Originally Published: 6/21/2006
IRAQ: MAKING A CASE FOR INVASION
By The Issue Wonk
This timeline is an on-going process. While I found many references in various places to certain events, if there was no source or document from which the information was taken, I did not use it. With regard to statements, it would be impossible to list all of the statements made by the administration while making its case for war. I attempted to demonstrate an example of statements made regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs), ties to al-Qaeda, and Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) made by President George W. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, (then) National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, and Secretary of State Donald Rumsfeld in an attempt to illustrate the full court press that they implemented.
Updated 9/6/06 – Updates in Red
1997: Project for the New American Century (PNAC) is set up, chaired by William Kristol, and signed by Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Jeb Bush, Paul Wolfowitz, I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, and others. Among its primary concerns is the removal of Saddam Hussein.
1998: Iraq withdraws cooperation with United Nations inspectors (UNSCOM – United Nations Special Commission) claiming some are British and American spies. Scott Ritter resigns as the UN’s top weapons inspector in Iraq.
Biological Weapons: An Iraqi, code name Curveball, a self-proclaimed chemical engineer, defects to Germany. According to Wikipedia, “The CIA claimed that it did not have ‘direct access’ to Curveball, and that the mysterious informant instead communicated to Germany’s intelligence service, which relayed the information to the United States Defense Intelligence Agency. He was described by German intelligence as an individual not living in Iraq and as an ‘out of control’ and crazy alcoholic. Although there were wide doubts and questions about the claimed informant’s reliability and background, assertions attributed to Curveball claiming that Iraq was creating biological agents in mobile weapons laboratories to elude inspectors appeared in more than 100 United States government reports between January 2000 and September 2001. His assertions also shaped United States Secretary of State Colin Powell’s February 2003 address to the United Nations detailing Iraq’s weapons program.”
January, 2001: George W. Bush takes office as President of the United States.
January, 2001: Paul O’Neill, Secretary of the Treasury, said, “From the very beginning, there was a conviction, that Saddam Hussein was a bad person and that he needed to go.” He added that going after Saddam was topic "A" 10 days after the inauguration – 8 months before Sept. 11. . . It was all about finding a way to do it. That was the tone of it. The president saying ‘Go find me a way to do this.’ For me, the notion of pre-emption, that the U.S. has the unilateral right to do whatever we decide to do, is a really huge leap.” (CBS News)
UAVs: The U.S. intelligence community was concerned that Iraq’s Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), commonly referred to as “drones,” could be used to disperse chemical or biological weapons. U.S. Air Force determines that the program is “unworkable.” Air Force senior intelligence analyst Bob Boyd says, “We were pretty sure this thing was dead.” (Wall Street Journal)
February, 2001: Britain and U.S. planes launch raids to try to disable Iraq’s air defense network. (CNN)
March, 2001: Vice President Dick Cheney convenes an “energy task force.” The information is not open to the public. A lawsuit by Judicial Watch, a conservative legal group, enables them to obtain papers used by the task force that were produced by the Commerce Department. The papers include a map of Iraq’s oil fields, terminals, and pipelines as well as a list entitled, “Foreign Suitors of Iraqi Oilfield Contracts.”
May, 2001: Secretary of State Colin Powell announces a $43 million gift to the Taliban of Afghanistan “in addition to other recent aid,” to “reward them for declaring that opium growing is against the will of God.” “Never mind that Osama bin Laden still operates the leading anti-American terror operation from his base in Afghanistan . . . [T]he Bush administration is cozying up to the Taliban regime at a time when the United Nations, at U.S. insistence, imposes sanctions of Afghanistan because the Kabul government will not turn over Bin Laden.” (Robert Scheer, Los Angeles Times, 5/22/01)
July 4, 2001: Osama bin Laden arrives in Dubai and checks into an American hospital for treatment for a kidney infection. He is hospitalized for 10 days. During this time he is visited by a CIA chief. (The Guardian, reporting on a story in French newspaper Le Figaro, 10/31/01.) The Guardian goes on to state that “Private planes owned by rich princes in the Gulf fly frequently between Quetta and the Emirates, often on luxurioius ‘hunting trips’ in territories sympathetic to Bin Laden. Other sources confirm that these hunting trips have provided opportunities for Saudi contacts with the Taliban and terrorists, since they first began in 1994.”
September 11, 2001: United States is attacked by al-Qaeda.
September 14, 2001: Congress passes Joint Resolution 23 authorizing the “use of force” against “nations, organizations or persons” who “planned, authorized, committed or aided the terrorist attacks.”
October 15, 2001:
Nuclear Weapons: U.S. receives reports from Nicolo Pollari, chief of the Italian intelligence service SISMI, of a purported agreement between Iraq and Niger for the sale of yellowcake uranium. (See a series of articles in Italian newspaper La Repubblica by investigative reporters Carlo Bonini and Giuseppe d’Avanza reporting that the CIA rejected these claims.) Tyler Drumheller, a 26-year CIA veteran, appearing on 60 Minutes April 23, 2006, stated the many CIA analysts were skeptical about this information.
