(AP) -- U.S. Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld
almost immediately urged President George W. Bush
to consider bombing Iraq after the Sept. 11, 2001,
terror attacks on New York and Washington, a former
senior administration counterterrorism aide says.
a forthcoming book, Richard Clarke, the White
House counterterrorism coordinator at the time,
recounts details of a meeting the day after the
terrorist attacks during which top officials considered
the U.S. response. Even then, he said, they were
certain that al-Qaeda was to blame and there was
no hint of Iraqi involvement.
was saying we needed to bomb Iraq," Mr. Clarke
said. "We all said, ëBut no, no, al-Qaeda
is in Afghanistan.'"
Clarke, who is expected to testify Tuesday before
a federal panel reviewing the attacks, said Mr.
Rumsfeld complained in the meeting that "there
aren't any good targets in Afghanistan and there
are lots of good targets in Iraq."
spokesman for Mr. Rumsfeld said he couldn't comment
Clarke makes the assertion in a book, "Against
All Enemies," that goes on sale Monday. He
told CBS News he believes the administration sought
to link Iraq with the attacks because of long-standing
interest in overthrowing Saddam Hussein. Mr. Clarke
appears Sunday night on the network's program
think they wanted to believe that there was a
connection" between Iraq and the al-Qaeda
attacks in the United States, Mr. Clarke said
in an interview segment that CBS broadcast Friday
evening. "There's just no connection. There's
absolutely no evidence that Iraq was supporting
Clarke also criticized Mr. Bush for promoting
the administration's efforts against terrorism,
accusing top Bush advisers of turning a blind
eye to terrorism during the first months of Mr.
Associated Press first reported in June 2002 that
Mr. Bush's national security leadership met formally
nearly 100 times in the months prior to the Sept.
11 attacks, yet terrorism was the topic during
only two of those sessions.
last of those two meetings occurred on Sept. 4
as the security council put finishing touches
on a proposed national security policy review
for the president. That review was finished on
Sept. 10 and was awaiting Mr. Bush's approval
when the first plane struck the World Trade Center.
I find it outrageous that the President is running
for re-election on the grounds that he's done
such great things about terrorism," Mr. Clarke
told CBS. "He ignored it. He ignored terrorism
for months, when maybe we could have done something."
have been earlier published accounts of the administration's
suspicion during the week after the 2001 attacks
that Iraq might have been involved, but none by
a direct participant in such senior-level meetings
and none that suggested there was a push to attack
Iraq so soon afterward.
discussion among Mr. Bush and Cabinet members
at Camp David. Md., on Sept. 16, for example,
included remarks about whether it was prudent
to attack Iraq after the terror attacks.
Bush told Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward
that he decided not to heed advice on Iraq by
some officials who also had served his father's
administration during the first Gulf War.
of the things I wasn't going to allow to happen
is, that we weren't going to let their previous
experience in this theatre dictate a rational
course for a new war," Mr. Bush told Mr.
Woodward for his 2002 book, Bush at War. He said
discussion later that day "was focused only
Clarke retired early in 2003 after 30 years in
government service. He was among the longest-serving
White House staffers, transferred in 1992 from
the State Department to deal with threats from
terrorism and narcotics.
Clarke previously led the government's secretive
Counterterrorism and Security Group, made up of
senior officials from the FBI, CIA, Justice Department
and armed services, who met several times each
week to discuss foreign threats.
2004 Bell Globemedia Publishing Inc. All Rights
Posted: March 22, 2004