The Raw Story
The Path of War Timeline - By Larisa Alexandrovna and Muriel Kane, Raw Story
Section Date Description

A Policy Without a Home


January 26, 1998 The Project for a New American Century urges President Clinton to oust Saddam Hussein. Among the eighteen signers are Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz and John Bolton. (New American Century)
May-July 1999

In 1999, Mickey Herskowitz is hired to ghostwrite a campaign autobiography for George W. Bush, an assignment that was later withdrawn. Herskowitz later spoke about Bush for an article by journalist Russ Baker: “He was thinking about invading Iraq in 1999... 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.’ ”

"According to Herskowitz, Bush’s beliefs on Iraq were based in part on a notion dating back to the Reagan White House – ascribed in part to now-vice president Dick Cheney, Chairman of the House Republican Policy Committee under Reagan. “Start a small war. Pick a country where there is justification you can jump on, go ahead and invade.”

"Bush’s circle of pre-election advisers had a fixation on the political capital that British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher collected from the Falklands War. Said Herskowitz: “They were just absolutely blown away, just enthralled by the scenes of the troops coming back, of the boats, people throwing flowers at [Thatcher] and her getting these standing ovations in Parliament and making these magnificent speeches.” (Guerrilla News Network)

December 1999 In December 1999, "Bush surprises veteran political chroniclers with his blunt pronouncements about Saddam at a six-way New Hampshire primary event: “It was a gaffe-free evening for the rookie front-runner, till he was asked about Saddam’s weapons stash,” a Boston Globe reporter penned. ‘I’d take ‘em out,’ [Bush] grinned cavalierly, ‘take out the weapons of mass destruction…I’m surprised he’s still there,” said Bush of the despot who remains in power after losing the Gulf War to Bush Jr.’s father… It remains to be seen if that offhand declaration of war was just Texas talk, a sort of locker room braggadocio, or whether it was Bush’s first big clinker.” (Boston Globe; Also Russ Baker)
September 2000

The Project for a New American Century's "Rebuilding America's Defenses" states: Though the immediate mission of those forces is to enforce the no-fly zones over northern and southern Iraq, they represent the long-term commitment of the United States and its major allies to a region of vital importance. Indeed, 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. (New American Century)

January 2001
From the moment he took office, Bush made noises about "finishing the job his father started." (Time Magazine)

George Bush’s former treasury secretary Paul O’Neill asserts that Bush took office in January 2001 fully intending to invade Iraq and desperate to find an excuse for pre-emptive war against Saddam Hussein. “From the very beginning, there was a conviction that Saddam Hussein was a bad person and that he needed to go,” O’Neill said. “For me, the notion of pre-emption, that the US has the unilateral right to do whatever we decide to do, is a really huge leap.” (Sunday Herald)

Testifying at his Senate confirmation hearing former General Colin Powell, who was chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff during the Gulf War, said Bush wanted to “re-energize the sanctions regime” and increase support to Iraqi groups trying to overthrow Hussein. Powell also said Hussein, “is not going to be around in a few years time.” (Air Force Magazine Online)

Vice President Dick Cheney, who was defense secretary during the war against Iraq, has also suggested a Bush administration might “have to take military action to forcibly remove Saddam from power,” as has current Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. (Cato Institute)

February 16, 2001 Twenty-four US and UK warplanes bomb sites near Baghdad. Bombings within the no-fly zones have previously been common, but these are more widely noted and criticized. (CNN)
April 2001

Cheney's energy task force takes interest in Iraq's oil. Strategic Energy Policy Challenges For The 21st Century describes America's "biggest energy crisis in its history." It targets Saddam as a threat to American interests because of his control of Iraqi oilfields and recommends the use of 'military intervention.'