October 18, 2001:
Nuclear Weapons: The State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR) issues a report stating that there is no corroborative evidence that there was any agreement on uranium transfer between Iraq and Niger, or that any uranium was actually transferred.
Late December, 2001: “Beginning in late December, 2001, President Bush met repeatedly with Army General Tommy R. Franks and his war cabinet to plan the U.S. attack on Iraq even as he and administration spokesmen insisted they were pursuing a diplomatic solution, according to ‘Plan of Attack’ by Bob Woodward on the origins of the war.” (Washington Post, April 17, 2004)
End of 2001: Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi captured in Pakistan.
January, 2002: President Bush names Iraq as part of an “axis of evil” in State of the Union address.
Ties to Terrorism: Prisoner Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi claims that al-Qaeda sent operatives to Iraq to acquire “chemical and biological weapons and related training.” The Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) report citing these allegations contains the following comment: “[I]t is more likely this individual is intentionally misleading the debriefers. Ibn al-Shaykh has been undergoing debriefs for several weeks and may [be] describing scenarios to the debriefers that he knows will retain their interest. 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.” (All of Libi’s claims were recanted later.)
February 5, 2002:
Nuclear Weapons: The CIA issues a second report including “verbatim text” of an agreement for the sale of 500 tons of uranium yellowcake per year that was supposedly signed July 5-6, 2000.
February 12, 2002:
Nuclear Weapons: The DIA writes a report stating that “Iraq is probably searching abroad for natural uranium to assist in its nuclear weapons program.” Vice President Cheney asks for CIA’s analysis.
February, 2002: Joseph C. Wilson is sent to Niger by the CIA. He was told that Vice President Cheney had questions about a late-1990s “memorandum of agreement’ that said that Iraq was attempting to obtain uranium yellowcake. (See What I Didn’t Find in Africa.) Wilson found no evidence that Iraq was attempting to obtain uranium from Niger. (See Senate Select Committee on Intelligence report, July 7, 2004, redacted and declassified January 2006.)
March, 2002: President Bush interrupts a meeting between National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice and a group of Republican and Democratic Senators. According to Time, Bush gave a “vulgar epithet” and said, “We’re taking him out.”
March 8, 2002: Secret “Options Paper” published by the United Kingdom Cabinet Office, Overseas and Defence Secretariat states, “A legal justification for invasion would be needed. Subject to Law Officers advice, none currently exists. This makes moving quickly to invade legally very difficult. We should therefore consider a staged approach, establishing international support, building up pressure on Saddam, and developing military plans. There is a lead time of about 6 months to a ground offensive. . . U.S. contingency planning prior to 11 September indicated that such a ground campaign would require 200-400,000 troops. . . Of itself, REGIME CHANGE has no basis in international law. . . In the judgement of the JIC there is no recent evidence of Iraq complicity with international terrorism. There is therefore no justification for action against Iraq based on action in self-defence (Article 51) to combat imminent threats of terrorism as in Afghanistan.”
March 8-9, 2002: An intelligence report of Wilson’s trip to Niger is released wherein Wilson is identified as “a contact with excellent access who does not have an established reporting record.” The CIA lists Wilson’s information as “good.” Vice President Cheney is not directly briefed about the report. There is no mention of Wilson’s wife, Valerie Plame.
March 14, 2002: Secret memo from David Manning, then foreign policy advisor to British Prime Minister Tony Blair. “I had dinner with Condi on Tuesday; . . . Condi’s enthusiasm for regime change is undimmed. . . From what she said, Bush has yet to find the answers to the big questions: how to persuade international opinion that military action against Iraq is necessary and justified; what value to put on the exiled Iraqi opposition; how to coordinate a US/allied military campaign with internal opposition (assuming there is any); what happens on the morning after? . . The issue of the weapons inspectors must be handled in a way that would persuade European and wider opinion that the U.S. was conscious of the international framework, and the insistence of many countries on the need for a legal base. Renwed refused [sic] by Saddam to accept unfettered inspections would be a powerful argument; . . . I think there is a real risk that the Administration underestimates the difficulties. They may agree that failure isn’t an option, but this does not mean that they will avoid it.”
March 18, 2002: Confidential memo from Christopher Meyer, then British Ambassador to the U.S., to David Manning. “Paul Wolfowitz, the Deputy Secretary of Defense, came to Sunday lunch on 17 March. On Iraq I opened by sticking very closely to the script that you used with Condi Rice last week. We backed regime change, but the plan had to be clever and failure was not an option. . . Wolfowitz said that he fully agreed. He took a slightly different position from others in the Administration, who were focused on Saddam’s capacity to develop weapons of mass destruction. The WMD danger was of course crucial to the public case against Saddam, particularly the potential linkage to terrorism. But Wolfowitz thought it indispensable to spell out in detail Saddam’s barbarism.”
