Fortunately, a high-ranking official* at Liberal Utopia is once again fully prepared to step up to the plate to provide strong and compelling answers to this latest series of unanswered questions on behalf of Hanoi John F'in' al-Qerry. (Right Voices)
n Sept. 1, [Q]
erry began his intense criticism of Bush's decisions in the Iraq war, saying 'I would've done almost everything differently.' A few days later, I provided the [Q]
erry campaign with a list of 22 possible questions based entirely on Bush's actions leading up to the war and how [Q]
erry might have responded in the same situations. The senator and his campaign have since decided not to do the interview. . . . Here are the 22 questions, edited only for clarity [and tongue-biting]
“1. On Nov. 21, 2001, just 72 days after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, President Bush took Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld aside and said he wanted to look at the Iraq war plans. Bush directed Rumsfeld not to talk to anyone else, including the National Security Council members and the CIA director.
“Questions: If a President [Q]erry [Bite your tongue, Bob] wanted to look at war plans pertaining to a particular country or threat, how would he go about it? Who would be included? What would the general war-planning process be in a [Q]erry administration [Bite your tongue, Bob]? Was it reasonable to look at Iraq at that time?
I would let everyone see our plans, Bob. That way, there would be no appearance of our hiding anything from anyone. Of course, there may be some parts of a war plan that would probably have to remain secret until we can let everyone see it. But I would make sure those aren't being kept secret unnecessarily. Also, I would want to look at every plan we have or might be making regarding a particular threat or country. That would allow me to see how the plans are developing and whether we need to make other plans or plan on changing the original ones. In general, my war-planning process would involve not only my cabinet, but the Congress, the United Nations, and all our allies. I would make sure they have input on whatever plans we're making by allowing them to offer suggestions on how to improve those plans. Not only that, if they are unhappy with any parts of our plans, I would work closely with them to change those plans so they feel happier about all such parts. As far as plans involving Iraq, I believe it wasn't reasonable to ever look at any while there was a chance we could've worked with Saddam Hussein to convince him about the need for him to cooperate fully with most if not all of the decisions of the United Nations.
“2. The CIA was asked in late 2001 to do a 'lessons learned' study of past covert operations in Iraq and concluded that the CIA alone could not overthrow Saddam Hussein and that a military operation would be required. The CIA soon became an advocate for military action.
“Questions: How can such advocacy be avoided? The CIA argued that a two-track policy—negotiations at the U.N. and covert action—made their sources inside Iraq believe the United States was not serious about overthrowing Saddam. Can that be avoided? How can diplomacy and covert action be balanced?
I would prohibit all advocacy, Bob. That's how. Not only by the CIA but by the military also. If, for example, I discovered that anyone in the CIA was advocating anything like military action, I would remind them of my policy and put a stop to it immediately. Then I would investigate who was advocating what and when so I could prevent any such advocating from happening again. I would also make sure that all covert actions are completely dependent on our diplomacy. If diplomacy is unable to resolve a potential conflict, then I would call a cabinet meeting to decide whether we should explore taking any covert actions. I would consult with the Congress and with our allies and the United Nations as well, to find out what they think we should do. If they cannot come to a consensus over whether and how we should proceed with any covert actions, I would put that option on hold until I can work out something with our allies that would let us reach a more mutually agreeable decision. That's how I would balance diplomacy and any possible covert actions.
“3. In January 2002 President Bush gave his famous 'axis of evil' speech singling out Iraq, Iran and North Korea as threats.
“Questions: Was this speech too undiplomatic? How would a President [Q]erry [Bite your tongue, Bob] frame the issues and relations with Iran and North Korea? Do you consider these two countries part of an axis of evil now?
Yes, it was very undiplomatic, Bob. And I'll tell you why. Right off the bat this president alienated these countries and lost the opportunity of ever bringing them on board as possible allies in our war on terror. Not only that, he alienated other countries that have close ties with Iraq, Iran, and North Korea, who would see those ties threatened by our alienating them. Those other countries, such as France, Germany, and Russia, felt alienated too. Now had we worked with those first three countries and made them allies, I have no doubt that those other three countries would've become our allies also. Then we'd have six allies more instead of just the sixty committed ones that this president currently has. I don't know about you, but sixty-six allies sounds a whole lot better than only sixty, let me tell you. I have a plan that shows how I would get me some allies here too. I would first rescind the axis-of-evil designation for both Iran and North Korea. Then I would work with our other allies to get these two to become our allies as well. Then it would be much easier for us to work out whatever differences we have with those two countries because we would be working with them as allies instead of adversaries.
