US government should support Ahmed Chalabi's Iraqi National Congress [INC] and work to foment “an Iraqi insurgency to depose the butcher of Baghdad.” Wurmser writes: “Washington has no choice now but to abandon the coup option and resurrect the INC. An insurgency may be able to defeat Saddam's weak and demoralized conventional army. But one thing is clear: There is no cost-free way to depose Saddam. He is more resolute, wily and brutal than we. His strength lies in his weapons of terror; that is why he is so attached to them.... Organizing an insurgency to liberate Iraq under the INC may provoke Saddam to use these weapons on the way down. Better that, though, than current policy, which will lead him to use them on his way back up.” [Wall Street Journal, 11/12/97]
People and organizations involved: David Wurmser, Ahmed Chalabi
          

January 26, 1998

       The Project for the New American Century (PNAC), an influential neoconservative think tank, publishes a letter to President Clinton urging war against Iraq and the removal of Saddam Hussein because he is a “hazard” to “a significant portion of the world's supply of oil.” In a foretaste of what eventually happens, the letter calls for the US to go to war alone, attacks the United Nations, and says the US should not be “crippled by a misguided insistence on unanimity in the UN Security Council.” The letter is signed by many who will later lead the 2003 Iraq war. 10 of the 18 signatories later join the Bush Administration, including (future) Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, Assistant Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, Assistant Secretary of State Richard Armitage, Undersecretaries of State John Bolton and Paula Dobriansky, presidential adviser for the Middle East Elliott Abrams, and Bush's special Iraq envoy Zalmay Khalilzad. [Sunday Herald, 3/16/03 Sources: January 26, 1998 Open Letter to Bill Clinton] Clinton does heavily bomb Iraq in late 1998, but the bombing doesn't last long and its long term effect is the break off of United Nations weapons inspections. [New York Times, 3/22/03]
People and organizations involved: William J. Bennett, Vin Weber, Paul Wolfowitz, James Woolsey, William Schneider Jr., Donald Rumsfeld, William Jefferson ("Bill") Clinton, Robert B. Zoellick, Peter Rodman, John R. Bolton, Elliott Abrams, Richard Armitage, Jeffrey T. Bergner, Zalmay M. Khalilzad, William Kristol, Paula J. Dobriansky, Robert Kagan, Francis Fukuyama, Richard Perle
          

February 19, 1998

       The Committee for Peace and Security publishes an open letter to President Bill Clinton outlining a 9-point “comprehensive political and military strategy for bringing down Saddam and his regime.” The letter is signed by a litany of former US government officials known for their neoconservative viewpoints. Several of the signatories are also involved with the Project for the New American Century and had endorsed a similar letter published by that organization the previous month. [CNN, 2/20/98; Committee For Peace and Security, 2/19/98 Sources: February 19, 1998 Open Letter to Bill Clinton]
People and organizations involved: Richard Armitage, Peter Rodman, Roger Robinson, Paul Wolfowitz, Joshua Muravchik, Martin Peretz, Robert A. Pastor, Max Singer, Peter Rosenblatt, Helmut Sonnenfeldt, Leon Wienseltier, Caspar Weinberger, Richard V. Allen, Frank Carlucci, Paula J. Dobriansky, William B. Clark, Jeffrey T. Bergner, Stephen Bryen, Richard Burt, Frank Gaffney, Jeffrey Gedmin, Sven F. Kraemer, Gary Schmitt, Zalmay M. Khalilzad, Bernard Lewis, Frederick L. Lewis, Jarvis Lynch, Robert C. McFarlane, John R. Bolton, Fred C. Ikle, Stephen Solarz, David Wurmser, Dov S. Zakheim, Donald Rumsfeld, William Kristol, Elliott Abrams, Richard Perle, Michael Ledeen, Robert Kagan, Douglas Feith
          

