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Events Leading Up to the 2003 Invasion of Iraq

Project: Events Leading Up to the 2003 Invasion of Iraq
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Hans Blix says he cannot guarantee that there will be no spies on his UN weapons inspections team. “People have asked me, ‘Can you be absolutely sure we will have no spies in any of the member states?’ and I said, ‘No, I don’t think either the KGB or the CIA can give that absolute assurance.’” He adds that if he discovers any spies, he will dismiss them from the team. (Hafidh and Diderich 11/16/2002; Hafidh and Diderich 11/16/2002) The concern stems from the fact that the previous inspection regime, UNSCOM, had been infiltrated by US and British spies. While much of the intelligence obtained was used to increase the effectiveness of the inspections, some of it was used to serve other interests. For example, some of the intelligence was “used to help identify and target Hussein’s suspected hide-outs when US and British bombers launched the Desert Fox airstrikes in December 1998.” And some intelligence was even sent to Israel. (Ritter 6/19/2002; Tyler and Stevenson 7/29/2002; Bone 9/18/2002; Reuters 10/3/2002; Drogin and Farley 10/23/2002)

A team of 26 UN inspectors arrive in Baghdad. On the tarmac of Saddam Hussein International Airport, UNMOVIC Weapons Inspection Chief Hans Blix tells reporters, “We have come here for one single reason and that is because the world wants to have assurances that there are no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. The situation is tense at the moment, but there is a new opportunity and we are here to provide inspection which is credible… We hope we can all take that opportunity together…. There is a new opportunity and we hope that opportunity will be well-utilized so that we can get out of sanctions. And in the long term, we will have a zone free of weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East.” Hans Blix and Director of the International Atomic Energy Agency Mohamed ElBaradei then head to Baghdad where they meet with Iraqi Gen. Amir al-Saadi and Hussam Mohammed Amin, the head of the Iraqi National Monitoring Directorate. (CNN 11/19/2002; Smith and MacAskill 11/29/2002)

US and British warplanes attack sites northeast of Mosul after Iraqi defense forces fire anti-aircraft artillery at coalition aircraft patrolling the so-called “no-fly” zones. In a separate incident, warplanes attack two Iraqi air defense communications facilities and one air defense radar site in southern Iraq in Wassit and Dhi Oar after “Iraqi air defenses fired multiple surface-to-air missiles and anti-aircraft artillery at coalition aircraft.” (Stevenson and Shanker 11/19/2002; Nelson 11/19/2002; Leopold 11/19/2002; Associated Press 11/20/2002) According to Iraqi authorities, four Iraqi civilians were wounded as a result of the attacks in southern Iraq. (Associated Press 11/20/2002) White House spokesperson Scott McClellan says in a press briefing, “The United States believes that firing upon our aircraft in the no-fly zone, or British aircraft, is a violation—it is a material breach.” (White House 11/18/2002; Stevenson and Shanker 11/19/2002) And Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who is in Chile, says: “I do find it unacceptable that Iraq fires. It is for the president of the United States and the UN Security Council to make judgments about their view of Iraq’s behavior over a period of time.” (Harnden and Guardia 11/19/2002; Stevenson and Shanker 11/19/2002; CNN 11/23/2002) This is the second time the US has bombed Iraq since the passing of UN resolution 1441 (see November 8, 2002). The US will conduct at least 22 more aerial attacks on Iraq before the March 19, 2003 invasion. (Colorado Campaign for Middle East Peace 1/11/2006) UN officials disagree with Washington’s assessment. Secretary-General Kofi Annan states, “Let me say that I don’t think that the council will say this is in contravention of the resolution of the Security Council.” (Reuters 11/19/2002) Responding to Annan’s remarks, Rumsfeld argues, “I don’t know that he (Annan) necessarily reflects the UN, the center of gravity of the Security Council, on any particular issue at any particular time…. Whenever resolutions are passed, they tend to be compromises, and there tend to be calculated ambiguities written into them to gain votes. So it does not come as a surprise to me…. The United Nations sat there for years with 16 resolutions being violated. So, just as we’ve seen a pattern of behavior on the part of Saddam Hussein, we’ve seen a pattern of behavior on the part of the United Nations.” (US Department of Defense 11/19/2002; McIntyre 11/19/2002) No comments supporting the US position are made by the British. (Harnden and Guardia 11/19/2002)

Richard Perle, a member of the Defense Policy Board, attends a meeting on global security with members of the British Parliament. At one point he argues that the weapons inspection team might be unable to find Saddam’s arsenal of banned weapons because they are so well hidden. According to the London Mirror, he then states that the US would “attack Iraq even if UN inspectors fail to find weapons.” (Gilfeather 11/21/2002) Peter Kilfoyle, a former defense minister and Labour backbencher, tells the Mirror: “America is duping the world into believing it supports these inspections. President Bush intends to go to war even if inspectors find nothing. This make a mockery of the whole process and exposes America’s real determination to bomb Iraq.” (Gilfeather 11/21/2002)

Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD) responds to conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh’s accusations that Daschle and Congressional Democrats are guilty of treason by not supporting the Bush administration’s push for war with Iraq (see November 15, 2002). Daschle calls Limbaugh “and all of the Rush Limbaugh wannabees” of having “a shrill edge,” and says of his listeners: “They want to act because they get emotionally invested. And so, you know, the threats to us in public life go up dramatically (see October 5-November 21, 2001), and on our families and on us in a way that’s very disconcerting. You know, we see it in foreign countries. And we think, well my God, how can this religious fundamentalism become so violent? Well, it’s the same shrill rhetoric. It’s that same shrill power that motivates. They—you know, they—that somebody says something, and then it becomes a little more shrill the next time, and then more shrill the next time.” Some media observers, such as the Washington Post’s Howard Kurtz, later say that such responses from their political targets merely elevate figures such as Limbaugh in their listeners’ eyes. (Jamieson and Cappella 2008, pp. 157)

On the eve of a two-day NATO summit in Prague, Czech Republic, President Bush addresses the UN mandate for Iraq to declare its arsenal of unconventional weapons (see November 8, 2002): “Saddam Hussein has been given a very short time to declare completely and truthfully his arsenal of terror. Should he again deny that this arsenal exists, he will have entered his final stage with a lie. And deception this time will not be tolerated. Delay and defiance will invite the severest of consequences. America’s goal, the world’s goal, is more than the return of inspectors to Iraq. Our goal is to secure the peace through the comprehensive and verified disarmament of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction. Voluntary or by force, that goal will be achieved.” (Bumiller 11/21/2002; US President 11/25/2002) Bush is echoing and reiterating calls from conservatives and neoconservatives both inside and outside the White House to label Hussein a liar no matter what he declares (see November 20, 2002 and December 2, 2002). They go farther than Bush in demanding that the US invade Iraq as soon as the December 8 deadline for declaring his weapons expires (see December 7, 2002). Former ambassador Joseph Wilson will write: “If the neoconservatives had been angry before the UN deal—and they were—they were truly furious afterward. The ink on the resolution was barely dry before they launched attacks on [Secretary of State] Colin Powell for having led the president down the wrong path, one in which he was placing his faith in what they said was a feckless international community.” (Wilson 2004, pp. 301)

A NATO summit is convened in Prague to welcome the Eastern European states of Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia, who will become members of the alliance in 2004. These seven countries, along with Albania, Croatia and Macedonia, release a statement (Tyler 11/22/2002) , which says, “NATO allies stand united in their commitment to take effective action to assist and support the efforts of the UN to ensure full and immediate compliance by Iraq, without conditions or restrictions, with UN [Resolution] 1441 (see November 8, 2002).” (Connolly 11/22/2002) The statement also says, “[W]e are prepared to contribute to an international coalition to enforce its provisions and the disarmament of Iraq.” (Tyler 11/22/2002) Bruce Jackson, a former US Defense Department official who heads the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq, helps draft the statement. France also releases a statement, which is a bit less confrontational. (Agence France-Presse 11/20/2002) A French official explains to the London Telegraph that the Eastern states’ statement was “his [Bush’s] own interpretation [of UN Resolution 1441] and we do not share it. On December 8, we will take note of what Iraq says it has… and we will see if its behavior is consistent with its statement.” Germany remains opposed to the use of military force. (Connolly 11/22/2002) German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer tells reporters, “We are against military action. We don’t support military action. We want the possibility not to become the reality.” (Tyler 11/22/2002) On the night of November 21, in an interview with Dan Rather of CBS News, Secretary of State Colin Powell also makes the US position clear. He says, “If the [December 8] declaration is patently false and everybody can see it. If he does not let the inspectors do their job, then the president is fully ready to take the necessary step, which is military force.” (Powell 11/21/2002) Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld is also in town for the summit. Before he leaves Prague to meet with Slovak Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda in Slovakia, he says he will not believe Iraq if its declaration claims Iraq has no weapons of mass destruction. (Associated Press 11/22/2002)

According to a later investigation by the Senate Select Intelligence Committee, the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs Director for Nonproliferation informs US State Department officials that France is in possession of intelligence suggesting that Iraq made an unsuccessful attempt to purchase uranium from Niger. (US Congress 7/7/2004) The US reportedly learns that this assessment (see March 4, 2003) is based on the forged documents. However, according to French intelligence official Alain Chouet, by this time, French intelligence has already dismissed the intelligence and communicated this to Langley (see Late April or Early May 2002-June 2002).

