Monday, March 27, 2006

Bush Was Set on Path to War, Memo by British Adviser Says

New York Times

LONDON — In the weeks before the United States-led invasion of Iraq, as the United States and Britain pressed for a second United Nations resolution condemning Iraq, President Bush's public ultimatum to Saddam Hussein was blunt: Disarm or face war.

But behind closed doors, the president was certain that war was inevitable. During a private two-hour meeting in the Oval Office on Jan. 31, 2003, he made clear to Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain that he was determined to invade Iraq without the second resolution, or even if international arms inspectors failed to find unconventional weapons, said a confidential memo about the meeting written by Mr. Blair's top foreign policy adviser and reviewed by The New York Times.

"Our diplomatic strategy had to be arranged around the military planning," David Manning, Mr. Blair's chief foreign policy adviser at the time, wrote in the memo that summarized the discussion between Mr. Bush, Mr. Blair and six of their top aides.

"The start date for the military campaign was now penciled in for 10 March," Mr. Manning wrote, paraphrasing the president. "This was when the bombing would begin."

To read the full text, see New York Times

Sunday, March 19, 2006

March 20, 2006
On Anniversary, Bush and Cheney See Iraq Success

New York Times

WASHINGTON, March 19 — On the third anniversary of a war that they once expected to be over by now, President Bush and senior officials argued Sunday that their strategy was working despite escalating violence in Iraq, even as a former Iraqi prime minister once favored by the White House declared that a civil war had already started.

Displaying a carefully calibrated mix of optimism about eventual victory and caution about how long American troops would be involved, the officials who marked the day — including Mr. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld — sounded much as they had on the first anniversary of the invasion. At that time, the rebuilding effort had just begun, the insurgency was far less fierce, and the American occupation had suppressed, temporarily, the sectarian violence scarring Iraq today.

The picture painted by the administration clashed with that of the former interim prime minister, Ayad Allawi, once hailed by Mr. Bush as the kind of fair-minded leader Iraq needed. He declared in an interview with the BBC that the country was nearing a "point of no return."

To read the full text, see New York Times

Cost of Iraq war could surpass $1 trillion
Estimates vary, but all agree price is far higher than initially expected

By Martin Wolk
Chief economics correspondent
Updated: 7:25 p.m. ET March 17, 2006

One thing is certain about the Iraq war: It has cost a lot more than advertised. In fact, the tab grows by at least $200 million each and every day.

In the months leading up to the launch of the war three years ago, few Bush administration officials were willing to comment publicly on the potential costs to the United States. After all, no cost would have been too high if the United States faced an imminent threat from an Iraq armed with weapons of mass destruction, the war's stated justification.

In fact, the economic ramifications are rarely included in the debate over whether to go to war, although some economists argue it is quite possible and useful to assess potential costs and benefits.

In any event, most estimates put forward by White House officials in 2002 and 2003 were relatively low compared with the nation's gross domestic product, the size of the federal budget or the cost of past wars.

To read the full text, see

Predictions of a better Middle East have evaporated three years after invasion

By Warren P. Strobel and Hannah Allam
Knight Ridder Newspapers
March 16, 2006

WASHINGTON - Three years after the United States invaded Iraq in pursuit of a freer, more stable Middle East, the country's deepening ethnic conflict is spreading tension across Iraq's borders, fueling terrorism and nurturing gloom about the future.
President Bush cited Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction and ties to international terrorism - neither of which turned out to exist - when he ordered a pre-emptive war that began March 19, 2003. He predicted payoffs for the wider Middle East: spreading democracy, deterred enemies, more secure oil flows, a less hostile environment for Israel.
None of that has happened, at least not yet.

Instead, said officials and analysts in the United States, Arab countries, Israel and Europe, the invasion has produced a vortex of unintended consequences.

Militancy is on the rise. Terrorists are using Iraq as a training base and potential launch pad for attacks elsewhere, according to U.S. officials and documents. Democratic reform remains largely stymied.
The U.S. Army and Marine Corps, and especially the Reserves and National Guard, are feeling the strain of repeated deployments. Public support for the war is declining in America and almost nonexistent elsewhere. The war has cost more than 2,300 American lives, and the Congressional Budget Office estimates that its total financial cost may exceed $500 billion.

To read the full text, see Knight Ridder Washington Bureau

Thursday, March 16, 2006

US backs first-strike attack plan

BBC News
March 16, 2006

The US will not shy away from attacking regimes it considers hostile, or groups it believes have nuclear or chemical weapons, the White House has confirmed.

In the first restatement of national security strategy since the invasion of Iraq in 2003, the US singles out Iran as the greatest single current danger.

The new policy backs the policy of pre-emptive war first issued in 2002, and criticised since the Iraq war.
But it stresses that the US aims to spread democracy through diplomacy.

