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The National Security Archive published the first of a three-part series Tuesday on the Cheney-Bush administration's early plans to invade Iraq. Much of what you'll read there has already been discussed in considerable depth. But without direct proof. The series is based on documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act. Joyce Battle sets the stage:

More than seven years after the U.S. invaded Iraq the reasons for the war remain in dispute and many questions remain unanswered.  Documents released through Britain’s Chilcot inquiry have provided some insights about that country’s participation in the conflict, but from the U.S. side much remains to be discovered.  In time, the narrative of the war will be clarified as more insiders write their personal accounts and as more documents enter the public domain.

Several recently declassified documents compiled here, dating mostly from the first year of the Bush administration, provide new insights into the lead-up to the war.  One in particular, comprised of notes used by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld in late November 2001 during his first face-to-face meeting with Gen. Tommy Franks after sending him the order to start planning seriously for combat, demonstrates again -- as so much reporting has done -- the influence of the long neoconservative campaign against Saddam Hussein as a primary factor driving George Bush’s Iraq policy.

Other documents reflect the high level of attention paid to Iraq well before the 9/11 attacks, as well as some of the problems that the administration faced as it began strategizing seriously for war – how to justify an unprovoked attack given the dearth of any real evidence that Iraq was a threat to the U.S., how to win over partners that would be willing to join in the U.S. invasion, how to generate positive spin to sell the administration’s controversial choices?

Among the findings in the compilation of documents:

   • Secretary of State Powell’s awareness, three days into a new administration, that Iraq "regime change" would be a principal focus of the Bush presidency

   • The difficulty of winning European support for attacking Iraq (except that of British Prime Minister Tony Blair) without real evidence that Baghdad was implicated in 9/11

   • The State Department’s analytical unit observing that a decision by Tony Blair to join a U.S. war on Iraq "could bring a radicalization of British Muslims, the great majority of whom opposed the September 11 attacks but are increasingly restive about what they see as an anti-Islamic campaign"

   • Pentagon interest in the perception of an Iraq invasion as a "just war" and State Department insights into the improbability of that outcome.

The documents show just how venal the administration had been when it came to the 60,000 high-strength, aluminum-alloy tubes that National Security Adviser Condoleeza Rice infamously claimed could only be part of a secret Iraqi nuclear weapons program and "we don’t want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud."

Iraq's effort to buy aluminum tubes became known in April 2001. A CIA analyst who was not a specialist said they could only be used for centrifuges in the making of nuclear weapons. Nuclear scientists disagreed, saying they were most likely for conventional rockets. In June, the U.S. got direct access to the intercepted shipment. A nuclear scientist again declared to administration officials that the tubes were unsuitable for nuclear purposes. Despite these flat-out demurrers from people in the know, the administration focused on "Getting the right story out."

A year later, in the late summer of 2002, after months of plumping up its bogus case for attacking Iraq, the administration leaked documents about the tubes that it knew to be false. White House propaganda conduit Judith Miller at The New York Times's dutifully reported September 8 that the tubes were meant for centrifuges. Dick Cheney, Colin Powell and Rice all appeared on the Sunday talk shows that same day to talk up the claims. That was when Rice fear-mongered the nation with her mushroom cloud remark.

Do you suppose any of this has made its way into George Bush's memoirs scheduled for release six weeks from now? Do you suppose it will make its way into the high school history textbooks purchased by the Texas Board of Education? Do you suppose the next time an administration tries to lie its way into a war that someone in a position of authority, say a Secretary of State, will actually challenge those lies instead of repeating them publicly and saying years down the road how sorry he is to have been misled?

Originally posted to Daily Kos on Thu Sep 23, 2010 at 02:00 PM PDT.

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