British Foreign Minister Jack Straw says that another UN resolution will be needed before taking military action against Iraq. Straw tells the BBC, “The most likely course of action, if military action is required—which it is not at the moment—is that we go to the Security Council, which is where there would be discussion. Our preference has always been for a further resolution for the Security Council, and that would then be put to the House of Commons for further endorsement, just as this original 1441 resolution (see November 8, 2002) is being put before the House for endorsement on Monday [November 25].” (BBC 11/22/2002)

Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri complains in a letter to Secretary-General Kofi Annan that the US intends to use UN Resolution 1441 (see November 8, 2002) as a pretext to use military force against Iraq. In the letter, he analyzes several paragraphs in the UN resolution, demonstrating how they are based on assumptions and how the US plans to use some of the key provisions as a pretext for invading Iraq. (Republic of Iraq, 11/23/2002 11/23/2002; CTV 11/25/2002)

The cover of ‘Bush at War.’The cover of ‘Bush at War.’ [Source: Amazon (.co.uk)]Author and famed reporter Bob Woodward’s book Bush at War is published.
Unprecedented Access - Woodward, who made his reputation uncovering the Watergate conspiracy from 30 years before (see June 15, 1974), is no longer an unknown young reporter working to find sources that will confide in him. Now he is an established Washington insider. For this book, Woodward was granted “unprecedented access” to Bush administration officials, including notes from National Security Council meetings and two long interviews with President Bush himself, far more access than even that granted to the 9/11 Commission and Congressional inquiries into other events of interest. Former Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich will find this level of access inexplicable, saying that “it makes no sense for an administration that has jealously guarded its executive privilege to allow a reporter the access it denies to members of Congress.”
Hagiographic Account - The Observer’s Peter Preston calls Woodward’s book a “more-or-less instant study of the White House after 9/11,” and writes that while Woodward could have created “a classic of investigative journalism,” instead he gave us a compendium of “painful, obsessively useless detail” that generally paints the picture the White House wants painted. If Woodward’s book is to be believed, Preston writes, the Colin Powell moderates and the Dick Cheney hawks “had their snappy moments, but they’re OK-ish now.” CIA Director George Tenet “is a far-sighted man” who not only immediately divined that Osama bin Laden was behind the attacks, but while the towers were still burning, wondered if the attacks had anything to do with “that guy taking pilot training,” Zacarias Moussaoui. Iraq war planner General Tommy Franks usually feels “finer than the hair on a frog’s back.” Former President Clinton’s “weak-willed men used to ‘pound the desert’ ineffectually, while his brilliant successors like to hit something, if at all possible.” And President Bush “is bright and talented and eloquent and decisive,” who runs National Security Council meetings himself and knows all he needs to know about the state of the world (Woodward quotes Bush as saying, “I’m not a textbook player—I’m a gut player”). Both Preston and author Frank Rich accuse Woodward of “burnishing” Bush’s image at the expense of the truth. A few potentially embarrassing tidbits manage to poke their way through what both Preston and Rich call the “hagiography,” mostly relating to senior administration officials’ lack of knowledge about Afghan tribal politics and the lack of evidence tying Saddam Hussein to the 9/11 attacks. But all told, the book seems to tell a clear story: where Clinton was indecisive, Bush is forthright; where Clinton muddled around with bin Laden and Middle East terrorism, Bush is taking the war straight into the heart of the Islamist redoubt. (Preston 12/1/2002; Rich 2006, pp. 66-67) The book gives such a favorable impression of Bush and his administration that the Republican National Committee will recommend it on its Web site. (Foer 11/12/2006)
Selective Reporting - The administration officials who talked to Woodward are painted in largely glowing terms, while those who did not (including Attorney General John Ashcroft and Homeland Security head Tom Ridge) are, in Preston’s words, “written out of the script.” Potentially embarrassing incidents such as the administration’s complete failure to find the source of the anthrax mailings of 2001 (see September 17-18, 2001 and October 5-November 21, 2001) and the ineffective roundup of thousands of Middle Eastern “terror suspects” after 9/11 (see Late November, 2001) are ignored entirely. The pivotal Afghan battle of Tora Bora, where bin Laden was allowed to escape US clutches (see Mid-November 2001-Mid-December 2001), gets two paragraphs. (Preston 12/1/2002; Rich 2006, pp. 66-67) Guardian reviewer Peter Symon notes that Woodward even fails to ask the most “obvious questions” about the 9/11 attacks, instead accepting the administration’s accounts of events and its responses as absolute and unquestionable. (Symon 1/29/2003) Rich notes that Woodward grants Bush and his officials tremendous individual credence, taking their word on one issue after another without question: for example, when Bush calls investigative journalist Seymour Hersh “a liar,” Woodward takes Bush’s word without giving Hersh a chance to respond. More generally, Woodward never asks the obvious follow-up questions. Bush explains why the US didn’t attack Afghanistan and Iraq simultaneously after the 9/11 attacks: “If we tried to do too many things… militarily, then… the lack of focus would have been a huge risk.” Rich notes, “The follow-up question that was not to be found in Bush at War was simple enough: If it was a huge risk to split our focus between Saddam and al-Qaeda then, why wasn’t it now?” Preston concludes: “Maybe the Woodward of three decades ago would have given [the Bush administration more intense scrutiny]. No longer. Today’s Woodward, eight bestsellers later, skates breathlessly from interview to interview and notepad to notepad without ever, seemingly, stopping to think, ‘Why am I being told all this? What does it mean?’ It isn’t investigation, just cross-referenced compilation.” (Preston 12/1/2002; Rich 2006, pp. 66-67)

Eighteen international arms monitors, including 12 inspectors from the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission and 8 from the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna, arrive in Baghdad with their cargo of high-tech sensors, computers and other gear. (Sengupta 11/24/2002; Hanley 11/25/2002; Dao 11/25/2002)
Make-up of Inspection Team - The complete roster of UN inspectors expected to participate in the inspections includes some 300 chemists, biologists, missile and ordnance experts and other specialists of UNMOVIC, as well as a few dozen engineers and physicists from the IAEA. Hans Blix of UNMOVIC will head the effort to search for chemical and biological weapons and Jacques Baute of the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency will lead the team seeking to determine if Iraq has reconstituted its nuclear weapons program. (Hanley 11/25/2002)
Purpose of Inspections - The stated purpose of the inspections, according to the UN resolution, is to bring “to full and verified completion the disarmament process established by resolution 687 (1991) and subsequent resolutions of the Council.” (United Nations 11/9/2002) However, since the passing of the resolution the Bush administration has maintained that the purpose of inspections is much broader. For instance, US Secretary of State Donald Rumsfeld will claim in January that inspectors are not to act as “discoverers” trying to locate things. Rather the purpose of the inspections, according to Rumsfeld, is to determine whether Iraq is cooperating. (BBC 1/22/2003)
Methods - The inspectors will “revisit the previously monitored sites to check if the equipment installed [by the previous weapons inspectors] is still functional,” explains a UN spokesperson. “It will take some time to do that work. We can’t rule out other activities, but it’s quite likely we will start with that.” Inspectors also says that they will not immediately conduct “intrusive” inspections into Iraq’s more sensitive areas. As an aide to Hans Blix explains to The Washington Post, “We’re not going to do in-your-face inspections. He [Blix] wants effective inspections. It’s not our job to provoke, harm or humiliate.” The inspections teams will also investigate new sites that the US and Britain allege are involved in the development of weapons of mass destruction. Inspectors will have the option to interview Iraqi scientists without the presence of Iraqi officials. The interviews may be conducted outside of Iraq. (Chandrasekaran 11/23/2002)

Iraq informs the United Nations Security Council that it might not be able to provide the UN with a complete declaration of its past and present civilian and military chemical, biological and nuclear programs as required by UN Resolution 1441 (see November 8, 2002) by the December 8 deadline. Hans Blix is sympathetic and the Russian UN ambassador suggests that the deadline should be extended. Iraqi officials also indicate they are not sure what exactly they are expected to include. According to the Washington Post, “Iraqi officials told Blix that they were uncertain whether the Security Council’s terms required that they declare every single item produced in its commercial chemical industry, citing plastic slippers as an example.” Hans Blix indicates that he is also unsure. John D. Negroponte, the US ambassador to the United Nations, argues that no extension should be granted. (Chandrasekaran 11/23/2002)

After several CIA reports downplay intelligence provided to Washington by Israeli intelligence officials, Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz and other neoconservatives working in the Pentagon begin meeting personally with Israeli officials to hear their intelligence. The CIA’s reports had found that conclusions made by Israeli intelligence were often skewed by its biases against the Arab world. (Risen 2006, pp. 183-184)

Robert Grenier.Robert Grenier. [Source: Kroll, Inc.]Robert Grenier, head of the CIA station in Islamabad, Pakistan, and then promoted to head of the Iraq Issues Group, will later say that in late 2002 to early 2003, “the best experienced, most qualified people who we had been using in Afghanistan shifted over to Iraq.” The CIA’s most skilled counterterrorism specialists and Middle East and paramilitary operatives move to Iraq and are replaced in Afghanistan by younger agents. Grenier will say, “I think we could have done a lot more on the Afghan side if we had more experienced folks.” A former senior official of the Pentagon’s Central Command involved with both wars later says that as war with Iraq draws closer, more special operative units like Delta Force and Navy SEALs Team Six shift to Iraq from Afghanistan. “If we were not in Iraq… we’d have the ‘black’ Special Forces you most need to conduct precision operations. We’d have more CIA. We’re simply in a world of limited resources, and those resources are in Iraq. Anyone who tells you differently is blowing smoke.” (Rohde and Sanger 8/12/2007) Other special forces and CIA were moved from Afghanistan to Iraq in early 2002 (see Early 2002).

Former ambassador Joseph Wilson debates former Reagan defense official and neoconservative Frank Gaffney on a cable news program over the question of the upcoming Iraq invasion. Wilson takes a certain perverse pleasure in using what he has called the typical neoconservative debate tactics (see June 2002) against Gaffney; as he later recalls: “I let Frank have the first word and listened to him carefully. The host of the show asked me what I thought of Frank had said, and I answered, ‘Hogwash,’ then started my rebuttal. Predictably, Frank interrupted, or tried to. I told him he would have his chance after I had said my piece, and kept speaking over him until he shut up. I then filibustered till the end of the segment. As we went to commercial, I looked down at the screen to see Gaffney red-faced and sputtering. I thought to myself that here was somebody who was never likely to be a friend.” (Wilson 2004, pp. 308)

CIA official Margaret Henoch.CIA official Margaret Henoch. [Source: CBS News]Doubts as to the veracity and reliability of the information provided about Iraq’s secret bioweapons program by the Iraqi defector known as “Curveball” are growing among German intelligence analysts (see February 2001), and among some CIA analysts and officials as well, who are receiving summations of Curveball’s assertions from their German counterparts. Central group chief Margaret Henoch is one of those who questions Curveball’s reliability. Henoch later recalls in a CBS report revealing Curveball’s true identity (see November 4, 2007), “I said, ‘You know, I don’t know who this guy is. There’s no proof that he is who he is. There’s no proof that any of this ever happened. And, from my perspective, I just don’t think we should trust this.’” When the top CIA analyst working with Curveball’s information tries to prove his identity by showing Henoch a picture of a man in a hazmat (hazardous materials) suit, she recalls responding, “‘How do you know that was him if he’s completely covered? ‘Cause it could be me.’ And, as God as my witness, she looked at me like a pig looking at a wristwatch. And I thought it was over. And, when I went back, I sort of said to my boss, ‘Well, I’m such a genius.’” Henoch is mistaken in believing that Curveball’s reliability had been holed. She later recalls, “[I]t was whack-a-mole. I mean, he just popped right back up.” Her superiors want Curveball to be credible, and are prepared to overlook the inconsistencies and unverifiable claims he is making. (CBS News 11/4/2007)

Experts from a number of US national laboratories inform the US Department of Energy that Iraq is producing rockets identical to the Italian-made Medusa 81 rockets, which are made from aluminum tubes of the same dimensions and the same alloy as the tubes that were intercepted in Jordan in July 2001 (see July 2001). (Gellman and Pincus 8/10/2003 Sources: Unnamed US intelligence, US administration, and/or UN inspectors)

