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Context of 'August 3, 2002: Washington Post Columnists Push War with Iraq: ‘We Don’t Speak of Exit Strategies,’ Occupation Will Be a ‘Financial Bonanza’'

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Defense Policy Board member Richard Perle, discussing the US’s planned reaction to the 9/11 attacks, says that Iraq is next on the US’s military strike list. CNN anchor John King asks, “Next phase Saddam Hussein?” and Perle replies, “Absolutely.” The day before, on ABC, Perle explained why the US had to make such a move: “Weapons of mass destruction in the hands of Saddam Hussein, plus his known contact with terrorists, including al-Qaeda terrorists, is simply a threat too large to continue to tolerate.” And what would the upshot of such an invasion be? Perle tells his CNN listeners, “We would be seen as liberators in Iraq.” [PBS, 4/25/2007]

Entity Tags: ABC News, Richard Perle, CNN, Al-Qaeda

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion, Neoconservative Influence

The Bush administration develops plans for post-war Iraq. But the process is plagued with infighting between a small, highly secretive group of planners in the Pentagon and experts at the CIA and State Department who are involved with the “Future of Iraq Project” (see April 2002-March 2003). The two opposing groups disagree on a wide range of topics, but it is the Pentagon group which exerts the strongest influence on the White House’s plans (see Fall 2002) for administering post-Saddam Iraq. One State Department official complains to The Washington Post in October 2002 “that the Pentagon is seeking to dominate every aspect of Iraq’s postwar reconstruction.” The group of Pentagon planners includes several noted neoconservatives who work in, or in association with, the Pentagon’s Office of Special Plans (see September 2002) and the Near East/South Asia bureau. The planners have close ties to the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) and the Project for the New American Century (PNAC), two think tanks with a shared vision of reshaping the geopolitical landscape of the Middle East in favor of US and Israeli interests. The Pentagon planning group “had a visionary strategy that it hoped would transform Iraq into an ally of Israel, remove a potential threat to the Persian Gulf oil trade and encircle Iran with US friends and allies,” Knight Ridder Newspapers will later observe. The group’s objectives put it at odds with planners at the CIA and State Department whose approach and objectives are much more prudent. The Pentagon unit works independently of the CIA and State Department and pays little attention to the work of those two agencies. Critics complain that the group is working in virtual secrecy and evading the scrutiny and oversight of others involved in the post-war planning process by confining their inter-agency communications to discussions with their neoconservative colleagues working in other parts of the government. The Pentagon planners even have a direct line to the office of Dick Cheney where their fellow neoconservative, Lewis Libby, is working. [Daily Telegraph, 11/12/2002; Washington Post, 4/2/2003; Knight Ridder, 7/12/2003] In the fall of 2002, the various groups involved in planning for post-war Iraq send their recommendations to the White House’s Executive Steering Committee, which reviews their work and then passes on its own recommendations to the cabinet heads (see Fall 2002). According to a July 2003 report by Knight Ridder Newspapers, the ultimate responsibility for deciding the administration’s post-war transition plans lay with Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice. [Knight Ridder, 7/12/2003]
The Office of Special Plans -
bullet The civilian planners at the Pentagon believe that the UN should exert no influence over the structure, make-up, or policy of the interim Iraqi post-Saddam government. They seek to limit the UN’s role to humanitarian and reconstruction projects, and possibly security. The State Department, however, believes that the US will not be able to do it alone and that UN participation in post-Saddam Iraq will be essential. [Los Angeles Times, 4/2/2003; Observer, 4/6/2003]
bullet The Pentagon group wants to install Ahmad Chalabi, the controversial Iraqi exile leader of the Iraqi National Congress (INC), as leader of post-Saddam Iraq. [American Prospect, 5/1/2003; Knight Ridder, 7/12/2003 Sources: Richard Perle] The group thinks that the Iraqis will welcome Chalabi, who claims he has a secret network inside and outside the Ba’ath government which will quickly fill in the power vacuum to restore order to the country. Chalabi is a notorious figure who is considered untrustworthy by the State Department and CIA and who has a history of financial misdealings. [Knight Ridder, 7/12/2003] But the Pentagon is said to be enamored with Chalabi “because he [advocates] normal diplomatic relations with Israel” which they believe will “‘[take] off the board’ one of the only remaining major Arab threats to Israeli security.” Another geopolitical benefit to installing Chalabi is that he can help the US contain “the influence of Iran’s radical Islamic leaders in the region, because he would… [provide] bases in Iraq for US troops,” which would “complete Iran’s encirclement by American military forces around the Persian Gulf and US friends in Russia and Central Asia.” [Knight Ridder, 7/12/2003 Sources: Unnamed Bush administration official] Danielle Pletka, vice president of the American Enterprise Institute, with close ties to the Pentagon’s planning group, tells Robert Dreyfuss of American Prospect Magazine that the State Department’s perception of Chalabi is wrong. “The [Defense Department] is running post-Saddam Iraq,” said Pletka, almost shouting. “The people at the State Department don’t know what they are talking about! Who the hell are they?… the simple fact is, the president is comfortable with people who are comfortable with the INC.” [American Prospect, 5/1/2003]
bullet The Pentagon’s planning unit believes that the Iraqis will welcome US troops as liberators and that any militant resistance will be short-lived. They do not develop a contingency plan for persistent civil unrest. [Knight Ridder, 7/12/2003] However the State Department’s “Future of Iraq” planning project is more prudent, noting that Iraqis will likely be weary of US designs on their country. [New York Times, 10/19/2003]
bullet The Pentagon planners believe that Iraq’s oil reserves—estimated to contain some 112 billion barrels of oil—should be used to help fund the reconstruction of Iraq. They also advocate a plan that would give the US more control over Iraq’s oil. “[The Pentagon] hawks have long argued that US control of Iraq’s oil would help deliver a second objective,” reports the Observer. “That is the destruction of OPEC, the oil producers’ cartel, which they argue is ‘evil’—that is, incompatible with American interests.” The State Department, however, believes such aggressive policies will surely infuriate Iraqis and give credence to suspicions that the invasion is motivated by oil interests. One critic of the plan says “that only a puppet Iraqi government would acquiesce to US supervision of the oil fields and that one so slavish to US interests risks becoming untenable with Iraqis.” [Observer, 11/3/2002; Insight, 12/28/2002]

