´´The aide said that guys like me were “in what we call the reality-based community,” which he defined as people who “believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.” I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. “That’s not the way the world really works anymore.” He continued “We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality—judiciously, as you will—we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors … and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.”
Suskind, Ron (2004-10-17). Faith, Certainty and the Presidency of George W. Bush. The New York Times Magazine.
Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, Colin Powell’s former chief of staff, responded with an equally simple answer: “The vice president.”
But the blame for Iraq does not end with Cheney, Bush, or Rumsfeld. Nor is it limited to the intelligence operatives who sat silent as the administration cherry-picked its case for war, or with those, like Colin Powell or Hans Blix, who, in the name of loyalty or statesmanship, did not give full throat to their misgivings. It is also shared by far too many in the Fourth Estate, most notably the New York Times‘ Judith Miller. But let us not forget that it lies, inescapably, with we the American people, who, in our fear and rage over the catastrophic events of September 11, 2001, allowed ourselves to be suckered into the most audacious bait and switch of all time.
The first drafts of history are, by their nature, fragmentary. They arrive tragically late, and too often out of order. Back in 2006, we attempted to strip the history of the runup to the war to its bones, to reconstruct a skeleton that we thought might be key in resolving the open questions of the Bush era. As we prepare to leave Iraq, we present that timeline to you again. MotherJones.com offers a greatly expanded (if now technologically outdated) version of this timeline, one that is completely sourced to primary documents and initial news accounts. It was our hope to make this second draft of history as definitive as possible. So that we won’t be fooled again.—THE EDITORS
Defense Secretary Dick Cheney declares President Bush Sr. wise not to invade Baghdad and “get bogged down in the problems of trying to take over and govern Iraq.”
Saddam Hussein reportedly tries to assassinate Bush Sr.
Project for a New American Century (PNAC)—founded by Cheney, Scooter Libby, Donald Rumsfeld, Jeb Bush, Paul Wolfowitz, and other top neocons—demands President Clinton undertake the “removal of Saddam Hussein’s regime.”
“The good Lord didn’t see fit to put oil and gas only where there are democratically elected regimes friendly to the United States.”—Halliburton CEO Cheney
Al Qaeda bombs US embassies in Africa, killing 220 and injuring some 4,000.
Clinton signs the Iraq Liberation Act. Regime change becomes official US policy.
Gen. Anthony Zinni, head of US Central Command, examines Iraqi exile Ahmed Chalabi’s military plan to overthrow Saddam with 1,000 men. He warns Congress it is “pie in the sky, a fairy tale.”
Chalabi-connected Iraqi defector “Curveball”—a convicted sex offender and low-level engineer who became the sole source for much of the case that Saddam had WMD, particularly mobile weapons labs—enters Munich seeking a German visa. German intel officers describe his information as highly suspect. US agents never debrief Curveball or perform background check. Nonetheless, Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) and CIA will pass raw intel on to senior policymakers. [Date the public knew: 11/20/05]
America must not act as “an imperialist power, willy-nilly moving into capitals in that part of the world, taking down governments.”—VP candidate Cheney
Debating Al Gore, George W. Bush says he’d commit troops only with an “exit strategy,” and he’d be “very careful about using our troops as nation builders.”
In a subsequent debate, Bush says: “If we’re an arrogant nation, they’ll resent us. If we’re a humble nation, but strong, they’ll welcome us.”
Al Qaeda attacks USS Cole in Aden, Yemen, killing 17 and injuring 39.
Congress doubles funding for Iraqi opposition groups to more than $25 million; $18 million is earmarked for Chalabi’s Iraqi National Congress, which then pays defectors for anti-Iraq tales.
Election night: Indecision 2000 begins.
Future Chief Justice John Roberts flies to Florida to advise Jeb Bush during recount.
Supreme Court hands presidency to George W. Bush.
Enron CEO Ken Lay named to Bush Energy Department transition team. Jack Abramoff appointed to Interior Department transition team.
Saddam’s removal is top item of Bush’s inaugural national security meeting. Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill later recalls, “It was all about finding a way to do it. The president saying, ‘Go find me a way to do this.’” [Date the public knew: 1/10/04]
“Iraq is probably not a nuclear threat at the present time.”—Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld tells Fox News’ Tony Snow
Dick Cheney‘s energy task force begins secret meetings with oil company executives. [Date the public knew: 4/16/01]
Bush: “To send a clear signal to Saddam,” US and UK bomb targets near Baghdad.