The report is linked to a veritable who's who of US hawks, oilmen and corporate bigwigs. Commissioned by James Baker, the former US Secretary of State under Bush Sr., it was submitted to Vice-President Dick Cheney in April 2001 -- a full five months before September 11. It advocated a policy of using military force against an enemy such as Iraq to secure US access and control of Middle Eastern oil fields. (Sunday Herald)

Exploiting Tragedy September 2001 - February 2002  
September 11, 2001

In his address to the nation on the evening of Sept. 11, Bush decides to include a tough new passage about punishing those who harbor terrorists. He announces that the U.S. will "make no distinction between the terrorists who committed these acts and those who harbor them." To many observers, the president's words set the tone and direction for the Bush administration's policy on Afghanistan and Iraq. (PBS)

September 12, 2001
According to Richard A. Clarke: "I expected to go back to a round of meetings [after September 11] examining what the next attacks could be, what our vulnerabilities were, what we could do about them in the short term. Instead, I walked into a series of discussions about Iraq... I realized with almost a sharp physical pain that Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz were going to try to take advantage of this national tragedy to promote their agenda about Iraq...By the afternoon on Wednesday [after Sept. 11], Secretary Rumsfeld was talking about broadening the objectives of our response and "getting Iraq."

"On September 12th, I left the video conferencing center and there, wandering alone around the situation room, was the president. He looked like he wanted something to do. He grabbed a few of us and closed the door to the conference room. "Look," he told us, "I know you have a lot to do and all, but I want you, as soon as you can, to go back over everything, everything. See if Saddam did this. See if he's linked in any way."

"I was once again taken aback, incredulous, and it showed. "But, Mr. President, Al Qaeda did this."

"I know, I know, but - see if Saddam was involved. Just look. I want to know any shred--" On the Issues ("Against All Enemies: Inside America's War on Terror," by Richard A. Clarke)

September 13, 2001

Two days later, Wolfowitz expands on the president's words at a Pentagon briefing. He seems to signal that the U.S. will enlarge its campaign against terror to include Iraq: "I think one has to say it's not just simply a matter of capturing people and holding them accountable, but removing the sanctuaries, removing the support systems, ending states who sponsor terrorism. And that's why it has to be a broad and sustained campaign."

Colin Powell and others are alarmed by what they view as Wolfowitz's inflammatory words about "ending states." Powell later responds during a press briefing: "We're after ending terrorism. And if there are states and regimes, nations that support terrorism, we hope to persuade them that it is in their interest to stop doing that. But I think ending terrorism is where I would like to leave it, and let Mr. Wolfowitz speak for himself." (PBS)

September 15, 2001

Four days after the Sept. 11 attacks, Bush gathers his national security team at Camp David for a war council. Wolfowitz argues that now is the perfect time to move against state sponsors of terrorism, including Iraq. But Powell tells the president that an international coalition would only come together for an attack on Al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan, not an invasion of Iraq. The war council votes with Powell. Rumsfeld abstains. The president decides that the war's first phase will be Afghanistan. Iraq will be reconsidered later. (PBS)

September 16, 2001 According to a 60 Minutes piece, citing Bob Woodward: "just five days after Sept. 11, President Bush indicated to Condoleezza Rice that while he had to do Afghanistan first, he was also determined to do something about Saddam Hussein. "There's some pressure to go after Saddam Hussein. Don Rumsfeld has said, ‘This is an opportunity to take out Saddam Hussein, perhaps. We should consider it.’ And the president says to Condi Rice meeting head to head, ‘We won't do Iraq now.’ But it is a question we're gonna have to return to,’” says Woodward. (CBS News)
October 2001
The New Yorker's Seymour Hersh writes: "They call themselves, self-mockingly, the Cabal—a small cluster of policy advisers and analysts now based in the Pentagon’s Office of Special Plans. In the past year, according to former and present Bush Administration officials, their operation, which was conceived by Paul Wolfowitz, the Deputy Secretary of Defense, has brought about a crucial change of direction in the American intelligence community. These advisers and analysts, who began their work in the days after September 11, 2001, have produced a skein of intelligence reviews that have helped to shape public opinion and American policy toward Iraq. They relied on data gathered by other intelligence agencies and also on information provided by the Iraqi National Congress, or I.N.C., the exile group headed by Ahmad Chalabi.