John Brodman, the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Energy for International Energy Policy, tells the New York Times: “Our dependency on the Persian Gulf could take a slight dip before it goes up. But the basic geological fact of life is that 70 percent of the proven oil reserves are in the Middle East.” (Gerth 12/26/2002)

Senior officials from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reportedly brief Secretary of State Colin Powell personally about the agency’s investigation of the aluminum tubes that Iraq attempted to import in 2001 (see July 2001). Powell tells IAEA head Mohamed ElBaradei and Jacques Baute, the head of the IAEA’s Iraq Nuclear Verification Office, that the tubes are giving him a headache. He reportedly appears “well aware that there [is] a controversy about the tubes.” (Albright 12/5/2003 pdf file)

Alan Foley, the director of the CIA’s Weapons Intelligence, Nonproliferation, and Arms Control Center (WINPAC—see Shortly after February 12, 2002), calls his senior production managers into his office. He tells the gathered officers, who control the output of WINPAC’s analysts, “If the president wants to go to war, our job is to find the intelligence to allow him to do so.” According to Peter Eisner and Knut Royce, authors of The Italian Letter, “The directive was not quite an order to cook the books, but it was a strong suggestion that cherry-picking and slanting not only would be tolerated, but might even be rewarded.” Eisner and Royce will call WINPAC “sycophantic” supporters of the Bush plan to invade Iraq. Reporter Laura Rozen will call WINPAC “a secret cheerleading faction inside the CIA for the administration’s most stretched Iraq intelligence claims.” (Wilson 2007, pp. 376-377)

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. (Loeb 1/15/2003)

The Research Unit for Political Economy (RUPE) publishes a special issue in their journal, Aspects of India’s Economy, analyzing the true motives behind the United States’ plan to invade Iraq. The purpose for this special publication, according to RUPE, is that India (like Pakistan) has been placed within the US geostrategic agenda for the Asian region. This has been done, among other things, by declaring India to be an important military ally, and by working for a US-India political/military axis against China. RUPE argues that this will heighten the military tension in a region occupied by nuclear powers. Therefore it is necessary to understand the true motives behind the US geopolitical agenda, exemplified in the current move against Iraq, before uncritically exposing one’s country to such risks. The report concludes that protecting the security of the US dollar is a primary motive behind the US’s planned invasion of Iraq. (Research Unit for Political Economy 11/2002)

After examining more than 200 sites, UN weapons inspectors say that despite unfettered access to all Iraqi facilities, they have found no evidence of weapons of mass destruction or any programs aimed at developing such weapons. Several of the suspected weapons sites have been visited multiple times. Inspectors say that they have exhausted the leads provided by US intelligence and complain that Washington resists requests to provide them with more information. (BBC 12/26/2001; BBC 12/31/2001; Loiko and Farley 12/31/2001; Whitaker 1/3/2002; Agence France-Presse 12/29/2002; Collier 12/30/2002; Usborne and Woolf 1/1/2003) The San Francisco Chronicle reports: “UN spokesmen in Baghdad admit they have largely exhausted their list of possible weapons sites and must make repeat visits to stay busy. They have asked the United States to provide intelligence to help identify new sites. Although the Bush administration recently said it would share some secrets with the United Nations, it appears to have turned over little so far.” (Collier 12/30/2002) And an unnamed weapons inspector tells the Los Angeles Times: “We haven’t found an iota of concealed material yet. Even private facilities which are not part of their state-run military industrial complex open up for us—like magic.… We can’t look for something which we don’t know about. If the United States wants us to find something, they should open their intelligence file and share it with us so that we know where to go for it.…. By being silent, we may create the false illusion that we did uncover something.… But I must say that if we were to publish a report now, we would have zilch to put in it.” (Loiko and Farley 12/31/2001) The London Observer will report in early January, “Some of the inspectors are understood to be convinced that their mission has become a ‘set-up job’ and America will attack Iraq regardless of what they find.” (Beaumont and Vulliamy 1/5/2002)

CIA’s WINPAC unit hires a private contractor to spin the aluminum tubes to determine whether or not they are suitable for use as rotors in a nuclear centrifuge. Centrifuge rotors spin as fast as 90,000 revolutions per minute. The contractor tests the tubes and determines that they are not strong enough to withstand spinning at such high speed. WINPAC then orders that the test data be reexamined, and then trumpets the new data as proof that the tubes purchased by Iraq were indeed destined to be used in a nuclear centrifuge. (Isikoff and Corn 2006, pp. 165)

Elliott Abrams, a special assistant to President George W. Bush on the National Security Council [NSC] and a well-known neoconservative and former Iran-Contra figure, is appointed to senior director for Near East and North African affairs within the NSC. Neoconservatives working at the Pentagon’s Near East South Asia (NESA) desk worked hard to get Abrams appointed. “The day he got (the appointment), they were whooping and hollering, ‘We got him in, we got him in,’” Karen Kwiatkowski, a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel, tells Inter Press Service. Abrams, a controversial figure with close ties to Richard Perle and Douglas Feith, had been convicted of withholding information from Congress during the Iran-Contra scandal, though he was later pardoned by George W. Bush’s father. (Insight 12/28/2002; Lobe 8/7/2003)

Two months after the September 2002 Defense Intelligence Agency report (see September 2002)—which found there was no conclusive evidence Iraq has chemical weapons—another secret document titled, “Iraq’s Nuclear, Biological and Chemical Weapon and Missile Program: Progress, Prospects, and Potential Vulnerabilities,” is completed. It also says in very clear terms that there is no solid proof that Iraq has chemical weapons. One passage from the report says, “No reliable information indicates whether Iraq is producing and stockpiling chemical weapons or where the country has or will establish its chemical agent production facility.” (US Department of Defense n.d.; Kaplan and Mazzetti 6/13/2003)

Elliott Abrams drafts a proposal, in which he argues that the United States should take de facto control of Iraqi oil fields. The proposal is not well-received by moderates in the Bush administration who question the legality of the proposal, and who argue “that only a puppet Iraqi government would acquiesce to US supervision of the oil fields and that one so slavish to US interests risks becoming untenable with Iraqis,” reports Insight Magazine. Such a move would also lend credence to suspicions that the invasion is motivated by oil interests, the critics add. (Insight 12/28/2002) A similar recommendation was made in a paper published by the Heritage Foundation in late September (see September 25, 2002).

A former senior official tells investigative reporter Seymour Hersh, “If it became known that [Rumsfeld] wanted [the Defense Intelligence Agency] to link the government of Tonga to 9/11, within a few months they would come up with sources who’d do it.” (Hersh 12/16/2002)

Critics argue that the Bush administration is attempting to use the inspections as a means of provoking resistance from Iraq so that Washington can claim it is in “further material breach.” The US would then cite this breach as justification for taking military action against Iraq. Critics also say that the administration’s agenda conflicts with the aims of the inspectors and that the US is undermining the inspectors’ work. (Gilfeather 11/21/2002; Brecher 12/3/2002; Dellinger 12/19/2002)

The Bush administration attempts to delay a vote for the second time in nine days on a UN resolution extending Iraq’s authority to sell oil for the next six months. John D. Negroponte, the US ambassador to the United Nations, argues that the resolution should add approximately 40 additional items to a list of items requiring UN approval prior to import. (Lynch and Allen 12/4/2002; BBC 12/4/2002)

The White House orders the CIA, the Defense Department, and the State Department to develop an aggressive plan for UN weapons inspectors that would require Iraqi scientists to appear for questioning. “An intense argument is under way… on almost all of the details of a protection program,” reports the New York Times. “Some American officials want the United Nations team to be aggressive in identifying scientists and demanding that they leave the country, perhaps without the scientists’ permission.” The UN would either issue subpoenas to the scientists or the UN would “lure” the scientists with offers of asylum in another country. If it is decided that subpoenas are to be used, Iraqi scientists would be required to “appear on a certain date and time at a place outside of Iraq… [and] Baghdad would be held responsible for seeing that they appear,” reports The Washington Post. Officials leak to the press that the Bush administration views the plan as the most likely way to provoke resistance from Baghdad. One official tells The Washington Post that if Iraqis “don’t produce those people, I would say that’s a demonstration of noncompliance and noncooperation.” The Washington Post reports that the inspections agencies, some allied governments, and UN officials are not pleased with the idea. They warn “that attempts to short-circuit the inspection process with a quickly conceived operation that could involve hundreds of Iraqis and their families could endanger lives while undermining both the inspections themselves and ongoing US intelligence operations in Iraq.” (Tyler 12/6/2002; DeYoung and Pincus 12/12/2002; DeYoung and Pincus 12/13/2002) Hans Blix, who strongly disapproves of the recommendation, argues that the United Nations cannot abduct people against their will. “Do you really think any Iraqis are going to go for it?” he asks. “I mean how big is a family, do you take just the wife and children and parents? What about the extended family—the cousins? Do you leave them behind? And what if we’re stopped on the way to the airport?” (Borger 12/7/2002) The next day he reaffirms his position, saying, “We are in nobody’s pocket.… We are not going to abduct anybody and we are not serving as a defection agency.” (Reilly 12/6/2002; Bone 12/7/2002; Preston 12/7/2002) His view is “backed by most of the United Nations hierarchy and the State Department in Washington,” reports the New York Times. The Times quotes one US official, who disagrees with the idea: “Taking someone against their will is contrary to the whole United Nations concept. You’d fracture the UN consensus.” (Tyler 12/6/2002) Iraqi General Amir Saadi argues that the proposal is problematic under international law and expresses concern that Hans Blix would be pressured into providing a copy of Iraq’s list of scientists to US intelligence. “This is a confidential list,” he says. “Will he make it public? Will he give it to other countries?” (Baker 12/20/2002)

US and British warplanes drop 53.2 tons of ordnance on targets in Iraq “no-fly” zones. (Smith 5/30/2005)

Bush administration officials launch what appears to be a concerted effort to discredit the inspections after press reports indicate that inspections are going well and that Iraq is cooperating. The Washington Post reports, “In speeches in London, Washington and Denver, Bush, Vice President Cheney and Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz sought to increase pressure on Hussein in advance of a Sunday deadline for the Iraqi leader to declare his inventory of weapons and missiles.” The paper adds, “The coordinated speeches… seemed designed to preempt any positive sign from the UN inspection teams about Iraqi compliance and to set the stage for an early confrontation with Hussein.” (Milbank 12/3/2002)