Saddam “has not developed any significant capability with respect to weapons of mass destruction.”—Secretary of State Colin Powell
Future Iraq Ambassador L. Paul Bremer III says: “The new administration seems to be paying no attention to the problem of terrorism.” [Date the public knew: 4/29/04]
Pentagon produces document titled “Foreign Suitors for Iraqi Oilfield Contracts” for Cheney’s task force. Includes a map of areas for potential exploration. [Date the public knew: 7/17/03]
Lone CIA analyst known only as “Joe” tells top Bush brass that aluminum tubes bought by Iraq can only be for nuclear centrifuges. [Date the public knew: 8/10/03]
On vacation in Crawford, Bush receives a Presidential Daily Briefing warning, “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in US.” FBI highlights Al Qaeda activities consistent with hijacking preparations, as well as surveillance of federal buildings. [Date the public knew: 5/18/02]
CIA officer flies to Crawford to call Bush’s attention to document. Bush replies, “All right, you’ve covered your ass now.” [Date the public knew: 6/20/06]
Major air raid on Iraq.
Memo to CIA from Energy Department experts eviscerates “Joe’s” theory that aluminum tubes purchased by Iraq are for nuclear centrifuges. Memo given to National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, who later claims tubes are clear evidence of Iraqi nuke program. [Date the public knew: 5/1/04]
Curveball granted German asylum, ceases cooperating. British spy agency MI6 has told CIA that “elements of [his] behavior strike us as typical of…fabricators.” [Date the public knew: 11/20/05]
NSA intercepts messages that say, “The match is about to begin” and “Tomorrow is zero hour.” Not translated until Sept. 12. [Date the public knew: 6/10/02]
Al Qaeda attacks. Minutes taken by a Rumsfeld aide five hours later: “Best info fast. Judge whether good enough [to] hit SH [Saddam Hussein] @ same time. Not only UBL [Usama bin Laden].” [Date the public knew: 9/4/02]
According to counterterror czar Richard Clarke, “[Bush] told us, ‘I want you, as soon as you can, to go back over everything, everything. See if Saddam did this.’” Told evidence against Al Qaeda overwhelming, Bush asks for “any shred” Saddam was involved. [Date the public knew: 3/22/04]
Bush wants Osama “Dead or Alive.”
Anthrax attacks begin.
In a move a federal judge will later call “conscience-shocking,” EPA chief Christine Todd Whitman says area around Ground Zero is safe and encourages residents to return.
Chalabi meets with top DOD officials. [Date the public knew: 5/04]
Pentagon’s Defense Policy Board, chaired by Richard Perle and featuring Henry Kissinger and Newt Gingrich, declares that Iraq should be invaded after Afghanistan. [Date the public knew: 10/12/01]
British PM Tony Blair advises Bush not to lose focus on Al Qaeda. Bush replies: “I agree with you, Tony. But when we have dealt with Afghanistan, we must come back to Iraq.” [Date the public knew: 5/1/04]
PNAC letter to Bush: “Even if evidence does not link Iraq directly to the attack, any strategy aiming at the eradication of terrorism and its sponsors must include a determined effort to remove Saddam Hussein from power.” [Date the public knew: 9/21/01]
Bush briefed by intel community that there is no evidence linking Saddam to 9/11. [Date the public knew: 11/22/05]
Justice Department lawyer John Yoo declares Fourth Amendment flexible, writing: “[T]he government may be justified in taking measures which in less troubled conditions could be seen as infringements of individual liberties.” [Date the public knew: 10/24/04]
Yoo forges doctrine of preemption, writing that Bush may use his war powers to act against groups or individuals, even if it would be “difficult to establish [that they] have been or may be implicated in attacks.” [Date the public knew: 3/22/02]
Rumsfeld sets up own intelligence unit to look for Iraqi links to terrorism. [Date the public knew: 10/24/04]
Prisoners rendered to Egypt and Jordan. After prolonged torture and subsequent years of imprisonment at Guantánamo, some of these same prisoners are found to have no terror connection and released. [Date the public knew: 6/27/06]
Office of Homeland Security established.
Terror alert: Terrorists could attack unspecified targets in “next several days.”
Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism (USA PATRIOT) Act passes 98-1 in the Senate.
Head of Homeland Security Tom Ridge announces, “We believe the United States could very well be targeted this week.”
