PLAN OF ATTACK: Countdown to War

U.S. Aimed for Hussein as War Began

By Bob Woodward
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, April 22, 2004

This is the last of five articles adapted from "Plan of Attack," a book by Bob Woodward that is a behind-the-scenes account of how and why President Bush decided to go to war against Iraq. Simon & Schuster. © 2004.

On the day President Bush led the United States to war in Iraq, he met with the National Security Council in the White House Situation Room, linked by secure video with Gen. Tommy R. Franks and nine of his senior commanders. It was the morning of Wednesday, March 19, 2003.

Franks, who was at Prince Sultan air base in Saudi Arabia, explained that each commander would brief the president.

"Do you have everything you need?" Bush asked Lt. Gen. T. Michael "Buzz" Moseley, the Air Force commander who was running the air operations out of Saudi Arabia. "Can you win?"

"My command and control is all up," Moseley said. "I've received and distributed the rules of engagement. I have no issues. I am in place and ready." He was careful not to promise outright victory. "I have everything we need to win."

"I'm ready," said Lt. Gen. David D. McKiernan, the Army ground commander. "We are moving into forward attack positions. Our logistics are in place. We have everything we need to win."

"Green across the board," said Vice Admiral Timothy J. Keating.

Bush repeated his questions to each of the other commanders. The answers were all affirmative, and got shorter each time.

"The rules of engagement and command and control are in place," Franks said. "The force is ready to go, Mr. President."

"For the peace of the world and the benefit and freedom of the Iraqi people," Bush said, "I hereby give the order to execute Operation Iraqi Freedom. May God bless the troops."

"May God bless America," Franks replied.

"We're ready to go," the president said. "Let's win it." He raised his hand in a salute to his commanders, and then abruptly stood and turned before the others could jump up. Tears welled up in his eyes, and in the eyes of some of the others as Bush left the room. When he reached the Oval Office, he went outside for a walk.

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