Reason for War with Iraq
by Andy Carson
Americans Believe Saddam is Behind 9/11
In 2003 most Americans believed we went to war with Iraq because of the terrorist attacks of 9/11. The truth is that 9/11 had nothing to do with Iraq, or Saddam Hussein. Virtually every well-informed person knows this. The bipartisan 9/11 Commission concluded the same thing. The tragedy of 9/11 was used by the Bush Administration as a rally cry to enact a policy of preemption that had been devised years earlier but never adopted until 9/11.
Background: The 1991 Gulf War
After the Gulf War in 1991, U.S. officials were divided on the issue of what to do with Saddam Hussein. President George H. W. Bush decided that the prudent thing to do was to contain Saddam through various means: Northern and southern "no-fly" zones; weapons inspections; an "oil for food" program; etc.
There were a number of hawkish "neo-conservatives" in and outside the administration who thought Bush had made the wrong decision. One of these was Paul Wolfowitz, a senior official under Dick Cheney, who at the time was Secretary of Defense.
The Master Plan
In 1992 Wolfowitz authored a DoD plan that called for a policy of preemption rather than containment. The draft, officially known as the "Defense Planning Guidance for Fiscal Years 1994-1999," is classified but was leaked to the New York Times. Key aspects of the plan were: to prevent the emergence of a rival superpower, through military and non-military means, in order to maintain the "new world order;" to safeguard U.S. interests, including "access to vital raw materials, primarily Persian Gulf oil;" to "encourage the spread of democratic forms of government;" and, to be prepared to take unilateral military action as necessary. There is no mention of cooperative action through the United Nations in the draft.
Key excerpts of the plan can be found at
and the original text from the New York Times article at
Clinton Rejects the Plan
Wolfowitz's plan was adopted by the right-wing think tank, Project for the New American Century (PNAC), upon its founding in 1997. (Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld are founding members of PNAC.) The plan was refined and proposed to President Clinton shortly thereafter.
An open letter to Clinton outlining key portions of the plan regarding Iraq can be found at
The heart of the letter is summarized in this excerpt:
"The only acceptable strategy is one that eliminates the
possibility that Iraq will be able to use or threaten to
use weapons of mass destruction. In the near term, this
means a willingness to undertake military action as
diplomacy is clearly failing. In the long term, it means
removing Saddam Hussein and his regime from power."
Clinton rejected the plan, as did H. W. Bush six years earlier.
Bush II Adopts the Plan
Three years later, George W. Bush became president and Dick Cheney vice president. Donald Rumsfeld was appointed Secretary of Defense, and Paul Wolfowitz appointed Deputy Secretary of Defense. More than a dozen other members of PNAC were also appointed to key administrative positions, including Richard Armitage, Lewis "Scooter" Libby, and Elliott Abrams.
Shortly after the 9/11 attacks, Bush announced his adoption of the policy promoted by PNAC. Initially the potential for preemptive strikes was limited to terrorists and to "those who harbor them." Later it was expanded to include any rogue state engaged in the production of weapons of mass destruction. This radical new foreign policy was dubbed the Bush Doctrine.
A 9/11 Connection?
In retrospect it is clear that the doctrine taking us to war with Iraq had been formulated long before 9/11, and in fact had nothing to do with 9/11 or Al Qaeda. The only questions remaining are 1) when exactly did President Bush decide to adopt the doctrine, and 2) did Bush and his administration intentionally use the 9/11 attacks to mislead Americans into supporting the doctrine?
Former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill claims that President Bush was intent on eliminating Saddam Hussein from the very beginning of his administration, and was looking for a way to justify it. Richard Clark, former White House counterterrorism coordinator, has said that Bush was looking for a connection between Saddam Hussein and 9/11 almost immediately after the attacks took place. Aside from these allegations, and a handful of enigmatic White House memos discussing plans for of post-Saddam Iraq, there is little evidence Bush had adopted the PNAC plan prior to 9/11. But neither is there evidence against it.
In his several speeches and statements following the 9/11 attacks, President Bush repeatedly implied connections between the perpetrators of the attack, Al Qaeda, and Saddam Hussein. On a number of occasions, primarily in local speeches, he made more explicit claims. Dick Cheney was consistently more direct in his assertions, stating that there had been "long established ties" between Iraq and Al Qaeda, and "overwhelming evidence" of those ties. For the most part, however, Bush and Cheney avoided tying Saddam himself directly to the 9/11 attacks.
But some of their statements crossed that line. For example, Bush in May, 2003 told the troops on the aircraft carrier, "The liberation of Iraq is a crucial advance in the campaign against terror. We've removed an ally of Al Qaeda, and cut off a source of terrorist funding." The implication was that Iraq had funded Al Qaeda, but there is no evidence supporting this claim.
Even more pointed is what Cheney told Tim Russert on Meet the Press in September 2003. "If we're successful in Iraq," he said, "then we will have struck a major blow right at the heart of the base, if you will, the geographic base of the terrorists who had us under assault now for many years, but most especially on 9/11."
It's no wonder, with statements like these, that 65% of Americans in 2003 thought Saddam was directly involved in the 9/11 attacks. What is striking is that, with such widespread misperception, the Bush Administration has made virtually no attempt to straighten the record. And in fact seems intent on keeping the misconception alive.
Americans who supported the war in Iraq wonder aloud why the vast majority of those outside the United States didn't support the war, a war that seemed so just. The answer is simple: While Americans were under the impression we were avenging the deaths of 3000 Americans, the rest of the world was wondering why we were attacking a country that had done us no harm.
About the Author
Andy Carson is a pseudonym for the author of this piece. Due to voluminous hate mail, the author chose to take on this name and remove his his e-mail address from this page. This is unfortunate because the author wishes to receive legitimate feedback regarding any errors that might be found in the article, or any suggestions a reader might offer.
The author asks that, should you have constructive feedback to offer, simply post a link to this page on a Web page, blog, or bulletin board of your choice along with your criticism. The author will periodically search for new links and read the feedback. The author apologizes for the inconvenience.
Relevant Search Phrases:
The real reason for war with Iraq.
The real reason why we went to war in Iraq.
The real reason for going to war with Iraq.
The cause of the war in Iraq.
War in Iraq -- The whole truth uncovered.