In explosive revelations this week, former White House counterterrorism chief Richard Clarke charged that the Bush administration had little interest in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks except for how they could be used to promote war on Iraq.

“U.S. soldiers went to their death in Iraq, thinking that they were avenging 9/11, when Iraq had nothing to do with it,” Clarke told “Good Morning America.”

“They died for the president’s own agenda which had nothing do with war on terrorism. In fact, by going into Iraq, the president has made the war on terrorism that much harder.”

“While the World Trade Center was still smoldering,” he said, “while they were still digging bodies out, people in the White House were thinking: ‘Ah! This gives us the opportunity we have been looking for to go after Iraq.’”

In his just-released book, “Against All Enemies: Inside the White House’s War on Terror – What Really Happened,” Clarke relates that on Sept. 12, 2001, Bush pulled him and a few aides aside, telling them, “Go back over everything, everything. See if Saddam did this.” When Clarke replied that “al Qaeda did this,” and reminded Bush that the CIA, FBI and White House staff had failed to find any link to Iraq, Bush “testily” replied, “I know, I know, but … see if Saddam was involved. Just look. I want to know any shred.”

On the “60 Minutes” news show, Clarke told reporter Lesley Stahl, “Now he never said, ‘Make it up.’ But the entire conversation left me in absolutely no doubt that George Bush wanted me to come back with a report that said Iraq did this. “I said, ‘Mr. President. We’ve done this before. We have been looking at this. We looked at it with an open mind. There’s no connection.’ He came back at me and said, ‘Iraq! Saddam! Find out if there’s a connection.’ And in a very intimidating way. I mean that we should come back with that answer.”

The White House did not deny this report, saying only it “cannot find evidence that this conversation between Mr. Clarke and the president ever occurred.” However the exchange has been confirmed by others.

Clarke, a Republican security hawk, held senior security positions under Presidents Reagan, Bush I and Clinton. After two years in the George W. Bush White House, he resigned last March.

Another former top Bush official, ex-Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill, said in January that top Bush advisers began planning to attack Iraq as soon as they got into office.

The shocking core of these revelations was summarized by Washington political commentator Josh Marshall in his widely read Talking Points web log: “On September 12th, the Bush war cabinet set about using 9/11 – exploiting it, really – to advance an agenda which had, in fact, been largely discredited by 9/11. They shoehorned everything they’d been trying to do before the attacks into the new boots of 9/11. And the fit was so bad they had to deceive the public and themselves to do it.”

Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) has released a report citing “237 specific misleading statements about the threat posed by Iraq made by the five administration officials most responsible for providing public information and shaping public opinion on Iraq:” Bush, Vice President Cheney, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, Secretary of State Powell, and National Security Advisor Rice.

The report, “Iraq on the Record,” has a searchable database. See has launched an online campaign for congressional censure of Bush for misleading the country about Iraq’s WMDs, charging that Bush and his administration “hyped and distorted” the Iraq threat to take the U.S. to war.

At a March 22 press conference, Kyle Hence, of 9/11 Citizens Watch, representing family members of Sept. 11 victims, charged that the commission investigating the 9/11 attacks has experienced “a pattern of stonewalling and slow walking” by the White House and federal agencies. Hence and other 9/11 family members demanded that the commission compel cooperation and public sworn testimony from top officials.

Meanwhile, the special panel named by Bush to “study” pre-war intelligence has not been heard from.

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Susan Webb
Susan Webb

Susan Webb is a retired co-editor of People's World. She has written on a range of topics both international - the Iraq war, World Social Forums in Brazil and India, the Israel-Palestinian conflict and controversy over the U.S. role in Okinawa - and domestic - including the meaning of socialism for Americans, attacks on Planned Parenthood, the U.S. as top weapons merchant, and more.