Gen. Hugh Shelton: Bush Administration Officials Pushed To Go To War With Iraq 'Almost To The Point Of Insubordination'
This Week's Christiane Amanpour talked to former Joint Chief Chair Gen. Hugh Shelton about the rush to invade Iraq by members of the Bush administration which he described as "almost to the point of insubordination." Color any of us that were paying attention at the time not surprised by this latest revelation. The PNAC crowd surrounding him in the White House were pushing to invade Iraq long before Bush was selected by our Supreme Court to be president or becoming members of his Cabinet.
AMANPOUR: Let's go back to when you were Chairman of the Joint Chiefs and even slightly afterwards, when President Bush decided to go to war in Iraq. You talk about it was based on faulty intelligence and indeed on lies and deceit, but you also say something about insubordination. You say, for instance, during meetings, "some people were kept on after Bush had tendered his opinion and issued an instruction based on that opinion. Yet certain strong-willed individuals seemed to disregard him and forge ahead with their own agendas, almost to the point of insubordination." That's a very strong indictment.
SHELTON: Well, there was a very strong push in those days for us to go into Iraq, and there was absolutely no intelligence, zero, that pointed toward -- pointed toward the Iraqis. It was all Al Qaeda, Osama bin Laden. And yet there was an element there that was -- that was pushing to go into Iraq at the same time.
AMANPOUR: But what do you mean by insubordination?
SHELTON: The fact that the president says himself, we're not going to do that right now, let's focus on Afghanistan, the Taliban and Al Qaeda. Yet below the surface, we still had the sentiment that said, let's keep planning for Iraq just in case we can convince him that we can go.
AMANPOUR: And you think they could have convinced him?
SHELTON: Not at that time. I think that, as President Bush told me at Camp David, you know, I just don't see it. You know, we may go get Saddam and take him out, but it will be at a time and place of our choosing. It won't be as a part of the Afghanistan operation. He got it from day one. When he was briefed by the CIA…
AMANPOUR: So you're saying he was pushed into it?
SHELTON: I think eventually that that same drumbeat continued, and Afghanistan, remember, was going very, very well. The drumbeat back here in Washington was still pushing, coming out of the Pentagon, let's go to Iraq, let's get -- take him out. And he finally said, let's go. We walked out on the limb before we could build a coalition of the -- either the United Nations or NATO, one of the two.
AMANPOUR: You're very -- you have some harsh words about then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. Is he part of the group that you are targeting here?
SHELTON: Well, I personally like Secretary Rumsfeld, but he was part of the group, he and Deputy Secretary Wolfowitz, that continued to push to go into Iraq. And I think that's been documented on a number of occasions.
And here's another "tidbit" he threw in there that doesn't make me exactly feel warm and fuzzy about how our nuclear codes were being protected during the Clinton administration.
AMANPOUR: In your book you write about an extraordinary moment when the nuclear codes seem to have been lost and this was under President Clinton. Describe what happened.
SHELTON: Well he had a team that worked for me and the Joint Chiefs that was responsible for going over and checking the codes and making sure they were there on a monthly basis and we found out that for two consecutive periods that, two consecutive periods that when they went over there was always a reason why the codes were not available. They were in the Oval Office, the President was in a meeting or he was with an important official where they couldn’t get to them right then and our guys accepted that.
And it wasn’t until they went over to have to exchange the codes; physically take one set, give them another one that they couldn’t produce them and it was at that point of course we changed everything instantaneously but did not know for example exactly how long they had been missing.
And making me wonder how much this interview was edited, I transcribed the portion of the video above. It's not included in ABC's transcript. The portion below however, is in ABC's transcript but missing from the video.
AMANPOUR: But you also say that in terms of dealing with defense secretaries that Secretary Rumsfeld was more in the (INAUDIBLE) mold, which you said was, you know, based more on sort of heavy pushing and on those kinds of relationships.
SHELTON: And those were my observations. I've had the opportunity to work for a number of secretaries of defense while I was in Pentagon. And, for example, Secretary Bill Cohen, great team-builders, tremendous leader, (INAUDIBLE), made you want to do things because they were the right things to do and because we all pulled together to get it done.
But the leadership that Secretary Rumsfeld brought was totally different.