March 22, 2002: Confidential memo from P. F. Rickets, UK political director, UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office, to Jack Straw, UK Foreign Secretary, entitled “Iraq: Advice for the Prime Minister.” It says, “U.S. scrambling to establish a link between Iraq and Al Qaida is so far frankly unconvincing. To get public and Parliamentary support for military operations, we have to be convincing that: the threat is so serious/imminent that it is worth sending our troops to die for; it is qualitatively different from the threat posed by other proliferators who are closer to achieving nuclear capability (including Iran). . . The second problem is the END STATE. Military operations need clear and compelling military objectives. . . For Iraq, ‘regime change’ does not stack up. It sounds like a grudge between Bush and Saddam. Much better, as you have suggested, to make the objective ending the threat to the international community from Iraqi WMD before Saddam uses it or gives it to terrorists. This is at once easier to justify in terms of international law but also more demanding.”
March 25, 2002: Confidential memo from Jack Straw to Prime Minister Blair, discussing justification for war with Iraq, the problems with regime change, and whether a replacement government would be any better.
April, 2002: President Bush meets with Prime Minister Blair at Crawford, Texas. They discuss military action against Iraq for regime change. (See July 21, 2002 below.)
May, 2002: U.S. and Britain intensify bombing attacks on Iraq. Tommy Franks, allied commander, said the attacks were designed to “degrade” Iraqi air defenses. (Timesonline)
June, 2002: U.S. intelligence finds that Abu Musab Zarqawi, the Jordanian militant with ties to al-Qaeda blamed later for more than 700 killings in Iraq, has set up a weapons lab at Kirma in northern Iraq and is producing ricin and cyanide. The Pentagon drafts plans to attack the camp with cruise missiles and airstrikes and sends the plan to the White House. National Security Council rejects the plan. Michael O’Hanlon, military analyst with the Brookings Institution, said, “Here we had targets, we had opportunities, we had a country willing to support casualties, or risk casualties after 9/11 and we still didn’t do it.” (MSNBC)
Approximately July, 2002: Lieutenant-General Michael Mosely, now a general and Chief of Staff of the Air Force, stated that beginning about this time and up to the invasion of Iraq, allied aircraft flew 21,736 sorties, dropped more than 600 bombs on 391 “carefully selected targets.” (Timesonline)
July 21, 2002: British Cabinet Office secret memo on conditions for military action against Iraq. “When the Prime Minister discussed Iraq with President Bush at Crawford in April he said that the UK would support military action to bring about regime change, provided that certain conditions were met.”
July 23, 2002: Matthew Rycroft, Downing Street foreign police aide, writes a secret memo to David Manning, British Ambassador to the U.S., saying, “C reported on his recent talks in Washington. There was a perceptible shift in attitude. Military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy. The NSC (National Security Council) had no patience with the UN route, and no enthusiasm for publishing material on the Iraqi regime’s record. . . The Defence Secretary said that the U.S. had already begun ‘spikes of activity’ to put pressure on the regime. . . The Prime Minister said that it would make a big difference politically and legally if Saddam refused to allow in the UN inspectors.”
August, 2002: Iraq invites Hans Blix, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), to Iraq to discuss remaining disarmament issues.
August 16, 2002: Reuters reveals that aides to Secretary Rumsfeld have “created a special Iraq planning unit, composed largely of civilians, to oversee a military campaign against Saddam Hussein. . . In the field, the U.S. Air Force is nearing completion of a state-of-the-art airbase in the tiny Persian Gulf nation of Qatar that could be used to run an air war over Iraq if Saudi Arabia denied the use of its soil. Commercial satellite imagery of the al-Udeid airbase appeared on television and in some newspapers this week. In perhaps the most telling sign of Bush’s intentions, top U.S. officials and members of the Iraqi opposition are plotting the details of a post-Saddam government in Iraq, right down to the number of seats in a future parliament.”
August 26, 2002:
Nuclear Weapons: Vice President Cheney states at Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) National Convention, “Simply stated, 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, against our allies, and against us.”
September, 2002: Office of Special Plans is set up in the Pentagon by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, dealing with Intelligence on Iraq. Office is led by Douglas Feith.
Chemical/Biological Weapons: The DIA issues a study (classified). Unclassified excerpts state, “There is no reliable information on whether Iraq is producing and stockpiling chemical weapons or where Iraq has – or will – establish its chemical warfare agent production facilities.”
Nuclear Weapons: UK publishes a “white paper” asserting, among other things, that Iraq had attempted to purchase uranium from an African country. (UK official documents)
September 8, 2002:
Nuclear Weapons: The New York Times publishes an article by Judith Miller stating that Saddam Hussein has been attempting to buy aluminum tubes for his WMD program and citing “Bush administration officials” as her source.
September 8, 2002:
Nuclear and Chemical/Biological Weapons: Vice President Cheney appears on Meet the Press and states, “Now, the more recent developments have to do with our now being able to conclude, based on intelligence that’s becoming available . . . that [Saddam] has indeed stepped up his capacity to produce and deliver biological weapons, that he has reconstituted his nuclear program to develop a nuclear weapon, that there are efforts under way inside Iraq to significantly expand his capability.” He also cites the September 8, 2002 article by Judith Miller as evidence of Hussein’s weapons program.
