Who would’ve guessed: Bush thought Saddam was bad before 2001

Report: Bush Planned Iraqi Invasion Pre-Sept. 11

Former Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill drops a bombshell:

“From the very beginning, there was a conviction that Saddam Hussein was a bad person and that he needed to go,” O’Neill said in the “60 Minutes” interview scheduled to air on Sunday.

He alleges that the President favored regime change in Iraq even before 9/11, and that he was looking for an opportunity to make it happen.

So, luckily for Bush, terrorists attacked New York City and Washington, DC, in 2001? Is that what he and others who like to nod knowingly and claim that Bush is just taking advantage of 9/11 to do what he wants are getting at?

I’ve never been real clear on the “Bush freed up by 9/11” claim. Bush and members of his administration, as well as the military, Congress, and the population of America at large all thought Saddam was a bad guy and contributed to the problems in the Middle East. (I won’t even bother pointing out that the previous administration also believed so and that they believed Iraq possessed stockpiles of WMD that threatened US interests. They believed it to the point of unilaterally attacking Iraq in 1998.)

9/11 changed the world because it changed America.

Bush thought Saddam must go. He couldn’t do it before 9/11 because America and the world didn’t feel threatened enough by terrorists and rogue states to justify action. He could do so after 9/11 because America and the world (some of it, anyway) changed their mind when they saw what an organized enemy sponsored by national governments was capable of.

This claim by O’Neil is akin to claiming that FDR thought Hitler and Hirohito were bad, and that he planned war against them, well before 12/7/41.

Nothing to see here. Please disperse.


  1. Oh, but we didn’t attack Japan and Germany first. Not the whole story here, of course, but just a retaliatory oversimplification. For me it’s not as much about being in Iraq as the stories that were told about why we we going in. Stories that kept, and keep, changing.

  2. What reasons have changed? The reason of direct sponsorship and support of terrorism was a primary factor. No one’s claimed that’s changed. The reason of WMD threat was a primary reason. We obviously haven’t found any smoking guns, or even any loaded guns. That is troubling, and none of the explanations I’ve heard from anyone really satisfy me. However, it certainly isn’t like Bush and Blair were alone in the world when they thought that Iraq had them. Everyone, including France, thought they had them. Everyone, including those who are now saying ‘See? I told you so.’ The amount and the delivery methods were debated, but not the idea that Iraq had them. The reason of humanitarian justice was pointed out for years. No one has changed their story there, except maybe to emphasize it more for two reasons: 1) The WMD deal didn’t turn out the way nearly everyone thought it would. 2) The humanitarian crisis in Iraq turned out to be worse than most expected. But the overriding main reason for invading Iraq was to remove a dictator of a rogue nation from power. Saddam and his circle had defied the UN, the US, the Middle East, and the world at large for far too long. Bush always emphasized the need to remove Saddam from power and bring Iraq into the world order as our primary mission. The Middle East as it exists today presents a threat to the US and our interests. Of course, a great deal of that is due to the fact that the oil is there. But if orderly democracies (or even orderly benign dictatorships) ruled the region, we would not have invaded. Stabilizing Iraq is part of a mission of stabilizing the region. That has always been pointed out, and I don’t see anyone changing that central message. Sure, the spin doctors are running around (on both sides) trying to paint the latest events as proving someone somewhere right or wrong, but the those claiming that the administration keeps changing its story are some of them.