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Context of 'March 19, 2003: US Diplomat Resigns over Invasion of Iraq'

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After the First Gulf War (see January 16, 1991 and After), the British Defense Ministry’s Defense Intelligence Staff creates a secret intelligence office known as Operation Rockingham. The purpose of the top secret cell is to collect intelligence that can be used by the US and British to support the case for maintaining UN sanctions on Iraq. After the September 11 attacks, Rockingham helps build Britain’s case for the need to use military force against Iraq. [Sunday Herald (Glasgow), 6/8/2003; Sunday Herald (Glasgow), 6/8/2003; Guardian, 11/21/2003; BBC, 11/21/2003; Press Association (London), 11/21/2003; Guardian, 11/29/2003] Former US Marine intelligence officer Scott Ritter, who has first-hand knowledge of the operation, will later tell reporters that “Rockingham was spinning reports and emphasizing reports that showed noncompliance (by Iraq with UN inspections) and quashing those which showed compliance. It was cherry-picking intelligence.” He also says that members of the cell were backed by officials “from the very highest levels,” including military and intelligence officers, as well as civilian officials from the ministry of defense. [Sunday Herald (Glasgow), 6/8/2003; Sunday Herald (Glasgow), 6/8/2003] The operation is similar to Operation Mass Appeal (see 1991-2003), another British intelligence disinformation program. Rockingham is also compared to the Pentagon’s Office of Special Plans (see August 18, 2003), which has also been accused of producing misleading assessments on Iraq based on the selective use of intelligence. [Sunday Herald (Glasgow), 6/8/2003; Guardian, 11/21/2003]

Entity Tags: UK Ministry of Defense, Operation Rockingham, Scott Ritter

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

One of the many air strikes launched against Iraqi targets during Operation Desert Storm.One of the many air strikes launched against Iraqi targets during Operation Desert Storm. [Source: US Air Force]The US launches a massive air assault against Iraq in retaliation for that country’s invasion of Kuwait (see August 2, 1990). The air assault begins the day after a UN deadline for Iraq’s withdrawal from Kuwait expires (see November 29, 1990). F-117 Stealth bombers hit Baghdad with an array of high-tech bombs and missiles; many of the explosions are televised live, or on briefly delayed feeds, on CNN, which launches virtually 24-hour coverage of the air strikes. In the first 48 hours of the war, 2,107 combat missions drop more than 5,000 tons of bombs on Baghdad alone, nearly twice the amount that incinerated Dresden in World War II.
'Thunder and Lightning of Desert Storm' - US Army General Norman Schwarzkopf, chief of the US Central Command (CENTCOM), announces the beginning of hostilities by transmitting the following: “Soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines of the United States Central Command, this morning at 0300, we launched Operation Desert Storm, an offensive campaign that will enforce the United Nation’s resolutions that Iraq must cease its rape and pillage of its weaker neighbor and withdraw its forces from Kuwait. My confidence in you is total. Our cause is just! Now you must be the thunder and lightning of Desert Storm. May God be with you, your loved ones at home, and our country.” [US Navy, 9/17/1997]
Initial Attacks Obliterate Iraqi Navy, Much of Air Force, Many Ground Installations - The attack begins with an assault of over 100 Tomahawk land attack missiles (TLAMs) launched from US naval vessels in the Persian Gulf and Red Sea, and attack helicopter strikes on Iraqi radar installations near the Iraq-Saudi Arabian border. The assaults destroy much of Iraq’s air defense and command-and-control capabilities. The missile assault is quickly followed by fighter, bomber, and assault helicopter strikes which continue pounding at Iraqi government buildings, power stations, dams, military sites, radio and television stations, and several of Saddam Hussein’s palaces. The strikes essentially obliterate the Iraqi Navy, and drastically cripple the Iraqi Air Force. (Between 115 and 140 aircraft and crews of the Iraqi Air Force flees to Iran over the course of the war, a move that surprises US commanders, who expected the aircraft and their crews to attempt to flee to Jordan, not Iran. The Iranians will never give Iraq back its aircraft, and will not release Iraqi air crews for years to come.) A US Navy review later calls the combined Navy-Marine air campaign, conducted in concert with US Air Force strikes, “successful beyond the most optimistic expectations.” The Navy later reports that “allied air forces dropped over 88,500 tons of ordnance on the battlefield.” [US Navy, 9/17/1997; NationMaster, 12/23/2007] Iraqi anti-aircraft counterattacks are surprisingly effective, downing around 75 US and British aircraft in the first hours of attacks. The US media does not widely report these downings, nor does it give much attention to the dozens of pilots and air crew captured as POWs. [NationMaster, 12/23/2007]
'The Mother of All Battles' - Five hours after the first attacks, Baghdad state radio broadcasts a voice identified as Saddam Hussein. Hussein tells his people that “The great duel, the mother of all battles has begun. The dawn of victory nears as this great showdown begins.” [NationMaster, 12/23/2007]
US Embassy Helped Locate Targets for Air Strikes - Deputy Chief of Mission Joseph Wilson, the last American to leave Baghdad (see January 12, 1991), and his staff provided critical assistance to the US battle planners in choosing their initial targets. Over the months, Wilson and his staff developed a “hostage tracking system,” monitoring and recording the movements of the American hostages as they were transferred from site to site to be used as human shields in the event of a US strike (see August 4, 1990 and August 8, 1990). Wilson and his staff were able to identify some 55 sites that were being used around the country, presumably some of the most critical military and infrastructure sites in Iraq. Wilson gave that information to the Pentagon. He will later write, “I was gratified when several months later, on the first night of Desert Storm, long after the hostages had been released, many of those sites were ones hit by American bombs.” [Wilson, 2004, pp. 141]

