Condi Rice on Sunday denied allegations by former CIA director George Tenet that Bush came into office determined to have a war against Iraq. This is the interview by Wolf Blitzer of CNN:
QUESTION: Because you remember Paul O'Neill, the first Treasury Secretary, where he wrote in his first book, The Price of Loyalty with Ron Suskind, and what Ron Suskind later wrote in his own book, The One Percent Solution, that the Bush Administration came in with a mindset to deal with what they called unfinished business with Saddam Hussein.
SECRETARY RICE: That is simply not true. The President came in looking at a variety of threats. We then had the September 11th events. The September 11th events led to a kind of reassessment of what the threats were. But in the entire period after the President became President, he was trying to put together an international coalition that could deal with Iraq, first by smart sanctions, smarter no-fly zones, then by challenging Saddam Hussein before the Security Council to meet the just demands of the Security Council, and ultimately by having to use military force. But this was an evolution of policy over a long period of time. Of course the President came in concerned about Iraq. President Clinton had used military force against Iraq in 1998. We had gone to war against Iraq in 1991. But the idea that the President had made up his mind when he came to office that he was going to go to war against Iraq is just flat wrong. '
But here is what Bush's ghost writer Mickey Herskowitz reports Bush saying during an interview when Bush was still governor of Texas in the late 1990s:
' “He was thinking about invading Iraq in 1999,
” said author and journalist Mickey Herskowitz. “It was on his mind. He said to me: ‘One of the keys to being seen as a great leader is to be seen as a commander-in-chief.’
And he said, ‘My father had all this political capital built up when he drove the Iraqis out of Kuwait and he wasted it.’ He said, ‘If I have a chance to invade….if I had that much capital, I’m not going to waste it. I’m going to get everything passed that I want to get passed and I’m going to have a successful presidency.”
So that was 1999.
Then we have this account from May, 2000
, by journalist Osama Siblani, who met with Bush in Troy, Michigan when he was campaigning for the Republican nomination:
' OSAMA SIBLANI: I met with the President, and he wanted to go to Iraq to search for weapons of mass destruction, and he considered the regime an imminent and gathering threat against the United States.
AMY GOODMAN: You met with the President of the United States?
OSAMA SIBLANI: Yes, when he was running for election in May of 2000 when he was a governor. He told me just straight to my face, among 12 or maybe 13 republicans at that time here in Michigan at the hotel. I think it was on May 17, 2000, even before he became the nominee for the Republicans. He told me that he was going to take him out, when we talked about Saddam Hussein in Iraq. . .
And then he said, ‘We have to talk about it later.’ But at that time he was not privy to any intelligence
, and the democrats had occupied the White House for the previous eight years. So, he was not privy to any intelligence whatsoever. He was not the official nominee of the Republican Party, so he didn't know what kind of situation the weapons of mass destruction was at that time.
Then let us come to January, 2001
, when the Supreme Court had installed Bush in power. Former Secretary of the Treasury Paul O'Neill wrote in his memoirs of the very first Bush cabinet meeting:
'"The hour almost up, Bush had assignments for everyone ... Rumsfeld and [Joint Chiefs chair Gen. H. Hugh] Shelton, he said, 'should examine our military options.' That included rebuilding the military coalition from the 1991 Gulf War, examining 'how it might look' to use U.S. ground forces in the north and the south of Iraq ... Ten days in, and it was about Iraq."
O'Neill specifically said that Bush instructed Rumsfeld to look at military options and how it might look to use US ground forces in the north and the south of Iraq.
How much clearer could it be that Tenet is absolutely right that there was never any serious debate about the merits of 'taking out Saddam' in Bush's inner circle?
For more evidence that the fix was in with regard to Bush and action against Iraq, see my "The Lies that Led to War" in Salon.com.