According to the Pentagon adviser, Special Plans was created in order to find evidence of what Wolfowitz and his boss, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, believed to be true—that Saddam Hussein had close ties to Al Qaeda, and that Iraq had an enormous arsenal of chemical, biological, and possibly even nuclear weapons that threatened the region and, potentially, the United States. (New Yorker)

Also according to Seymour Hersh, in the fall of 2001, an unsupported allegation by Italian intelligence that Iraq had been attempting to buy uranium from Niger in 1999 was snatched up by Cheney:

Sometime after he first saw it, Cheney brought it up at his regularly scheduled daily briefing from the C.I.A., Martin said. “He asked the briefer a question. The briefer came back a day or two later and said, ‘We do have a report, but there’s a lack of details.’ ” The Vice-President was further told that it was known that Iraq had acquired uranium ore from Niger in the early nineteen-eighties but that that material had been placed in secure storage by the I.A.E.A., which was monitoring it. “End of story,” Martin added. “That’s all we know.” According to a former high-level C.I.A. official, however, Cheney was dissatisfied with the initial response, and asked the agency to review the matter once again. It was the beginning of what turned out to be a year-long tug-of-war between the C.I.A. and the Vice-President’s office. (New Yorker)

November 21, 2001

60 Minutes further cites Bob Woodward: “President Bush, after a National Security Council meeting, takes Don Rumsfeld aside, collars him physically, and takes him into a little cubbyhole room and closes the door and says, ‘What have you got in terms of plans for Iraq? What is the status of the war plan? I want you to get on it. I want you to keep it secret.’"

Woodward says immediately after that, Rumsfeld told Gen. Tommy Franks to develop a war plan to invade Iraq and remove Saddam - and that Rumsfeld gave Franks a blank check," Woodward says. (CBS News)

Late 2001 By the end of 2001, diplomats were discussing how to enlist the support of Arab allies, the military was sharpening its troop estimates, and the communications team was plotting how to sell an attack to the American public. The whole purpose of putting Iraq into Bush's State of the Union address, as part of the "axis of evil," was to begin the debate about a possible invasion. (Time Magazine)
January 29, 2002 In his State of the Union Adress, Bush calls Iraq part of an "axis of evil," and vows that the U.S. "will not permit the world's most dangerous regimes to threaten us with the world's most destructive weapons." (White House)
February 13, 2002

Ken Adelman, a onetime assistant to Donald Rumsfeld, writes that the conquest of Iraq would be a cakewalk: "I believe demolishing Hussein's military power and liberating Iraq would be a cakewalk. Let me give simple, responsible reasons: (1) It was a cakewalk last time; (2) they've become much weaker; (3) we've become much stronger; and (4) now we're playing for keeps...

In 1991 we engaged a grand international coalition because we lacked a domestic coalition. Virtually the entire Democratic leadership stood against that President Bush. The public, too, was divided. This President Bush does not need to amass rinky-dink nations as "coalition partners" to convince the Washington establishment that we're right. Americans of all parties now know we must wage a total war on terrorism. (Washington Post)

January-February 2002

The Niger uranium story becomes a matter of contention within the CIA; By early 2002, the intelligence—still unverified—had begun to play a role in the Administration’s warnings about the Iraqi nuclear threat. On January 30th, the C.I.A. published an unclassified report to Congress that stated, “Baghdad may be attempting to acquire materials that could aid in reconstituting its nuclear-weapons program.” A week later, Colin Powell told the House International Relations Committee, “With respect to the nuclear program, there is no doubt that the Iraqis are pursuing it.” (New Yorker)

By early 2002 U.S. Ambassador to Niger Barbro Owens-Kirkpatrick was asked about Iraq-Niger uranium trade; she informed Washington that there was no basis to suspect any link. Then Cheney's office decided to investigate the letters' substance. Former U.S. ambassador to Gabon, Joseph C. Wilson (a man of exceptionally distinguished diplomatic career), was (in his words) "invited out to meet with a group of people at the CIA who were interested in this subject" and agreed to investigate the content of the documents, which he had not seen. He left for Niger in February, and made an oral report in March.