September 8, 2002:
Chemical/Biological Weapons: Secretary of State Colin Powell claims on Fox Sunday News, “There’s no doubt that he has chemical weapon stocks.” He also cites the September 8, 2002 article by Judith Miller as evidence of Hussein’s weapons program.
September 8, 2002:
Nuclear Weapons: National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice states that the aluminum tubes “are only really suited for nuclear weapons programs, centrifuge programs.” (CNN)
September 12, 2002:
Nuclear Weapons: White House releases White Paper stating “In the last 14 months, Iraq has sought to buy thousands of specially designed aluminum tubes which officials believe were intended as components of centrifuges to enrich uranium.”
September 12, 2002:
Nuclear Weapons: President Bush addresses the UN General Assembly, saying “Iraq has made several attempts to buy high-strength aluminum tubes used to enrich uranium for a nuclear weapon. Should Iraq acquire fissile material, it would be able to build a nuclear weapon within a year.”
September 16, 2002: Iraq says it will allow weapons inspectors back in “without conditions.” (CNN)
September 18, 2002:
Chemical/Biological Weapons: Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld testifies before a House Armed Services Committee, “We do know that the Iraqi regime has chemical and biological weapons of mass destruction and is pursuing nuclear weapons.”
Nuclear Weapons: National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) (classified) is released stating that “Iraq has continued its weapons of mass destruction (WMD) programs in defiance of UN resolutions and restrictions.” Portions were declassified on July 18, 2003. However, on February 5, 2004 George Tenet, CIA Director, in an address at Georgetown University, explains that there was not unanimity on whether Iraq had reconsituted its nuclear program and that these differences were described in the NIE. He also stated that disagreement over the purpose of the aluminum tubes was “a debate laid out extensively in the estimate and one that experts still argue over.” The Department of Energy believed that the tubes likely were not part of a nuclear enrichment program, stating in the NIE that “the tubes probably are not part of the program.” It also stated that the State Department accepted the judgment of technical experts at the Department of Energy, (DOE) saying, “The very large quantities being sought, the way the tubes were tested by the Iraqis, and the atypical lack of attention to operational security in the procurement efforts are among the factors, in addition to the DOE assessment, that lead INR to conclude that the tubes are not intended for use in Iraq’s nuclear weapon program.” It also says, “INR considers it far more likely that the tubes are intended for another purpose, most likely the production of artillery rockets.”
UAVs: Regarding the use of UAVs, the NIE concluded that the UAV program was “probably” intended to deliver biological weapons. However, attached to the report is the dissent of the Air Force, stating that using drones in this fashion was probably “unworkable.” (Wall Street Journal)
Ties to Terrorism: Also, the NIE, in its section on “Confidence Levels for Selected Key Judgements in this Estimate,” gives a “Low Confidence” rating to the notion of “Whether in desperation Saddam would share chemical or biological weapons with Al Qa’ida.”
October, 2002: The CIA sends National Security Advisor Rice and Deputy National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley memos warning against using the claim that Iraq was seeking uranium in Africa in the State of the Union Address by the President. (See press briefing of July 22, 2003.)
Nuclear Weapons: Deputy National Security Advisor Hadley writes a memo to President Bush informing him that the Energy Department and State Department disagreed with assessments that Iraq was seeking to acquire nuclear weapons materials. (March 2006 Conyers calls for President Bush to release the memo.)
Nuclear Weapons: CIA releases a report entitled “Iraq’s Weapons of Mass Destruction Programs,” which states “Iraq has continued its weapons of mass destruction (WMD) programs in defiance of UN resolutions and restrictions. Baghdad has chemical and biological weapons as well as missiles with ranges in excess of UN restrictions; if left unchecked, it probably will have a nuclear weapon during this decade.”
Chemical/Biological Weapons: Intelligence reports indicate that Zarqawi is planning to use ricin in terrorist attacks in Europe. Pentagon draws up a second strike plan (see June 2002 for first strike plan) which is again rejected by the White House. According to terrorism expert and former National Security Council member Roger Cressy, “People were more obsessed with developing the coalition to overthrow Saddam than to execute the president’s policy of preemption against terrorists.” (MSNBC)
October 2, 2002:
Chemical/Biological Weapons: President Bush states at a Rose Garden speech that “[T]he Iraq regime is a threat of unique urgency . . . In defiance of pledges to the UN, it has stockpiled biological and chemical weapons. It is rebuilding the facilities used to make those weapons.”
October 4, 2002:
Nuclear Weapons: A short version of the NIE is declassified and released. It states that Saddam Hussein possesses WMDs but omits the dissenting opinions contained in the classified version. Senator Bob Graham demands that the administration release the dissenting portions. (See CIA Director George Tenet’s response on October 7, 2002.)