“4. On Feb. 16, 2002, the president signed a secret intelligence order directing the CIA to begin covert action to support a military operation to overthrow Saddam, ultimately allocating some $200 million a year. Bush later acknowledged to me that even six months later, in August, the administration had not developed a diplomatic strategy to deal with Iraq.
“Questions: How should military planning, CIA activities and diplomacy (and economic sanctions and the bully pulpit) fit together to form a policy?
I have a plan for just this sort of thing, Bob. First, there would be a precise order for making plans, starting with the diplomatic side of it. Only if diplomacy fails, if the United Nations and our allies are all on board with going forward with more strong measures, and if the Congress approves our going forward, and if the American people are strongly behind us doing so, and if other voices like in the media and elsewhere agree too, then I would consider allowing additional plans to be made on, say, the CIA and military side. But, I would want both those agencies to come up with thorough plans that keep on the table our returning back to diplomatic plans if ever that becomes possible, so in case the situation changes we have that fall-back option. Otherwise, I would make sure there is a plan in place for coming up with more plans that take into account the need for additional plans in case such plans are needed too. That way, there would be a myriad of plans covering all contingencies, as well as taking care of the diplomatic, CIA, and military aspects of our planning.
“5. On May 24, 2002, Gen. Tommy Franks and the Pentagon's Joint Staff began work on stability operations to follow combat in Iraq. This was about 10 months before the Iraq war started. But it was not until seven months later, in January 2003, that President Bush became involved in the aftermath planning.
“Questions: How would you make sure that there was sufficient planning for both the war and the peace? What aspects would you want to be personally involved in or aware of as president?
Planning for the peace is just as important, Bob, as planning for any war. In fact, we should never go to war unless there is in place a solid and thorough plan for its aftermath which covers all the bases and every possible contingency and outcome. By having such a plan you won't be caught by surprise whenever any unforeseeable events occur or if the enemy changes their plans in response to seeing what yours is. That's why planning is so important, so you can know what to do when you go into new situations and experience previously unknown things that arise both during and after a war. Moreover, I would be personally involved in every aspect of plan making, from start to finish. From the lowest levels on up to the highest. I would be everywhere all the time. That's how much I would be involved in making plans. As a matter of fact, if you want to know more, I have a plan on my Web site for how I would make plans.
“6. On June 1, 2002, President Bush announced his preemption doctrine.
“Questions: Do you agree with it? What are the acceptable conditions for preemptive war? Bush has said that he believes the United States has a 'duty to free people,' to liberate them. Do you agree? Under what circumstances?
I do not believe in preemption, Bob, but in prevention. I have a plan to sufficiently prepare ourselves for the possibility of further attacks and to prevent those attacks from occurring before they ever happen. My plan is to work with our allies so we can ensure that such attacks are prevented by pooling our resources and discussing ways of preventing the need to ever resort to any kind of preemptive war. I do not agree with this president's belief that we have any duty to free people or to liberate them. That's a recipe for war which my plan is precisely designed to prevent. Under no circumstances should people be freed or liberated if that means risking an unpreventable war.
“7. In July 2002, President Bush secretly ordered that some $700 million be spent on 30 major construction and other projects to prepare for war. Congress was not involved or informed.
“Questions: How would you seek a relationship with the leaders of Congress so that they would be informed of such secret work? Should congressional leaders have an idea where you are heading? What should be the overall role of Congress in preparing for war?
Congress and the presidency should always be partners, Bob. Especially in preparing for war. In fact, I would involve Congressional leaders in every project and plan, even those that require a certain level of secrecy because they have to do with war plans. I know some say there's the increased possibility of leaks whenever you involve Congress like that, especially while we're preparing for war, which is unfortunate due to the fact that those leaks may tip off potential adversaries about what we're up to. But it is more important that Congress be involved in war planning so the leaders there feel they're involved and that they have a say. Even with leaks, the plan has a much better chance of succeeding because it's easier to get the support of Congress when its leaders feel they have a role to play in making that plan. Simply go to my Web site and you can see that it's all there in the outline of a summary of my plan to get Congress more involved in war-making decisions.
