Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz lobbied Clinton in '98 to
start Iraq war and topple Saddam
By Jason Leopold
Online Journal Contributing Writer
20, 2003—Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfield and Deputy Secretary Paul
Wolfowitzundertook a full-fledged
lobbying campaign in 1998to get former President Bill Clinton to start
a war with Iraq and topple Saddam Hussein's regime, claiming that the
country posed a threat to the United States, according
to documents obtained from a former Clinton aide.
new information begs the question: what is reallydriving the Bush
administration's desire to start a war with Iraq
iftwo of Bush's future top defense officials were already planting the
seeds for an attack five years ago?
1998, Rumsfield and Wolfowitz were working in the private sector. Both
were involved with the right-wing think tank
Project for a New American Century, which was established in 1997 by
William Kristol, editor of the Weekly Standard, to promote global
leadership and dictate American foreign policy.
Clinton was dealing with the worldwide threat from al Qaeda and Osama
Bin Laden, Rumsfield and Wolfowitz wrote to
Clinton urging him to use military force against Iraq and remove
Hussein from power, because the country posed a threat to the United
States due to its alleged ability to develop weapons of mass
destruction. The Jan 26, 1998, letter sent to Clinton from the Project
for the New American Century said a war with Iraq should be initiated
even if the United States could not muster support from its
allies in the United Nations. Kristol also signed the letter.
are writing you because we are convinced that current American policy
toward Iraq is not succeeding, and that we may soon
face a threat in the Middle East more serious than any we have known
since the end of the Cold War," says the letter. "In your upcoming
State of the Union Address, you have an opportunity to chart a
clear and determined course for meeting this threat. We urge you to
seize that opportunity, and to enunciate a new strategy that would
secure the interests of the U.S. and our friends and allies around
the world. That strategy should aim, above all, at the removal of
Saddam Hussein's regime from power."
urge you to turn your Administration's attention to implementing a
strategy for removing Saddam's regime from power. This
will require a full complement of diplomatic, political and military
efforts. Although we are fully aware of the dangers and difficulties in
implementing this policy, we believe the dangers of failing to
do so are far greater. We believe the U.S. has the authority under
existing UN resolutions to take the necessary steps, including military
steps, to protect our vital interests in the Gulf. In any case,
American policy cannot continue to be crippled by a misguided
insistence on unanimity in the UN Security Council," says the letter.
The full contents of the Rumsfield and Wolfowitz letter can be viewed at the Project for the New American Century.
rebuffed the advice from the future Bush administration officials
saying he was focusing his attention on dismantling
al Qaeda cells, according to a copy of the response Clinton sent to
Rumsfield, Wolfowitz and Kristol.
Unsatisfied with Clinton's response, Rumsfield, Wolfowitz, Kristol and others from the Project for the New American Century
wrote another letter on May 29, 1998, to former
House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Senate Republican Majority Leader Trent Lott,
saying that the United States should
"establish and maintain a strong U.S. military presence in the region
and be prepared to use that force to protect our vital interests in the
Gulf—and, if necessary, to help remove Saddam from power."
should take whatever steps are necessary to challenge Saddam Hussein's
claim to be Iraq's legitimate ruler, including
indicting him as a war criminal," says the letter to Gingrich and Lott.
"U.S. policy should have as its explicit goal removing Saddam Hussein's
regime from power and establishing a peaceful and
democratic Iraq in its place. We recognize that this goal will not be
achieved easily. But the alternative is to leave the initiative to
Saddam, who will continue to strengthen his position at home and
in the region. Only the U.S. can lead the way in demonstrating that his
rule is not legitimate and that time is not on the side of his regime."
White House would not comment on the letters or whether Rumsfield and
Wolfowitz possessed any intelligence information
that suggested Iraq posed an imminent threat to the United States at
the time. The letters offered no hard evidence that Iraq was in
possession of weapons of mass destruction.
The Clinton aide said the former president believed that the policy of "containing Saddam Hussein in a box" was successful
and that the Iraqi regime did not pose any threat to U.S. interests at the time.
President Clinton "never considered war with Iraq an option," the former aide said. "We were encouraged by the UN weapons
inspectors and believed they had a good handle on the situation."
Rumsfield, Wolfowitz and Kristol, however, disagreed; saying the only way to deal with Hussein was by initiating a full-scale
policy of 'containment' of Saddam Hussein has been steadily eroding
over the past several months," Rumsfield, Wolfowitz
and Kristol wrote in their letter to Clinton. "As recent events have
demonstrated, we can no longer depend on our partners in the Gulf War
coalition to continue to uphold the sanctions or to punish
Saddam when he blocks or evades UN inspections . . . It hardly needs to
be added that if Saddam does acquire the capability to deliver weapons
of mass destruction, as he is almost certain to do if we
continue along the present course, the safety of American troops in the
region, of our friends and allies like Israel and the moderate Arab
states, and a significant portion of the world's supply of oil
will all be put at hazard . . . The only acceptable strategy is one
that eliminates the possibility that Iraq will be able to use or
threaten to use weapons of mass destruction. In the near term, this
means a willingness to undertake military action as diplomacy is
clearly failing. In the long term, it means removing Saddam Hussein and
his regime from power."
alleged threats posed by Iraq and the advice Rumsfield, Wolfowitz and
Weekly Standard Editor William Kristol first
offered the Clinton administration five years ago have now become the
blueprint for how the Bush administration is dealing with the Iraq.
existence of the Rumsfield and Wolfowitz "war" letters is just another
reason to question the Bush administration's
desire to go to war with Iraq now instead of dealing with other
pressing issues. Because the letters were written in 1998 it proves
that this war was planned well before 9–11 and casts further doubt on
the claims that Saddam Hussein was involved in the 9–11 terrorist
Leopold spent two years covering California's electricity crisis as
bureau chief of Dow Jones Newswires. He has written more
than 2,000 news stories on the issue and was the first journalist to
report that energy companies were engaged in manipulative practices in
California's newly deregulated electricity market. Most
recently, Mr. Leopold has reported on Enron. He was the first
journalist to interview former Enron President Jeffrey Skilling
following Enron's bankruptcy filing in December 2001. Mr. Leopold has
broken numerous stories on
the financial machinations Enron engaged in and his investigative
pieces on the company have been published in The Nation, Salon, The
Financial Times, The Wall Street Journal, The San
Francisco Chronicle, CBS Marketwatch, Time magazine, The New York
Times, Forbes, Entrepreneur and numerous other national publications.
Mr. Leopold is also a regular contributor to CNBC and National
Public Radio and has been the keynote speaker at more than two-dozen
energy industry conferences around the country. Mr. Leopold left Dow
Jones last April to write a book about California's electricity