October 5, 2002:
Nuclear Weapons: Deputy National Security Advisor Hadley states in a July 22, 2003 press conference, “yesterday morning I learned of a memorandum dated October 5, 2002. Dan [Bartlett] said it was from DCI . . . it comes over with a cover sheet from CIA. It is addresed to Mike Gerson [Director of Presidential Speechwriting and Senior Policy Adviser] and to myself. . . . On page three . . . there’s a reference to a sentence that appears in draft six of the Cincinnati speech. And that sentence read as follows: ‘And the regime’ – and here they’re talking about the Iraqi regime – ‘And the regime has been caught attempting to purchase up to 500 metric tons of uranium oxide from sources in Africa, and the central ingredient for the enrichment process.’ Now, with respect to that sentence, the October 5 CIA memorandum asked that we remove the sentence because the amount, 500 tons, is in dispute and it is debatable whether it can be acquired from the source.”
October 5, 6, or 7, 2002: Deputy National Security Advisor Hadley states in a July 22, 2003 press conference that “George Tenet had a brief telephone conversation with me during the clearance process for the October 7 Cincinnati speech. . . [H]e asked that any reference to Iraq’s attempt to purchase uranium from sources from Africa to be deleted from the speech. The language he was referring to when he made that call was language that said the following – and I’ll just quote it – ‘And the regime has been caught attempting to purchase substantial amounts of uranium oxide from sources in Africa, and a central ingredient in the enrichment process.’” (Note: In an interview on Face the Nation, July 13, 2003, National Security Advisor Rice stated, “[H]ad there been even a peep that the agency did not want that sentence in or that George Tenet did not want that sentence in, that the Director of Central Intelligence did not want it in, it would not have gone.” – referring to these statements being in the State of the Union Address in January, 2003.)
October 7, 2002: At a speech in Cincinnati (Remarks on Iraq), President Bush states the following:
Nuclear Weapons: “Knowing these realities, America must not ignore the threat gathering against us. 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.”
UAVs: “Iraq has a growing fleet of manned and unmanned aerial vehicles that could be used to disperse chemical or biological weapons.”
Ties to Terrorism: “[W]e’ve learned that Iraq has trained al Qaeda members in bomb making and poisons and gases.” (See June 2002 Pentagon plans to destroy Zarqawi and chamical weapons camp that was rejected by the National Security Council.)
October 7, 2002:
Ties to Terrorism: In a letter to Senator Bob Graham, Chair, Select Committee on Intelligence, John McLaughlin, for George Tenet, stated that there were intelligence reports of contacts between al-Qaeda and Iraq. In addition, he said, “Our understanding of the relationship between Iraq and al-Qa’ida is evolving and is based on sources of varying reliability.”
October 16, 2002: Congress adopts Joint Resolution authorizing use of force against Iraq to “defend the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq; and enforce all relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions regarding Iraq.”
November 8, 2002: UN Security Council issues Resolution 1441 wherein it reaffirms “the commitment of all Member States to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Iraq, Kuwait, and the neighbouring States.” It “Requests the Secretary-General immediately notify Iraq of this resolution, which is binding on Iraq; demands that Iraq confirm within seven days of that notification its intention to comply fully with this resolution; and demands further that Iraq cooperate immediately, unconditionally, and actively with UNMOVIC [United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission] and the IAEA.
November 14, 2002:
Nuclear and Chemical/Biological Weapons: Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld says in an interview with Infinity CBS Radio: “Well, we know that Saddam Hussein has chemical and biological weapons. And we know he has an active program for the development of nuclear weapons.”
November 27, 2002: First inspectors arrive in Iraq. (See UN Security Council report of 2/28/03.)
December 7, 2002: Responding to the requirement in paragraph 3 of UN Resolution 1441, Iraq submits a declaration to UNMOVIC and IAEA that is more than 12,000 pages. (See UN Security Report of February 28, 2003.)
December 19, 2002:
Nuclear Weapons: Secretary of State Powell cites the aluminum tubes as evidence of pursuit of nuclear weapons saying, “We also know that Iraq has tried to obtain high-strength aluminum tubes, which can be used to enrich uranium in centrifuges for a nuclear weapons program.” He also stated, “We are doing everything we can to avoid war. The President has made that clear.” (Press conference)
January, 2003: Police in London arrest 6 terror suspects and discover a ricin lab connected to Zarqawi’s camp in Iraq. The Pentagon draws up yet another strike plan (see June 2002 for first strike plan and October 2002 for second strike plan). The National Security Council again rejects the Pentagon plan. (MSNBC)
January 8, 2003:
Nuclear Weapons: The IAEA reports in a preliminary assessment that the aluminum tubes were “not directly suitable” for uranium enrichment but were ‘consistent’ with making ordinary artillery rockets – a finding that meshed with Iraq’s official explanation for the tubes. New evidence supporting that conclusion has been gathered in recent weeks and will be presented to the U.N. Security County in a report due to be released on Monday.” (Washington Post)
January 28, 2003:
Nuclear Weapons: President Bush says in his State of the Union address that Saddam Hussein “is not disarming” and that he had attempted to purchase uranium from an African country.
January 29, 2003: Joseph Wilson comments to a friend at the State Department that “if the president had been referring to Niger, then his conclusion was not borne out by the facts. . . He replied that perhaps the president was speaking about one of the other three African countries that produce uranium: Gabon, South Africa or Namibia.” (See What I Didn’t Find in Africa.)
