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For months the team at has been working on an exceptionally comprehensive timeline about the march to war in Iraq. We’re now finally ready to unveil it to you. Please check it out:

It boasts nearly a thousand entries, all fully linked to a wide array of original sources. The database is searchable too. I doubt there is anybody who cannot learn something from browsing through these pages. I’ve been amazed at the things I’ve found, and as with all good timelines we gain immensely by being able to follow threads as they develop from week to week. This section of the website is intended to facilitate research on the warmongering of the Bush administration. So please link to it, and spread the word.

To give you an idea of the richness of these sources we’ve collected, I’ll explore one link in particular that caught my eye–an article from the Observer that begins thusly: “America intends to depose Saddam Hussein by giving armed support to Iraqi opposition forces across the country.” The date is Dec. 2, 2001.

First, credit where due. Much of the work collecting, sifting, organizing, and formatting these sources goes to four members of our team in particular: Terre, Duke1676, topdog08, and highacidity. In fact earlier today Duke1676 posted a diary about the new timeline. The rest of us at have contributed as best we could to the effort.

We’re treating the timeline as a work in progress. Further entries are already being prepared to be added, and we hope that users will suggest other references we might include. You can always post these to the weblackey at, who will forward them to the rest of the team.

It is above all a research tool, and several studies based upon it are posted at the site. Some ‘Stories from the Timeline’ are linked on the timeline’s main page, one here and another here, while others are posted at the [ Blog]. Together they give a good idea of the kinds of things that can be done with the information available.


One of the things that is most striking about the timeline is the degree to which Bush Co. was obsessed with ousting Saddam Hussein even before 9/11. See this overview at the Blog. About a month beforehand, for example, they ordered two large air attacks inside Iraq, as this entry and this one document. The US was also sending unmanned spy planes over Iraq, two of which were shot down in a short period–one on the very day of Sept. 11, 2001. That helps to explain Bush’s certainty on 9/11 that the terrorist attack could be linked to Hussein.

In the following months, the actual pressure on Iraq was alleviated briefly, but Bush’s fixation on ousting Hussein never relents. In late November with the collapse of the Taliban, the drumbeat for war in Iraq picks up. It looked like a headlong rush to war, and reports in several US and UK newspapers reflected that. Here are some excerpts from the 12/2/01 report in the Observer Secret US plan for Iraq war.

President George W. Bush has ordered the CIA and his senior military commanders to draw up detailed plans for a military operation that could begin within months.

The plan, opposed by Tony Blair and other European Union leaders, threatens to blow apart the increasingly shaky international consensus behind the US-led ‘war on terrorism’.

It envisages a combined operation with US bombers targeting key military installations while US forces assist opposition groups in the North and South of the country in a stage-managed uprising. One version of the plan would have US forces fighting on the ground.

Despite US suspicions of Iraqi involvement in the 11 September attacks, the trigger for any attack, sources say, would be the anticipated refusal of Iraq to resubmit to inspections for weapons of mass destruction under the United Nations sanctions imposed after the Gulf war.

According to the sources, the planning is being undertaken under the auspices of a the US Central Command at McDill air force base in Tampa, Florida, commanded by General Tommy Franks, who is leading the war against Afghanistan.


The New York Times yesterday quoted a senior administration official who admitted that Bush’s aides were looking at options that involved strengthening groups that opposed Saddam. Richard Armitage, the Deputy Secretary of State, said that action against Iraq was not imminent, but would come at a ‘place and time of our choosing’.

Washington has been told by its allies that evidence it has presented of an Iraqi link to 11 September is at best circumstantial. However, US proponents of extending the war believe they can make the case for hitting Saddam’s regime over its plan to produce weapons of mass destruction.

A European diplomat said last week: ‘In the past week the Americans have shut up about Iraqi links to 11 September and have been talking a lot more about their weapons programme.’

The US is believed to be planning to exploit existing UN resolutions on Iraqi weapons programmes to set the action off.


Opposition by Blair and French President Jacques Chirac may not be enough to dissuade the Americans. One European military source who recently returned from General Franks’s headquarters in Florida said: ‘The Americans are walking on water. They think they can do anything at the moment and there is bloody nothing Tony [Blair] can do about it.’

Bush is said to have issued instructions about the proposals, which are now at a detailed stage, to his Defence Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, three weeks ago.

This is pretty bracing stuff. First off, the Observer’s references here to US planning are backed up by other entries in the timeline from the fall of 2001. See for example the story in USA Today from Nov. 19, and this report by Bob Woodward on 60 Minutes that Bush demanded on Nov. 21 to see the plan to invade Iraq. See also the entry from Dec. 1, 2001, excerpted from Woodward’s Plan of Attack. We also see that the Observer is right that Franks was put in charge of drawing up an invasion plan, and that the administration did indeed shift from accusing Hussein of 9/11 to banging the WMD drum in the last weeks of November.

All together, the factual statements in the Observer report that we can check turn out to be consistently accurate. Therefore the reporters had very good sources of information and used them well. One of them, the “European military source” sounds very British to me.


That brings me to the other, larger issues raised by the Observer for which we do not yet have other good contemporary sources. I’d point to three things in particular. First, the Bush administration was already contemplating what we see Tony Blair urging in mid-2002, the `UN route’ to `wrong-foot’ Hussein with a cynical demand for weapons inspections. It seems that Bush lost interest in that sometime in the following months, but not before the British Ambassador in DC, Christopher Meyer, picked up the signal and transmitted the idea back to the UK, where it gestated again. Eventually Blair convinced Bush to return to the UN route.

Secondly, Blair was at this stage still in the European camp opposed to an invasion of Iraq. This is partly confirmed by Blair’s oblique response to Bush’s appeal for support over dinner on Sept. 20, 2001. According to the Guardian, “President George Bush first asked Tony Blair to support the removal of Saddam Hussein from power at a private White House dinner nine days after the terror attacks of 11 September, 2001. According to Sir Christopher Meyer, the former British Ambassador to Washington, who was at the dinner, Blair told Bush he should not get distracted from the war on terror’s initial goal – dealing with the Taliban and al-Qaeda in Afghanistan.”

So how was Blair flipped? The “European military source in the Observer provides a clue. The Bush administration thought they could do no wrong and were listening to nobody who opposed them over Iraq. This conforms to what Robin Cook said over and over in recent years, that Blair went along with Bush because he thought that was the only way he would be able to influence him. The sad thing is that the only likely way to have had influence was to have remained firm against the invasion. Blair provided just enough cover for Bush Co. that they were able to portray the invasion as something other than delusional and dangerous.

And thirdly, note how badly the planning went awry after this point in Dec. 2001. At that stage, the main plan for overthrowing Hussein involved supporting Iraqi opposition groups with air support. Sending in ground troops was still considered an alternative option. I wonder whose bright idea it was to focus on invading Iraq and abandon the attempt to promote Hussein’s overthrow from within? I suspect it must have been the same people who had just begun banging the WMD drum. In other words, Blair was somehow flipped by this gang in DC just as it was moving from a poor and ill-founded plan to topple Hussein, to what became a disastrous recipe for a quagmire in Iraq.

As with so many things connected to George Bush, the more we learn about how his policies evolved, the more we have to ask `Why?’.

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