Entity Tags: US Department of the Navy, United Nations, US Department of the Marines, US Department of the Air Force, US Department of the Army, CNN, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, Norman Schwarzkopf, Joseph C. Wilson, US Department of Defense, US Department of State, Saddam Hussein

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

John Brady Kiesling, a career diplomat of 20 years, resigns from his post as a political counselor at the United States Embassy in Athens, citing his opposition to the administration’s Iraq policy. In his faxed letter to Colin Powell—a copy of which is obtained by the New York Times—Kiesling writes, “Our fervent pursuit of war with Iraq is driving us to squander the international legitimacy that has been America’s most potent weapon of both offense and defense since the days of Woodrow Wilson.” Asked by the New York Times, how others in the State Department feel about Bush’s plans to invade Iraq, he explains: “No one of my colleagues is comfortable with our policy. Everyone is moving ahead with it as good and loyal. The State Department is loaded with people who want to play the team game—we have a very strong premium on loyalty.” After Kiesling’s resignation, two more US diplomats will resign, John Brown, PhD. (see March 10, 2003), and Mary Wright (see March 19, 2003). [New York Times, 2/27/2003; Kiesling, 2/27/2003]

Entity Tags: John Brady Kiesling

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

John Brown, PhD.—a career US diplomat of 22 years, who has served in London, Prague, Krakow, Kiev, Belgrade and Moscow—submits his letter of resignation to Secretary of State Colin Powell. “I am joining my colleague John Brady Kiesling in submitting my resignation from the Foreign Service—effective immediately—because I cannot in good conscience support President Bush’s war plans against Iraq,” he says, noting, “Throughout the globe, the United States is becoming associated with the unjustified use of force.… The President’s disregard for views in other nations, borne out by his neglect of public diplomacy, is giving birth to an anti-American century.” His resignation follows that of Kiesling two weeks earlier (see Late February 2003) and precedes that of Mary Wright a week later (see March 19, 2003). [Brown, 3/10/2003]

Entity Tags: John Brown

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

Mary Wright, the second highest-ranking diplomat at the US embassy in Ulan Bator, Mongolia, resigns from her post after serving 15 years at the State Department. In her letter of resignation she derides the administration for snubbing America’s allies. “In our press military action now, we have created deep chasms in the international community and in important international organizations. Our policies have alienated many of our allies and created ill will in much of the world… I feel obligated morally and professionally to set out my very deep and firm concerns on these policies and to resign from government service as I cannot defend or implement them.” She also warns that the Bush administration has set a precedent that will ultimately make Americans less safe. “I believe the administration’s policies are making the world a more dangerous, not a safer place… This preemptive attack policy will… provide justification for individuals and groups to ‘preemptively attack’ America and American citizens,” she says. Her resignation follows that of John Brady Kiesling (see Late February 2003) and John Brown (see March 10, 2003). [Wright, 3/19/2003; Reuters, 3/21/2003; BBC, 3/27/2003]

Entity Tags: Mary Wright

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

Brady Kiesling, a former political counselor at the US embassy in Athens who resigned from his post in protest of the invasion of Iraq (see Late February 2003), writes in an open letter published in the Greek daily, To Vima, that President George W. Bush is a “very weak” man and that his decision to invade Iraq was made under pressure from Donald Rumsfeld, who used the war to increase his own power. “Easy to convince, [Bush] blindly believed in Rumsfeld’s assurances that the occupation of Iraq would pay for itself,” the former diplomat writes. [Agence France-Presse, 8/17/2003 Sources: John Brady Kiesling]

Entity Tags: John Brady Kiesling

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

Former UN chief weapons inspector and US Marine intelligence officer Scott Ritter tells reporters in the British House of Commons about the existence of two secret British disinformation campaigns—Operation Mass Appeal (see 1991-2003) and Operation Rockingham (see 1991-March 2003)—which planted stories based on dubious intelligence in the domestic and foreign media between 1991 and 2003. [Guardian, 11/21/2003; BBC, 11/21/2003; Press Association (London), 11/21/2003; Guardian, 11/29/2003]

Entity Tags: Scott Ritter

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

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