The New York Times and Frontline report that an Iraqi general witnessed the Iraqi military training Arab fighters to hijack airplanes. Mother Jones later reports general to be bogus Chalabi plant. [Date the public knew: 3/1/06]
Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, top Al Qaeda paramilitary trainer, captured in Pakistan.
Bush collars Rumsfeld physically and asks: “What have you got in terms of plans for Iraq? What is the status of the war plan? I want you to get on it. I want you to keep it secret.”—Bob Woodward. [Date the public knew: 4/18/04]
“American Taliban” John Walker Lindh captured.
Bush declares, “Saddam is evil.”
Late Nov 2001
Osama bin Laden, pinned down at Tora Bora, slips away.
Enron declares bankruptcy.
Cheney on Meet the Press: “Well, the evidence is pretty conclusive that the Iraqis have indeed harbored terrorists.” Also claims 9/11 hijacker Mohammed Atta met with Iraqi spy in Prague, a claim he’ll repeat long after CIA and Czechs disavow.
Rumsfeld demands plan for war against Iraq. Gen. Tommy Franks proposes softening up Iraq: “I’m thinking in terms of spikes, Mr. Secretary. Spurts of activity followed by periods of inactivity.” [Date the public knew: 8/3/04]
Shoe bomber Richard Reid tries to blow up an AA flight from Paris to Miami.
Gen. Franks briefs Bush on Iraq war plans. [Date the public knew: 3/5/03]
Bush approves “The Program,” which permits NSA to surveil US citizens without a warrant, court approval, or signoff from the Justice Dept. [Date the public knew: 12/16/05]
The FBI, which favors standard law enforcement interrogation practices, loses debate with CIA Director George Tenet, and Libi is transferred to CIA custody. Libi is then rendered to Egypt. “They duct-taped his mouth, cinched him up and sent him to Cairo,” an FBI agent told reporters. “At the airport the CIA case officer goes up to him and says, ‘You’re going to Cairo, you know. Before you get there, I am going to find your mother and I’m going to fuck her.’” [Date the public knew: 6/13/04] Under torture, Libi invents tale of Al Qaeda operatives receiving chemical weapons training from Iraq. “This is the problem with using the waterboard. They get so desperate that they begin telling you what they think you want to hear,” a CIA source later tells ABC. [Date the public knew: 11/18/05]
Yoo memo to Pentagon brass declares that the laws of war, including the Geneva Conventions, do not apply to the conflict in Afghanistan. [Date the public knew: 5/24/04]
William Howard Taft IV, the State Department’s chief legal adviser, responds to Yoo: “Your position is, at this point, erroneous in its substance and untenable in practice. Let’s talk.”
First 20 detainees arrive at Guantanamo.
Navy photo released showing detainees bound and hooded. Rumsfeld defends the detentions of “committed terrorists.”
Pakistani militants kidnap Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl.
White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales echoes Yoo: “In my judgment, this new paradigm renders obsolete Geneva’s strict limitations on questioning of enemy prisoners and renders quaint some of its provisions.” [Date the public knew:4/26/04]
Cheney calls Gitmo detainees “the worst of a very bad lot. They are very dangerous. They are devoted to killing millions of Americans.”
Bush delivers “Axis of Evil” State of the Union. Speechwriter David Frum later says phrase was the fruit of being asked: “Can you sum up in a sentence or two our best case for going after Iraq?” [Date the public knew: 1/8/03]
Early Feb 2002
Daniel Pearl beheaded. [Date the public knew: 2/21/02]
“I was asked by one of the senior commanders of Central Command to go into his office. We did, the door was closed, and he turned to me, and he said, ‘Senator, we have stopped fighting the war on terror in Afghanistan. We are moving military and intelligence personnel and resources out of Afghanistan to get ready for a future war in Iraq.’”—Sen. Bob Graham. [Date the public knew: 3/26/04]
DIA intelligence summary notes that Libi’s “confession” lacks details and suggests that he is most likely telling interrogators what he thinks will “retain their interest.” Also states: “Saddam’s regime is intensely secular and is wary of Islamic revolutionary movements. Moreover, Baghdad is unlikely to provide assistance to a group it cannot control.” [Date the public knew: 10/26/05]
Presidential directive defines Taliban and Al Qaeda detainees as “enemy combatants” exempt from prisoner-of-war protections.
With “profound sadness,” Ken Lay refuses to testify before Congress.
Attorney General John Ashcroft calls on “all Americans to be on the highest state of alert.”
Total Information Awareness program leaked.