May 29, 1998

       The Project for a New American Century (PNAC) publishes a letter addressed to Congressman Newt Gingrich and Senator Trent Lott. The letter argues that the Clinton administration has capitulated to Saddam Hussein and calls on the two legislators to lead Congress to “establish and maintain a strong US military presence in the region, and be prepared to use that force to protect [US] vital interests in the Gulf—and, if necessary, to help removed Saddam from power.” [Sources: PNAC letter to Gingrich and Lott, 5/29/1998]
People and organizations involved: Saddam Hussein, Clinton administration, US Congress, Project for the New American Century, Trent Lott, Newt Gingrich
          

October 31, 1998

       President Clinton Signs the Iraq Liberation Act of 1998 into law. The act, which passed with overwhelming support from Democrats and Republicans in both the House and Senate, was written by Trent Lott and other Republicans with significant input from Ahmed Chalabi and his aide, Francis Brooke. The act makes it “the policy of the United States to support efforts to remove the regime headed by Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq and to promote the emergence of a democratic government to replace that regime.” To that end, the act requires that the president designate one or more Iraqi opposition groups to receive up to $97 million in US military equipment and nonlethal training. The act authorizes another $43 million for humanitarian, broadcasting, and information-collection activities. To be eligible for US assistance, an organization must be “committed to democratic values, to respect for human rights, to peaceful relations with Iraq's neighbors, to maintaining Iraq's territorial integrity, and to fostering cooperation among democratic opponents of the Saddam Hussein regime.” [New Yorker, 6/7/2004; Washington Post, 1/25/2002 Sources: Iraq Liberation Act of 1998]
People and organizations involved: Ahmed Chalabi, Francis Brooke, Trent Lott, William Jefferson ("Bill") Clinton
          

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
          

February 1999

       In his book, Tyranny's Ally: America's Failure to Defeat Saddam Hussein, David Wurmser of the American Enterprise Institute urges the US to support an insurgency aimed at toppling the Bath'ist government of Saddam Hussein as part of a broader policy to defeat pan-Arabism in Iraq. In its place, the US should encourage the creation of a “loosely unified Iraqi confederal government, shaped around strong sectarian and provincial entities,” Wurmser argues. [Wurmser, 1999, pp 136-137] What happens in Iraq is vitally important, Wurmser notes, because the country is of extreme strategic importance. “It is a key transportation route, and it is rich in both geographic endowments and human talent,” he explains. “Its location on pathways between Asia and Europe, Africa and Asia, and Europe and Africa makes it an ideal route for armies, pipelines, and trade from both the eastern Mediterranean and Asia Minor to the Persian Gulf. Iraq also has large, proven oil reserves, water, and other important resources. Its geographic centrality and abundance of natural advantages alone make the country a regionally important center.” [Wurmser, 1999, pp 116-117]
People and organizations involved: David Wurmser
          

February 4, 1999

       President Clinton signs Presidential Decision Directive (PDD) 99-13 designating seven Iraqi opposition groups as being eligible to receive US federal funds under the 1998 Iraq Liberation Act (see October 31, 1998). The act stated that the policy of the US should be to support regime change in Iraq. The seven groups include the Iraqi National Accord, the Iraqi National Congress, the Islamic Movement of Iraqi Kurdistan, the Kurdistan Democratic Party, the Movement for Constitutional Monarchy, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, and the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq. [White House, 2/4/1999]
People and organizations involved: Islamic Movement of Iraqi Kurdistan, Iraqi National Congress, Iraqi National Accord, Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, Kurdistan Democratic Party, Movement for Constitutional Monarchy, William Jefferson ("Bill") Clinton
          

November 19, 1999

       Congress allocates $10 million “to support efforts to bring about political transition in Iraq, of which not less than $8 million shall be made available only to Iraqi opposition groups designated under the ILA [Iraq Liberation Act of 1998] for political, economic humanitarian, and other activities of such groups, and not more than $2 million may be made available for groups and activities seeking the prosecution of Saddam Hussein and other Iraqi Government officials for war crimes.” President Clinton signs the appropriation bill into law on November 29. [The Library of Congress Thomas Database, n.d. Sources: Public Law 106-113] This $10 million dollars is the first allocation of funds to Iraqi opposition groups out of the total $97 million that was authorized by the 1998 Iraq Liberation Act (see October 31, 1998).
People and organizations involved: Iraqi National Congress, William Jefferson ("Bill") Clinton
          

