Role Reversal: Bush Wants War, Pentagon Caution
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Role Reversal: Bush Wants War, Pentagon Urges Caution
By Doug Thompson
Jan 22, 2003, 01:18
Senior Pentagon officials are quietly urging President George W. Bush to slow down his headlong rush to war with Iraq, complaining the administration’s course of action represents too much of a shift of America’s longstanding “no first strike” policy and that the move could well result in conflicts with other Arab nations.
“We have a dangerous role reversal here,” one Pentagon source tells Capitol Hill Blue. “The civilians are urging war and the uniformed officers are urging caution.”
Capitol Hill Blue has learned the Joint Chiefs of Staff are split over plans to invade Iraq in the coming weeks. They have asked Secretary of Defense Donald Rumseld to urge Bush to back down from his hard line stance until United Nations weapons inspectors can finish their jobs and the U.S. can build a stronger coalition in the Middle East.
“This is not Desert Storm,” one of the Joint Chiefs is reported to have told Rumseld. “We don’t have the backing of other Middle Eastern nations. We don’t have the backing of any of our allies except Britain and we’re advocating a policy that says we will invade another nation that is not currently attacking us or invading any of our allies.”
Intelligence sources say some Arab nations have told US diplomats they may side with Iraq if the U.S. attacks without the backing of the United Nations. Secretary of State Colin Powell agrees with his former colleagues at the Pentagon and has told the President he may be pursuing a "dangerous course."
An angry Rumsfeld, who backs Bush without question, is said to have told the Joint Chiefs to get in line or find other jobs. Bush is also said to be “extremely angry” at what he perceives as growing Pentagon opposition to his role as Commander in Chief.
“The President considers this nation to be at war,” a White House source says,” and, as such, considers any opposition to his policies to be no less than an act of treason.”
But conversations with sources within the Bush administration, the Pentagon, the FBI and the intelligence community indicate a deepening rift between the professionals who wage war for a living and the administration civilians to want to send them into battle.
Sources say the White House has ordered the FBI and CIA to “find and document” links between Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden, the mastermind of the 9-11 terrorist attacks.
“The implication is clear,” grumbles one longtime FBI agent. “Find a link, any link, no matter how vague or unproven, and then use that link to justify action against Iraq.”
While Hussein and Iraq have been linked to various terrorist groups in the past, U.S. intelligence agencies have not been able to establish a provable link with bin Laden’s al Qaeda forces.
“There may be one,” says another FBI source. “There should be one. All logic says there has to be one, but we haven’t established it as a fact. Not yet.”
Pentagon planners privately refer to the pending Iraq conflict as a “Bush league war,” something that may be fought more for political gain than anything else.
“During Desert Storm, the line officers wanted to finish the job, wanted to march into Iraq and take out Hussein and his government, but President Bush and JOC Chairman (Colin) Powell pulled the plug on the operation,” says one Pentagon officer. “We had our chance. We had the justification. We had the support. We don’t have it now.”
Some Pentagon staffers point to last weekend’s antiwar rally in Washington, where they say the crowd included many veterans of Desert Storm.
“This wasn’t just a bunch of tree huggers and longhairs marching,” says Arnold Giftos of Huntington, West Virginia, who served in Desert Storm and who came to march. “Go to any meeting of veterans groups in this country and you will see serious discussion on whether or not we should be getting into this war.”
Reporters covering the marches on Saturday and Sunday say they counted about 500 marchers among the 30,000 who carried signs or other items identifying themselves as veterans.
“I served in Vietnam,” said Robert Brighton of Detroit, who marched in Washington. “I supported Desert Storm. I don’t support this. It’s madness.”
In addition, Capitol Hill Blue has learned that both House Speaker Dennis J. Hastert and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist have told the White House that they have “increasing” numbers of Republicans in both Houses raising doubts about the war.
“Nobody in the party wants to come out publicly and tell the President he’s wrong,” says one Hill source close to the GOP leadership, “but we don’t have the kind of unity we need on this thing. It could blow apart on us at any time.”
Public support for a war with Iraq is also slipping. In November of 2001, just two months after the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, 78 percent of Americans favored military action against Iraq. That support has slipped to as low as 52 percent in January polls. A Washington Post-ABC news poll taken last week shows Americans evenly split over Bush's handling of the crisis with Iraq.
