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Context of 'September 13, 2001: Deputy Defense Secretary Wolfowitz Hints at Invading Iraq, but Is Publicly Rebuked by Secretary of State Powell'

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Time magazine publishes an article calling Secretary of State Colin Powell the “odd man out” in the administration, adding that his centrist politics make him “chum in the water for the sharks in Dubya’s sea,” particularly Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. One top diplomat, asked to provide an adjective for the phrase, “Colin Powell is a ‘blank’ secretary of state,” replies, “Yes, he is.” A senior administration official says, “I’ve been struck by how not struck I am by him.” Time states, “Powell’s megastar wattage looks curiously dimmed, as if someone has turned his light way down.” When Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz is asked why he took the number two spot in the Pentagon, he replies with one word, “Powell” (see January 11, 2001). (Wolfowitz will later deny making the remark.) Author Craig Unger will write that Wolfowitz’s terse reply “gave the game away. He was there to neutralize Powell, to implement the hard-line neocon[servative] vision.” Time concludes, “Enthusiasm is building inside the administration to take down [Iraq’s] Saddam [Hussein] once and for all,” a policy to which Powell is opposed. [Time, 9/10/2001; Time, 9/10/2001; Unger, 2007, pp. 213]

Entity Tags: Bush administration (43), Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, Time magazine, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, Saddam Hussein, Colin Powell, US Department of State

Timeline Tags: US International Relations

At a public briefing, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz says, “I think one has to say it’s not just simply a matter of capturing people and holding them accountable, but removing the sanctuaries, removing the support systems, ending states who sponsor terrorism. And that’s why it has to be a broad and sustained campaign.” Secretary of State Colin Powell is alarmed by Wolfowitz’s “ending states” comment and thinks it is a reference to invading Iraq. Hours later, Powell responds during another press briefing: “We’re after ending terrorism. And if there are states and regimes, nations that support terrorism, we hope to persuade them that it is in their interest to stop doing that. But I think ending terrorism is where I would like to leave it, and let Mr. Wolfowitz speak for himself.” According to journalist Dan Balz, that afternoon there is another National Security Council meeting. Powell says to Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General Shelton in a private moment, “You’ve got to keep these guys [neoconservatives like Wolfowitz] in a box. I don’t know what’s going on over there, but this whole—all of this Iraq stuff is a problem.” According to Balz, General Shelton agrees that attacking Iraq is not a smart thing to do, but Shelton has already submitted his resignation and will not have a role in the decision. [PBS Frontline, 2/20/2003]

Entity Tags: Colin Powell, Henry Hugh Shelton, Paul Wolfowitz

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

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