January 10, 2003

Iraq, Afghanistan, and 9-11

[Excerpts from Chalmers Johnson, The Sorrows of Empire: How the Americans Lost Their Country, Metropolitan Books, coming in late 2003.]

In the hours immediately following the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld asked for plans to be drawn up for an American assault on Iraq. The following day, in a cabinet meeting at the White House, Rumsfeld again insisted that Iraq should be "a principal target of the first round in the war against terrorism." The president allegedly replied that "public opinion has to be prepared before a move against Iraq is possible," and instead chose Afghanistan as a much softer target.

These statements and their timing, are noteworthy because the United States had not even determined that the suicide bombers came from Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda network and it has never published any evidence that al-Qaeda had any connection with Iraq. In fact, the 2001 edition of the U.S. Department of State's annual report on Patterns of Global Terrorism does not list any acts of global terrorism linked to the government of Iraq. . . .

Condoleezza Rice called together members of the National Security Council and asked them "to think about 'how do you capitalize on these opportunities' to fundamentally change American doctrine, and the shape of the world, in the wake of September 11th." She said, "I really think this period is analogous to 1945 to 1947," when fear and paranoia led the United States into its Cold War with the USSR.

Still, the Bush administration could not just go to war with Iraq without tying it in some way to the 9/11 attacks. So it first launched an easy war against Afghanistan. There was at least a visible connection between Osama bin Laden and the Taliban regime, even though the United States contributed more to Osama's development as a terrorist than Afghanistan ever did. . . .

[Mr. Johnson is president of the Japan Policy Research Institute, a tax-exempt nonprofit educational and research organization located in California, and the author of Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire.]

["On Sept. 17, 2001, six days after the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, President Bush signed a 21/2-page document marked "TOP SECRET" that outlined the plan for going to war in Afghanistan as part of a global campaign against terrorism. Almost as a footnote, the document also directed the Pentagon to begin planning military options for an invasion of Iraq, senior administration officials said."--Glenn Kessler, "U.S. Decision On Iraq Has Puzzling Past," Washington Post, January 12, 2003]

For background, read:
September 11 Remains a Mystery
A Clash Between Justice and Greed
Deadly Deception, Pretexts for War

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