White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer says during a press briefing: “I will say this is something that the president has said publicly, that Iraq did, in fact, seek to buy these tubes for the purpose of producing, not as Iraq now claims conventional forces, but for the purpose of trying to produce nuclear weapons. And so it’s, on the one hand, mildly encouraging that Iraq would now admit to what it’s been doing. But on the other hand, a lie is still a lie, because these—they sought to produce these for the purpose of production of nuclear weapons, not conventional.” He also states that the evidence of WMD is that Saddam Hussein will claim there are no WMD and that proves there are WMD because Hussein is a liar. “Saddam Hussein does not exactly have a track record of telling the world the truth. So he, on December 8th, has to indicate whether or not he has weapons. Let’s see what he says. If he declares he has none, then we will know that Saddam Hussein is once again misleading the world.” When asked how he knows Iraq has WMD, Fleischer says, “We have intelligence information about what Saddam Hussein possesses… It’s no secret. We’ve said many times—you’ve heard the President say repeatedly that he has chemical and biological weapons, and he has missiles that can reach an access of 150 kilometers, all three of which are violations of his sworn commitments to the United Nations.” (White House 12/2/2002)

In a speech to the Air National Guard Senior Leadership Conference in Denver, Vice President Dick Cheney calls Saddam Hussein’s government an “outlaw regime” and accuses the leader of “harboring terrorists and the instruments of terror,” asserting that his government “has had high-level contacts with al-Qaeda going back a decade and has provided training to al-Qaeda terrorists.” (White House 12/2/2002; Milbank 12/3/2002) This latter comment appears to be based on a September 2002 briefing to Cheney’s staff by the Defense Department’s Office of Special Plans, which is aggressively pushing allegations of al-Qaeda-Iraq links (see September 16, 2002). That briefing contained a chart titled “Summary of Known Iraq-Al-Qaeda Contacts—1990-2002.” (Smith 4/6/2007)

Iraq reiterates its claim that it has no weapons of mass destruction in the country, foreshadowing the content of its formal declaration, which is due in five days. Responding to the statement, US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld says, “Any country on the face of the earth with an active intelligence program knows that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction.” And President Bush says, “He [Saddam Hussein] says he won’t have weapons of mass destruction; he’s got them.” (BBC 12/4/2002)

In a news briefing, Donald Rumsfeld says, “You can’t expect people to go into a country that is just enormous, with all that real estate and all that underground facilities and all of these people monitoring everything—everything anyone is doing—and expect them to engage in a discovery process and turn up something somebody is determined for them not to turn up. If you go back and look at the history of inspections in Iraq, the reality is that things have been found not by discovery, but through defectors… and you get the kind of information that means the game is up.” (US Department of Defense 12/3/2002; Hess 12/4/2002)

One day after President Bush asserts that signs of Iraqi cooperation are so far “not encouraging,” UN Chief Weapons Inspector Hans Blix tells the Associated Press, “I think we have started in the manner we expected and we have not had any impediments in the visits of plants.” (Linzer 12/3/2002; Associated Press 12/3/2002; Seattle Post-Intelligencer 12/3/2002) By this date, notes the Associated Press, “UN inspectors have reported unimpeded access and Iraqi cooperation” in “more than a dozen field missions.” (Associated Press 12/3/2002) Similarly, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan says, “It’s only been a week and obviously the cooperation seems to be good, but this is not a one-week wonder. They have to sustain the cooperation and the effort and perform.” (Agence France-Presse 12/4/2002; Lynch and Allen 12/4/2002)

An enhanced photo of the variola virus, which causes smallpox.An enhanced photo of the variola virus, which causes smallpox. [Source: University College London]New York Times reporter Judith Miller reports that the CIA is investigating an anonymous report that Iraq has obtained a virulent strain of smallpox from a Russian scientist. According to the anonymous informant, the smallpox may have come from Nelja N. Maltseva, a virologist who worked for over 30 years at the Research Institute for Viral Preparations in Moscow before her death in 2001. The CIA has briefed President Bush about the investigation, though, as Miller notes, “The attempt to verify the information is continuing.” Maltseva visited Iraq in 1972 and 1973, according to intelligence officials, and may have visited as recently as 1990. The facility where she worked housed what Russia has claimed was its entire national collection of some 120 strains of smallpox. Miller writes, “[S]ome experts fear that she may have provided the Iraqis with a version that could be resistant to vaccines and could be more easily transmitted as a biological weapon.” In response, the White House may decide that 500,000 military personnel and another 500,000 civilian medical workers should be vaccinated against smallpox, a disease officially eradicated in 1980. The White House says that despite promises made by Russian President Vladimir Putin, Russia has not cooperated with US requests for information about its smallpox strains. “There is information we would like the Russians to share as a partner of ours,” says William Winkenwerder Jr., assistant secretary of defense for health affairs. “Because if there are strains that present a unique problem with respect to vaccines and treatment, it is in the interests of all freedom-loving people to have as much information as possible.” Recently declassified Soviet-era records show that in 1971, Maltseva was sent to Aralsk, a port city in what was then the Soviet republic of Kazakhstan, to help stop an epidemic of smallpox. That outbreak was possibly the result of open-air tests of a Soviet smallpox strain. Some scientists worry that Maltseva may have shared the Aralsk strain with Iraqi scientists in 1990, according to administration sources. David Kelly, a former United Nations weapons inspector in Iraq, says there was a “resurgence of interest” in smallpox vaccine in Iraq in 1990, “but we have never known why.” Both Maltseva’s daughter and her deputy in the Moscow laboratory deny that Maltseva ever went to Iraq. (Miller 12/3/2002)

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.” (US President 12/9/2002)

During the bill signing of the Dot Kids Implementation and Efficiency Act of 2002, Bush says of Saddam Hussein: “One of my concerns is that in the past he has shot at our airplanes. Anybody who shoots at US airplanes or British airplanes is not somebody who looks like he’s interested in complying with disarmament.” He also chastises Saddam’s questioning US motives (see November 23, 2002). “He wrote letters, stinging rebukes, to what the UN did. He was very critical of the US and Britain. It didn’t appear to be somebody that was that anxious to comply, but we’ve just started the process.” (Brown 12/4/2002; US President 12/9/2002)

The White House calls for more aggressive inspections. White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer says, “We want to make certain that they [the inspections] are aggressive enough to be able to ascertain the facts in the face of an adversary who in the past did everything in his power to hide the facts.” The White House recommends increasing the UN inspectors’ staff so that the two agencies can conduct multiple simultaneous inspections each day. (BBC 12/4/2002)

Demetrius Perricos, the Greek head of the UN team searching Iraq for chemical and biological weapons, criticizes the US’s efforts to influence the inspections. He says: “The people who sent us here are the international community, the United Nations. We’re not serving the US. We’re not serving [Britain]. We’re not serving any individual nation.” He also questions why the Bush administration is refusing to share its intelligence with the inspectors. He explains: “What we’re getting and what President Bush may be getting is very different, to put it mildly.” (Watson 12/6/2002)

White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer says: “The president of the United States and the Secretary of Defense would not assert as plainly and bluntly as they have that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction if it was not true, and if they did not have a solid basis for saying it.” When pressed for details, he adds: “President Bush has said Iraq has weapons of mass destruction. Tony Blair has said Iraq has weapons of mass destruction. Donald Rumsfeld has said Iraq has weapons of mass destruction. Richard Butler has said they do. The United Nations has said they do. The experts have said they do. Iraq says they don’t. You can choose who you want to believe.” (CBC News 12/5/2002; Associated Press 12/5/2003)

Saddam Hussein announces that he will continue to permit intrusive inspections. Two days before, inspectors had arrived unannounced at Saddam’s Sajoud palace and were given unfettered access to the site. Saddam says he hopes such visits will disprove US allegations that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction. (Chandrasekaran 12/6/2002)

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.” The New York Times notes: “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.” (Preston 12/7/2002)

The UN Security Council decides that it will not release Iraq’s declaration to any of the member states once it has been received. “UN experts would first scrutinize the document—expected to run to several thousand pages—to check that sensitive information is not made public,” explains the London Times, adding, “That could take weeks.” (Bone 12/7/2002; Preston 12/7/2002)

On December 6, 2002, conservative media pundit Bill O’Reilly says about Saddam Hussein, “I can’t, in good conscience, tell the American people that I know for sure that he has smallpox or anthrax or he’s got nuclear or chemical and that he is ready to use that. I cannot say that as a journalist or an American.” O’Reilly is far more certain on February 7, 2003, when he tells his listeners, “According to the UN, he’s got anthrax, VX gas, ricin, and on and on.” On February 23, 2003, he says flatly, “This guy we know has anthrax and VX and all this stuff.” Then on March 18, 2003, just two days before the US invades Iraq, he says that he isn’t sure what kind of WMDs Saddam Hussein may possess: “Here’s the bottom line on this for every American and everybody in the world: Nobody knows for sure, all right? We don’t know what he has. We think he has 8,500 liters of anthrax. But let’s see.” (Hart 5/2003)

Demetrius Perricos.Demetrius Perricos. [Source: EPA]Demetrius Perricos, Greek head of a UN inspections team that searched for chemical and biological weapons in Iraq, makes it clear that the inspection teams are not tools of the US and Britain. He says: “This time we have the most advanced equipment available, and the new UN resolution means that we will not be camping somewhere, but knocking on doors. The Iraqis know that, and they also know that a ‘material breach’ may lead to war. I think we shall get to the truth, and it is, of course, desirable that there is no war…. The people who sent us here are the international community and the UN. We are not serving the US and we are not serving [Britain]. The Iraqis would like us to be very light, the US would like us to be extremely severe. We think we are doing a proper job.” (Sengupta 12/8/2002)

Iraq submits its declaration of military and civilian chemical, biological and nuclear capabilities to the UN one day early. It consists of 12 CD-ROMs and 43 spiral-bound volumes containing a total of 11,807 pages. General Hussam Amin, the officer in charge of Iraq’s National Monitoring Directorate, tells reporters a few hours before the declaration is formally submitted: “We declared that Iraq is empty of weapons of mass destruction. I reiterate Iraq has no weapons of mass destruction. This declaration has some activities that are dual-use.” Lt. Gen. Amer al-Saadi, a senior adviser to Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, says the next day that Iraq’s pre-1991 nuclear program may have been close to developing a nuclear bomb, but denies that Baghdad continued the program. Meanwhile, the Bush administration remains furious over the Security Council’s previous day ruling that no member state—including the US—will be permitted access to the report until after “sensitive information about weapons manufacture had been removed.” White House officials say they were “blind-sided” by the decision. (Blair and Coman 12/8/2002; Beaumont et al. 12/8/2002; Burns and Sanger 12/8/2002; Associated Press 12/9/2002)
Iraq's nuclear program - Roughly 2,100 pages of the declaration include information on Iraq’s former nuclear programs, including details on the sites and companies that were involved. (Associated Press 12/9/2002; BBC 12/10/2002)
Iraq's chemical programs - It contains “several thousand pages,” beginning with a summary of Iraq’s former chemical weapons program, specifically “research and development activities, the production of chemical agents, relations with companies and a terminated radiation bomb project.” (Associated Press 12/9/2002)
The biological declaration - This section is much shorter than the sections dealing with Iraq’s nuclear and chemical programs. It includes “information on military institutions connected with the former biological weapons program, activities at the foot-and-mouth facility and a list of supporting documents.” (Associated Press 12/9/2002)
The ballistic missile declaration - This is the shortest section of Iraq’s declaration totaling about 1,200 pages. It consists of a chronological summary of the country’s ballistic missile program. (Associated Press 12/9/2002)
Iraq's suppliers of chemical and biological agent precursors - Iraq’s declaration includes the names of 150 foreign companies, several of which are from the US, Britain, Germany and France. Germany allowed eighty companies to supply Iraq with materials that could be used in the production of weapons of mass destruction since 1975, while the US allowed 24 of its own businesses. Also included in the list are ten French businesses and several Swiss and Chinese companies. “From about 1975 onwards, these companies are shown to have supplied entire complexes, building elements, basic materials and technical know-how for Saddam Hussein’s program to develop nuclear, chemical and biological weapons of mass destruction,” the Independent explains. “They also supplied rockets and complete conventional weapons systems.” (BBC 12/10/2002; Reuters 12/10/2002; Lynch 12/11/2002; Preston 12/12/2002; Bazzi 12/13/2002; Farley and Drogin 12/15/2002; Paterso 12/18/2002)