2000

       Former CIA director James Woolsey serves as a corporate officer for the Iraqi National Congress Support Foundation which manages the Iraqi National Congress' US funding. Also during this time, Woolsey and his former law firm, Shea and Gardner, provide the INC and Iraqi exiles with pro bono work. [Knight Ridder, 7/16/04]
People and organizations involved: Iraqi National Congress, Shea and Gardner, James Woolsey
          

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
          

September 2000

      
People involved in the 2000 PNAC report (from top left): Vice President Cheney, Florida Governor Jeb Bush, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, Cheney Chief of Staff I. Lewis Libby, Undersecretary of State John Bolton, Undersecretary of Defense Dov Zakheim, and author Eliot Cohen.
PNAC drafts a strategy document, “Rebuilding America's Defenses: Strategies, Forces and Resources for a New Century,” for George W. Bush's team before the 2000 Presidential election. The document was commissioned by future Vice President Cheney, future Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, future Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, Florida Governor Jeb Bush (Bush's brother), and future Vice President Cheney's Chief of Staff Lewis Libby. [Sources: Rebuilding America's Defenses]
The document outlines a “blueprint for maintaining global US preeminence, precluding the rise of a great power rival, and shaping the international security order in line with American principles and interests.”

PNAC states further: “The United States has for decades sought to play a more permanent role in Gulf regional security. While the unresolved conflict with Iraq provides the immediate justification, the need for a substantial American force presence in the Gulf transcends the issue of the regime of Saddam Hussein.”

PNAC calls for the control of space through a new “US Space Forces,” the political control of the Internet, and the subversion of any growth in political power of even close allies, and advocates “regime change” in China, North Korea, Libya, Syria, Iran, and other countries.

It also mentions that “advanced forms of biological warfare that can ‘target’ specific genotypes may transform biological warfare from the realm of terror to a politically useful tool.”

However, PNAC complains that thes changes are likely to take a long time, “absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event—like a new Pearl Harbor.” [Los Angeles Times, 1/12/03]
Notably, while Cheney commissioned this plan (along with other future key leaders of the Bush administration), he defends Bush's position of maintaining Clinton's policy not to attack Iraq during an NBC interview in the midst of the 2000 presidential campaign, asserting that the US should not act as though “we were an imperialist power, willy-nilly moving into capitals in that part of the world, taking down governments.” [Washington Post, 1/12/02] A British member of Parliament will later say of the report: “This is a blueprint for US world domination—a new world order of their making. These are the thought processes of fantasist Americans who want to control the world.” [Sunday Herald, 9/7/02] Both PNAC and its strategy plan for Bush are almost virtually ignored by the media until a few weeks before the start of the Iraq war (see February-March 20, 2003).
People and organizations involved: Aaron Friedberg, Steve Forbes, Elliott Abrams, Francis Fukuyama, Norman Podhoretz, Henry S. Rowen, Vin Weber, Eliot A. Cohen, Hasam Amin, William J. Bennett, Midge Decter, George Weigel, John Ellis ("Jeb") Bush, Lewis ("Scooter") Libby, Paul Wolfowitz, Donald Rumsfeld, Richard ("Dick") Cheney, Project for the New American Century, Paula J. Dobriansky, Frank Gaffney, Donald Kagan, Steve Rosen, Saddam Hussein, Peter Rodman, Zalmay M. Khalilzad, Dan Quayle, Syria, China, United States, Lybia, North Korea, Iraq, Fred C. Ikle
          