“8. In August 2002 (about seven months before the start of war in March 2003), Secretary of State Colin Powell told the president over a two-hour dinner that an Iraq war would have consequences that had not been considered or imagined. He said that an invasion would lead to the collapse of Iraq—'You break it, you own it.'
“Questions: What would you do after receiving such a clear warning from a senior cabinet officer or other person with comparable experience?
First off, Bob, I would never spend two hours eating dinner if there were important matters waiting to be resolved. I would, at most, grab a sandwich and eat on the run, perhaps stopping by a Coke machine on the way down to the situation room so I could catch something to drink. Ten minutes tops, that would be my policy on dinners with cabinet officers whenever there are important things to do. In any event, I would listen, even then, to what one of my cabinet officers was saying about a possible war. If he or she gave me clear warning about a country's collapse and other bad things, I would immediately reconsider my position and call a full cabinet meeting so we could discuss that warning and determine what to do next. As you know, in the Senate I was a committee chairman, so I know the importance of letting everyone have their say and offer their input. I would consult with the Congress and our allies as well and hear what they have to say too. Then if the consensus is we still might have to go to war, I would take the matter to the United Nations and work with the world community to come up with a solution that was in everyone's best interests. That's what I would do, Bob, if I ever received such a warning from any senior member of my cabinet.
“9. On Nov. 8, 2002, the U.N. Security Council unanimously (15 to 0) passed Resolution 1441 on new weapons inspections in Iraq. Powell thought it was a critical victory, putting the United States on the road to diplomatic success.
“Questions: What did this mean, now that Saddam seemed isolated and friendless in the world? Was strategic victory—getting Saddam out of power—possible through diplomacy or by continuing diplomacy and weapons inspections?
Being friendless, as you know, Bob, is a bad thing, of course. The sense of isolation and loneliness can make people do things that they might otherwise not do or think is wrong. I can empathize with Saddam being put in the position this president put him in, feeling isolated and having little or no options. Being forced to comply with outside demands that he cooperate fully with an inspection process that was imposed unwillingly on him, his only choices were to voluntarily comply and risk losing all those weapon systems which were keeping him in power, or not cooperate and be drawn unwittingly into war and a possible ouster. Either way, his back was in a corner seeing nothing ahead of him but the end of his regime. So is it any wonder that he resisted and refused to cooperate? If we had given him more options he might have been more willing to work with the world community and resolve the situation peacefully through diplomacy. I believe the latter was possible if we had only been willing to do what some of our allies had proposed. All France, Germany, and Russia were asking is give inspections a chance.
“10. In November-December 2002, major U.S. force deployments began but were strung out to avoid telling the world that war was all but inevitable and that diplomacy was over. Rumsfeld told the president that the large U.S. divisions could be kept in top fighting shape for only two to three months without degrading the force.
“Questions: How might a President [Q]erry [Bite your tongue, Bob] have handled this? What is the role of momentum in such a decision-making process?
I would've had them wait, Bob. I do not necessarily agree with the secretary's assessment. When I was serving in Vietnam I would wait days, sometimes weeks on end without anything happening; and I saw no appreciable loss in my fighting ability. I didn't see any of it in the four or five men under me either. Had my entire four-month tour been spent waiting, but at the end of it I was ordered into battle, I have no doubt that I would've been able to fight just as well then as I was when I first began that tour. Momentum, in such cases, is not measured by the amount of time anyone spends moving in a certain direction. Only by how much and how far they're actually moving in it. With respect to Iraq, we were already moving in one particular direction. There was little if any chance we were going to start moving in a new direction before the question of war or peace was finally resolved one way or the other. But let's absolutely be clear about this so there can't be room for any distortion: Our troops actually were waiting before they weren't moving.
“11. On Dec. 21, 2002, CIA deputy John McLaughlin gave a major presentation to the president on the intelligence evidence that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. The president was not impressed and asked where the good, strong intelligence was. CIA Director George Tenet twice assured the president that the WMD case was a 'slam dunk.'
