The longer the fiasco in Iraq drags on, the more we hear the folks who cooked up the idea of invading that sand dune republic denying that they had anything to do with it. Crooks and Liars provided this John Bolton quote from a press conference televised last week on CNN.
We did not violate the UN charter in the war to overthrow Saddam Hussein and that plan was not drawn…at the Project for the New American Century.
John’s memory must be slipping, what with all those responsibilities he has as Ambassador to the United Nations now. Maybe it’s time to help him refresh it.
Under the fold: a stroll down Selective Memory Lane…
Let’s take a hike down the PNAC Paper Trail.
June 3, 1997: PNAC issues its Statement of Principles. “American foreign and defense policy is adrift,” it states at the beginning, and goes on to criticize the Clinton administration. This document contains no specific mention of Iraq, but does admonish that, “America has a vital role in maintaining peace and security in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East,” and that “we need to increase defense spending significantly if we are to carry out our global responsibilities today and modernize our armed forces for the future[.]”
Among the signatories are Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz, as well as PNAC co-founders Bill Kristol and Robert Kagan.
January 19, 1998: John Bolton publishes “Congress Versus Iraq” in Bill Kristol’s Weekly Standard. He slams President Clinton for being soft on Iraq, and exhorts Congress to force Clinton into taking more aggressive action against Saddam Hussein.
January 26, 1998: PNAC sends a letter to President Clinton urging military action to remove the Saddam Hussein regime from power. A key passage states that if America continues its containment policy, “…the safety of American troops in the region, of our friends and allies like Israel and the moderate Arab states, and a significant portion of the world’s supply of oil will all be put at hazard.”
Keep that in mind the next time young Mister Bush says invading Iraq wasn’t about Israel or oil. (Please note that I have no problem with America keeping Israel under its protective umbrella. But we didn’t need to invade Iraq to do it.)
And, oh, one of the signatures on that letter belongs to a guy named John Bolton.
A copy of the letter appears in the Washington Post on January 27.
January 30, 1998: PNAC founders Bill Kristol and Robert Kagan publish “Bombing is not Enough” in the New York Times. “Saddam Hussein must go,” it says. “If Mr. Clinton is serious about protecting us and our allies from Iraqi biological and chemical weapons, he will order ground forces to the gulf. Four heavy divisions and two airborne divisions are available for deployment. The President should act, and Congress should support him in the only policy that can succeed.”
There’s no question: PNAC was specifically calling for an armed invasion of Iraq by ground forces. How many teams of lawyers do they need to talk their way around that?
February 2, 1998: Robert Kagan publishes “Saddam’s Impending Victory” in Bill Kristol’s Weekly Standard. Kagan again calls for removal of Hussein by force and compares him to Hitler.
February 26, 1998: Kristol and Kagan publish “A ‘Great Victory’ for Iraq” in the Washington Post. “Unless we are willing to live in a world where everyone has to ‘do business’ with Saddam and his weapons of mass destruction, we need to be willing to use U.S. air power and ground troops to get rid of him.”
March 9, 1998: Bolton publishes “Kofi Hour” in the Weekly Standard and criticizes the Clinton administration for working through the UN to deal with Hussein.
September 18, 1998: PNAC’s Paul Wolfowitz testifies before the House National Security Committee on Iraq during which he condemns the Clinton’s Iraq policy. “The Clinton Administration repeatedly makes excuses for its own weakness…”
September 28, 1998: Robert Kagan’s “A Way to Oust Saddam” appears in the Weekly Standard. “It has long been clear that the only way to rid the world of Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction is to rid Iraq of Saddam.”
November 16, 1998: An non-attributed editorial in the Weekly Standard titled “How to Attack Iraq” says, “It now seems fairly certain that some time in the next few weeks the Clinton administration will have to strike Iraq. There really are no acceptable alternatives.”
January 4, 1999: Robert Kagan’s “Saddam Wins-Again” appears in the Weekly Standard. More castigation of UN and Clinton administration efforts to contain Saddam Hussein.
There’s much more. You can read the entire PNAC literature on Iraq at the group’s website, starting here.
But let’s take a close look at two key PNAC documents from the 21st century.
Rebuilding America’s Defenses was published in September 2000, just before the presidential election that brought George W. Bush into power. This neoconservative manifesto revealed that the PNAC’s ambitions in the Middle East were only obliquely related to Saddam Hussein.
The United States has for decades sought to play a more permanent role in Gulf regional security. While the unresolved conflict with Iraq provides the immediate justification, the need for a substantial American force presence in the Gulf transcends the issue of the regime of Saddam Hussein. (Page 14.)
In other words, Hussein was merely the convenient excuse for establishing permanent military bases in the heart of the Middle East and controlling the flow of the region’s oil.
But the PNACers realized that the road to achieving their dream of a global American empire was “…likely to be a long one, absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event–like a new Pearl Harbor.” (Page 51.)
On September 11, 2001 PNAC got its Pearl Harbor, and a significant portion of its membership held key policy making posts in the Bush administration, some of the most notable among them being Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, and Bolton.
On September 20, nine days after the 9/11 attacks, PNAC wrote a letter to Mister Bush that said, “…even if evidence does not link Iraq directly to the attack, any strategy aiming at the eradication of terrorism and its sponsors must include a determined effort to remove Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq.”
DNA evidence couldn’t provide better proof that the PNAC formulated the Bush administration’s Iraq policy than the paper trail the PNAC itself provides. For Bolton to deny that the PNAC “planned” the Iraq invasion goes beyond irony, beyond the absurd, beyond the Orwellian.
There’s a temptation to shrug one’s shoulders and say, “Why dwell on this? It’s in the past.”
But it’s not in the past. We’re living with the neoconservative nightmare today and there’s no telling how long it will take to undo their damage, partly because they’re still in power and they’re still doing damage.