End of January, 2003: Secretary of State Powell prepares to speak before the United Nations. CIA officer Tyler Drumheller looks at a classified draft of the speech and finds a claim about mobile biological labs in Iraq with an Iraqi defector, Curveball, as the source. Knowing Curveball is “mentally unstable and a liar,” Drumheller crosses out the entire paragraph from the speech. (Washington Post)
February, 2003: White House cuts a deal with Saudi Arabia to allow air operations against Iraq to be launched from its Prince Sultan Air Base in return for a phased withdrawl of all American troops after the invasion is completed. (Telegraph)
February 5, 2003: Secretary of State Powell addresses the United Nations and, using satellite photos and audiotapes of intercepts, attempts to convince the Security Council of the Iraq threat. He states as follows:
Nuclear Weapons: He does not make any references to the claims of Iraq’s attempting to gain uranium. However, he acknowledges there is disagreement about the aluminum tubes, “By now, just about everyone has heard of these tubes and we all know that there are differences of opinion. There is controversy about what these tubes are for. Most U.S. experts think they are intended to serve as rotors in centrifuges used to enrich uranium.”
Chemical/Biological Weapons: He also shows photographs of supposed Iraqi chemical stockpiles, stating: “Let me give you a closer look. Look at the image on the left. On the left is a close-up of one of the four chemical bunkers. The two arrows indicate the presence of sure signs that the bunkers are storing chemical munitions.” (This is the portion crossed out by CIA officer Tyler Drumheller. See End of January, 2003 above.)
UAVs: “UAVs outfitted with spray tanks constitute an ideal method for launching a terrorist attack using biological weapons. Iraq could use these small UAVs, which have a wingspan of only a few meters, to deliver biological agents to its neighbors or, if transported, to other countries, including the United States.”
Ties to Terrorism: Powell also relies on accounts provided by Libi, saying that he was tracing “the story of a senior terrorist operative telling how Iraq provided training in these weapons to al Qaeda.” (Libi’s claims were considered “misleading” and “unlikely.” See February, 2002.)
February 6, 2003:
UAVs: President Bush states, “The Iraqi regime has acquired and tested the means to deliver weapons of mass destruction. All the world has now seen the footage of an Iraqi Mirage aircraft with a fuel tank modified to spray biological agents over wide areas. Iraq has developed spray devices that could be used on unmanned aerial vehicles with ranges far beyond what is permitted by the Security Council. A UAV launched from a vessel off the American coast could reach hundreds of miles inland.” (press release) According to the Iraq Survey Group’s report of January 28, 2004, Iraq’s UAV program “was not a strong point” because it was only “theoretically possible” to have “snuck one of those on a ship off the East Coast of the United States that might have been able to deliver a small amount someplace.” It also states that “at least one of those families of UAVs” was a “descendent” of another model that once had a “spray tank on it.” It goes on to say there was no “existing deployment capability at that point for any sort of systematic military attack.”
February 7, 2003:
Nuclear Weapons: Mohamed ElBaradei, IAEA’s Director General, submits a report to the UN Security Council saying “Based on available evidence, the IAEA team has concluded that Iraq’s efforts to import these aluminum tubes were not likely to have been related to the manufacture of centrifuges.”
February 13, 2003: Joseph Wilson posts a commentary in The Nation in which he states, “The upcoming military operation also has one objective . . . This war is not about weapons of mass destruction. The intrusive inspections are disrupting Saddam’s programs, as even the Administration has acknowledged. Nor is it about terrorism. Virtually all agree war will spawn more terrorism, not less. It is not even about liberation of an oppressed people. Killing innocent Iraqi civilians in a full frontal assault is hardly the only or best way to liberate a people. The underlying objective of this is the imposition of a Pax Americana on the region and installation of vassal regimes that will control restive populations.”
February 24, 2003:
UAVs and Chemical/Biological Weapons: Fox News, citing “officials” never named, reports that “Iraq could be planning a chemical or biological attack on American cities through the use of remote-controlled “drone” planes equipped with GPS tracking maps, according to U.S. intelligence.”
February 28, 2003:
Chemical/Biological Weapons: UN Security Council report is issued which states, “More than 200 chemical and more than 100 biological samples have been collected at different sites. Three quarters of these have been screened using UNMOVIC’s own analytical laboratory capabilities at the Baghdad Ongoing Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Centre (BOMVIC). The results to date have been consistent with Iraq’s declarations.”
