The Long Road to War
Louis Wiley Jr.
ANNOUNCER: Tonight a special FRONTLINE
presentation. For more than 12
GEORGE W. BUSH: This must not stand!
ANNOUNCER: --he has defied the United States--
BILL CLINTON: If Saddam will not comply with--
ANNOUNCER: --and tested the will of three American
GEORGE W. BUSH: Saddam Hussein aids and protects
ANNOUNCER: For more than 12 years, FRONTLINE has
investigated that struggle-
GEORGE W. BUSH: We will fight, and we will prevail.
ANNOUNCER: --and now, at the moment of the final
confrontation, tells the full story of The Long Road to War.
NARRATOR: In the FRONTLINE archive on Iraq, there are 10 documentary films, hundreds of interviews, thousands of pages of documents, hour upon hour of videotape. Tonight FRONTLINE focuses on the key moments from this record of America's ongoing confrontation with Saddam Hussein.
The archive begins with the struggle between the first President Bush and Iraq, back in August of 1990, when Saddam's troops invaded Kuwait. That fall, in a program called "The Arming of Iraq," FRONTLINE set out to investigate how Saddam Hussein had managed to build such a formidable military machine.
Correspondent Hodding Carter begins his story with another president and another Middle Eastern crisis.
JIMMY CARTER: [January 21, 1980]
The 1980s have been born in turmoil, strife and change. This is a time of challenge to our
interests and our values. If the
American hostages are harmed, a severe price will be paid.
CARTER III, FRONTLINE Correspondent:
The nation, like all of us in the Carter administration, was first
enraged and then mesmerized by the Iran hostage crisis. In the country, the Ayatollah Khomeini
became the symbol of American shame and impotence. At the White House thwarting the Ayatollah became an
obsession. So when Iraq invaded
Iran in September, 1980, top officials privately cheered. Iraq was not our friend, but it was now
the enemy of our enemy.
ARMITAGE: Iran was having several successes. And when they broke through at Basra
and Alfa, there was a fear throughout the gulf that this wave of Iranian
hegemony would sweep down on them.
NARRATOR: Richard Armitage was assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs from 1983 to 1989.
ARMITAGE: It was at that time that we realized,
Good heavens, we don't want anyone to win. We also don't want Iraq to lose, because a loss in Iraq, we
felt, would mean the spread of a secular brand of Khomeinism throughout the
gulf, and this we be a detriment to all of our interests.
So this was a cold calculation of interest.
ARMITAGE: It was a cold calculation of national
NARRATOR: Whatever the reason, U.S. policy seemed to include a reluctance to criticize Saddam Hussein publicly -- not for sheltering Abu Abbas, the terrorist responsible for the Achille Lauro hijacking in 1985, not for his use of missiles against civilian targets in Iran, nor his repeated use of poison gas in the war going back as far as 1984. There was also a marked difference in the way Washington viewed arms sales to Iran and Iraq.
CARTER III: And what was our policy about arms
shipments to Iraq?
MURPHY, State Department '83-'89:
There was no policy to intervene with anyone about arms shipments to
NARRATOR: Republican Senator Alfonse D'Amato was a frequent critic of U.S. policy toward Iraq throughout the '80s.
ALFONSE D'AMATO, U.S. Senate, '80-'98 (R-NY):
It was a totally uneven policy.
There was not a tilt towards Iraq, there was a wholesale rush to Iraq.
NARRATOR: In another FRONTLINE investigation titled "The Survival of Saddam," we revealed just how close that cooperation was. This is a key moment from that film.
AZIZ, Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister:
Iran was an enemy, a proclaimed enemy of the United States. We were not the enemies of the United
States. So in such circumstances,
of course, you have some-- something to talk about.
NARRATOR: Over the next six years, a string of CIA agents went to Baghdad. They hand-carried the latest satellite intelligence about the Iranian front line. They passed the information to their Iraqi counterparts.
MARIK, Retired CIA Officer: We would go to
an office and we would sit down with our Iraqi military friends, and they would
give us tea and sometimes a nice lunch.
And they had no illusions about us, and we had-- certainly had no
illusions about them. We played
our card of giving them help in any way we could, within the limits that the
United States government thought the limits should be.
NARRATOR: Washington gave Iraq enough help to avoid defeat, but not enough to secure victory.
AZIZ: So we had normal relations. And it worked, you see. It worked for a while.