US Secretary of State Colin Powell successfully pressures the UN Security Council’s president, Colombian ambassador to the United Nations Alfonso Valdivieso, to override the Council’s December 6 decision (see December 6, 2002) that no country be permitted access to an unabridged copy of Iraq’s declaration. “The United States had initially accepted the argument Friday but then changed its mind over the weekend, holding consultations between capitals,” reports the Associated Press. “Eventually US officials instructed Colombian Ambassador Alfonso Valdivieso, the current Security Council president, to hand over the complete copy of the declaration, which to the astonishment of many in the UN halls, he did.” (Associated Press 12/9/2002; Preston 12/10/2002; Preston 12/21/2002) The Council president normally makes decisions only when there is a consensus of all 15 members. Notably, the US had promised Colombia a substantial increase in military aid less than a week beforehand. (Preston 12/10/2002) Under the new “decision,” only those countries with “the expertise to assess the risk of proliferation and other sensitive information” will be permitted to access the documents. The only countries that are considered qualified according to this criteria are the five permanent members. The other ten council members, including Syria, will only be allowed to view the declaration after translation, analysis and censorship of “sensitive material.” Syria and Norway are infuriated by the move. (Associated Press 12/9/2002; Associated Press 12/9/2002; Preston 12/10/2002; Washington Times 12/12/2002) The photocopying of the documents will be done exclusively by the US. UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan will later acknowledge that the job should have been delegated to a less partial party. (Bone and Evans 12/10/2002; Washington Times 12/12/2002) The US will remove 3,200 pages of documents before turning the Iraqi documents over to the UN Security Council. (Carter 2004, pp. 98-99)

Disagreeing with statements made by US officials, Russia’s Foreign Ministry says, “Iraq’s timely submission of its declaration, parallel to its continued cooperation with the international weapons inspectors, confirms its commitment to act in compliance with Resolution 1441 (see November 8, 2002).” (Adams 12/8/2002)

Former ambassador Joseph Wilson joins former Defense Secretary James Schlesinger, retired foreign service officer and terrorism expert L. Paul Bremer, and neoconservative columnist Charles Krauthammer at a symposium at the Nixon Center to discuss the impending Iraq invasion. Wilson is dismayed to hear the others “wax… eloquent about how we would reshape the Middle East with our invasion of Iraq.”
Krauthammer: Iraq Will Provide Evidence for Further Efforts to Democratize Middle East - In Wilson’s description, Krauthammer is particularly voluble, telling the other participants that the US must invade and conquer Iraq for three reasons: weapons of mass destruction, American credibility, and the democratization of the Arab world. US credibility is at stake, Krauthammer says, because if the US does not invade after the months of increasingly belligerent rhetoric from the White House and its allies, “I think there will be a tremendous collapse of everything we had achieved by the war in Afghanistan. That would be a great strategic setback. And it would have negative effects on the region, especially on the war on terrorism.” As for the enforced democratization of the Arab states, Krauthammer likens it to “what [America] did in Germany and Japan” after World War II. “It’s about reforming the Arab world,” he says. “I think we don’t know the answer to the question of whether the Arab-Islamic world is inherently allergic to democracy. The assumption is that it is—but I don’t know if anyone can answer that question today. We haven’t attempted it so far. The attempt will begin with Iraq. Afterwards, we are going to have empirical evidence; history will tell us whether that assumption was correct or not.” Wilson will describe himself as “stunned by the unabashed ambition of this imperial project, by the willingness to countenance a major military engagement and lengthy occupation in order to ‘attempt’ to reform the Arab world, to remake it to our liking. What hubris, to put American lives and treasure at stake in order to gain empirical evidence to test an assumption.” Krauthammer concludes by giving what Wilson will call a “chilling comment that we needed to go to war soon, before the antiwar movement coalesced—in other words, before Americans woke up to the fact that this war was not at all about combating the publicly proclaimed grave and gathering danger posed by Saddam [Hussein].”
A US 'Imperial War' - Wilson retorts that Krauthammer’s neoconservatives remind him of Napoleon’s generals “as they sat around the table and listened to his plans on the eve of the march on Moscow”—the ill-fated assault that led to the French emperor’s ultimate failure. After some back-and-forth, Krauthammer says that he is reminded, not of French imperialist ambitions, but of the US on the eve of World War II’s D-Day invasion of Normandy, which led to the downfall of the Nazi empire and the liberation of France. Wilson will later reflect: “If the advocates of [Krauthammer’s] vision in the symposium had their way, we really were going to try to bring Jeffersonian democracy to the Arab world on the coattails of an American military conquest. We were going to be waging an imperial war, pure and simple.” (Wilson 2004, pp. 309-312)

The Guardian of London reports that according to unnamed sources in New York and London, “the US and Britain lack ‘killer’ intelligence that will prove conclusively that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction.” The article quotes one source as saying, “If we had intelligence that there is a piece of weaponry at this map reference, we would tell the inspectors and they would be there like a shot.” (Borger et al. 12/10/2002)

Hans Blix completes an initial review of Iraq’s December 7 declaration (see December 7, 2002) and tells the UN Security Council that he will brief them as early as December 16. He says he plans to meet with representatives of the United States and the four other permanent members to decide what portions of the declaration need to be censored before being distributed to the other Security Council member states. Certain documents will be censored in order to prevent the details of Iraq’s nuclear, chemical and biological weapons programs from falling into the wrong hands and being used as a virtual “cookbook” to build weapons of mass destruction. “He proposed that the most sensitive information should be purged from the text by inspectors, to ensure that it did not leak. To do otherwise would breach international treaties on weapons proliferation,” reports the London Telegraph. The US will play the dominant role in deciding what parts of the declaration need to be blacked out. The Washington Post reports, “Bush administration officials indicated today that they would tell Blix before the end of the week what elements of the report should remain confidential.” Blix recommends censoring sections dealing with designs for the production of nuclear weapons, plans for converting short-range missiles into long-range rockets, and a list of foreign companies that supplied Iraq with materials for its chemical, biological and nuclear weapons. (Blair and Coman 12/8/2002; Lynch 12/11/2002)

US Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security John R. Bolton meets with UN Security Council representatives to argue the Bush administration’s case for tightening sanctions on Iraq. Several of the 38 changes that are favored by the Bush administration are aimed at preventing Iraq from acquiring new military equipment—equipment that might be used in an attempt to defend itself in the event of a US and British invasion. Among such items are jammers to block satellite-positioning systems, ultra-wide-band radios and broadcast equipment. The US also wants to extend the import restrictions to several medicines that could be used as antidotes to chemical weapons agents, including atropine, pralidoxime and sodium nitrite. (Preston 12/12/2002)

Barton Gellman.Barton Gellman. [Source: Publicity photo via Washington Post]On December 12, 2002, the Washington Post publishes a front-page story by reporter Barton Gellman entitled “US Suspects Al-Qaeda Got Nerve Agent From Iraqis.” It states: “The Bush administration has received a credible report that Islamic extremists affiliated with al-Qaeda took possession of a chemical weapon in Iraq last month or late in October, according to two officials with firsthand knowledge of the report and its source. They said government analysts suspect that the transaction involved the nerve agent VX and that a courier managed to smuggle it overland through Turkey.” (Gellman 12/12/2002) The story proves so controversial that the Post’s ombudsman Michael Getler writes a column about in on December 22. Getler notes that, “[B]eginning with the second paragraph, which started out, ‘If the report proves true…’ the story contains an extraordinary array of flashing yellow lights.” He asks, “[W]hat, after all, is the use of this story that practically begs you not to put much credence in it? Why was it so prominently displayed, and why not wait until there was more certainty about the intelligence?” However, he says the Post stands by publishing the story. (Getler 12/12/2002) Slate will comment in 2004, “[T]he Gellman scoop withered on the vine.… nobody advanced or refuted the story—not even Gellman.” Gellman will later admit that he should have run a follow-up story, if only to point out that no confirming evidence had come out. (Shafer 4/28/2004) He will later admit the story was incorrect. But he will continue to defend the story, claiming that “it was news even though it was clear that it was possible this report would turn out to be false.” (Kurtz 8/12/2004)

The Bush administration claims that Iraq’s December 7 declaration (see December 7, 2002) was incomplete. (Sanger and Preston 12/13/2002)
bullet It does not explain what happened to the 550 shells filled with mustard gas that the UNSCOM inspectors were never able to account for. (Sanger and Preston 12/13/2002; MacFarquhar 12/23/2002)
bullet It does not explain what happened to the 157 bombs filled with biological agents that the UNSCOM inspectors were never able to account for. (Pincus and DeYoung 12/19/2002; MacFarquhar 12/23/2002)
bullet It does not explain “why Iraq was seeking to buy uranium in Africa in recent years, as well as high-technology materials that the United States and Britain have said were destined for a program to enrich uranium.” (Sanger and Preston 12/13/2002; MacFarquhar 12/23/2002)
bullet It does not explain what happened to the 3,000 tons of chemical precursors and 360 tons of actual chemical warfare agents that the UNSCOM inspectors were never able to account for. (BBC 12/19/2002; Pincus and DeYoung 12/19/2002; MacFarquhar 12/23/2002)
bullet It failed to provide evidence for Iraq’s claim that It had destroyed 1.5 tons of VX nerve gas. The 1999 UNSCOM report had stated, “According to Iraq, 1.5 tons of VX were discarded unilaterally by dumping on the ground. Traces of one VX-degradation product and a chemical known as a VX-stabilizer were found in the samples taken from the VX dump sites. A quantified assessment is not possible.” (BBC 12/19/2002) Gen. Amir Saadi will explain that the VX gas was indeed accounted for in the December 7 declaration. He says that Iraq had unsuccessfully attempted in April 1990 to produce VX but that the material had degraded quickly and, as a result, the experiment was abandoned. “No production was achieved; no VX was produced,” he says. (MacFarquhar 12/23/2002)