Meanwhile, during the same month, a four-star U.S. general, Marine Gen. Carlton W. Fulford Jr., deputy commander of the U-S European Command (the headquarters responsible for military relations with most of sub-Saharan Africa) also visited Niger at the request of the U.S. ambassador. He met with Niger's president February 24 and emphasized the importance of tight controls over its uranium ore deposits. According to MSNBC, he also visited the country two months later. This year, Fulford told the Washington Post that he had come away convinced that Niger's uranium stocks were secure. (CounterPunch)

Fixing the Intelligence March - August 2002
  March 2002

Seymour Hersh writes: "By early March, 2002, a former White House official told me, it was understood by many in the White House that the President had decided, in his own mind, to go to war... The Bush Administration took many intelligence operations that had been aimed at Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups around the world and redirected them to the Persian Gulf... Chalabi’s defector reports were now flowing from the Pentagon directly to the Vice-President’s office, and then on to the President, with little prior evaluation by intelligence professionals. (New Yorker)

" F___ Saddam. we're taking him out." Those were the words of President George W. Bush, who had poked his head into the office of Condoleezza Rice. It was March 2002, and Rice was meeting with three U.S. Senators, discussing how to deal with Iraq through the United Nations, or perhaps in a coalition with America's Middle East allies. Bush wasn't interested. He waved his hand dismissively, recalls a participant, and neatly summed up his Iraq policy in that short phrase. The Senators laughed uncomfortably; Rice flashed a knowing smile. (Time Magazine)

Dick Cheney carried the same message to Capitol Hill in late March. The Vice President dropped by a Senate Republican policy lunch soon after his 10-day tour of the Middle East — the one meant to drum up support for a U.S. military strike against Iraq... Before he spoke, he said no one should repeat what he said, and Senators and staff members promptly put down their pens and pencils. Then he gave them some surprising news. The question was no longer if the U.S. would attack Iraq, he said. The only question was when. (Time Magazine)

As early as March 2002, Blair's foreign policy adviser, Sir David Manning, assured Condoleezza Rice of Blair's deadset support for "regime change." Days later, Sir Christopher Meyer, then British ambassador to the US, sent a dispatch to Downing Street detailing how he repeated the commitment to Paul Wolfowitz, the US Deputy Defence Secretary. The ambassador added that Mr Blair would need a "cover" for any military action. "I then went through the need to wrongfoot Saddam on the inspectors and the UN Security Council resolutions." (Raw Story: Manning; Raw Story: Meyer)

Manning returned from talks in Washington warning that Bush "still has to find answers to the big questions," which included "what happens on the morning after?... They may agree that failure isn't an option, but this does not mean they will necessarily avoid it." The Cabinet Office said that the US believed that the legal basis for war already existed and had lost patience with the policy of containment. (Telegraph)

March 12-13, 2002

Manning meets with Condoleeza Rice. On March 14, he reports to Blair: "I said that you would not budge in your support for regime change but you had to manage a press, a Parliament and a public opinion that was very different than anything in the States. . . . Condi's enthusiasm for regime change is undimmed. But there were some signs, since we last spoke, of greater awareness of the practical difficulties and political risks." (Raw Story PDF)

March 17, 2002

Sir Christopher Meyer, British ambassador to the US, meets with Paul Wolfowitz. The next day, he reports to Manning: "On Iraq I opened by sticking very closely to the script that you used with Condi rice last week. We backed regime change, but the plan had to be clever and failure was not an option. It would be a tough sell for us domestically, and probably tougher elsewhere in Europe. The US could go it alone if it wanted to. But if it wanted to act with partners, here had to be a strategy for building support for military action against Saddam. I then went through the need to wrongfoot Saddam on the inspectors." (PDF of memo; More at Telegraph)

March 8-25, 2002

Several leaked documents show the British government considering the implications of shifting from an Iraq policy based on containment to one of regime change, along with considerations to be addressed in supporting Bush's objectives. A memo from the British Foreign Secretary states: "The rewards from your visit to Crawford will be few. The risks are high, both for you and for the Government. I just that there is at present no majority inside the PLP for any military action against Iraq ...A legal justification is a necessary but far from sufficient precondition for military action. We have also to answer the big question - what will this action achieve?" (Iraq Options Paper - P F Ricketts Memo - Jack Straw Memo)

May 2002

"Rumsfeld has been so determined to find a rationale for an attack that on 10 separate occasions he asked the CIA to find evidence linking Iraq to the terror attacks of Sept. 11. The intelligence agency repeatedly came back empty-handed. The best hope for Iraqi ties to the attack — a report that lead hijacker Mohamed Atta met with an Iraqi intelligence official in the Czech Republic — was discredited last week.

