Role reversal: Bush wants war, Pentagon urges caution
By DOUG THOMPSON
Capitol Hill Blue
January 22, 2003
Senior Pentagon officials are quietly urging President George W. Bush to
slow down his headlong rush to war with Iraq, complaining the
administration’s course of action represents too much of a shift of
America’s longstanding “no first strike” policy and that the move could
well result in conflicts with other Arab nations.
“We have a dangerous role reversal here,” one Pentagon source tells
Capitol Hill Blue. “The civilians are urging war and the uniformed
officers are urging caution.”
Capitol Hill Blue has learned the Joint Chiefs of Staff are split over
plans to invade Iraq in the coming weeks. They have asked Secretary of
State Donald Rumseld to urge Bush to back down from his hard line stance
until United Nations weapons inspectors can finish their jobs and the
U.S. can build a stronger coalition in the Middle East.
“This is not Desert Storm,” one of the Joint Chiefs is reported to have
told Rumseld. “We don’t have the backing of other Middle Eastern nations.
We don’t have the backing of any of our allies except Britain and we’re
advocating a policy that says we will invade another nation that is not
currently attacking us or invading any of our allies.”
Intelligenced sources say some Arab nations have told US diplomats they
may side with Iraq if the U.S. attacks without the backing of the United
Nations. Secretary of State Colin Powell agrees with his former
colleagues at the Pentagon and has told the President he may be pursuing
a "dangerous course."
An angry Rumsfeld, who backs Bush without question, is said to have told
the Joint Chiefs to get in line or find other jobs. Bush is also said to
be “extremely angry” at what he perceives as growing Pentagon opposition
to his role as Commander in Chief.
“The President considers this nation to be at war,” a White House source
says,” and, as such, considers any opposition to his policies to be no
less than an act of treason.”
But conversations with sources within the Bush administration, the
Pentagon, the FBI and the intelligence community indicate a deepening
rift between the professionals who wage war for a living and the
administration civilians to want to send them into battle.
Sources say the White House has ordered the FBI and CIA to “find and
document” links between Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden, the
mastermind of the 9-11 terrorist attacks.
“The implication is clear,” grumbles one longtime FBI agent. “Find a
link, any link, no matter how vague or unproven, and then use that link
to justify action against Iraq.”
While Hussein and Iraq have been linked to various terrorist groups in
the past, U.S. intelligence agencies have not been able to establish a
provable link with bin Laden’s al Qaeda forces.
“There may be one,” says another FBI source. “There should be one. All
logic says there has to be one, but we haven’t established it as a fact.
Pentagon planners privately refer to the pending Iraq conflict as a “Bush
league war,” something that may be fought more for political gain than
“During Desert Storm, the line officers wanted to finish the job, wanted
to march into Iraq and take out Hussein and his government, but President
Bush and JOC Chairman (Colin) Powell pulled the plug on the operation,”
says one Pentagon officer. “We had our chance. We had the justification.
We had the support. We don’t have it now.”
Some Pentagon staffers point to last weekend’s antiwar rally in
Washington, where they say the crowd included many veterans of Desert
“This wasn’t just a bunch of tree huggers and longhairs marching,” says
Arnold Giftos of Huntington, West Virginia, who served in Desert Storm
and who came to march. “Go to any meeting of veterans groups in this
country and you will see serious discussion on whether or not we should
be getting into this war.”
Reporters covering the marches on Saturday and Sunday say they counted
about 500 marchers among the 30,000 who carried signs or other items
identifying themselves as veterans.
“I served in Vietnam,” said Robert Brighton of Detroit, who marched in
Washington. “I supported Desert Storm. I don’t support this. It’s
In addition, Capitol Hill Blue has learned that both House Speaker Dennis
J. Hastert and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist have told the White
House that they have “increasing” numbers of Republicans in both Houses
raising doubts about the war.
“Nobody in the party wants to come out publicly and tell the President
he’s wrong,” says one Hill source close to the GOP leadership, “but we
don’t have the kind of unity we need on this thing. It could blow apart
on us at any time.”
Public support for a war with Iraq is also slipping. In November of 2001,
just two months after the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon,
78 percent of Americans favored military action against Iraq. That
support has slipped to as low as 52 percent in January polls. A
Washington Post-ABC news poll taken last week shows Americans evenly
split over Bush's handling of the crisis with Iraq.
Spokesmen for the White House, Pentagon and Congressional leadership
offices would not comment on the record for this report.