Former Ambassador Joseph Wilson sent to Niger to check out claims Iraq buying uranium-rich yellowcake. [Date the public knew: 7/6/03]
“Fuck Saddam. We’re taking him out.”—Bush to Rice and three senators. [Date the public knew: 12/8/03]
As The New Yorker later reports: “Chalabi’s defector reports were now flowing from the Pentagon directly to the Vice President’s office, and then on to the President, with little prior evaluation by intelligence professionals.” [Date the public knew: 10/27/03]
Joe Wilson tells CIA there’s no indication that Iraq is buying yellowcake. [Date the public knew: 7/6/03]
First of Downing Street memos prepared by Tony Blair’s top national security aides. “There is no greater threat now than in recent years that Saddam will use WMD…Washington believes the legal basis for an attack on Iraq already exists…Regime change has no basis in international law.” [Date the public knew: 9/18/04]
Color-coded terror alert system introduced.
Bush on Osama: “I’ll repeat what I said. I truly am not that concerned about him.”
Downing Street memo: “Condi’s enthusiasm for regime change is undimmed…Bush has yet to find the answers to the big questions…what happens the morning after?” [Date the public knew: 9/18/04]
British intel reports that there’s only “sporadic and patchy” evidence of Iraqi WMD. “There is no intelligence on any [biological weapons] production facilities.” [Date the public knew: 9/18/04]
Downing Street memo: “US scrambling to establish a link between Iraq and Al Qaida is so far frankly unconvincing…We are still left with a problem of bringing public opinion to accept the imminence of a threat from Iraq…Regime change does not stack up. It sounds like a grudge between Bush and Saddam.” [Date the public knew: 9/18/04]
Saddam “is actively pursuing nuclear weapons at this time.”—Cheney on CNN
Downing Street memo: “There has been no credible evidence to link Iraq with Al Qaida…In the documents so far presented it has been hard to glean whether the threat from Iraq is so significantly different from that of Iran or North Korea as to justify action.” [Date the public knew: 9/18/04]
Late March 2002
Cheney tells Republican senators that the question is no longer if the US will invade Iraq but when. [Date the public knew: 5/5/02]
Pakistani forces capture Al Qaeda “operations chief ” Abu Zubaydah and CIA ferrets him away to underground interrogation facility in Thailand. Bush told he’s mentally unstable and really only Al Qaeda’s travel agent. [Date the public knew: 11/2/05]
Blair visits Bush in Crawford to discuss Iraq. Bush tells Britain’s ITV: “I made up my mind that Saddam needs to go.”
Bush promotes “Operation TIPS” program to turn postal workers, bus drivers, meter readers, and even lobstermen into freelance government spies.
Bush calls Zubaydah one of “top operating officials of Al Qaeda, plotting…murder.” Later asks Tenet, “I said he was important; you’re not going to let me lose face on this are you?…Do some of those harsh methods really work?” Zubaydah is then tortured and speaks of all variety of plots. [Date the public knew: 6/20/06]
Hugo Chávez briefly removed from power in Venezuela in a US-endorsed coup.
Primary corroborator of Curveball’s claims that Iraq has mobile weapons labs is judged a liar and Chalabi plant by DIA. A fabricator warning is posted in US intelligence databases. [Date the public knew: 3/28/04]
Jose Padilla arrested at O’Hare airport. [Date the public knew: 6/10/02]
The 2001 “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in US” warning leaked to press.
FBI Director Robert Mueller says another terrorist attack “inevitable.”
Asked if he has a plan to attack Iraq, Gen. Franks replies: “That’s a great question…my boss has not yet asked me to put together a plan to do that.”
Based on statements made by Zubaydah, FBI warns of attacks against railroads, Brooklyn Bridge, Statue of Liberty, and rushes agents to sites. [Date the public knew: 6/20/06]
Bush states opposition to 9/11 hearings. Senate subcommittee votes to subpoena administration about Enron.
FBI warns of Memorial Day attacks by scuba divers.
French debunk yellowcake theory: “We told the Americans, ‘Bullshit. It doesn’t make any sense,’” says French official. [Date the public knew: 12/11/05]
To a deputy raising doubts about Iraq war, Rice says: “Save your breath. The president has already made up his mind.” [Date the public knew: 1/7/04]
Iraq bombing begins. Military will fly 21,736 sorties and attack 349 targets between now and the start of the war.
Karl Rove and GOP chair Ken Mehlman’s PowerPoint presentation for midterm strategy highlights “Focus on War and Economy.”