NARRATOR: From FRONTLINE's "The Arming of Iraq," we pick up the story at the end of the Iran-Iraq war and explore the Reagan administration's hopes for its future relationship with Saddam.
CARTER III: [voice-over] The end of the war came with a
ceasefire in 1988, under conditions which reflected the government's best
hopes, as this classified State Department document reveals. "We can legitimately assert that our
post-Irangate policy has worked.
The outward thrust of the Iranian revolution has been stopped. Iraq's interests in development,
modernity and regional influence should compel it in our direction. We should welcome and encourage the
interest and respond accordingly."
MURPHY, State Dept. Top Mideast Diplomat '83-'89: We all saw Iraq in the post-war era as
a very valuable market for our business communities, potentially an enormous
market, once it got out from under the load of war debt that it had
CARTER III: But American hopes for a civilized Iraq
seemed shattered almost immediately when Hussein made war on his own people at
MURPHY: As soon as that happened in Halabja
during the war, we took it up with the Iraqis-- very strong disapproval of
chemical weapons. And we got them--
Secretary Schultz got them to move, at that point, and articulate a position
that they would forswear future use of chemical weapons.
ALFONSE D'AMATO, U.S. Senate, '80-'98 (R-NY):
Here's a fellow who's using gas, poison gas and chemicals, to kill his
own people, and they said, "Oh, well, you know, he's really-- there's hope. We see hope." Oh, my gosh! If
that is not the most incredible, impractical, illogical kind of thing!
CARTER III: When the Reagan presidency became the
Bush presidency, the new team's policy was a continuation of the old. It would be a policy that required the
repeated triumph of hope over experience because the Iraqi arms build-up was
continuing. This spring, it was
blocked at the last moment--
NARRATOR: Our program "The Arming of Iraq went on to demonstrate that Saddam's build-up was aided by questionable Iraqi business deals with companies in France, Germany, Britain and the United States. By 1990, Saddam Hussein had the fourth largest army in the world, and his program to build weapons of mass destruction was well under way. But Iraq was broke, and Saddam believed Kuwait was bleeding him by keeping the price of oil too low. Saddam's frustrations would soon lead to the invasion of Kuwait.
Read "The Arming of Iraq" transcript]
NARRATOR: The story of how the first President Bush took on Saddam was the focus of FRONTLINE's special report "To the Brink of War, reported by Hodding Carter.
CARTER III: July 17th in Iraq was the 22nd
anniversary of the revolution that brought President Saddam Hussein's party to
power. After its eight-year war
with Iran, Iraq was now billions in debt and angry with its Arab neighbors
about the low price of oil, its chief source of cash. In his anniversary speech, Hussein threatened Kuwait and the
United Arab Emirates. "Iraqis," he
said, "will not forget the maxim that cutting necks is better than cutting the
means of living. Oh, God Almighty,
be witness that we have warned them."
the United States, the speech seemed to pass almost unnoticed. When pressed for a response, the State
Department spokesman avoided any criticism of Iraq.
FRIEDMAN, "The New York Times": I
think they saw him as earlier administrations saw him, as a thug and a bully in
a neighborhood of thugs and bullies, but our thug and our bully, that,
basically, this guy had been-- this is how he was perceived, as a bulwark
against these wild, crazy and uncontrolled Iranians.
CARTER III: On July 25th, April Glaspie, the U.S.
ambassador to Iraq, was summoned to meet with Saddam Hussein in Baghdad. According to an Iraqi transcript,
Hussein harangued the ambassador about his dispute with Kuwait over the price
of oil. Ambassador Glaspie told
Hussein, "The president personally wants to deepen the relationship with Iraq." She did express concern about the Iraqi
troops on the Kuwaiti border, but added, "We don't have much to say about
Arab-Arab differences, like your border differences with Kuwait. All we hope is you solve these matters
Wright, an author and correspondent for The Los Angeles Times, has reported on the
Middle East for 18 years.
WRIGHT, "Los Angeles Times": I
don't think we were basically-- we basically understood the depth of the
feeling. We didn't understand that
Saddam was economically in dire straights and that he would use an historical
claim on Kuwaiti land to help his own economic situation, as well as his
egomaniacal political ambitions, not only in the Gulf but in the entire Arab
CARTER III: During that final week of July, as
Hussein reinforced his troops, several Arab leaders privately assured the U.S.
that he would not invade. And the
State Department continued to make it clear the U.S. would not intervene in the
Do you happen to know if the United States has any commitment to Kuwait,
to defend Kuwait or to assist it against aggression?