"The White House's biggest fear is that U.N. weapons inspectors will be allowed to go in," says a top Senate foreign policy aide. (Time Magazine)

Throughout this period, and into 2003, Mr Blair was insisting in public that war was not inevitable. In May 2002 he said Iraq would be "in a far better position" without Saddam, but added: "Does that mean that military action is imminent or about to happen? No. We've never said that." (The Independent)

US/UK bombing of Iraq intensifies: Despite strict No-Fly Zone guildeines, Rumsfeld had ordered a more aggressive approach What was going on? There were very strict rules of engagement in the no-fly zones. Rumsfeld later said this was simply to prevent the Iraqis attacking allied aircraft, but a British Foreign Officers' remark told more: In reality, the "spikes of activity" were designed "to put pressure on the regime." (Sunday Times)

May 2002 Karen Kwiatkowski says: "From May 2002 until February 2003, I observed firsthand the formation of the Pentagon's Office of Special Plans and watched the latter stages of the neoconservative capture of the policy-intelligence nexus in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq... I saw a narrow and deeply flawed policy favored by some executive appointees in the Pentagon used to manipulate and pressurize the traditional relationship between policymakers in the Pentagon and U.S. intelligence agencies. I witnessed neoconservative agenda bearers within OSP usurp measured and carefully considered assessments, and through suppression and distortion of intelligence analysis promulgate what were in fact falsehoods to both Congress and the executive office of the president. (Salon)
June 1, 2002 In a speech at West Point, Bush commits the United States to a doctrine of preemption: "Our security will require all Americans…[to] be ready for preemptive action when necessary to defend our liberty and to defend our lives." (White House)
July 21, 2002

Cabinet Office paper: Conditions for military action: "1. The US Government's military planning for action against Iraq is proceeding apace. But, as yet, it lacks a political framework. In particular, little thought has been given to creating the political conditions for military action, or the aftermath and how to shape it.

2. When the Prime Minister discussed Iraq with President Bush at Crawford in April he said that the UK would support military action to bring about regime change, provided that certain conditions were met: efforts had been made to construct a coalition/shape public opinion, the Israel-Palestine Crisis was quiescent, and the options for action to eliminate Iraq's WMD through the UN weapons inspectors had been exhausted.

3. We need now to reinforce this message and to encourage the US Government to place its military planning within a political framework, partly to forestall the risk that military action is precipitated in an unplanned way by, for example, an incident in the No Fly Zones. This is particularly important for the UK because it is necessary to create the conditions in which we could legally support military action. Otherwise we face the real danger that the US will commit themselves to a course of action which we would find very difficult to support. (Sunday Times)

July 23, 2002

From The Downing Street Memo, minutes of an official high-level meeting between British and American officials: British intel MI6 director Sir Richard Dearlove "reported on his recent talks in Washington... Military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy. The NSC had no patience with the UN route, and no enthusiasm for publishing material on the Iraqi regime's record. There was little discussion in Washington of the aftermath after military action.

"The Defense Secretary said that the US had already begun "spikes of activity" to put pressure on the regime. No decisions had been taken, but he thought the most likely timing in US minds for military action to begin was January, with the timeline beginning 30 days before the US Congressional elections.

"It seemed clear that Bush had made up his mind to take military action, even if the timing was not yet decided. But the case was thin. Saddam was not threatening his neighbours, and his WMD capability was less than that of Libya, North Korea or Iran. We should work up a plan for an ultimatum to Saddam to allow back in the UN weapons inspectors. This would also help with the legal justification for the use of force. (Raw Story; via Sunday Times)

MINISTERS were warned in July 2002 that Britain was committed to taking part in an American-led invasion of Iraq and they had no choice but to find a way of making it legal. The warning, in a leaked Cabinet Office briefing paper, said Tony Blair had already agreed to back military action to get rid of Saddam Hussein at a summit at the Texas ranch of President George W Bush three months earlier. The briefing paper, for participants at a meeting of Blair’s inner circle on July 23, 2002, said that since regime change was illegal it was “necessary to create the conditions” which would make it legal. . . .

