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Decision Iraq

Question: Had the president already passed his last decision point when he ordered such a large military deployment and such extensive CIA covert action to support the military?

13. Around this time, in January 2003, Rumsfeld told the president that he was losing his options, and that after he asked U.S. allies to commit forces, it would not be feasible to back off. Rumsfeld asked to brief the Saudi ambassador, Prince Bandar bin Sultan. Vice President Cheney, Gen. Richard Myers and Rumsfeld briefed Bandar on Jan. 11, 2003, telling him "You can count on this" -- i.e., war.



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Questions: Do you agree with Rumsfeld's assessment? Andy Card, the Bush White House chief of staff, thought the decision to go to war was not irrevocable, that Bush could pull back, though the consequences would be politically expensive. How does a president credibly threaten force without taking steps that make the use of force almost inevitable? Should foreign governments be briefed in this way?

14. On Jan. 13, 2003, the director of the National Security Agency, Lt. Gen. Michael Hayden, issued a formal director's intent on how to support Gen. Franks in a war with Iraq. Previously, on his own, Hayden had reallocated some $300 million to $400 million of NSA funds to Iraq-specific signals intelligence programs to support a war without the specific knowledge or approval of either Rumsfeld, Tenet or Bush.

Questions: Was this good planning? What would be the procedures for such decisions in a Kerry administration?

15. On Jan. 20, 2003 (two months before the war), the president signed National Security Presidential Directive 24 to set up the office for reconstruction for Iraq.

Question: What do you think of the timing of this?

16. On Feb. 7, 2003 (six weeks before war started), French President Jacques Chirac called the president and was very conciliatory. He said, "If there is a war, we'll work together on reconstruction. We will all contribute. I fully understand your position is different. There are two different moral approaches to the world and I respect yours." Bush was optimistic but took no action.

Question: What would a President Kerry have done about this conciliatory statement?

17. On March 17, 2003, concluding that Saddam was stalling and lying, Bush ordered war while U.N. weapons inspectors were still in Iraq.

Questions: Was this decision right or premature? Was there any other action, short of war, that would have effectively increased pressure on Saddam?

18. On Sept. 30, 2003 (six months after the start of the war), British Prime Minister Tony Blair told his annual Labor Party conference that he had received letters from parents whose sons were killed in the Iraq war, saying that they hated him. "And don't believe anyone who tells you when they receive letters like that they don't suffer any doubt," Blair said. President Bush has said emphatically that he has no such doubts.

Questions: Can a president afford to have doubt in a time of war? What is the role of doubt in presidential decision-making?

19. Secretary of State Powell has said that he believed Cheney had a "fever," an unhealthy fixation on al Qaeda and Iraq that caused him to misread and exaggerate intelligence and the threat. In Powell's view, Cheney and others -- Paul Wolfowitz, the deputy secretary of defense, vice presidential chief of staff Scooter Libby and Douglas J. Feith, undersecretary of defense for policy -- were part of "a separate little government."


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