O. TUTWILER, State Dept. Spokesman, '89-'92: We do not have
any defense treaties with Kuwait, and there are no special defense or security
commitments to Kuwait.
WRIGHT: The fact that no U.S. official ever
actively intervened to say, "Wait a minute, don't go too far or else you'll
face the wrath of not only America but the entire industrialized world," I'm
sure helped pave the way for Saddam's decision to take one of the most daring
military actions of the 20th century.
CARTER III: On August 1st, the CIA reported to the
president that Iraqi troops on the Kuwaiti border were now capable of launching
an invasion. At the Pentagon that
afternoon, the Joint Chiefs were briefed on the Iraqi build-up by General Norman
Schwarzkopf, commander of U.S. forces in the Middle East.
ATKINSON, "The Washington Post": At
that time, Schwarzkopf gave a rather vivid description -- in a somewhat low-key
manner -- of what the Iraqi forces were capable of doing.
CARTER II: Rick Atkinson reports on the Pentagon
for The Washington Post.
ATKINSON: He did not predict that there would be
an invasion. There were no alarm
bells that went off. The Chiefs
came out of there and went about their business.
KOPPEL, ABC "Nightline": U.S. intelligence ~sources confirm that
within the past few hours, more than 100,000 Iraqi troops have massed along
that country's border with Kuwait, and now there are reports--
CARTER III: That night, as the nation learned of
the invasion on television, National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft monitored
the situation at the White House and briefed the president.
McDANIEL, "Newsweek": The following morning, the president
comes into the Oval Office at about 5:40 in the morning, actually stops an aide
in the hall and asks, "What's going on," begins to read he newspapers--
CARTER III: Ann McDaniel is White House
correspondent for Newsweek magazine.
McDANIEL: And then the day's meetings begin on
what they're going to do. Bush
makes his first public announcement during that day.
GEORGE H.W. BUSH: But I'm not contemplating such action.
THOMAS, UPI: You're not contemplating any
intervention or sending troops?
GEORGE H.W. BUSH: I'm not contemplating such action, and
I, again, ~would not discuss it if I were.
CARTER III: That morning, the president flew to
Aspen, Colorado, for a previously scheduled speech and a meeting with Prime
Minister Margaret Thatcher.
NARRATOR: Years later, in its history of the gulf war, FRONTLINE would ask Mrs. Thatcher what happened that day in Aspen.
THATCHER, Former Prime Minister, Great Britain 1979-1990: George Bush just said to me, "Margaret,
what is your view?" And so,
indeed, I told him that aggressors must be stopped, not only stopped, but they
must be thrown out. An aggressor
cannot gain from his aggression.
He must be thrown out. And
really, by that time, in my mind, I thought we ought to throw him out so
decisively that he could never think of doing it again.
Read Margaret Thatcher's full interview]
BRENT SCOWCROFT, National Security Adviser, '89-'92: It was like two soulmates finding each
other. They found, from the very
first words, that they were exactly on the same wavelength, that this was a
tremendously serious event, that it could not be tolerated and something had to
NARRATOR: The president said little to the press, but he was already thinking about military action. Thatcher remembers telling him Saddam was a potential Hitler who must be stopped. Both leaders drew their history lessons from World War II.
THATCHER: Don't forget George Bush fought bravely
in the last war. He knew what it
was like to fight. He was injured. So he knew that if you didn't turn out
an aggressor, then you could have simply terrible consequences for future
NARRATOR: George Bush had been formed by his experiences as a young Navy pilot in the Pacific. But for his generals, the last war was Vietnam, where Norman Schwarzkopf and Colin Powell had served as young officers. And 20 years later, the military and the country were still traumatized by the disaster in Vietnam.
As the president returned to Washington, the political challenge that faced him was enormous. To throw Saddam out of Kuwait, he would have to overcome stiff resistance inside his own government and in the country. But now, as the president headed for a meeting with his key advisers, there was fresh intelligence that the Iraqis might be headed for Saudi Arabia.
BRENT SCOWCROFT: One of the first questions was, "Is he
going to stop at the borders of Kuwait?
Saddam. Is he going to stop
there, or is he likely to go on into Saudi Arabia and move down to the oil
CHENEY, Secretary of Defense, '89-'93: We
had no idea what he was going to do.