“It is just possible that an ultimatum could be cast in terms which Saddam would reject,” the document says. But if he accepted it and did not attack the allies, they would be “most unlikely” to obtain the legal justification they needed. Suggestions that the allies use the UN to justify war contradicts claims by Blair and Bush, repeated during their Washington summit in June, 2005, that they turned to the UN in order to avoid having to go to war. (Sunday Times)

Late July 2002 "At the end of July 2002, they need $700 million, a large amount of money for all these tasks. And the president approves it. But Congress doesn't know and it is done. They get the money from a supplemental appropriation for the Afghan War, which Congress has approved. …Some people are gonna look at a document called the Constitution which says that no money will be drawn from the Treasury unless appropriated by Congress. Congress was totally in the dark on this." (CBS News)
August 2, 2002 Scott Ritter states: “Are the weapons that were loaded up with VX destroyed? Yes. Is the equipment used to produce VX on a large scale destroyed? Yes.

“The fact Tony Blair cannot put on the table any substantive facts about a re-constituted Iraqi chemical weapons programme is proof positive that no such evidence exists.” (Tribune)
August 7, 2002 Cheney says of Saddam Hussein, “What we know now, from various sources, is that he... continues to pursue a nuclear weapon.” (New Yorker)
August 2002

U.S., UK conduct secret bombing campaign. "The [air] attacks were intensified from May, six months before the United Nations resolution that Tony Blair and Lord Goldsmith, the attorney-general, argued gave the coalition the legal basis for war. By the end of August the raids had become a full air offensive. (Sunday Times)

Powell reports trouble getting U.S. allies on board for a war with Iraq... As Bush leaves for an August vacation in Crawford, Texas, he agrees to take his case to the U.N. and asks his advisers to start preparing the speech. (PBS)

August 26, 2002 Cheney suggests Saddam had a nuclear capability that could directly threaten “anyone he chooses, in his own region or beyond.” (New Yorker)
September 5, 2002 When It became clear that Saddam Hussein would not provide justification to launch the air war, the U.S. and UK launched it anyway, beneath the cloak of the no-fly zone. More than a hundred allied aircraft attacked the H-3 airfield, Iraq's main air defence site. At the furthest extreme of the southern no-fly zone, far away from the areas that needed to be patrolled to prevent attacks on the Shias, it was destroyed not because it was a threat to the patrols, but to allow allied special forces operating from Jordan to enter Iraq undetected.  (New Statesman)
September 8, 2002 Cheney tells a TV interviewer, “We do know, with absolute certainty, that [Saddam] is using his procurement system to acquire the equipment he needs in order to enrich uranium to build a nuclear weapon.”

Condoleezza Rice says, “We don’t want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud”—a formulation that was taken up by hawks in the Administration. (New Yorker)

September 9, 2002 The International Institute for Strategic Studies releases a report that says Iraq was, "only months away if it were able to get hold of weapons grade uranium . . . from a foreign source." The IISS had bad information. Their argument was compounded by a UK Dossier that relied on the IISS report. (US News)
September 14,2002 Bush says, “Saddam Hussein has the scientists and infrastructure for a nuclear-weapons program, and has illicitly sought to purchase the equipment needed to enrich uranium for a nuclear weapon.” There was no confirmed intelligence for the President’s assertion. (New Yorker)
September 16, 2002 Iraq unconditionally accepts the return of UN inspectors. (BBC)
September 17, 2002 Bush's National Security Strategy asserts that the US will never again allow its military supremacy to be challenged and embracesunilateral preemptive military strikes. (White House)
September 19, 2002 Washington Post cites the IISS report to show that the aluminum tubes sought by Iraq were unlikely to have been intended for a nuclear program.  (Washington Post)
September 24, 2002 George Tenet and other senior intelligence officials brief the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Iraq’s weapons capability as Congress prepares to vote on authorizing war in Iraq.  According to Seymou Hersh, this briefing includes claims about both the aluminum tubes and the Niger uranium.  Two days later, Colin Powell will also cite the Niger uranium before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.  (New Yorker)
September 24, 2002
(the "sexed up" dossier)
Tony Blair is convinced new sources of intelligence from inside Iraq provide "persuasive and overwhelming" evidence that Saddam Hussein is reassembling and expanding his weapons programme... Blair is confident that the 55-page dossier on weapons of mass destruction will convince many doubters. He told colleagues: "Saddam is developing his weapons programme and doing it as fast as he can." (Guardian)
September 26, 2002
Rice says Qaeda operatives have found refuge in Baghdad, and accuses Hussein of helping Osama bin Laden's followers develop chemical weapons. (CBS News)
Runup to War October 2002 - March 2003 
  October 2002 Seymour Hersh writes: "A set of documents suddenly appeared that promised to provide solid evidence that Iraq was attempting to reconstitute its nuclear program. The first notice of the documents’ existence came when Elisabetta Burba, a reporter for Panorama, a glossy Italian weekly owned by the publishing empire of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, received a telephone call from an Italian businessman and security consultant whom she believed to have once been connected to Italian intelligence. He told her that he had information connecting Saddam Hussein to the purchase of uranium in Africa.