An ABC News/Washington Post poll finds that 81 percent of Americans see “Iraq as a threat to the United States,” 64 percent “think that threat is a substantial one,” and 44 percent “see Iraq as an ‘immediate’ danger.” The poll is conducted among a random national sample of 1,209 adults and the results have a 3 percent error margin. (ABC News 12/17/2002)

Andrew Marshall.Andrew Marshall. [Source: George Lewis]Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz receives a draft report by the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessment which, according to a source interviewed by Newsday, recommends that “the cost of the occupation, the cost for the military administration and providing for a provisional administration, all of that would come out of Iraqi oil.” The report was commissioned by Andrew Marshall, the Pentagon’s influential director of Net Assessment. (Royce 1/10/2003) This contradicts a report titled, Potential Costs of a War with Iraq and Its Post War Occupation, which is published by the Center two months later on February 25, 2003. It notes that “given the enormity of Iraq’s reconstruction requirements and the size of its foreign debt, if the Bush Administration’s goal is to turn Iraq into a stable, pro-US democracy, it would probably prove counterproductive to use Iraqi oil revenues to reimburse [Defense Department] for its costs.” (Kosiak 2/5/2003)

The New York Times reports that the Defense Department “is considering issuing a secret directive to the American military to conduct covert operations aimed at influencing public opinion and policy makers in friendly and neutral countries’ in order to stem the tide of anti-Americanism. The Pentagon has considered several tactics it may employ to improve America’s image abroad. For example, the Times explains that the Pentagon “might pay journalists to write stories favorable to American policies,” or hire “outside contractors without obvious ties to the Pentagon to organize rallies in support of American policies.” Another idea would be to set “up schools with secret American financing to teach a moderate Islamic position laced with sympathetic depictions of how the religion is practiced in America.” Several official sources interviewed by the Times opposed the plans. One military officer tells the newspaper: “We have the assets and the capabilities and the training to go into friendly and neutral nations to influence public opinion. We could do it and get away with it. That doesn’t mean we should.” Retired Adm. Dennis C. Blair, a former commander of American forces in the Pacific, says that it probably wouldn’t be very effective. “Running ops against your allies doesn’t work very well…. I’ve seen it tried a few times, and it generally is not very effective,” he says. (Shanker and Schmitt 12/16/2002) The White House defends the program. “The president has the expectation that any program that is created in his administration will be based on facts, and that’s what he would expect to be carried out in any program that is created in any entity of the government,” White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer says. (Shanker and Schmitt 12/16/2002)

President Bush, in a classified briefing with approximately 75 senators, says that Iraq not only has biological and chemical weapons, but is able to strike at the US East Coast via unmanned drone aircraft. For senators still nervous from the recent anthrax attacks, the specter of such an attack is terrifying. Bush provides no evidence of the claim, which is later proven entirely false. (Dean 2004, pp. 141)

The Department of Homeland Security sends a team to investigate claims (see November 25, 2002) that there are several tons of uranium sitting in a Benin warehouse awaiting shipment to Iraq. According to a later Senate investigation, they see “only what appear[s] to be bales of cotton in the warehouse.” The agency publishes its finds in a report on February 10, 2003. (US Congress 7/7/2004, pp. 59)

Analysts with CIA’s WINPAC unit send a paper to the National Security Council noting two omissions in Iraq’s December 7 declaration (see December 7, 2002). The paper, written in response to an order from Undersecretary of State John Bolton, says that Iraq’s declaration failed to explain its procurement of aluminum tubes and “does not acknowledge efforts to procure uranium from Niger, one of the points addressed in British dossier (see September 24, 2002).” (US Congress 7/7/2004, pp. 58; Isikoff and Corn 2006, pp. 163)

Dr. August Hanning.Dr. August Hanning. [Source: Der Spiegel]CIA Director George Tenet makes an urgent request to the chief of German intelligence, Dr. August Hanning. Tenet is scheduled to meet with President Bush in three days to discuss the case for invading Iraq. Tenet wants to cement his case by allowing the Iraqi defector known as “Curveball” to appear on television and tell his story; failing that, Tenet wants the Germans to allow an American expert to debrief Curveball (later revealed as a fabricator named Rafid Ahmed Alwan—see November 4, 2007) and then himself appear on television with his findings. Two days later, Hanning rejects Tenet’s requests. Hanning calls Curveball’s information “plausible and believable,” but adds that “attempts to verify the information have been unsuccessful.” Therefore, all of Curveball’s reports “must be considered unconfirmed.” However, Hanning would allow Curveball’s information to be used, if Tenet still desired to use that unconfirmed information, if the source is protected. In November 2007, Tenet denies ever seeing Hanning’s letter. The CIA’s former European division chief, Tyler Drumheller, believes Tenet is lying. “He needs to talk to his special assistants if he didn’t see it. And the fact is, he had very good special assistants. I’m sure they showed it to him. And I’m sure it was just, it wasn’t what they wanted to see,” Drumheller says. (CBS News 11/4/2007)

The non-permanent members of the UN Security Council receive the edited version of Iraq’s December 7 declaration (see December 7, 2002). Almost 8,500 pages of the original 12,000 supplied by Baghdad are removed or blacked out, including sections on the designs for the production of nuclear weapons, plans for converting short-range missiles into long-range rockets, and a list of foreign countries and companies that provided Iraq with the materials used in Iraq’s former chemical, biological and nuclear weapons programs. (Bazzi 12/13/2002; Pincus and DeYoung 12/19/2002; Pisik 12/20/2002; Cusick and Arbuthnot 12/22/2002; Preston 12/12/2003) The reason offered by UN Chief Weapons Inspector Hans Blix for removing the names of the suppliers is that if he “were to give the names publicly, then they would never get another foreign supplier to give them any information.” (Preston 12/12/2003) Some of the non-permanent members of the UN Security Council are upset by the extensive editing of the documents. “How are we to judge this on such short notice, and with so many black lines running through it?” asks one annoyed envoy. (Pisik 12/20/2002)

A senior British security source suggests to the London Independent that US officials are “talking up” the evidence they say they have against Iraq. “We know [of] material which is unaccounted for,” says the source. “But we have not got a definite site, a grid reference, where we can say Saddam is hiding it. If the US administration does indeed have that kind of specifics, it has not been passed on to us. The main problem is known to us all. After all, it was Paul Wolfowitz the hawkish deputy US Defense Secretary who said, ‘Iraq isn’t a country where we’ve had human intelligence for years.’” (Sengupta 12/20/2002)

The State Department publishes a fact sheet titled “Illustrative Examples of Omissions From the Iraqi Declaration to the United Nations Security Council,” which states that in its December 2002 declaration (see December 7, 2002) to the UN, Iraq “ignores [its] efforts to procure uranium from Niger.” (US Department of State 12/19/2002; Lumpkin 6/12/2003; Linzer 7/13/2003) Secretary of State Colin Powell rejects the UN dossier, in part because it does not account for the Nigerien uranium (see Between Late 2000 and September 11, 2001) and aluminum tubes (see Between April 2001 and September 2002) Iraq is supposedly using to make nuclear weapons. (Unger 2007, pp. 268) But at this time, there is no evidence that Iraq had in fact sought to obtain uranium from Niger. Prior to the fact sheet’s publication, the CIA had warned the State Department about this and recommended that the phrase be removed—advice the State Department chose to ignore. (Singh 6/12/2003) Throughout the rest of December, almost every statement the US goverment makes on Iraq will include references to the Nigerien uranium deal. President Bush, Vice President Cheney, Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, and Powell will all state publicly that Iraq had been caught trying to buy uranium from Niger. (Unger 2007, pp. 268)

Secretary of State Colin Powell and US ambassador to the UN John Negroponte say that the Bush administration considers Iraq to be in “material breach” of UN Resolution 1441 (see November 8, 2002), citing deliberate omissions and falsehoods in Iraq’s 12,000 page December 7 declaration (see December 7, 2002). Powell calls the declaration “a catalog of recycled information and flagrant omissions,” adding that it “totally fails to meet the resolution’s requirements.” He says the omissions “constitute another material breach.” (Associated Press 12/19/2002; Gedda 12/19/2002; O'Clery 12/19/2002; Pincus and DeYoung 12/19/2002) But the administration’s conclusion is made before the Arabic sections of the declaration have even been translated. Blix says that there are 500 or 600 pages that still need to be translated and that it is too early to provide a complete assessment. He adds that the Bush administration’s statements about a “material breach” are baseless allegations. (CNN 12/19/2002; Pisik 12/20/2002)

UNMOVIC chief weapons inspector Hans Blix criticizes the US and British governments for failing to provide inspectors with the intelligence they need to locate Iraq’s alleged arsenal of banned weapons. Blix states, “If [Britain] and the US are convinced and they say they have evidence, then one would expect they would be able to tell us where is this stuff.” When asked if he is receiving enough cooperation from Western intelligence agencies, he answers, “Not yet. We get some, but we don’t get all we need.” (Cornwell and Grice 12/21/2002) In response, US and British intelligence claim they will provide UN inspectors with higher quality intelligence. One official tells the New York Times, “We are going to give them one piece of information at a time, given strategically at the right moment.” Another official explains that the reason for this is because, “Based on our historical experience with UNSCOM, they had a very difficult time keeping information from falling into Iraqi hands.” (Sanger and Preston 12/21/2002)

The Oil and Energy Working Group, one of 17 such groups working under the US State Department’s “Future of Iraq” project (see April 2002-March 2003), meets to discuss plans for the oil industry in a post-Saddam Hussein Iraq. The only known member of the 15-member group is Ibrahim Bahr al-Ulum, who will become Iraq’s oil minister after the invasion. Other people likely involved include Ahmed Chalabi of the Iraqi National Congress, Sharif Ali Bin al Hussein of the Iraqi National Congress; recently defected personnel from Iraq’s Ministry of Petroleum; the former Iraqi head of military intelligence; Sheikh Yamani, the former Oil Minister of Saudi Arabia; and unnamed representatives from the US Energy Department. The responsibilities of this working group include: (1) developing plans for restoring the petroleum sector in order to increase oil exports to partially pay for a possible US military occupation government. (2) reconsidering Iraq’s continued membership in the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and “whether it should be allowed to produce as much as possible or be limited by an OPEC quota.” (3) “consider[ing] whether to honor contracts made between the Hussein government and foreign oil companies, including the US $3.5 billion project to be carried out by Russian interests to redevelop Iraq’s oilfields.”] (Oil and Gas International 10/30/2002; Beaumont 11/3/2002; US Department of State 12/19/2002; Hoyos 4/7/2003; Pelham 9/5/2003; Muttitt 2005) By April 2003, the working group will have met a total of four times. One of the policies they agree on is that Iraq “should be opened to international oil companies as quickly as possible after the war” and that development of Iraq’s oil fields should be done through the use of Production Sharing Agreements (PSAs). Under a typical PSA, oil ownership remains with the state, while exploration and production are contracted to the private companies under highly favorable terms. (Muttitt 2005; Juhasz 12/8/2006)