Everybody'd been dead wrong with respect to the question of whether or
not he was going to invade Kuwait, and he'd invaded Kuwait. And he had 140,000 Iraqi troops on the
COLIN POWELL, Chmn. Joint Chiefs of Staff, '89-'93: The key decision that came out of that
meeting is we will defend Saudi Arabia.
There was no debate about that.
The question I then posed is, "Then what?" Are we prepared-- should we be prepared to go forward and
fight for Kuwait?
NARRATOR: The president gave no response to Powell's question that night or the next day at Camp David. Vietnam was at the table, the old fear of another escalating conflict with no clear end.
COLIN POWELL: For those of us who are Vietnam veterans,
we all have a view that says if you're going to put us into something, then you
owe the armed forces, you owe the American people, a clear statement of what
political objective you're trying to achieve.
NARRATOR: The next afternoon, Bush returned to Washington. The generals hoped talk of liberating Kuwait had gone away. It wasn't the last time they would misread George Bush.
HAASS, Middle East Adviser, '89-'93: He
motioned me to come out, so I went out there, and he said, "What's going
on? What have we heard?" And what I essentially reported was
that there had been zero progress.
He was pretty fired up even before I spoke to him. I think I probably added 10 percent,
but he was-- he was pretty much there, to begin with. And then he went off and-- the "This will not stand" line was
not mine. That was his. And that was just his speaking from
where he was.
GEORGE H.W. BUSH: [August 5, 1990]
This will not stand. This
will not stand, this aggression against Kuwait.
COLIN POWELL: I'm home watching this on television,
and that was the first direct expression from the president that he has crossed
the line and there's no question he will do what is necessary to get the Iraqis
out of Kuwait, whether it's by sanctions, sanctions and force, force alone,
whatever it's going to take. And
so he had crossed the river, at that point, in my mind. And I sat up and said, "Wow!"
GEORGE H.W. BUSH: I've got to go. I have to go to work. I got to go to work.
BRENT SCOWCROFT: I liked it. I liked it very much.
Others-- Colin Powell says, "That'll teach us to leave you up at Camp
David alone with him."
NARRATOR: The U.N. imposed sanctions and called on Saddam to withdraw from Kuwait. Instead, he sent in over 300,000 soldiers. Kuwait's wealth was systematically plundered. Some Kuwaitis tried to fight back, but the resistance was soon broken. Saddam ruled Kuwait as he'd always ruled Iraq, with torture and terror. But this time, the United States was no longer turning a blind eye, and Saddam's methods allowed President Bush to elevate the struggle to a moral crusade.
GEORGE H.W. BUSH: [October 15, 1990]
Summary executions, routine torture-- Hitler revisited. America will not stand aside. The world will not allow the strong to
swallow up the weak.
NARRATOR: President Bush had isolated Saddam diplomatically. He met Mikhail Gorbachev to ask the Soviet Union not to stand in the way if America went to war with Iraq. Iraq was an old ally of the Soviet Union, but Gorbachev agreed. The Cold War had just ended. Gorbachev did not want to risk his new relationship with America.
GORBACHEV, Soviet President, '90-'91: [through
This was a key meeting. A country
had been occupied. If at that
point in history, we had not been able to deal with that situation, everything
else we had worked for would have been null and void.
BAKER, Secretary of State, '89-'92:
Without the Soviet Union on board, we never would have been able to
marshal the international coalition that we were able to build up. It just gave a completely different
dynamic to the whole effort.
Instead of being an effort, let's say, by the United States and the
United Kingdom to eject Iraq from Kuwait, it was an effort by the entire
NARRATOR: Baker and Bush had methodically built a broad international coalition to oppose Saddam. Ultimately, Bush would convince over 30 nations to contribute financial or military support to the effort.
In the Persian Gulf, a multi-national naval force had cut off Iraqi shipping, enforcing the stiff United Nations economic sanctions. But the CIA was telling President Bush it could take years for sanctions to drive Saddam from Kuwait. And inside the American government, there was a growing split over whether sanctions alone could work.
COLIN POWELL: My thinking was that it would be great
if sanctions would do the job because then we would avoid a war with unknown
consequences. And therefore, we
should give sanctions as much of a ride as was politically possible.
NARRATOR: Powell went to see the president. He feared that Bush might rush to war because his civilian advisers had not properly explained how long-term sanctions might work.
COLIN POWELL: I laid out for him what a sanctions
policy might look like and how it would work. He listened intently in that way he has, somewhat slouched
in his chair, with his chin slightly down. And his response was, "Well, Colin, that's all very, very
interesting. It's good to consider
all options. But I just don't
think we're going to have time for sanctions to work."
