How We Know the Bush Administration
Fixed the Intelligence Around the Policy

In 2002 and early 2003, George W. Bush repeatedly told Americans that he did not want war with Iraq and that war would be a “last resort.” I knew instinctively from his behavior and statements back in 2002 that Bush had already decided to attack Iraq. And, of course, it’s now been documented in books by Paul O’Neill, Richard Clark, and Bob Woodward, as well as in the Downing Street memos and other first hand testimony. The Iraq war was not forced upon the U. S.; it was an elective war.


For bureaucratic reasons, we settled on one issue, weapons of mass destruction, [as justification for invading Iraq] because it was the one reason everyone could agree on. (Paul Wolfowitz, Vanity Fair interview, May 28, 2003)

Judge whether good enough [to] hit S.H. [Saddam Hussein] at the same time. Not only UBL [Osama bin Laden]….Go massive. Sweep it all up. Things related and not. (Donald Rumsfeld notes, Philadelphia Daily News, Sept. 11, 2001)

From the very beginning, there was a conviction, that Saddam Hussein was a bad person and that he needed to go. Going after Saddam was topic "A" ten days after the inauguration - eight months before Sept. 11. (former Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill, CBS’ 60 Minutes, Jan. 11, 2004)

I wouldn't ease the sanctions. And I wouldn't try to negotiate with him. 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. (Candidate George W. Bush, December 2, 1999)

From a marketing point of view you don't introduce new products in August. (Bush Chief of Staff, Andrew Card, as quoted by Elisabeth Bumiller, "Bush Aides Set Strategy to Sell Policy on Iraq," New York Times, September 7, 2002,

From the very beginning, there was a conviction that Saddam Hussein was a bad person and that he needed to go. (Former Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill, the primary source for Ron Suskind’s book The Price of Loyalty).

In the book, O’Neill goes on to say he was surprised at the meeting that questions such as "Why Saddam?" and "Why now?" were never asked. It was all about finding a way to do it. That was the tone of it. The president saying ‘Go find me a way to do this,. For me, the notion of pre-emption, that the U.S. has the unilateral right to do whatever we decide to do, is a really huge leap.” (Former Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill, the primary source for Ron Suskind’s book The Price of Loyalty).

C reported on his recent talks in Washington. There was a perceptible shift in attitude. Military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy. The NSC had no patience with the UN route, and no enthusiasm for publishing material on the Iraqi regime's record. There was little discussion in Washington of the aftermath after military action. (The “Downing Street Memos,” July 23, 2002 Meeting of Tony Blair and his Senior Staff)

On September 12th, I left the video conferencing center and there, wandering alone around the situation room, was the president. He looked like he wanted something to do. He grabbed a few of us and closed the door to the conference room. "Look," he told us, "I know you have a lot to do and all, but I want you, as soon as you can, to go back over everything, everything. See if Saddam did this. See if he's linked in any way." "I was once again taken aback, incredulous, and it showed. "But, Mr. President, al Qaeda did this." "I know, I know, but - see if Saddam was involved. Just look. I want to know any shred . . .". (Richard Clarke, in Against All Enemies: Inside America’s War on Terror)

Rumsfeld was saying that we needed to bomb Iraq," Clarke said.  "And we all said ... no, no. Al-Qaeda is in Afghanistan. We need to bomb Afghanistan. And Rumsfeld said there aren't any good targets in Afghanistan. And there are lots of good targets in Iraq. I said, 'Well, there are lots of good targets in lots of places, but Iraq had nothing to do with it.' (Richard Clarke, in Against All Enemies: Inside America’s War on Terror)

I expected to go back to a round of meetings [after September 11] examining what the next attacks could be, what our vulnerabilities were, what we could do about them in the short term. Instead, I walked into a series of discussions about Iraq... I realized with almost a sharp physical pain that Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz were going to try to take advantage of this national tragedy to promote their agenda about Iraq ... By the afternoon on Wednesday [after Sept. 11], Secretary Rumsfeld was talking about broadening the objectives of our response and "getting Iraq." (Richard Clarke, in Against All Enemies: Inside America’s War on Terror)

According to Richard Clarke, the Bush Administration knew from the beginning that there was no connection between Iraq and 9/11, but created the misperception in order to push their policy goals. [Rumsfeld, Cheney and Bush] did know better. They did know better. They did know better. We told them, the CIA told them, the FBI told them. They did know better. And the tragedy here is that Americans went to their death in Iraq thinking that they were avenging September 11th, when Iraq had nothing to do with September 11th. I think for a commander-in-chief and a vice president to allow that to happen is unconscionable. (Richard Clarke, in Against All Enemies: Inside America’s War on Terror)

Intelligence “analysts never said there was an imminent threat" from Iraq before the war. (CIA Director George Tenet, speech, Feb. 5, 2004)

I don't think they [WMD] existed. What everyone was talking about is stockpiles produced after the end of the last [1991] Gulf War, and I don't think there was a large-scale production program in the '90s. (David Kay, former chief weapons inspector of the UN Special Commission on Iraq, Reuters, Jan. 24, 2004)

The U.S. should assert its military dominance over the world to shape “the international security order in line with American principles and interests,” push for “regime change” in Iraq and China, among other countries, and “fight and decisively win multiple, simultaneous major theater wars….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.” “Rebuilding America’s Defenses: Strategy, Forces and Resources for a New Century,” The Project for the New American Century [members include Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld], Sept. 2000)

The only acceptable strategy is one that eliminates the possibility that Iraq will be able to use or threaten to use weapons of mass destruction. In the near term, this means a willingness to undertake military action as diplomacy is clearly failing. In the long term, it means removing Saddam Hussein and his regime from power. That now needs to become the aim of American foreign policy. (Letter to President Clinton, January 26, 1998, signed by 18 members of the The Project for the New American Century, including future Bush administration members Donald Rumsfeld, John Bolton, Richard Armitage, Paul Wolfowitz, and Richard Perle)