“Questions: What might a President [Q]erry [Bite your tongue, Bob] have done when he smelled weakness in an intelligence case?
I would not have tolerated it, Bob. I would've demanded more information, even if that meant giving our intelligence agencies more time. But we could've used the extra time anyway. It would've allowed the inspections to continue much longer than they had. It also would've given us at least a few more chances to persuade allies like France and Germany to join us in enforcing all the UN resolutions in the event Saddam Hussein failed to stop obstructing that inspections process. It would have given Saddam himself a cooling-off period in which to reconsider his actions that were being viewed by many as direct violations of those resolutions. It would've opened up the possiblity that we'd find better options than the ones we had. All sorts of good could've come from our just taking the time to make one hundred percent sure that what we were doing was the right thing, the best and correct thing. We'll never know now what might have happened had we only given Hans Blix and his team the year or so they were asking to finish their inspections of Saddam's weapons.
“12. On Jan. 9, 2003, the president asked Gen. Franks: What is my last decision point? Franks said it would be when Special Forces were put on the ground inside Iraq.
“Question: Had the president already passed his last decision point when he ordered such a large military deployment and such extensive CIA covert action to support the military?
Yes, Bob. And I'll tell you why I say that. Once the president set this country down a path that led to a rush to war, there was no turning back. Even before the first CIA covert operation it was way too late to stop any of it. Sending our troops over there the way he did caused Saddam Hussein to go even further on the defensive. It just made the whole situation much worse than it otherwise might have been. Had we just backed off some and given Saddam a little breathing room instead, he would've felt less constricted in his actions. He would've felt it was more in his interests to voluntarily cooperate with the weapons inspectors; would've been more inclined to let them complete their job. But this president wasn't about to afford Saddam any maneuvering room at all. He just let the Iraqi leader dangle there like a puppet, feeling like he had no control, and growing angrier and more defensive the whole time. Anyone would feel that way. That's why it was so important to give Saddam reasons to believe that he could do the right thing vis-à-vis the inspections process, regardless how many times he tried to thwart it before, and could still come away unscathed with his regime fully intact. But this president never even gave him the chance. Putting troops over there destroyed every prospect that such a mutually beneficial outcome would happen, which left Saddam no options and no choice but to become more entrenched.
“13. Around this time, in January 2003, Rumsfeld told the president that he was losing his options, and that after he asked U.S. allies to commit forces, it would not be feasible to back off. Rumsfeld asked to brief the Saudi ambassador, Prince Bandar bin Sultan. Vice President Cheney, Gen. Richard Myers and Rumsfeld briefed Bandar on Jan. 11, 2003, telling him 'You can count on this'—i.e., war.
“Questions: Do you agree with Rumsfeld's assessment? Andy Card, the Bush White House chief of staff, thought the decision to go to war was not irrevocable, that Bush could pull back, though the consequences would be politically expensive. How does a president credibly threaten force without taking steps that make the use of force almost inevitable? Should foreign governments be briefed in this way?
They should always be briefed, Bob. On all aspects of what we are planning. But we should always emphasize to them that such plans are not firmly set, that they may be changed at any time depending on the progress of events and what directions they may take. This should clear up with them how we're going to proceed if we do. I'm sure foreign governments would welcome that level of alterability in our plans because it gives each of us a larger set of options to not only consider but to act on should the need ever arise. To answer your first question, I do not believe that any war is inevitable. There are always options. And if a war can possibly be avoided, it should be. Our nation's credibility in these circumstances does not depend on whether we are actually willing and able to go to war, but rather, on our willingness and ability to work closely with our allies to avoid war at all costs.
“14. On Jan. 13, 2003, the director of the National Security Agency, Lt. Gen. Michael Hayden, issued a formal director's intent on how to support Gen. Franks in a war with Iraq. Previously, on his own, Hayden had reallocated some $300 million to $400 million of NSA funds to Iraq-specific signals intelligence programs to support a war without the specific knowledge or approval of either Rumsfeld, Tenet or Bush.
“Questions: Was this good planning? What would be the procedures for such decisions in a [Q]erry administration [Bite your tongue, Bob]?