September 2000

       The neoconservative think tank Project for the New American Century writes a “blueprint” for the “creation of a ‘global Pax Americana’ ” (see also June 3, 1997). The document, titled, Rebuilding America's Defenses: Strategies, Forces and Resources for a New Century, was written for the Bush team even before the 2000 Presidential election. It was written for future Vice President Cheney, future Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, future Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, Florida Governor and President Bush's brother Jeb Bush, and future Vice President Cheney's Chief of Staff Lewis Libby. The report calls itself a “blueprint for maintaining global US preeminence, precluding the rise of a great power rival, and shaping the international security order in line with American principles and interests.” The plan shows that the Bush team intended to take military control of Persian Gulf oil whether or not Saddam Hussein was in power and should retain control of the region even if there is no threat. It says: “The United States has for decades sought to play a more permanent role in Gulf regional security. While the unresolved conflict with Iraq provides the immediate justification, the need for a substantial American force presence in the Gulf transcends the issue of the regime of Saddam Hussein.” The report calls for the control of space through a new “US Space Forces,” the political control of the internet, the subversion of any growth in political power of even close allies, and advocates “regime change” in China, North Korea, Libya, Syria, Iran and other countries. It also mentions that “advanced forms of biological warfare that can ‘target’ specific genotypes may transform biological warfare from the realm of terror to a politically useful tool.” (see also Spring 2001 and April 2001 (D)). [Sunday Herald, 9/7/02 Sources: Rebuilding America's Defenses] However, the report complains that these changes are likely to take a long time, “absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event—like a new Pearl Harbor.” [Los Angeles Times, 1/12/03] In an NBC interview at about the same time, Vice Presidential candidate Cheney defends Bush Jr.'s position of maintaining Clinton's policy not to attack Iraq because the US should not act as though “we were an imperialist power, willy-nilly moving into capitals in that part of the world, taking down governments.” [Washington Post, 1/12/02] This report and the Project for the New American Century generally are mostly ignored until a few weeks before the start of the Iraq war (see February-March 20, 2003).
People and organizations involved: William Jefferson ("Bill") Clinton, Donald Rumsfeld, Roger Barnett, Lewis ("Scooter") Libby, Alvin Bernstein, John Ellis ("Jeb") Bush, Paul Wolfowitz, Richard ("Dick") Cheney, Stephen A. Cambone, Eliot A. Cohen, Barry Watts, Abram Shulsky, Gary Schmitt, Steve Rosen, Dov S. Zakheim, Michael Vickers, Mackubin Owens, Phil Meilinger, Dan Goure, Donald Kagan, David Fautua, Devon Gaffney Cross, Thomas Donnelly, David Epstein, Lewis ("Scooter") Libby, Paul Wolfowitz, Robert Martinage, James Lasswell, Mark P. Lagon, Robert Kagan, Fred Kagan, William Kristol, Robert Killebrew  Additional Info 
          

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
          

October 25, 2000

       Congress substantially increases its support for Iraqi opposition organizations, more than doubling the groups' funding to $25 million for 2001. Of this amount, $18 million is specifically designated for the Iraqi National Congress: $12 million for “food, medicine, and other humanitarian assistance,” and $6 million for the “production and broadcasting inside Iraq of radio and satellite television programming.” In addition, $2 million is allocated for groups and activities seeking the prosecution of Saddam Hussein, while the remaining $5 million is “to support efforts to bring about political transition in Iraq.” [The Library of Congress Thomas Database, n.d. Sources: Public Law 106-429]
People and organizations involved: William Jefferson ("Bill") Clinton, Iraqi National Congress
          

