So this morning I read Condoleeza Rice’s response to Richard Clarke’s 60 Minutes interview last night, wherein she says that al-Qaeda really was the Bush administration’s first international priority, even though they couldn’t really do anything about it before 9/11. Here’s how she describes the plan, which didn’t have a chance to come to fruition prior to the attacks:
Through the spring and summer of 2001, the national security team developed a strategy to eliminate al Qaeda — which was expected to take years. Our strategy marshaled all elements of national power to take down the network, not just respond to individual attacks with law enforcement measures. Our plan called for military options to attack al Qaeda and Taliban leadership, ground forces and other targets — taking the fight to the enemy where he lived. It focused on the crucial link between al Qaeda and the Taliban. We would attempt to compel the Taliban to stop giving al Qaeda sanctuary — and if it refused, we would have sufficient military options to remove the Taliban regime. The strategy focused on the key role of Pakistan in this effort and the need to get Pakistan to drop its support of the Taliban. This became the first major foreign-policy strategy document of the Bush administration — not Iraq, not the ABM Treaty, but eliminating al Qaeda.
Is it just me, or does this paragraph make hash of the repeated insistence by the Bush administration in the run up to the invasion of Iraq that getting rid of Saddam Hussein was necessary because of his links to al-Qaeda. The fact that Rice specifically says that Iraq was not part of this master plan is telling, isn’t it?