I would never allow any such advanced decision-making to take place, Bob. It is the kind of initiative that I would go out of my way to discourage because it encourages things like planning for future actions and events which may or may not take place. It does not matter that NSA regulations allow for such a reallocation of resources. It sends the wrong kind of signals to both our allies and our nonallies alike. Suddam Hussein, for example, would see such preparations and take them to be a threat; or he'd feel unduly pressured and more inclined to dig in, or feel he has even less of an incentive to cooperate with inspectors. It is especially dangerous with respect to the relations we have with our allies. They may consider such decisions to be ill-timed or even rash, making them feel left out and alienated from the decision-making process, or giving them reasons to have second thoughts about wanting to take part in anything that might be construed as a foregone conclusion. I doubt it is the kind of preparation they would ever like to see. I doubt I would, either.
“15. On Jan. 20, 2003 (two months before the war), the president signed National Security Presidential Directive 24 to set up the office for reconstruction for Iraq.
“Question: What do you think of the timing of this?
I think the timing of it was very suspicious, Bob. Here he had a plan to deal with Iraq after the war, and the war hadn't even started yet! That advanced planning shows the president was looking ahead to not only rush into war with Iraq but to the reconstruction of that country afterwards. He should not have planned what to do after the war because he never should've rushed into war to begin with.
“16. On Feb. 7, 2003 (six weeks before war started), French President Jacques Chirac called the president and was very conciliatory. He said, 'If there is a war, we'll work together on reconstruction. We will all contribute. I fully understand your position is different. There are two different moral approaches to the world and I respect yours.' Bush was optimistic but took no action.
“Question: What would a President [Q]erry [Bite your tongue, Bob] have done about this conciliatory statement?
I would have not only welcomed it, Bob, I would've seized on that opportunity to bring France partly into the coalition, thus making it more legitimate. President Chirac wanted to work with us, and we could've worked with him. I would've asked him what he might need for his country to be able to be part of what we were doing. I'm sure something could've been worked out to accommodate any of those different positions that he had with us. As you know, contributing is a two-way street. He would've contributed to our efforts in Iraq and we would've contributed something back in return. Our two countries would've both been better aligned, for example, in our approaches to the reconstruction effort. France, after all, did have close ties with Saddam Hussein's regime. We could've used that to our advantage by letting it help us become more sensitive to what we would find and who we would be dealing with once we began the reconstruction phase in Iraq.
“17. On March 17, 2003, concluding that Saddam was stalling and lying, Bush ordered war while U.N. weapons inspectors were still in Iraq.
“Questions: Was this decision right or premature? Was there any other action, short of war, that would have effectively increased pressure on Saddam?
It was premature, of course, Bob. The president was so anxious to rush to war that he only let the inspections go on for just half a year. Not enough time to complete all of them, as chief inspector Hans Blix assured us, saying it could take at least a year or perhaps two. Saddam Hussein wasn't going anywhere. We had him contained. He would've eventually tired of trying to obstruct the inspectors like he was doing and would've had to give in to them. If not, we could've toughened the inspection process so that more would've got inspected. Saddam would've felt the pressure then. He knew we were going to inspect his country for weapons whether he liked it or not. All he could do was take shots at our pilots who were enforcing the no-fly zones. Hardly anything to be worried about. If he had downed or killed one of our pilots, we would've threatened him with even more inspections. So eventually Saddam would've been inspected thoroughly. There was no need at all to rush to war.
“18. On Sept. 30, 2003 (six months after the start of the war), British Prime Minister Tony Blair told his annual Labor Party conference that he had received letters from parents whose sons were killed in the Iraq war, saying that they hated him. 'And don't believe anyone who tells you when they receive letters like that they don't suffer any doubt,' Blair said. President Bush has said emphatically that he has no such doubts.
“Questions: Can a president afford to have doubt in a time of war? What is the role of doubt in presidential decision-making?