Entity Tags: Project for the New American Century, American Enterprise Institute, Donald Rumsfeld, Ahmed Chalabi, Danielle Pletka, Office of Special Plans, Condoleezza Rice

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

Washington Post syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer, speaking on “Inside Washington” in a discussion with fellow Post columnist Charlie King and Post military reporter Thomas Ricks, argues in favor of the Bush administration’s policy on Iraq. At one point, moderator Gordan Petersons asks what the US should do after deposing Saddam Hussein. Krauthammer responds: “We don’t speak about exit strategies; this is not Bosnia, or Haiti, or the Balkans. This is very important, everybody understands it, we are not going to run away. We are going to get there, and we are going to stay. We are going to try to make a reasonably civil society, reasonably pro-American, a good influence on the neighbors, and disarmed. That’s a large undertaking, and I think we are absolutely [unintelligible] everybody who is supporting the war or the invasion is in favor of staying and doing the job.” When Thomas Ricks notes that Krauthammer’s proposal would involve nine of the US Army’s ten active-duty divisions, he counters, “That assumption is entirely unwarranted. I think we will be accepted as liberators, as we were in Afghanistan.” He also shoots down a comment from Peterson referring to the cost of invading Iraq. “If we win the war, we are in control of Iraq, it is the single largest source of oil in the world, it’s got huge reserves, which have been suppressed because of Iraq’s actions, and Saddam’s. We will have a bonanza, a financial one, at the other end, if the war is successful,” Krauthammer explains. [WUSATV, 8/3/2002; Unger, 2007, pp. 289]

Entity Tags: Charlie King, Charles Krauthhammer, Thomas Ricks, Washington Post

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

Vice President Dick Cheney, appearing on CNN’s American Morning, says: “I think that the people of Iraq would welcome the US force as liberators; they would not see us as oppressors, by any means.” [American Morning with Paula Zahn, 9/9/2002]