Coleen Rowley, the FBI agent who tried to alert her superiors to flight training taken by Zacarias Moussaoui, testifies before Congress.
In midst of 9/11 hearings, Ashcroft interrupts trip to Russia to announce arrest of Padilla, who’s now accused of “dirty bomb” plot. Declared an enemy combatant, he’ll be held four years without access to court system.
Cheney and Scooter Libby begin meeting directly with CIA analysts. [Date the public knew: 6/5/03]
Gen. Franks secretly requests $700 million for war preparations. Bush approves, unbeknownst to Congress. Money taken from appropriation for the war in Afghanistan. [Date the public knew: 4/18/04]
“Iraq is a very wealthy country. Enormous oil reserves. They can finance, largely finance, the reconstruction of their own country. And I have no doubt that they will.”—Richard Perle
Despite indications he was tortured into confession, Lindh cops to 20 years.
Downing Street memo written by foreign secretary after his visit with CIA’s Tenet and other US officials: “There was a perceptible shift in attitude. Military action was now seen as inevitable…The intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy…The most likely timing in US minds for military action to begin was January, with the timeline beginning 30 days before the US Congressional elections.” [Date the public knew: 5/1/05]
White House Iraq Group created to market war. Members include Rove, Libby, Rice, as well as spinmeisters Karen Hughes and Mary Matalin. [Date the public knew: 8/10/03]
Justice Department memo asserts that Bush’s wartime powers supersede international anti-torture laws and treaties, defines torture as only that which is “equivalent in intensity to the pain accompanying serious physical injury, such as organ failure, impairment of bodily function, or even death.” [Date the public knew: 6/8/04]
Bush given Iraq war plan by Gen. Franks.
“We may or may not attack. I have no idea yet.”—Bush. “There are Al Qaeda in Iraq…There are.”—Rumsfeld.
“There is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction. There is no doubt he is amassing them to use against our friends…and against us.” —Cheney
Newsweek reports prisoners abused by US allies in Afghanistan.
Bombing against Iraq intensifies.
Tyler Drumheller, CIA’s European operations chief, calls German Embassy in Washington seeking access to Curveball. Germans warn he’s “crazy” and “probably a fabricator.” [Date the public knew: 11/20/05]
Bush asks skeptical congressional leadership to support action against Iraq.
Upon hearing from Tenet that no National Intelligence Estimate had been produced to assess justification for war, Sen. Graham demands one.
“From a marketing point of view you don’t introduce new products in August.”—White House Chief of Staff Andy Card on rollout of the war
Bush claims a new UN International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report states Iraq is six months from developing a nuclear weapon. There is no such report.
Page 1 Times story by Judith Miller and Michael Gordon cites anonymous administration officials saying Saddam has repeatedly tried to acquire aluminum tubes “specially designed” to enrich uranium. “The first sign of a ‘smoking gun,’ they argue, may be a mushroom cloud.”
Tubes “are only really suited for nuclear weapons programs…we don’t want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud.”—Rice on CNN
“We do know, with absolute certainty, that he is using his procurement system to acquire the equipment he needs in order to enrich uranium to build a nuclear weapon.”—Cheney on Meet the Press
Orange terror alert.
Bush marks 9/11 with Statue of Liberty backdrop.
Bush repeats aluminum-tube claim before UN General Assembly.
Cheney tells Rush Limbaugh: “What’s happening, of course, is we’re getting additional information that, in fact, Hussein is reconstituting his biological, chemical, and nuclear weapons programs.” There is no such new intel.
“The president hasn’t made a decision to do anything with respect to Iraq.”—Rumsfeld
White House economic adviser Lawrence Lindsey estimates Iraq war could cost $200 billion.
American relatives of Iraqis sent as CIA moles return from Iraq. All 30 report Saddam has abandoned WMD programs. Intel buried in the CIA bureaucracy. President Bush never briefed. [Date the public knew: 1/3/06]
Bush calls Saddam’s offer to let inspectors back into Iraq “his latest ploy.”
Rumsfeld tells Congress that Saddam “has amassed large, clandestine stockpiles of chemical weapons, including VX, sarin, and mustard gas.”
Classified UK memo notes there’s “no definitive intelligence that [the aluminum tubes are] destined for a nuclear programme.” [Date the public knew: 9/24/02]
Institute for Science and International Security releases report calling the aluminum- tube intelligence ambiguous and warning that “U.S. nuclear experts who dissent from the Administration’s position are expected to remain silent. ‘The President has said what he has said, end of story,’ one knowledgeable expert said.”