The new strategy also highlights a string of other global issues of concern to the US, such as the spread of Aids, the threat of pandemic flu and the prospect of natural and environmental disasters.
National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley is due to make a speech launching the new strategy on Thursday.

To read the full text, see

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Baghdad: The Besieged Press

By Orville Schell
New York Review of Books
April 6, 2006 issue

Blog editor's note: This piece by Schell, Dean of the Graduate School of Journalism at U.C. Berkeley and a noted China scholar/journalist, was reprinted by permission at [See link below]

"Ladies and Gents," the South African pilot matter-of-factly announces over the intercom, "we'll be starting our spiral descent into Baghdad, where the temperature is 19 degrees Celsius." The vast and mesmerizing expanse of sandpapery desert that has been stretching out beneath the plane has ended at the Tigris River. To avoid a dangerous glide path over hostile territory and missiles and automatic weapons fire, the plane banks steeply and then, as if caught in a powerful whirlpool, it plunges, circling downward in a corkscrew pattern.

Upon arriving in Amman, the main civilian gateway to Baghdad, one already has had the feeling of drawing ever nearer to an atomic reactor in meltdown. Even in Jordan, there is a palpable sense of being in the last concentric circle away from a radioactive ground zero emitting uncontrollable waves of contamination.

To read the full text, see

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Reports From the Future of Iraq Project
------Over 1,200 Pages of Previously Unavailable Reports From State Dept Planning for Post-Saddam Iraq
-------Warnings and Recommendations by Experts and Iraqi Exiles Ignored by Administration

Russ Kick
The Memory Hole
March 2006

Starting in October 2001, about a year and a half before the US and its allies invaded Iraq, the State Department spearheaded an effort called the Future of Iraq Project. Dozens of Iraqi exiles and international experts were brought together to figure out how to create a new Iraq should Saddam Hussein somehow be taken out of power.

Within the project, seventeen working groups covered such areas as the justice system, local government, agriculture, media, education, and oil. The various working groups began meeting in July 2002 and continued through March/April 2003. Twelve of the groups released reports. The project cost $5 million.

The project's observations and recommendations were almost wholly ignored by the administration during its pre-war planning for the occupation. Soon after the invasion, though, CD-ROMs of the reports were sent to the staff of the Coalition Provisional Authority.

Among other things, the working groups foresaw the widespread looting in the aftermath of invasion and warned against quickly disbanding the Iraqi Army.

The project's reports have never been made available to the public. In October 2003, "Congressional officials" allowed two New York Times reporters to view the reports, but they were not allowed to take them. Upon reading this, I immediately filed a Freedom of Information Act request for the reports, which was granted in February 2006. Eight of the reports were released in their entirety, while the rest were redacted to some degree. I have scanned them and created a PDF file of each report, all of which are posted to the left.

To retrieve the PDF format reports, see The Memory Hole

Sunday, March 05, 2006

OSAMA: He's Welcome In Pakistan

By Ahmed Rashid
Washington Post
February 26, 2006; B01

Blog editor's note: If you're still interested in where Osama bin Laden might be and what we're doing to find him, this piece by Rashid is probably a good place to start. In my judgment, Rashid is one of the top journalistic authorities in the world on al Qaeda, the Taliban, Afghanistan and so on.

LAHORE When President Bush lands in Islamabad later this week, it may be the closest he ever comes to being in the same neighborhood as Osama bin Laden. His nemesis is probably only a few hours drive away in Pakistan's Pashtun belt, now considered to be al Qaeda Central and one of the world's most dangerous regions.

During the past 12 months or so, CIA and Pentagon officials have quietly modified the line they employed for three years after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks -- that bin Laden was hiding out "in the tribal areas along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border." Now the same officials say with some confidence that he is "not based in Afghanistan." Whatever ambiguity there was in the past is gone: Bin Laden is in Pakistan.

What's left is the question: What are the United States and its ally, Pakistan, doing about it?

To read the full text, see Washington Post

Thursday, March 02, 2006

What Bush Was Told About Iraq

By Murray Waas
National Journal
Thursday, March 2, 2006

Two highly classified intelligence reports delivered directly to President Bush before the Iraq war cast doubt on key public assertions made by the president, Vice President Cheney, and other administration officials as justifications for invading Iraq and toppling Saddam Hussein, according to records and knowledgeable sources.

The president received highly classified intelligence reports containing information at odds with his justifications for going to war.

The first report, delivered to Bush in early October 2002, was a one-page summary of a National Intelligence Estimate that discussed whether Saddam's procurement of high-strength aluminum tubes was for the purpose of developing a nuclear weapon.

To read the full text, see National Journal