The Iraq war, which was predicated on the existence of weapons of mass destruction, has resulted in the deaths of nearly 4,000 US troops and has cost taxpayers roughly half-a-trillion dollars.
The invasion of Iraq was conceived prior to 9/11, according to Paul O'Neill, President Bush's former Treasury Secretary. Intelligence gathered by US agencies that claimed Iraq was possessed WMD's was cooked to justify a preemptive strike.
O'Neill was fired from his post for disagreeing with Bush's economic policies.
In his book, "The Price of Loyalty," journalist Ron Suskind interviewed O'Neill who said that the Iraq war was planned just days after the president was sworn into office.
"From the very beginning, there was a conviction, that Saddam Hussein was a bad person and that he needed to go," O'Neill told Suskind, adding that going after Saddam Hussein was a priority 10 days after the Bush's inauguration and eight months before Sept. 11.
"From the very first instance, it was about Iraq. It was about what we can do to change this regime," Suskind wrote. "Day one, these things were laid and sealed."
As treasury secretary, O'Neill was a permanent member of the National Security Council. He says in the book he was surprised at the meeting that questions such as "Why Saddam?" and "Why now?" were never asked.
A little known article in the January 11, 2001, edition of the New York Times titled "Iraq Is Focal Point as Bush Meets with Joint Chiefs" confirms that the administration was working on a plan to topple Saddam Hussein's regime.
"George W. Bush, the nation's commander in chief to be, went to the Pentagon today for a top-secret session with the Joint Chiefs of Staff to review hot spots around the world where he might have to send American forces into harm's way," the Times story says.
Bush was joined at the Pentagon meeting by Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld, and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice.
The Times reported that "half of the 75-minute meeting focused on a discussion about Iraq and the Persian Gulf, two participants said. Iraq was the first topic briefed because 'it's the most visible and most risky area Mr. Bush will confront after he takes office, one senior officer said.'"
"Iraqi policy is very much on his mind," one senior Pentagon official told the Times. "Saddam was clearly a discussion point."
WMD's Cited for "Bureaucratic Reasons"
On September13, 2001, during a meeting at Camp David with President Bush, Rumsfeld and other Bush administration officials, Wolfowitz said he discussed with President Bush the prospects of launching an attack against Iraq, for no apparent reason other than a “gut feeling” Saddam Hussein was involved in the attacks, and there was a debate “about what place if any Iraq should have in a counter terrorist strategy.”
“On the surface of the debate it at least appeared to be about not whether but when,” Wolfowitz said during a May 9, 2003 interview with Vanity Fair, a transcript of which is posted on the Department of Defense website www.defenselink.mil/transcripts/2003/tr20030509-depsecdef0223.html. “There seemed to be a kind of agreement that yes it should be, but the disagreement was whether it should be in the immediate response or whether you should concentrate simply on Afghanistan first..."the decision to highlight weapons of mass destruction as the main justification for going to war in Iraq was taken for bureaucratic reasons...."
When the United Nations chose Hans Blix, the chief United Nations weapons inspector, in January 2002 to lead a team of U.N. weapons inspectors into Iraq to search for weapons of mass destruction Wolfowitz contacted the CIA to produce a report on why Blix, as chief of the International Atomic Energy Agency during the 1980s and 1990s, failed to detect Iraqi nuclear activity, according to an April 15, 2002 report in the Washington Post.