November 1, 2000

       In an op-ed piece published by the Washington Times, David Wurmser of the American Enterprise Institute calls on the US and Israel to “broaden” the conflict in the Middle East. The US, he says, needs “to strike fatally, not merely disarm, the centers of radicalism in the region—the regimes of Damascus, Baghdad, Tripoli, Tehran, and Gaza” — in order to “reestablish the recognition that fighting with either the United States or Israel is suicidal.” This is necessary, according to Wurmser, because the policies of the US and Israel during the last decade have strengthened Arab radicalism in the Middle East. Wurmser complains that the two countries have mistakenly identified the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and their own behavior as the primary causes of anti-Israeli and anti-American violence instead of focusing on what he claims are the real sources of resentment among Arab leaders—Israeli and American values. “Few anti-American outbursts or Arab-Israeli confrontations initially have much to do with Israel's or America's behavior; they have more to do with what these two countries are: free societies,” Wurmser writes. “These upheavals originate in the conditions of Arab politics, specifically in the requirements of tyrannies to seek external conflict to sustain internal repression. ... A regime built on opposition to freedom will view free nations, such as the United States and Israel, as mortal threats.” The US and Israeli failure to grasp this reality, along with the Clinton administration's reluctance to remove Saddam from power, according to Wurmser, has only empowered Arab radicalism. The answer, he argues, is to forcefully reassert US and Israeli power. [Washington Times, 11/1/2000]
People and organizations involved: David Wurmser
          

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
          

Shortly after January 20, 2001

       Shortly after George W. Bush is inaugurated, “[k]ey personnel, long-time civilian professionals” at the Pentagon's Near East South Asia (NESA) desk are moved or replaced with people from neoconservative think tanks. [Mother Jones, 1/04; American Conservative, 12/1/03 Sources: Karen Kwiatkowski] Joe McMillan, the Office Director, is moved to a new location outside of the Pentagon, which according to Karen Kwiatkowski, who works at the NESA desk, is odd because “the whole reason for the Office Director being a permanent civilian (occasionally military) professional is to help bring the new appointee up to speed, ensure office continuity, and act as a resource relating to regional histories and policies.” [Mother Jones, 1/04; Salon, 3/10/04; American Conservative, 12/1/03 Sources: Karen Kwiatkowski] Larry Hanauer, who has long been at the Israel-Syria-Lebanon desk and who is known to be “even-handed with Israel,” is replaced by David Schenker of the Washington Institute. [Mother Jones, 1/04; American Conservative, 12/1/03 Sources: Karen Kwiatkowski] Other veteran NESA employees who are banished include James Russell, who has served as the country director for Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates, and Marybeth McDevitt, the country director for Egypt. [Mother Jones, 1/04]
People and organizations involved: Marybeth McDevitt, James Russell, Joe McMillan, Larry Hanauer, David Schenker  Additional Info 
          

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 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 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 
          

Late July or early August 2001

       US authorities re-open the files on Ramzi Yousef, the convicted mastermind of the WTC bombing in 1993, and begin looking into the theory that Yousef may have actually been an Iraqi agent. Yousef was convicted in 1996 (see September 5, 1996) and has been in custody since 1995 (see February 7, 1995). According to the official version of events, Yousef's real name is Abdul Basit, a 27-year-old Pakistani who until 1989 was a computer student studying in South Wales. In late 2000, the American Enterprise Institute published “Study of Revenge: Saddam Hussein's Unfinished War Against America” arguing in support of the theory that Yousef was actually an Iraqi agent. The book, written by AEI scholar Laurie Mylroie, says that Basit was living with his parents in Kuwait in 1990 when Iraq invaded the country (see August 2, 1990). During the occupation, Iraqis presumably murdered him and his family and then altered police files so Iraqi intelligence could use his identity. [London Times, 9/22/01; New Republic, 9/13/01] Mylroie's theory has been widely discredited among terrorism experts and professional intelligence analysts. [Washington Monthly, 12/03]
People and organizations involved: Ramzi Yousef, Abdul Basit
          

August 6, 2001

       Richard Perle, head of the Defense Policy Board and foreign policy adviser to Bush, is asked about new challenges now that the Cold War is over. He cites three: “We're concerned about Saddam Hussein, We're concerned about the North Koreans, about some future Iranian government that may have the weapon they're now trying so hard to acquire...” [Australian Broadcasting Corp., 8/6/01] Note that these three nations are the same three named in Bush's famous January 2002 “axis of evil” speech. [CNN, 1/29/02]
People and organizations involved: Saddam Hussein, Iran, Richard Perle, North Korea
          

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
          

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
          


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