Britain releases dossier to public saying Iraq could launch biological or chemical attack within 45 minutes. Dossier later determined to be “sexed up.”
“You can’t distinguish between Al Qaeda and Saddam when you talk about the war on terror.”—Bush
Citing Libi intel, Rice says: “High-ranking detainees have said that Iraq provided some training to Al Qaeda in chemical weapons development.”
Classified DIA assessment of Iraq’s chemical weapons concludes there is “no reliable information on whether Iraq is producing and stockpiling chemical weapons.” [Date the public knew: 5/30/03]
In a Rose Garden speech, Bush says: “The Iraqi regime possesses biological and chemical weapons.”
In a speech in Houston, Bush says of Saddam: “After all, this is a guy who tried to kill my dad.”
Rumsfeld calls link between Iraq and Al Qaeda “accurate and not debatable.”
Bush’s address to nation: “The Iraqi regime possesses biological and chemical weapons, is rebuilding the facilities to make more, and, according to the British government, could launch a biological or chemical attack in as little as 45 minutes after the order is given.”
National Intelligence Estimate produced. It warns that Iraq “is reconstituting its nuclear program” and “has now established large-scale, redundant and concealed BW agent production capabilities”—an assessment based largely on Curveball’s statements. But NIE also notes that the State Department has assigned “low confidence” to the notion of “whether in desperation Saddam would share chemical or biological weapons with Al Qaeda.” Cites State Department experts who concluded that “the tubes are not intended for use in Iraq’s nuclear weapons program.” Also says “claims of Iraqi pursuit of natural uranium in Africa” are “highly dubious.” Only six senators bother to read all 92 pages. [Date the public knew: 7/18/03]
Administration decides not to take out Abu Musab al-Zarqawi because, though he is not yet working with Al Qaeda, any terrorist in Iraq helps case for war. “People were more obsessed with developing the coalition to overthrow Saddam than to execute the president’s policy of preemption against terrorists,” a former NSC member later says. [Date the public knew: 3/2/04]
Oct 2-24, 2002
DC-area sniper attacks.
Asked by Sen. Graham to make gist of NIE public, Tenet produces 25-page document titled “Iraq’s Weapons of Mass Destruction Programs.” It says Saddam has them and omits dissenting views contained in the classified NIE.
Knight Ridder reports: “Several senior administration officials and intelligence officers, all of whom spoke only on the condition of anonymity, charged that the decision to publicize one analysis of the aluminum tubes and ignore the contrary one is typical of the way the administration has been handling intelligence about Iraq.”
NSC memo to White House warning of the Niger uranium claim: “The evidence is weak…the Africa story is overblown.” [Date the public knew: 4/23/06]
Bush delivers a speech in which he says, “Facing clear evidence of peril, we cannot wait for the final proof—the smoking gun—that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud.” Also says Iraq is exploring ways of using drones to target the US, although Iraq’s drones have a reach of only 300 miles.
CIA Deputy Director John McLaughlin, writing for Tenet, sends a letter to Congress declaring that the likelihood of Saddam using WMD unless attacked is “very low.” [Date the public knew: 10/8/02]
Knight Ridder reports: “[A] growing number of military officers, intelligence professionals and diplomats in his own government privately have deep misgivings about the administration’s double-time march toward war. These officials charge that administration hawks have exaggerated evidence of the threat that Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein poses…’Analysts at the working level in the intelligence community are feeling very strong pressure from the Pentagon to cook the intelligence books,’ said one official, speaking on condition of anonymity.”
Congress—including all serious Democratic contenders—votes to grant Bush power to go to war.
Bush tells public, “I have not ordered the use of force. I hope the use of force will not become necessary.”
Saddam empties prisons.
In Lackawanna, New York, six American citizens of Yemeni descent are hyped as a “sleeper cell” and indicted on terror charges despite scant evidence.
CIA station chiefs from Middle East gather for a secret meeting at the US Embassy in London. The message: War is inevitable, just a few months away. [Date the public knew: 1/3/06]
At largest CIA prison in Afghanistan, code-named Salt Pit, a case officer orders guards to strip a young detainee naked, chain him to the concrete floor, and leave him overnight. He freezes to death. [Date the public knew: 3/3/05]
GOP gains control of Senate.
“War is not my first choice. It’s my last choice.”—Bush
UN Security Council passes Resolution 1441 offering Iraq “a final opportunity to comply with its disarmament obligations.” Iraq agrees and UN weapons inspectors return.