She wanted to arrange a visit to Niger to verify what seemed to be an astonishing story. At that point, however, Panorama’s editor-in-chief, Carlo Rossella, who is known for his ties to the Berlusconi government, told Burba to turn the documents over to the American Embassy for authentication. Burba dutifully took a copy of the papers to the Embassy on October 9th.

George Tenet clearly was ambivalent about the information: in early October, he intervened to prevent the President from referring to Niger in a speech in Cincinnati. But Tenet then seemed to give up the fight, and Saddam’s desire for uranium from Niger soon became part of the Administration’s public case for going to war. (New Yorker)

October 10, 2002 Congress passes the Joint Resolution to Authorize the Use of United States Armed Forces Against Iraq.  (White House)
October 22, 2002

In October 2002, in a notable front-page article titled "For Bush, Facts Are Malleable" (10/22/02), Washington Post reporter Dana Milbank noted two dubious Bush claims about Iraq: his citing of a United Nations International Atomic Energy report alleging that Iraq was "six months away" from developing a nuclear weapon; and that Iraq maintained a growing fleet of unmanned aircraft that could be used, inBush's words, "for missions targeting the United States." While these assertions "were powerful arguments for the actions Bush sought," Milbank concluded they "were dubious, if not wrong. Further information revealed that the aircraft lack the range to reach the United States" and "there was no such report by the IAEA." (FAIR)

November 8, 2002 The UN Security Council unanimously approves resolution 1441 imposing tough new arms inspections on Iraq and requiring Iraq to declare all weapons of mass destruction and account for known chemical weapons material stockpiles on pain of "serious consequences."  Iraq accepts the terms of the resolution and UN inspectors return.  (Iraqwatch)
November 15, 2002 The Committee for the Liberation of Iraq is formed "to promote regional peace, political freedom and international security through replacement of the Saddam Hussein regime with a democratic government."  An offshoot of the Project for a New American Century, it has close ties to Ahmed Chalabi and is dedicated to promoting the Bush administration's Iraq policies.  (CounterPunch)
December 2, 2002

The British government is accused of double standards yesterday after launching a dossier on Iraqi human rights abuses designed to soften up public opinion ahead of a possible war. British foreign secretary Straw defends the moves, and cites WMDs.

"He's got these weapons of mass destruction, chemical, biological and, probably, nuclear weapons which he has used in the past against his own people as well as his neighbours and could almost certainly use again in the future," he said.

But the Foreign Office later retreats. It has repeatedly accepted that Iraq does not have nuclear arms and a spokesman, clarifying the position, said Mr Straw had been "referring to Saddam Hussein's intention to acquire such weapons"   (Guardian)

December 7-22, 2002 December 7:  Iraq submits a 12,000-page declaration on its chemical, biological and nuclear activities, claiming it has no banned weapons.

December 17:  Colin Powell indicates there are problems with the declaration.

December 18:  Jack Straw indicates the UK believes Iraq is in material breach of the UN resolution.  The Ministry of Defense reveals ships are being chartered to bring troops and equipment to the Gulf.

December 19:  Hans Blix says the declaration contains nothing new out its WMD capacities and does not inspire confidence.  The US immediately accuses Iraq of being in material breach.