March 7, 2003: IAEA Director General ElBaradei releases, “The Status of Nuclear Inspections in Iraq: An Update,” at a UN Security Council Meeting, says:
Nuclear Weapons: “[T]here is no indication of resumed nuclear activities . . . nor any indication of nuclear-related prohibited activities at any inspected sites. . . [T]here is no indication that Iraq has attempted to import uranium since 1990. . . [T]here is no indication that Iraq has attempted to import aluminium tubes for use in centrifuge enrichment. Moreover, even had Iraq pursued such a plan, it would have encountered practical difficulties in manufacturing centrifuges out of the aluminum tubes in question. . . [A]lthough we are still reviewing issues related to magnets and magnet production, there is no indication to date that Iraq imported magnets for use in a centrifuge enrichment programme.” Regarding the documents cited by the Bush administration as proof that Iraq was seeking uranium from Africa, he says: “Based on thorough analysis, the IAEA has concluded, with the concurrence of outside experts, that these documents – which formed the basis for the reports of recent uranium transactions between Iraq and Niger – are in fact not authentic. We have therefore concluded that these specific allegations are unfounded.”
March 7, 2003:
Nuclear Weapons: IAEA Director General ElBaradei reports to the UN Security Council that the documents allegedly detailing uranium transactions between Iraq and Niger are “not authentic” and “these specific allegations are unfounded.” He also states that “Iraq has maintained that these aluminium (sic) tubes were sought for rocket production. Extensive field investigation and document analysis have failed to uncover any evidence that Iraq intended to use these 81mm tubes for any project other than the reverse engineering of rockets.
March 7, 2003: U.S., Britain, and Spain introduce a revised UN resolution that gives Iraq a March 17, 2003 deadline to rid itself of WMD. (Resolution failed.)
March 11, 2003:
Chemical/Biological Weapons: Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld, at a briefing with Air Force General Richard Myers, “[Saddam] claims to have no chemical or biological weapons, yet we know he continues to hide biologial and chemical weapons, moving them to different locations as often as every 12 to 24 hours and placing them in residential neighborhoods.”
March 16, 2003:
Nuclear Weapons: Vice President Cheney states on Meet the Press that “[W]e know he has been absolutely devoted to trying to acquire nuclear weapons. And we believe he has, in fact, reconsituted nuclear weapons.” (On September 14, 2003 again on Meet the Press Cheney admits that his statement was wrong and he “did misspeak.”)
March 17, 2003:
Nuclear Weapons: Representative Henry Waxman (D, CA) writes a letter to the President in which he says, “In the last ten days, however, it has become incontrovertibly clear that a key piece of evidence you and other Administration officials have cited regarding Iraq’s efforts to obtain nuclear weapons is a hoax. What’s more, the Central Intelligence Agency questioned the veracity of the evidence at the same time you and other Administration officials were citing it in public statements.”
March 18, 2003: UNMOVIC suspends its inspection activities. (See UN Security Council report of 5/30/03).
March 19, 2003: Invasion of Iraq. Attack is made at Zarqawi camp at Kirma but camp had been vacated. (MSNBC) Zarqawi goes on to be responsible for the killing of hundreds of people. (Zarqawi wasn’t killed until June, 2006.)
March 25, 2003: President Bush issues Executive Order 13292, which allows, for the first time, the vice president to share with the president the constitutional right to declassify information.
May 1, 2003: Standing on a flight deck in front of a banner reading “Mission Accomplished,” President Bush states, “Major combat operations in Iraq have ended.” (CNN)
May 6, 2003: Nicholas Kristof publishes an opinion column in The New York Times and states, “[A] former U.S. ambassador to Africa” was sent to Niger to verify the information in the documents and reported to the CIA and State Department that “the information was unequivocally wrong and that the documents had been forged.”
May 27, 2003:
Chemical/Biological Weapons: Field report to Washington issued from a secret Pentagon-sponsored fact-finding mission to Iraq that concludes that trailers found had nothing to do with biological weapons. (Washington Post)
May 28, 2003:
Chemical/Biological Weapons: CIA publicly releases a formal assessment of the trailers, stating that U.S. officials were confident that the trailers were used for mobile biological weapons production.
May 29, 2003: President Bush declares “We have found the weapons of mass destruction.” (White House)
May 30, 2003:
Nuclear and Chemical/Biological Weapons: UN Security Council report is issued which states, “Since the Commission’s work on disarmament in Iraq, which began on 27 November 2002, has been suspended, and since a significant phase of that work has been concluded, the present report provides more detail than previous reports. In addition, the report does not restrict itself to reviewing information from the period 1 March to 31 May 2003 but in a number of places adopts a wider perspective. In the period during which it performed inspection and monitoring in Iraq, UNMOVIC did not find evidence of the continuation or resumption of programmes of weapons of mass destruction or significant quantities of proscribed items from before the adoption of resolution 687 (1991).
June 12, 2003: Vice President Cheney’s Chief of Staff, I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, is advised by Vice President Cheney that Joe Wilson’s wife worked at the CIA in the Counterproliferation Division. “Libby understood that the Vice President had learned this information from the CIA.” (indictment)
July 2003: Vice President Cheney advises his Chief of Staff Libby that the President had authorized Libby to disclose the relevant portions of the NIE. David Addington, Counsel to Vice President Cheney, opines to Libby that “Presidential authorization to publicly disclose a document amounts to a declassification of the document.” (indictment)
July 6, 2003: The New York Times publishes an article by Joseph Wilson entitled “What I Didn’t Find in Africa.” (Common Dreams) In it he says, “It did not take long to conclude that it was highly doubtful that any such transaction (the purchase of yellowcake uranium by Iraq) had ever taken place.” He refers to the British “white paper” (September 2002) and the President’s State of the Union address (January 2003), both mentioning Iraq attempting to get uranium from “an African country,” and states that it should be clarified which country they were referring to.
