by John Hawkins | March 22, 2004 6:59 pm
A new book by Richard Clarke, the former counter-terrorism coordinator for the Bush administration, charges that the president was so obsessed with Saddam Hussein that he delayed invading Iraq for 19 months after the 9/11 terror attacks “just so he could let his hatred of Saddam simmer in his mind.”
Mr. Clarke told CBS reporter Leslie Stahl that, from the beginning, the Bush administration didn’t take the al Qaeda threat seriously and was focused on attacking Iraq.
“The 9/11 attacks by al Qaeda were such an utter surprise to [National Security Advisor] Rice and [Defense Secretary] Rumsfeld, that it took them almost a month to retaliate against the Taliban,” said Mr. Clarke. “By contrast, Rumsfeld started planning to hit Saddam from the moment he took office in January 2001. Sure enough, only 26 months after that he unleashed a lightning strike on Iraq. He would have launched the attack sooner if Bush hadn’t been so obsessed with Saddam that he couldn’t see straight.”
The former official said even the war against the Taliban was part of the president’s obsession with Saddam Hussein.
“Bush foolishly believed that there was a link between al Qaeda and Iraq,” Mr. Clarke said. “So, in order to bring down Saddam Hussein, he first attacked the Taliban in Afghanistan in October 2001, because they harbored al Qaeda. Bush thought that if the Taliban fell, Saddam would soon follow. It’s clear that the Rumsfeld and Rice have thought about nothing but Iraq for more than three years now.”
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