There is always room for doubt, Bob. No matter what the undertaking any person takes. When as a young man I served my country in Vietnam I had plenty of doubts. Doubts about the war, about the reasons for our being in a once peaceful land and bombing its civilians. Doubts about the ability of our military commanders to know what was going on in that country and what they should be doing about it. Doubts about the course of the war and about why I was being sent on covert missions to Cambodia, which we were supposed to recognize as being neutral. So I know what it is to experience real doubts, especially about war. War is always a doubtful prospect no matter how justified it may seem. No doubt should ever be ignored. The problem with this president is that he never leaves ample room for doubt in his decision-making. I would always leave such room for it because doubt can be very healthy even when it comes to matters of war.
“19. Secretary of State Powell has said that he believed Cheney had a 'fever,' an unhealthy fixation on al Qaeda and Iraq that caused him to misread and exaggerate intelligence and the threat. In Powell's view, Cheney and others—Paul Wolfowitz, the deputy secretary of defense, vice presidential chief of staff Scooter Libby and Douglas J. Feith, undersecretary of defense for policy—were part of 'a separate little government.'
“Questions: Your reaction? What should or could a president do about this discord among top officials of his administration?
I would have no such separate government, Bob. My government would be unseparate. Any discord within it would be examined and weighed and carefully considered before moving on to whatever might be the next course of action. Any display of feverishness for one set of action will be innoculated, if you will, by a heavy dose of what may be termed a type of flu vaccine against the kind of fixation that you pointed out. I wouldn't allow my government to listen to deputy secretaries or undersecretaries because, frankly, their opinions aren't important. The added benefit of that is is that there would be less discord all around because fewer people would be in a position to sow any among my top officials. That's how I'd take care of it.
“20. Powell also had said he believed that the Bush administration had become 'dangerously protective' of its decisions on Iraq and was unable to consider changing course.
“Question: How does a president set up a system or process to enable his administration to alter course or get a clear-eyed evaluation of its actions and its consequences?
Your premise answers it all, Bob. A president should never be protective of his decisions, dangerously or otherwise. He should actually be able to consider changing course before considering to take it. That's what I would've done. I would've called in all my top advisors and asked them what changes might I need to make in the event I decide to take a certain course. If they couldn't come up with a sufficient number of these changes I would doubt whether I should even be considering that course. A course must be changeable if you don't want it to keep going in the same direction. That would be my policy.
“21. President Bush has said on the record that he did not directly ask Powell, Rumsfeld or his father, former President George H.W. Bush, whether he should go to war in Iraq. He did ask national security adviser Condoleezza Rice and his senior aide, Karen Hughes.
“Questions: Your reaction? What sort of consultation process would you have on major national security decisions? Would you consult former presidents, even former President Bush?
He should've asked everybody, Bob. That's the problem. He should've asked the United Nations, the French, the Malaysians, the Village People, President Putin, Prime Minister Tony Blair, both Tarik Aziz and that Baghdad Bob guy, the Germans, Barbra Streisand, the Swiss, the Swiss boarding school I attended growing up, the Brazilians, the World Trade Organization, the World Bank, the World Wide Web, Linda Ronstadt, the Finnish, the Italians, the Sopranos, the South Africans, the North Africans, the East and West Africans, the Japanese, the Australians, the Grateful Dead, the El Salvadorans, the Chileans, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Secretary General Kofi Annan, Little Miss Muffet and her Tuffet, Hans Blix, Hansel and Gretel, Edna St. Vincent Millay, the Pointer Sisters, the Nepalese, the Dali Lama, the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, George Soros, Marvin T. Martian, the AFL-CIO, Millie, Madona, Cher, the Arbor Day Foundation, and a whole host of others I could name. All important allies, officials, and organizations who should've been asked but weren't. He didn't ask any of them, Bob. I would've asked each and every one of them before ever committing our nation to war.
“22. Asked in December 2003 how history would judge his Iraq war, Bush suggested that history was far off. 'We won't know. We'll all be dead,' he said.
“Questions: How do you judge his Iraq war? What do you think history's verdict is likely to be?”
It really depends on the outcome, doesn't it, Bob? If the outcome is bad, history will judge it as being bad. On the other hand, if the outcome is good, history will have a more favorable view of this war. Personally, I've been very consistent in judging it a complete and utter miserable failure. The wrong war at the wrong place at the wrong time and all that. A war that's a total diversion from the war, too. So, even though the outcome isn't determined yet, I have the courage to stand up and stand in judgment of it right now.
* Me. The only ranking official here, actually.
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