A White House meeting in March 2003. From left to right: Cheney, Tenet, and Bush. A White House meeting in March 2003. From left to right: Cheney, Tenet, and Bush. [Source: Eric Draper / White House]CIA Director George Tenet and his deputy John McLaughlin meet in the White House with President George Bush and Bush’s top advisers for a “dress rehearsal” ahead of a public presentation that will accuse Iraq of having weapons of mass destruction. Bush is disappointed with Tenet and McLauglin’s presentation, which is based on communications intercepts, satellite photos, diagrams, and other intelligence. “Nice try,” one official will later recall Bush saying. “I don’t think this quite—it’s not something that Joe Public would understand or would gain a lot of confidence from.” Bush reportedly says to Tenet. “I’ve been told all this intelligence about having WMD, and this is the best we’ve got?” According to a White House leak to Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward, Tenet responds, “It’s a slam dunk case,” Bush then reportedly asks, “George, how confident are you?” To which the intelligence head responds, “Don’t worry, it’s a slam dunk.” (Hamilton 4/17/2004; Ford 6/20/2006 Sources: Carl W. Ford, Jr.) But this account is later disputed by Tenet. According to Tenet, he told the president that he could provide more intelligence to strengthen the public case. It would be easy—“a slam dunk.” (Tenet 2007, pp. 359-367; CBS News 4/29/2007)

Iraq announces that it will permit UN inspectors to interview Iraqi scientists without government officials present. At a news conference in Baghdad, Amir al-Saadi, an adviser to Saddam, invites the US to send CIA agents into Iraq to lead inspectors to the alleged weapons sites. Gen. Amir Saadi says, “We do not even have any objection if the CIA sent somebody with the inspectors to show them the suspected sites.” (MSNBC 12/22/2002; Baker 12/23/2002; MacFarquhar 12/23/2002) The Bush administration dismisses Baghdad’s offer as a “stunt.” (Diamond 12/22/2002; Tran 12/23/2002; Lynch 12/24/2002)

Simon Dodge, an Iraq nuclear analyst from the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR), sends an email to a DOE analyst indicating his surprise that INR’s well-known alternative views on both the aluminum tubes and the uranium information were not included in a paper recently put together by the CIA’s WINPAC unit (see December 17, 2002). The DOE analyst replies in an e-mail, commenting, “It is most disturbing that WINPAC is essentially directing foreign policy in this matter. There are some very strong points to be made in respect to Iraq’s arrogant non-compliance with UN sanctions. However, when individuals attempt to convert those ‘strong statements’ into the ‘knock out’ punch, the administration will ultimately look foolish—i.e. the tubes and Niger!” (US Congress 7/7/2004, pp. 59; Isikoff and Corn 2006, pp. 163-164)

UN weapons inspectors interview Sabah Abdel-Nour, a British-trained specialist in materials technology who is working as a professor at Baghdad’s University of Technology. He later tells reporters that he answered all of the inspectors’ questions, had nothing to hide, and had no reason to leave the country. “I told them everything we know clearly and in detail… I don’t have anything to say outside the country more than what I said here.” It is the first publicly acknowledged interview with an Iraqi scientist. (MacFarquhar 12/25/2002)

Iraq provides the United Nations with the names of more than 400 scientists who are involved in Iraq’s weapons programs. One of the provisions of UN Security Council Resolution 1441 is that Iraq must supply the names of all of its weapons experts (see November 8, 2002). (BBC 12/28/2002; Agence France-Presse 12/29/2002)

The UN Security Council approves some of the US’ and Britain’s suggestions for tightening sanctions on Iraq. Among the items added to the list of banned and restricted goods are certain types of communications equipment, speed boats, heavy trucks, and antibiotics. The US, assisted by its British ally, argued that the items could be used for military purposes. Iraq says that the new restrictions would undermine the oil-for-food program which allows Iraq to use proceeds from its oil sales to purchase humanitarian goods such as medical supplies. (Associated Press 12/30/2002; Associated Press 1/2/2003)

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld signs a directive ordering the deployment of an additional 50,000 reinforcements to the Persian Gulf region. The order includes some 4,000 soldiers from the Third Infantry Division, who are specialists in desert warfare. Orders to deploy or prepare for deployment are also given to several naval ships and Air Force squadrons. (Schmitt 1/1/2003; Watson and Beeston 1/2/2003) Military experts tell the Guardian of London that given the amount of resources that have so far been allocated in preparation for invading Iraq, it is very unlikely that war can be avoided. An unnamed source from the neoconservative Project for the New American Century tells the newspaper, “It’s very hard for a country to mobilize for war, and not to go for war without a very serious reason. If you signal to the world that you’re serious, and you don’t do anything, then you’re saying you’re not a serious country.” (Borger 12/31/2001)

Deputy CIA Director John McLaughlin and Robert Walpole, the agency’s national intelligence officer for nuclear weapons, share an early draft of a rebuttal to Iraq’s December 7 declaration (see December 7, 2002) with National Security Council staffers. The White House intends to use the report as the basis for Colin Powell’s upcoming speech before the UN Security Council. But the NSC staffers find it lacking in detail, and the White House tells McLaughlin and Walpole to keep working on it. (Isikoff and Corn 2006, pp. 175)

Army investigators discover that 62 percent of its gas masks and 90 percent of its chem/bio detectors—which alert soldiers to the presence of chemical or biological toxins—are defective. Nevertheless, the Bush administration continues to prepare for war with Iraq, a country believed to have a large and dangerous stock of chemical and biological weapons. Tens of thousands of US soldiers will be issued defective chem/bio suits, many with holes or ripped seams. Retired Army Colonel David Hackworth will later recall: “When the Pentagon tried to trace down these bad suits, they couldn’t find them at all. So a trooper out in the… middle of a desert is putting on a suit, [and] he doesn’t know if he’s got a good one or a bad one. It’s, it’s kind of like Russian roulette.” (Carter 2004, pp. 57)

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.” However, Bush takes a harder line when pressed. When a reporter asks about “a possible war with Iraq looming,” Bush retorts: “You said we’re headed to war in Iraq—I don’t know why you say that. 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. We’ve got a military presence there to remind Saddam Hussein, however, that when I say we will lead a coalition of the willing to disarm him if he chooses to disarm, I mean it.” (US President 1/6/2003; Fallows 10/2004; Unger 2007, pp. 268)

United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan says in an interview with Israel’s Army Radio that Saddam’s government is cooperating with UN weapons inspectors and that he sees no reason for the use of force against Iraq. “Iraq is cooperating and they [inspectors] are able to do their work in an unimpeded manner and therefore I don’t see an argument for a military action now,” the secretary-general says. “They may give an interim report before the [January] 27 [deadline] and I really do not see any basis for an action until then, particularly as they are able to carry out their work in an unimpeded manner.” (Reuters 12/31/2001; BBC 12/31/2001; Usborne and Woolf 1/1/2003) The Independent of London call his remarks “a blunt warning to Britain and the United States that they will need clear evidence of clandestine weapons programs in Iraq to win support from other nations for any military campaign against Saddam Hussein this winter.” (Usborne and Woolf 1/1/2003)

John Bolton tells the Associated Press that Jose Bustani, the former director-general of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) who was forced from his position under pressure from Washington (see 2003), had no authority to involve the OPCW in the 2002-2003 conflict over Iraq’s alleged arsenal of illicit weapons. Iraq was “completely irrelevant” to Bustani’s responsibilities, he insists. But in an interview with the Associated Press in the spring of 2005, Ralph Earle and Avis Bohlen, both of whom worked under Bolton in the State Department’s arms-control bureau, will say the opposite. They tell the Associated Press that the enlisting of new treaty members was part of the OPCW chief’s job. But they also claim that Bustani should have consulted with Washington beforehand. (Hanley 6/5/2005)

The Bush administration tries to convince 9/11 commissioner John Lehman that there are ties between Iraq and al-Qaeda. The attempts take place in a series of meetings at the White House and Pentagon, where Lehman meets with Vice President Dick Cheney, White House chief of staff Andy Card, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, and Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz. Lehman, a prominent Republican, was previously frozen out of politics by the administration due to his ties to John McCain, who ran for the Republican presidential nomination against George W. Bush in 2000. However, the administration officials encourage the meetings when they see Lehman is interested in the alleged connection between Iraq and Osama bin Laden, in the hopes that he will use his position on the 9/11 Commission to draw attention to the allegations. However, the White House says it cannot share all the intelligence it has about the ties, because it is too classified. Nevertheless, Lehman can take it on faith that the intelligence exists. Wolfowitz tells him, “Just wait until you see the evidence we’ve got.” Lehman will later say: “I got that from everybody I talked to: ‘Wait and see, just wait until you see the evidence.’” After it becomes clear to Lehman the alleged links are non-existent, he will comment, “I think they were all drinking their own bathwater.” (Shenon 2008, pp. 178-180)

Mark Garlasco.Mark Garlasco. [Source: Canal+]The Defense Intelligence Agency [DIA] concludes early in 2003 that the intelligence being provided by dissidents supplied by Ahmed Chalabi’s Iraqi National Congress (INC) is of little value. The New York Times reports that an internal DIA study has found that “dissidents invented or exaggerated their credentials as people with direct knowledge of the Iraqi government and its suspected unconventional weapons program.” (Jehl 9/29/2003; Buncombe 9/30/2003) The study also reveals that more than $1 million was paid to Chalabi’s group for information about Saddam Hussein’s alleged banned weapons programs. (Jehl 9/29/2003; Buncombe 9/30/2003) Unnamed officials interviewed by the Times say the defectors were considered by the Defense Intelligence Agency to be dubious sources from the start. It is believed that the dissidents’ motivation for talking has been money and their opposition to Saddam Hussein. But the Times’ sources “would not speculate on whether the defectors had knowingly provided false information and, if so, what their motivation might have been.” (Jehl 9/29/2003; Buncombe 9/30/2003) Similarly, Mark Garlasco of the DIA will tell PBS Frontline in 2006, that the “INC was constantly shoving crap at us. They were providing information that they thought we wanted to hear. They were feeding the beast [referring to the Office of Special Plans and those within the administration who wanted to go to war with Iraq].” (Kirk 6/20/2006) The bureau chief of Knight Ridder Newspapers, John Walcott, will later say of Chalabi, “Chalabi’s motives were always perfectly clear in this and understandable. He was an Iraqi. He didn’t want his country run by a thug and a murderer, a mass murderer, and a crook. And everything he said had to be looked at in that light, and scrutinized in that light. And why anyone would give him a free pass, or anyone else a free pass for that matter, on a matter as important as going to war, is beyond me.” (Moyers 4/25/2007)