July 6, 2003: Vice President Cheney reads Joe Wilson’s article. Makes notes in margin.
July 8, 2003: Judith Miller of The New York Times meets with Vice President Cheney’s Chief of Staff Libby. According to papers filed by Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald: “Defendant (Libby) testified that he thought he brought a brief abstract of the NIE’s key judgments to the meeting with Miller on July 8. Defendant understood that he was to tell Miller, among other things, some of the key judgments of the NIE, and that the NIE stated that Iraq was ‘vigorously trying to procure’ uranium. Defendant testified that this July 8th meeting was the only time he recalled in his government experience when he disclosed a document to a reporter that was effectively declassified by virtue of the President’s authorization that it be disclosed.” In those same papers, Libby’s attorneys state that Stephen Hadley played a key role in attempting to have the NIE declassified and made available to reporters. “Mr. Hadley was active in discussions about the need to declassify and disseminate the NIE and [also] had numerous conversations during [this] critical early-July period with Mr. Tenet about the 16 words (the Niger claim in the State of the Union address] and Mr. Tenet’s public statements about that issue.”
July 11, 2003: In a press gaggle, National Security Adviser Rice says, “Now, if there were doubts about the underlying intelligence to that NIE, those doubts were not communicated to the President, to the Vice President, or to me.”
July 12, 2003: Vice President Cheney directs his Chief of Staff Libby, to leak to the media portions of the classified CIA report. Libby testifies to the Grand Jury that Vice President Cheney hoped this information would undermine the credibility of Joseph Wilson, who had criticized the Bush administration’s Iraq policy. (National Journal)
July 12, 2003: Vice President Cheney’s Chief of Staff Libby tells The New York Times report Judith Miller and Time magazine correspondent Matthew Cooper that Plame was a CIA officer and that she had been involved in selecting her husband for the Niger mission. (See Fitzgerald’s papers.)
July 14, 2003: Robert Novak writes an article naming Valerie Plame as Joseph Wilson’s wife and as a CIA operative on weapons of mass destruction. (Larisa Alexandrovna wrote an article for Raw Story on February 13, 2006, stating that “current and former intelligence officials” stated that Plame worked “on the clandestine side of the CIA in the Directorate of Operations as a non-official cover (NOC) officer” and “was part of an operation tracking distribution and acquisition of weapons of mass destruction technology to and from Iran. . . Their accounts suggest that Plame’s outing was more serious than has previously been reported and carries grave implications for U.S. national security and its ability to monitor Iran’s burgeoning nuclear program.” The allegations were repeated again by David Shuster, an MSNBC correspondent, appearing on Chris Matthews’ Hardball on May 1, 2006.
July 17, 2003: Time magazine publishes “A War on Wilson?” by Matthew Cooper, Massimo Calabresi and John F. Dickerson, which quotes “government officials” as saying “that Wilson’s wife, Valerie Plame, is a CIA official who monitors the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. These officials have suggested that she was involved in her husand’s being dispatched Niger (sic) to investigate reports that Saddam Hussein’s government had sought to purchase large quantities of uranium ore.”
July 18, 2003:
Nuclear Weapons: Portions have NIE are de-classified, which include an “Alternative View of Iraq’s Nuclear Program” by the Assistant Secretary of State for Intelligence and Research (INR). It states, “The activities we have detected do not, however, add up to a compelling case that Iraq is currently using what INR would consider to be an integrated and comprehensive approach to acquire nuclear weapons. . . INR is not persuaded that the (aluminum) tubes in question are intended for use as a centrifuge rotors. INR accepts that judgment of technical experts at the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) who have concluded that the tubes Iraq seeks to acquire are poorly suited for use in gas centrifuges to be used for uranium enrichment and finds unpersuasive the arguments advanced by others to make the case that they are intended for the purpose. INR considers it far more likely that the tubes are intended for another purpose, most likely the production of artillary rockets.”
July 22, 2003: Deputy National Security Advisor Hadley acknowledges that in October, 2002 the CIA sent Rice and Hadley memos warning against using the claim that Iraq was seeking uranium in Africa in the State of the Union Address by the President. See press briefing.)
October 2, 2003:
Nuclear Weapons: David Kay, Director of the Iraq Survey Group, states: “[W]e have not uncovered evidence that Iraq undertook significant post-1998 steps to actually build nuclear weapons or produce fissile material.” Also, “As best as has been determined . . . in 2000 they had decided that their nuclear establishment had deteriorated to such point that it was totally useless.” (Interim Progress Report)
February 5, 2004: CIA Director George Tenet states that the U.S. intelligence community “never said there was an ‘imminent’ threat.” (CIA)
© The Issue Wonk, 2006