On last Sunday's "Late Edition," Condoleezza Rice categorically denied the notion that President Bush was intent on invading Iraq when he entered office in January 2001:
RICE: Of course, the president came in concerned about Iraq. President Clinton had used military force against Iraq in 1998. We'd gone to war against Iraq in 1991, but the idea that the president had made up his mind when he came to office that he was going to go to war against Iraq is just flat wrong.
Since taking the Bushies at their word has proven foolish in the past, let's take a look back at the evidence that suggests otherwise.
- Osama Siblani, publisher of "The Arab American" newspaper, says George W Bush told him in May 2000 that he is going to "take out" Iraq and Saddam Hussein.
- In January 2004, Former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill tells "60 Minutes" that removing Saddam Hussein was topic "A" at the very first National Security meeting in January 2001.
- Richard Clarke, counterterror czar under Reagan, Bush 41, Clinton and Bush 43, writes in his book Against All Enemies: “Since the beginning of the administration, indeed well before, they had been pressing for a war with Iraq,” Immediately after 9/11, Clarke recalls Secretary Rumsfeld pushing for retaliatory strikes against Iraq.
Indeed, immediately following the 9/11 attacks -- when there was ZERO evidence linking Saddam Hussein to al Qaeda --, prominent neoncos behind the inevitable march to war were arguing in favor of attacking Iraq:
- On September 16, 2001, Richard Perle went on CNN and explicitly linked Saddam Hussein to Osama bin Laden.
- On September 20, 2001, The Project for a New American Century think-tank sent President Bush a letter urging him to respond to the attacks by retaliating against Iraq.
- At 2:40 pm on September 11, 2001, Donald Rumsfeld ordered the military to draw up strike plans. His notes are quoted as saying: "Best info fast. Judge whether good enough hit S.H." – meaning Saddam Hussein – "at same time. Not only UBL" – the initials used to identify Osama bin Laden.
Taken together, there is ample documented evidence that the Bush administration had every intention of regime change in Iraq even before taking office. Once 9/11 happened -- despite any evidence linking Saddam Hussein to the attacks -- the same people who argued for years that Saddam had to go (and the same people who were now running the federal government) began using the attacks as a justification to carry out their agenda.