December 22:  Iraq invites the CIA to come in an look for WMD's. (Guardian)

January 27, 2003 The UN arms inspectors' report indicate that no banned weapons have been found but criticizes Iraq for not giving the inspectors full access to facilities and scientists and not providing clear accounts of certain materials. (Iraqwatch)
January 28, 2003

President Bush delivers the State of the Union address, stating: "The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.... Saddam Hussein has not credibly explained these activities. He clearly has much to hide." Bush adds that the US is prepared to attack Iraq even without a UN mandate.  (White House)

Since October, the CIA had warned the administration not to use the Niger claim in public. CIA Director Tenet personally persuaded deputy national security adviser Stephen Hadley to omit it from President Bush's Oct. 7 speech in Cincinnati. But on the eve of Bush's State of the Union address, Robert Joseph, an assistant to the president in charge of nonproliferation at the National Security Council (NSC), initially asked the CIA if the allegation that Iraq sought to purchase 500 pounds of uranium from Niger could be included in the presidential speech. A CIA official said he told Joseph that the agency objected to the British including that in their published September dossier because of the weakness of the U.S. information. (Washington Post)

January 31, 2003

The United States is conducting a secret 'dirty tricks' campaign against UN Security Council delegations in New York as part of its battle to win votes in favour of war against Iraq.

Details of the aggressive surveillance operation, which involves interception of the home and office telephones and the emails of UN delegates in New York, are revealed in a document leaked to The Observer. (Observer) Katherine Gun, a British intelligence officer is arrested in March on charges of passing secrets. She admits she leaked a secret memo to a British newspaper about US-UK government surveillance of the United Nations before the war in Iraq, and is later freed. (Guardian)

February 5, 2003 Colin Powell makes a presentation to the UN, attempting to prove that Iraq is evading the inspectors, continues to produce WMD's, and is linked to al-Qaeda. (White House)

Powell cites the British dossier of February 3 as a "fine paper that the United Kingdom distributed... which describes in exquisite detail Iraqi deception activities."   (Guardian) "Powell embellishes an intercepted conversation about weapons inspections between Iraqi officials to make it sound more incriminating, changing an order to "inspect the scrap areas and the abandoned areas" to a command to "clean out" those areas. He also added the phrase "make sure there is nothing there," a phrase that appears nowhere in the State Department's official translation. (FAIR; CommonDreams)

February 7, 2003

Downing Street is plunged into acute international embarrassment after it emerged that large parts of the British government's latest dossier on Iraq - allegedly based on "intelligence material" - were taken from published academic articles, some of them several years old. (Guardian)

February 9, 2003 US rejects a French-German initiative to triple the number of inspectors in Iraq. (Department of State)
February 13, 2003 The Washington Post reveals that, according to anonymous sources, two Special Forces units have been operating in Iraq for over a month.   (Washington Post)
March 3, 2003

Britain and the United States have all but fire the first shots of the Iraq war by extending the range of targets in the "no-fly zones" over Iraq to "soften up" the country for an allied ground invasion. Pilots have attacked surface-to-surface missile systems and are understood to have hit multiple-launch rockets. (Guardian)

March 7, 2003

On March 7th, Mohamed ElBaradei, the director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, in Vienna, told the U.N. Security Council that the documents involving the Niger-Iraq uranium sale were fakes.  (New Yorker)

March 16, 2003 Dick Cheney states on Meet the Press:  "We know he’s out trying once again to produce nuclear weapons and we know that he has a long-standing relationship with various terrorist groups, including the al-Qaeda organization. . . .  We know that based on intelligence that he has been very, very good at hiding these kinds of efforts. He’s had years to get good at it and we know he has been absolutely devoted to trying to acquire nuclear weapons.  And we believe he has, in fact, reconstituted nuclear weapons. I think Mr. ElBaradei frankly is wrong."   (Mount Holyoke transcript)
March 19, 2003 War begins.   (White House)

May-July 2003


The British Ministry of Defense's most senior biological weapons expert and adviser to intelligence agencies on Iraq, Dr Kelly was the anonymous source for BBC reports in May 2003 that a dossier used by the Blair Government to justify invading Iraq had been "sexed up." After being revealed as the BBC's source and grilled before a parliamentary inquiry, Dr Kelly was found dead in July 2003. (The Age)