According to NBC News, at some point in early 2003, the US learns about an al-Qaeda target in Yemen, and US officials want to strike the target with a Predator missile. However, due to the Iraq war there are no Predators available and the target gets away. (Myers and Roston 7/29/2003)

Former Green Beret Robert Bevelacqua, a Fox News military analyst and a part of the Pentagon’s propaganda operation to promote the Iraq war (see April 20, 2008 and Early 2002 and Beyond), is, along with other analysts, briefed about Iraq’s purported stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction. When he asks his briefer about “smoking gun” proof, the briefer admits, “We don’t have any hard evidence.” Bevelacqua and the other analysts are alarmed by the concession. Another analyst, retired Army lieutenant colonel Robert Maginnis, who works in the Pentagon for a military contractor, is at the same briefing. Maginnis later confirms Bevelacqua’s recollection, saying that he felt “very disappointed” and that he and the other analysts were being “manipulated” to believe in weapons that were not proven to exist. Yet Bevelacqua, Maginnis, and other analysts are firm in their on-air insistence that these weapons do indeed exist. Bevelacqua has started a new defense contracting business, the wvc3 Group, and hopes to win lucrative government contracts. “There’s no way I was going to go down that road and get completely torn apart,” he will later say. “You’re talking about fighting a huge machine.” (Barstow 4/20/2008)

Jay Garner.Jay Garner. [Source: US Army]The Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance (ORHA) is created by the Pentagon to direct the post-war administration of Iraq, and signed into existence by President Bush. Its head, retired Army General Jay Garner, ostensibly reports to Undersecretary of Defense Douglas Feith (see Fall 2002), but Garner will later say that once he is in Iraq proper, General Tommy Franks of the US Central Command (CENTCOM) “will be my boss.” ORHA is later renamed the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA). David Kay, a senior fellow at the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies and a former UN weapons inspector, had initially been selected to head the office, but he declined the invitation. Associates of Kay tell the New York Times that Kay felt the new agency seemed relatively uninterested in the task of promoting democracy. (Miller 2/23/2003; Perlez 4/2/2003; Roberts 2008, pp. 126, 134) Garner is considered an excellent selection, having led the relief effort for the Kurds of northern Iraq after the 1991 Gulf War. But he faces an uphill battle, as ORHA’s functionality is plagued from the outset by a severe lack of time, uncertain funding, and incessant interdepartmental strife, particularly between the State and Defense Departments. Most ORHA workers will not have reported for duty by the time the invasion begins. And attempts to recruit experts from other agencies will be blocked by Feith and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who impose strict ideological and bureaucratic restrictions on Garner’s selections for his staff. (Roberts 2008, pp. 126, 134)

Robert G. Houdek, national intelligence officer for Africa, concludes in a memo that allegations about Iraq attempting to obtain uranium from Niger are baseless. (Gellman and Linzer 4/9/2006) The National Intelligence Council, the entity that oversees the US’s 15 intelligence agencies, issues Houdek’s report, which states in part, “The Niger story [of Iraq attempting to purchase Nigerien uranium—see Between Late 2000 and September 11, 2001] was baseless and should be laid to rest.” The memo immediately goes to President Bush and his top officials. (Unger 2007, pp. 269)

President George W. Bush meets with Iraqi exiles. According to a former senior White House official, after the meeting, Bush decides that the exiles will not be put in power in post-Saddam Iraq. “The future of this country… is not going to be charted by people who sat out the sonofabitch (Saddam) in London or Cambridge, Massachusetts,” Bush is said to have stated. This effectively kills the Pentagon’s plan to create an Iraqi-government-in-exile which was to include the Ahmed Chalabi, the president of the Iraqi National Congress (INC). (Landay and Strobel 7/12/2003)

In a private note to British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Foreign Secretary Jack Straw says he is concerned that weapons inspectors will fail to uncover a smoking gun. He says he hopes that UN chief weapons inspector Hans Blix will turn up enough evidence to declare Iraq in breach of its UN obligations under UN Security Council Resolution 1441 (see November 8, 2002). (Sands 2005; Norton-Taylor 2/3/2006)

Senior CIA analyst Paul Pillar produces a high-level report on the potential challenges US forces will experience in post-Hussein Iraq. Pillar’s paper argues that imposing democracy on Iraq will not be easy. He warns that the country may fracture along ethnic and religious lines and explode into violence. He also says that the US will not be able to finance reconstruction with Iraq’s oil revenue. The report is sent to the office of CIA Director George Tenet and forwarded to the White House and Pentagon. An administration official tells him that his paper is “too negative.” “You guys just don’t see the possibilities,” Pillar later recalls the official saying. (Isikoff and Corn 2006, pp. 198)

President Bush, speaking with Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi (see Shortly after September 11, 2001), rebuffs Berlusconi’s attempts to persuade him not to invade Iraq. (Publicly, Berlusconi supports the invasion plans, but he worries about public opinion in Italy, which is heavily opposed to any such invasion.) Of Iraq’s Saddam Hussein, Bush says: “We have put together a lethal military and we will kick his _ss.… This is going to change. You watch—public opinion will change. We lead our publics. We cannot follow our publics.” The statement to Berlusconi will be quoted in Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward’s book Plan of Attack. (Hunt 9/1/2009, pp. 12)

President Bush receives a highly classified “President’s Summary” from the intelligence community’s National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq (see October 1, 2002), focusing on whether or not Saddam Hussein would launch an unprovoked attack on the US, either directly or in conjunction with terrorist groups. The consensus of all 16 intelligence agencies is that such an attack would be highly unlikely unless “ongoing military operations risked the imminent demise of his regime,” or if Hussein intends to “extract revenge” for such an assault. The State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR) goes even farther, stating that Hussein is “unlikely to conduct clandestine attacks against the US homeland even if [his] regime’s demise is imminent” as the result of a US invasion. The same conclusion is circulated in Senior Executive Intelligence Briefs for senior White House officials, their senior staff members, and Congress’s intelligence oversight committees. Bush and his senior officials, specifically including Vice President Dick Cheney, have received at least four other reports since the spring of 2002 drawing the same conclusion, that Saddam Hussein is not a likely threat to the US.
'Imminent Threat' - However, Bush, Cheney, and other government officials have continued, and will continue, to assert that Hussein was ready and willing to use chemical or biological weapons against the US, either on his own or through a terrorist group such as al-Qaeda, unless stopped by force. The argument that Hussein is an “imminent threat” is a major rationale in the administration’s case for war.
Refusal to Release - The Bush administration will refuse to release the Presidential Summary to Congressional investigators who wish to know the basis for the Bush administration’s assertions about the alleged threat from Iraq. Bush and other senior officials will insist for months that they were never told of the intelligence community’s judgment that Hussein had no intention of launching an unprovoked attack on the US. By refusing to release the summary memo, the White House may be withholding the proof that Bush and his officials deliberately misled the public on the issue. (Waas 3/2/2006)

President Bush signs an executive order creating the Office of Global Communications (OGC—see July 30, 2002), whose mission is to “ensure consistency in messages that will promote the interests of the United States abroad, prevent misunderstanding, build support for and among coalition partners of the United States, and inform international audiences.” The OGC soon sends out a daily “Global Messenger” e-mail of talking points to administration officials, US embassies, Congress, and outside recipients. It organizes daily telephone conference calls to coordinate foreign policy messages among US government agencies and representatives of British Prime Minister Tony Blair. PR expert Sheldon Rampton later writes, “These activities may sound innocuous. The idea of ‘ensuring consistency’ is a cardinal rule of PR crisis communications, whose practitioners try whenever possible to make sure that all messages flow through a single, controlling channel. In practice, however, ensuring consistency leads to a concerted effort to enforce a ‘party line’ on all messages emanating from the US government, effectively silencing officials whose point of view contradicts the official institutional message.” (Rampton 4/2003; US State Department 9/28/2004)

British police discover a ricin lab allegedly connected to a militant training camp in northern Iraq controlled by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Six suspects are arrested in London. The US has known about the camp and its ties to chemical weapons production for months, and twice the US military has drawn up plans for a strike upon it, and twice the White House has decided against taking action (see June 2002 and November 2002). Based on these new developments in London, the US military draws up a third attack plan against the camp, but again the White House rejects taking action. (Miklaszewski 3/2/2004) Communications intercepts indicate that al-Zarqawi is still making calls on his satellite phone from within the camp. (Paltrow 10/25/2004) Lt. Gen. Michael DeLong, deputy commander to Gen. Tommy Franks at Central Command at the time, will later say that the training camp “was so troubling to us. We almost took them out three months before the Iraq war started. We almost took that thing, but we were so concerned that the chemical cloud from there could devastate the region that we chose to take them by land rather than by smart weapons.” (PBS Frontline 6/20/2006) However, in March 2003 shortly after the Iraq war begins, the camp will actually be hit by air strikes and not the land attack indicated by DeLong (see March 20, 2003). NBC News will later comment, “Military officials insist their case for attacking al-Zarqawi’s operation was airtight, but the [Bush] administration feared destroying the terrorist camp in Iraq could undercut its case for war against Saddam [Hussein].” (Miklaszewski 3/2/2004) President Bush will secretly decide around early March 2003 not to attack the camp until the US invasion of Iraq is underway later that month (see Early March 2003).

The CIA reports to the White House that it has serious doubts about reports that the Iraqi military base at Salman Pak was ever used to train Islamist terrorists (see April 6, 2003). The agency reports in part, “The probability that the training provided at such centers, e.g. Salman Pak, was similar to that al-Qaeda could offer at its own camps in Afghanistan, combined with the sourcing difficulties, leads us to conclude that we need additional corroboration before we can validate that this low level basic terrorist training for al-Qaeda occurred in Iraq.” (Landay 6/17/2004)

The Commission on Post-Conflict Reconstruction, a group affiliated with the Heritage Foundation’s Center for Strategic and International Studies, releases a report entitled “Play to Win,” which addresses the problem of reconstruction in post-invasion Iraq. The commission, a bipartisan group of retired military and civilian leaders, cautions: “Given the sheer complexity of post-conflict reconstruction efforts, developing a clear strategic plan of action is critical to success. Such a plan should articulate the US interests at stake, define US objectives for the intervention, and lay out the strategy for achieving these policy objectives, and a clear division of labor delineating who is responsible for what aspects of the plan’s implementation. Perhaps even more important than the plan itself is the strategic development and planning process, which allows key players to build working relationships, identify potential inconsistencies and gaps, synchronize their actions, and better understand their roles.” Unfortunately, the report concludes, the federal government lacks the mechanisms necessary for proper planning and coordination of such an effort. (Roberts 2008, pp. 124-125)

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.” (Loeb 1/15/2003)

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