Entity Tags: Richard (“Dick”) Cheney

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

A US military vehicle pulls down a statue of Saddam Hussein in front of a small crowd.A US military vehicle pulls down a statue of Saddam Hussein in front of a small crowd. [Source: Fox News] (click image to enlarge)The government of Saddam Hussein collapses as US troops take control of Baghdad. To mark the occasion, a statue of the former dictator in downtown Baghdad’s Firdos Square is pulled down, seemingly by a group of average Iraqi citizens and US soldiers. [Associated Press, 4/9/2003] The celebration is later revealed by the Los Angeles Times to be a psychological operation managed by US forces and not Iraqi citizens. [Los Angeles Times, 7/3/2004] The entire event is a carefully staged photo op. The tightly cropped pictures sent out by the Pentagon, and subsequently broadcast and published around the world, show what appears to be a large crowd of celebrating Iraqis. However, aerial photos show that the square is nearly empty except for a small knot of people gathered in front of the statue. The square itself is surrounded by US tanks. And there is some question as to the authenticity of the celebrating Iraqis. Al-Jazeera producer Samir Khader later says that the Americans “brought with them some people—supposedly Iraqis cheering. These people were not Iraqis. I lived in Iraq, I was born there, I was raised there. I can recognize an Iraqi accent.” [Unger, 2007, pp. 302] Fox News anchors assure viewers that images of the toppling statue are sure to persuade the Arab world to see America as a liberator. Correspondent Simon Marks, reporting from Amman, Jordan, reports that “the Arab street” is angry, and it will take careful diplomacy to convince the majority of Arabs that this is not “an American war of occupation.” In response, Fox anchor David Asman, a former Wall Street Journal editorial writer, says, “There’s a certain ridiculousness to that point of view!” [New Yorker, 5/26/2003]

Entity Tags: Saddam Hussein, David Asman, US Department of Defense, Fox News, Simon Marks

Timeline Tags: Iraq under US Occupation, Domestic Propaganda

While television news anchors and analysts continue to follow the lead of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld in comparing the toppling of the Firdos Square statue to the fall of the Berlin Wall (see April 9, 2003 and April 9, 2003), press reporters and editorial writers begin to express some skepticism. An unphotogenic photo of the statue being covered by an American flag prompts the New York Times’s Alessandra Stanley to note that this was a “powerful reminder that, unlike the Soviet empire, Iraq’s regime did not implode from within.” Noting that an American tank had been required to eventually push the statue over, Stanley adds, “In 1989, East Germans did not need American help to break down their wall.” The Washington Post’s Tom Shales observes that “of all the statues of Saddam Hussein scattered throughout the city, the crowds had conveniently picked one located across from the hotel where most of the media were headquartered. This was either splendid luck or brilliant planning on the part of the [US] military.” [Rich, 2006, pp. 83] Two days later, the Toronto Star will report, “Never mind how that video was tightly framed, showing a chanting crowd, when wider shots would have revealed a very different picture: a very large, mostly empty square surrounded by US tanks.” [Toronto Star, 4/12/2003]

Entity Tags: New York Times, Tom Shales, Toronto Star, Alessandra Stanley, Washington Post, Donald Rumsfeld

Timeline Tags: Iraq under US Occupation, Domestic Propaganda

A long shot of Firdos Square during the statue toppling process. A small knot of onlookers can be seen surrounding the statue at the far end of the area; most of the square is empty. Three US tanks can be seen stationed around the square.A long shot of Firdos Square during the statue toppling process. A small knot of onlookers can be seen surrounding the statue at the far end of the area; most of the square is empty. Three US tanks can be seen stationed around the square. [Source: Ian Masters]A study by the Journal of Broadcasting and Electronic Media is presented at the October 2006 conference of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication. The study features an in-depth examination of the iconic toppling of the Firdos Square statue of Saddam Hussein (see April 9, 2003, April 9, 2003, and April 10, 2003). The study notes that “wide-angle shots show clearly that the square was never close to being a quarter full [and] never had more than a few hundred people in it (many of them reporters).” But after the initial two-hour live broadcast of the statue’s fall, US broadcasters chose to repeat tightly focused shots that, in author Frank Rich’s words, “conjured up a feverish popular uprising matching the administration’s prewar promise that Americans would see liberated Iraqis celebrating in the streets” (see November 18-19, 2001, 2002-2003, August 3, 2002, and September 9, 2002). According to the study, some version of the statue-toppling footage played every 4.4 minutes on Fox News between 11 a.m. and 8 p.m. the day of the statue’s fall, and every seven minutes on CNN. [Rich, 2006, pp. 83-84; Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication, 10/22/2006]

Entity Tags: CNN, Saddam Hussein, Frank Rich, Journal of Broadcasting and Electronic Media, Fox News, Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication

Timeline Tags: Iraq under US Occupation, Domestic Propaganda

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