Spokesmen for the White House, Pentagon and Congressional leadership offices would not comment on the record for this report.
© Copyright 2003 by Capitol Hill Blue. Republished with permission.
Follow Up Report
"We have the proof" on Iraq, intelligence pros tell Bush
By DOUG THOMPSON
Jan 24, 2003, 01:25
U.S. intelligence professionals, under pressure from the Bush administration to provide proof needed to justify war with Iraq, say they now have documented Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction as well as the location of hidden chemical weapon warheads.
The documentation, shared for the first time with the White House on Thursday, provides much of the material the administration needs to launch an attack on Iraq.
While proof positive of the existence of weapons of mass destruction is now available, the U.S. is still working to provide a documented link between Hussein and Osama bin Laden, the al Qaeda terrorist who masterminded the September 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon outside of Washington, DC.
“We have most of the pieces of the puzzle in place,” an FBI source confirmed to Capitol Hill Blue late Thursday. “Most of this has come together in the last 36 hours but we now feel comfortable telling the President we can document both the existence and location of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.”
Part of the proof has come from UN Inspectors at work in Iraq through documents obtained at the homes of two nuclear physicists in Iraq. The documents clearly show an ongoing program to develop nuclear weapons in clear violation of the cease fire agreement that ended the Gulf War.
U.S. officials, however, are concerned the weapons inspectors found the documents last week, yet Dr. Hans Blix, head of the inspections team, failed to notify the U.S., Britian or France during briefings.
"The information was in the hands of the inspectors but we had to find out about it through other, independent sources," an FBI source said.
Although Bush has claimed publicly he does not need proof of either the existence of such weapons or a link between Hussein and bin Laden to invade Iraq, leaders in his own party have urged him privately to slow down until the proof was in hand.
“It’s full speed ahead now,” a White House aide said in a relieved tone on Thursday. “We are going to war.”
Secretary of State Colin Powell, who was urging caution with Iraq, signaled his acceptance of the new information Thursday in a press conference with British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw. Powell said he saw “no need for further weapons inspections in Iraq” before launching an invasion.
“The Secretary is convinced now that we have satisfied our need to prove our case,” said a State Department source.
Senior Pentagon military planners are also said to be withdrawing their reservations about the war, reservations based on their belief the U.S. had not yet documented its case against Iraq.
Military leaders were briefed by the CIA and FBI on Thursday morning and told Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld they are behind the President when he gives the order to attack.
“Things are falling into place,” says retired intelligence analyst Ronald Blackstone. “Just 48 hours ago, there were still too many loose ends. Now they are getting tied together. That’s how intelligence works. You keep digging until you find the facts and then you document your case. The intelligence community was under pressure because the administration had moved before everything was in place. It looks like they might luck out on this one.”
Capitol Hill Blue learned Powell shared the information with British Foreign Secretary Straw shortly before their joint press conference on Thursday and that Prime Minister Tony Blair had also been briefed by U.S. officials earlier in the day. The administration still must decide what and how much information to share with reluctant allies like France and Germany but White House sources predicted both would be on board by the time an attack is launched in February.
U.S. officials are not sure how to deal with what they now feel is the UN's reluctance to share what they have found. Although inspectors have admitted finding warheads capable of carrying chemical and biological weapons, they have failed to discose the more damaging discoveries.
"If the UN is not forthcoming, it will increase the liklihood the administration will simply bypass them and proceed against Iraq on our own," says on administration source.
“There’s not a lot of trust of the UN within the Bush administration,” says political scientist George Harleigh. “It might not be feasible to share sensitive information with them or to depend on what they tell us.”
Blackstone says the U.S. might not be able to share much of the information because it might compromise U.S. assets in Iran.
“You can’t risk your sources of information. Plus, ideally, they would like to firm up the al Qaeda link,” says Blackstone. “But that is really a moot issue at this point. Documenting the existence of weapons of mass destruction means Hussein is in violation of the terms of his surrender in Desert Storm. That, in reality, is all the U.S. and its allies need to launch an attack.
Still, France has threatened a UN Security Council veto is the U.S. asks for resolution specifically authorizing an attack. China and Russia have also said they have reservations about an invasion.
Powell, however, is optimistic of support when it is needed.
“When the time comes, I don’t think we will have to worry about going it alone,” he said.
© Copyright 2003 by Capitol Hill Blue. Republished with permission.
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