Crawford Walk - Countdown to War on Iraq
[Based on accounts in Michael R. Gordon and General Bernard E. Trainor, Cobra II: The Inside Story of the Invasion and Occupation of Iraq (New York: Pantheon Books, 2006); Tommy Franks with Malcolm McConnell, American Soldier (New York: Regan Books, 2004); Thomas E. Ricks, Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq (New York: The Penguin Press, 2006); Bob Woodward, Plan of Attack (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2004).]
November 21, 2001 - President Bush asks Defense Secretary Rumsfeld about contingencies for war with Iraq, and directs him to initiate planning.
December 1, 2001 - Rumsfeld asks Franks to develop a commander's estimate as the basis for a new war plan.
December 28, 2001 - Gen. Franks briefs President Bush at Crawford on the commander's estimate calling for an invasion force of 275,000 troops.
January 29, 2002 - President Bush targets Iraq in his "axis of evil" State of the Union speech.
February 1, 2002 - Gen. Franks presents Generated Start, a plan building to 275,000 troops, to Rumsfeld at the Pentagon.
April 20, 2002 - Gen. Franks briefs President Bush at Camp David on planning, calling for war to begin with 180,000 troops, ramping up to 250,000.
May 21, 2002 - When asked by the press "how many troops," Gen. Franks says, "That's a great question and one for which I don't have an answer because my boss has not yet asked me to put together a plan to do that. They have not asked me for those kinds of numbers. And I guess I would tell you, if there comes a time when my boss asks me that, then I'd rather provide those sorts of assessments to him. But thanks for the question." (Gordon/Trainor p. 52, Ricks p. 38)
August 1-2, 2002 - Gen. Franks meets his commanders at Tampa and tells them they need to be prepared to attack Iraq immediately if so ordered. But there are concerns that Running Start will result in a larger number of U.S. casualties.
August 5, 2002 - Gen. Franks briefs the president and the NSC on war planning (see Tab K and Tab L), and discusses the Hybrid concept. According to Gordon/Trainor, "it was a hit at the White House," though Franks saw that Secretary of State Colin Powell had doubts. Powell later called Franks to express his concern about force levels.
August 5, 2002 - Colin Powell tells President Bush after dinner, "You are going to be the proud owner of 25 million people . . . . You'll own it all." (Woodward, p. 150) (This the supposed "Pottery Barn rule": you break it, you own it.)
August 15, 2002 - PowerPoint slides on "Compartmented Planning Effort 15 August 2002" provide background on planning, noting "POTUS/SECDEF directed effort; limited to a very small group . . . Integrate / consider all elements of national power . . . Thinking 'outside the box', but 'inside a compartment'.""Key Planning Assumptions" for Generated Start included "DoS will promote creation of a broad-based, credible provisional government - prior to D-day" [invasion], and "Iraqi regime has WMD capability."
September 6, 2002 - Gen. Franks meets with President Bush and the NSC to review war planning. "Can we win this thing?" asks Bush. "Absolutely," says Franks. (Gordon/Trainor 74)
March 20, 2003 - The U.S. invades Iraq.
"Franks...offered his vision of the desired operation - smaller, lighter, faster. He said he hoped for a 90-45-90 plan, a 225-day war."
From Bob Woodward book, "Plan of Attack," p. 114, also p. 98
Re: Bush's line about "not looking to play 'small ball' here" -- see reference in Woodward's "Plan of Attack," p. 132
"Rumsfeld, for the first time introduced the concept of 'shock and awe' to the president. At this point it meant building up so much force and conducting various 'spiking' operations and bombing that it might in itself trigger regime change.
The president chuckled a little bit. 'Shock and awe,' he noted, was a catchy notion."
("Plan of Attack, p.102)
Colin Powell told the president "You are going to be the proud owner of 25 million people. You will own all their hopes, aspirations, and problems. You'll own it all." Privately Powell and Armitage called this the Pottery Barn rule: You break it, you own it.
"It's going to suck the oxygen out of everything," the secretary said. "This will become the first term."
("Plan of Attack," p. 150)
Donald Rumsfeld actually said in a Defense Department briefing on February 12, 2002 -- "There are known knowns. There are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we now know we don’t know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we do not know we don’t know."
"Shortly before the war started, on Feb. 7, 2003, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld was asked how long the war would last.
His answer: "It is unknowable how long that conflict will last. It could last six days, six weeks. I doubt six months."
"Rumsfeld's prediction was echoed days before the invasion by Vice President Dick Cheney, who said on NBC's "Meet the Press," "My belief is we will, in fact, be greeted as liberators."
The war, Cheney said, will go "relatively quickly, in weeks rather than months."
That was five years ago."
Condoleezza Rice was the first Administration representative to talk publicly about "smoking guns" and "mushroom clouds" -- "To those who say, we want more evidence that there’s a real threat, the Administration says, we can’t wait for a smoking gun to turn up. 'We don’t want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud.'”
National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, on CNN’s Late Edition, September 12, 2002
In an October 7, 2002 speech in Cincinnati, Ohio, President Bush himself said, "Facing clear evidence of peril, we cannot wait for the final proof - the smoking gun - that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud."
It is likely that Michael Gerson, Bush's chief speechwriter, came up with the "smoking gun and mushroom cloud" formulation while preparing Bush's Cincinnati speech and that Condi Rice was sent out to give the line a test run before Bush used it.
According to the recent book "Hubris" by Mike Isikoff and David Corn, Gerson played a central role in spinning one of the false “WMD scoops" in 2002 that The New York Times has tried to live down ever since. That article, by Judith Miller and Michael Gordon, appeared on Sept. 7, 2002, six months before the invasion of Iraq, and was quickly cited by Vice President Cheney and other administration leaders.
Isikoff and Corn assert that it was Gerson who conceived the “sound bite” that Iraq’s alleged nuclear program could not be absolutely proven but “the first sign of a smoking gun might be a mushroom cloud.”
Gerson, they write, was a member of the influential White House Iraq Group (WHIG) and within that group his "vivid metaphor, an administration official later said, perfectly captured the larger point about the need to deal with threats in the post-September 11 world.
The original plan had been to place it in an upcoming presidential speech, but WHIG members fancied it so much that when the Times reporters contacted the White House to talk bout their upcoming piece, one of them leaked Gerson’s phrase—and the administration would soon make maximum use of it.”
(see "Hubris" by Michael Isikoff and David Corn, p. 35)
The White House Iraq Group (aka, White House Information Group or WHIG) was the marketing arm of the White House whose purpose was to sell the 2003 invasion of Iraq to the public. The task force was set up in August 2002 by White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card and chaired by Karl Rove to coordinate all the executive branch elements in the run-up to the war in Iraq. One example of the WHIG's functions and influence is the "escalation of rhetoric about the danger that Iraq posed to the U.S., including the introduction of the term 'mushroom cloud.'"
The members of the White House Iraq Group include:
- Karl Rove
- Karen Hughes
- Mary Matalin
- Andrew Card
- James R. Wilkinson
- Nicholas E. Calio
- Condoleezza Rice
- Stephen Hadley
- I. Lewis (Scooter) Libby
- Michael Gerson
- Rendon Group
- Scott McClellan