Rumsfeld handicaps war length: “Five days or five weeks or five months, but it certainly isn’t going to last any longer than that.”
Bush elevates Homeland Security Department to Cabinet.
Weapons inspections begin in Iraq.
Rumsfeld signs off on “Category III” interrogation techniques including “the use of scenarios designed to convince the detainee that death or severely painful consequences are imminent for him and/or his family.” It is later shown that these methods are torture as defined in US federal law, and that DOD knew that at the time. [Date the public knew: 6/22/04]
White House sacks Lindsey over war cost estimates.
Iraq submits a 12,200-page declaration to the UN documenting all its unconventional arms. US discredits the report because it does not mention the tubes or the Niger uranium.
Asked by Bush if there’s any reason to doubt existence of WMD, Tenet says: “It’s a slam-dunk case.” [Date the public knew: 4/17/04]
New war cost estimate generated: $50-$60 billion.
“You said we’re headed to war in Iraq. I don’t know why you say that…I’m the person who gets to decide, not you.”—Bush to press corps
CIA balks at being made to bolster weak WMD intel. In a heated conversation with Scooter Libby, CIA’s McLaughlin says: “I’m not going back to the well on this. We’ve done our work.” [Date the public knew: 10/3/05]
Faith-based czar John DiIulio dubs Bushies “Mayberry Machiavellis.”
National Intelligence Council warns Bush that war in Iraq could lead to an anti-US insurgency and “increase popular sympathy for terrorist objectives.” [Date the public knew: 10/30/04]
“The Iraqi regime is a threat to any American.”—Bush
Mohamed ElBaradei, head of the U.N.’s IAEA, echoes DOE’s view that the aluminum tubes sought by Iraq are likely for artillery rockets, not centrifuges. A senior Bush official responds, “I think the Iraqis are spinning the IAEA.”
After nearly two months, UN’s Hans Blix says his inspectors have not found any “smoking guns” in Iraq.
Bush tells Saudi ambassador Prince Bandar that he plans to go to war two days before he tells Secretary Powell. [Date the public knew: 4/18/04]
Bush signs presidential directive giving Pentagon control over postwar Iraq.
IAEA tells Washington Post, “It may be technically possible that the tubes could be used to enrich uranium, but you’d have to believe that Iraq deliberately ordered the wrong stock and intended to spend a great deal of time and money reworking each piece.”
UN press release: “It would appear…Iraq had decided in principle to…bring the disarmament task to completion through the peaceful process of inspection.” Weapons inspectors have examined 106 locations and found “no evidence that Iraq had revived its nuclear weapons programme.”
In State of the Union, Bush says “the 16 words”: “The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.” Bush adds Saddam has “tried to purchase high-strength aluminum tubes suitable for nuclear weapons production” and has “mobile biological weapons labs.”
“Iraq poses a serious and mounting threat to our country.”—Rumsfeld
Notes of meeting between Bush and Blair make clear Bush intends to invade Iraq even if UN inspectors found no evidence of WMD. Bush told Blair he’d considered “flying U2 reconnaissance planes…over Iraq, painted in UN colours” to tempt Iraqi forces to fire on them, which would constitute a breach of UN resolutions. [Date the public knew: 2/3/06]
During UN speech rehearsal, Powell throws draft written by Libby into the air and says: “I’m not reading this. This is bullshit.” [Date the public knew: 6/9/03]
After reading draft of Powell’s speech, CIA agent emails his superior with concerns about “the validity of the information based on ‘CURVE BALL.’” Noting he’s the only US agent to have ever met Curveball (who was hung over at the time), the agent asks: “We sure didn’t give much credence to this report when it came out. Why now?” Deputy head of CIA’s Iraqi Task Force responds: “Let’s keep in mind the fact that this war’s going to happen regardless of what Curveball said or didn’t say…the Powers That Be probably aren’t terribly interested in whether Curveball knows what he’s talking about.” [Date the public knew: 7/9/04]
CIA’s Drumheller makes personal appeal to Tenet to delete Curveball’s intel from UN speech. Date the public knew: 6/25/06
Powell asks Tenet to personally assure intel for speech is good. Tenet does. [Date the public knew: 6/25/06]
In UN speech, Powell says, “Every statement I make today is backed up by sources, solid sources. These are not assertions. What we’re giving you are facts and conclusions based on solid intelligence.” Cites Libi’s claims and Curveball’s “eyewitness” accounts of mobile weapons labs. (German officer who supervised Curveball’s handler will later recall thinking, “Mein Gott!”) Powell also claims that Saddam’s son Qusay has ordered WMD removed from palace complexes; that key WMD files are being driven around Iraq by intelligence agents; that bioweapons warheads have been hidden in palm groves; that a water truck at an Iraqi military installation is a “decontamination vehicle” for chemical weapons; that Iraq has drones it can use for bioweapons attacks; and that WMD experts have been corralled into one of Saddam’s guest houses. All but the last of those claims had been flagged by the State Department’s own intelligence unit as “WEAK.” [Date the public knew: 7/18/03]
Reiterating Powell’s claim, Bush says an Iraqi drone loaded with bioweapons could strike US mainland. The US Air Force is on the record as saying that “the small size of Iraq’s new UAV strongly suggests a primary role of reconnaissance.” [Date the public knew: 9/26/03]
Rumsfeld ups war length estimate: “It could last…six days, six weeks. I doubt six months.”
Three State Department bureau chiefs prepare a secret memo warning that “serious planning gaps for postconflict public security and humanitarian assistance…could result in serious human rights abuses, which would undermine an otherwise successful military campaign, and our reputation internationally.” [Date the public knew: 8/18/05]
As anti-war demonstrations increase, DHS Secretary Ridge warns of Al Qaeda “credible threats” and raises the terror alert level to orange.
UN’s Team Bravo, led by American bioweapons experts, searches Curveball’s former work site in Iraq and disproves many of his claims. [Date the public knew: 11/20/05]
In radio address to the nation, Bush warns that “firsthand witnesses [read: Curveball] have informed us that Iraq has at least seven mobile factories” for germ warfare.
DHS advises Americans to stock up on plastic sheeting and duct tape to protect themselves against radiological or biological attack.
Blix again tells UN Security Council that Iraq appears to be cooperating with inspectors.
Largest demonstrations in history. In 600 cities worldwide, millions protest war.
Rumsfeld: “There is no question but that [the invasion] would be welcomed.” Later says: “Never said that. Never did…You may remember it well, but you’re thinking of somebody else.”
“UN weapons inspectors are being seriously deceived…It reminds me of the way the Nazis hoodwinked Red Cross officials.”—Perle
Gen. Eric Shinseki tells Congress “several hundred thousand troops” will be needed to occupy Iraq. Rumsfeld retaliates, naming Shinseki’s successor 14 months before the end of his term.
US diplomat John Brady Kiesling resigns, citing the “distortion of intelligence” and “systematic manipulation of American opinion.”
Wolfowitz tells congressional hearing: “I am reasonably certain that they will greet us as liberators…the notion of hundreds of thousands of American troops is way off the mark.”
Iraq destroys four missiles, meeting a UN deadline to begin disarming.
IAEA official tells US that the Niger uranium documents were forgeries so error-filled that “they could be spotted by someone using Google.”
US, Britain, and Spain present a revised draft resolution giving Saddam an ultimatum to disarm by March 17 or face the possibility of war. France refuses to sign on to ultimatum.
Blix tells UN Security Council that there’s “no evidence” of mobile bioweapons facilities in Iraq.
“After three months of intrusive inspections, we have to date found no evidence or plausible indication of the revival of a nuclear weapon program in Iraq.”—IAEA’s ElBaradei
On CNN, Joe Wilson says, “I think it’s safe to say that the US government should have or did know that [the Niger documents were] fake before Dr. ElBaradei mentioned it in his report at the UN yesterday.” Decision to discredit Wilson made at a meeting within the Office of the Vice President. [Date the public knew: 5/3/04]
“We are doing everything we can to avoid war in Iraq.”—Bush
Bush, Tony Blair, and Spain’s president have “emergency summit.” Bush gives UN one day to find a diplomatic solution.
Cheney on Meet the Press: “We believe he has, in fact, reconstituted nuclear weapons.” (Cheney later claims he misspoke.) Adds, “I really do believe that we will be greeted as liberators.”
Threat level elevated to orange.
US and UK fail to secure UN resolution authorizing use of force. Bush gives Saddam 48 hours to surrender.
Washington Post article headlined “Bush Clings to Dubious Allegations About Iraq” notes, “As the Bush administration prepares to attack Iraq this week, it is doing so on the basis of a number of allegations against Iraqi President Saddam Hussein that have been challenged—and in some cases disproved—by the United Nations, European governments and even U.S. intelligence reports.” Story is buried on Page A13.
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