NARRATOR: Even after this meeting, Colin Powell would continue to argue against the president's line. Two weeks later in the Pentagon, Powell spoke with a top British commander.
PATRICK HINE, British Air Chief Marshal: Colin
Powell said to me that he would be prepared to give sanctions a considerable
time to work. And I said, "Well,
how long are we talking about?"
And to my astonishment, Colin Powell said, "Well, I would give them up
to two years to work." He said, "I
don't think we should mount a military operation for at least that length of
time, if that's what it takes for the sanctions to work," which he was
confident that they would.
INTERVIEWER: Would you have given sanctions two
COLIN POWELL: I don't-- I don't know-- I don't
know. At that point, when we're
talking about this on the 24th of September, sanctions had only been at work
for about a month-- a little over a month.
It wasn't clear whether they would have a desired effect. I was prepared to wait and see.
GEORGE H.W. BUSH: I have today directed the Secretary of
Defense to increase the size of U.S. forces committed to Desert Shield to
ensure that the coalition has an adequate offensive military option, should
that be necessary to achieve our common goals.
NARRATOR: Bush had taken his generals to the brink of war. Now he had to bring along the American public. Saddam Hussein believed the trauma of Vietnam meant that the American people would not stand for a war. Now the polls showed support for Bush's handling of the crisis was slipping.
CHENEY, Secretary of Defense, '89-'93: Sanctions working doesn't mean just
destruction of the Iraqi economy.
It means getting Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait.
NARRATOR: An angry Democratic Congress convened hearings to grill the administration on its plans for war.
Does that not offer us our best prospect to succeed?
CHENEY: If the president were to ask me today,
"Can you guarantee that these sanctions will work within a year or two," the
answer is no, I cannot.
McNAMARA, Secretary of Defense, '61-'68: The point is,
it's going to be bloody! There are
going to be thousands and thousands and thousands of casualties!
NARRATOR: Some of the sharpest criticism came from the defense establishment, especially from the man who had planned the war in Vietnam.
McNAMARA: Surely, we should be prepared to extend
the sanctions over a 12 or 18-month period. If that offers an opportunity to achieve our political
objective without the loss of American lives, who can doubt that a year of
blockade will be cheaper than a week of war?
NARRATOR: The Bush administration was having much more success building up international support for war. Their maneuvering led to a historic U.N. vote authorizing the use of force in six weeks if Iraq refused to leave Kuwait.
BAKER, Secretary of State, '89-'92: [November 29, 1990]
Simply put, my friends, it is a choice between right and wrong. Between right and wrong. Will those in favor of the draft
resolution contained in document S/21969 please raise their hand?
ATKINSON, "The Washington Post":
There were various concessions made to different countries whose support
was critical. Egypt was forgiven
$7 billion in various debts. Syria
was forgiven many of the same sins of which Saddam was accused. Turkey was basically granted certain
trade concessions in return for their very important support.
BAKER: The draft resolution has been adopted
as Resolution 678-1990. We have
taken political, economic and military measures to quarantine Iraq and to
contain its aggression. The
nations of the world have not stood idly by.
NARRATOR: But the U.N. resolution only deepened the fears of the American people.
BAKER: There was very little public support in
the United States for the idea of going to war in the Persian Gulf. In fact, it was overwhelmingly opposed.
we were going to fight a war, we had to do so with the support of the American
people, if possible with the support of the American Congress. But that if we were going to send
people-- Americans off to die in the Persian Gulf, we had to be able to survive
the judgments of history that we didn't do so precipitously.
NARRATOR: On November 30th, the day after the U.N. resolution authorizing force, President Bush invited the Iraqi foreign minister to Washington and offered to send Secretary Baker to Baghdad.
GEORGE H.W. BUSH: I will suggest to Iraq's president that
he receive the Secretary of State at a mutually convenient time between
December 15th and January 15th of next year.
McDANIEL, "Newsweek": Mid to late December, when Saddam
refused to meet with Jim Baker, refused to agree to a date over that 15-day
period the White House offered, it suddenly dawned on George Bush and his top
advisers that Saddam had not really done anything they expected during this
entire crisis. There was no signal
that Saddam Hussein was going to get out of Kuwait. They have suddenly become very discouraged.
NARRATOR: By Christmas, President Bush had achieved enormous success in convincing most of the world that resolving the gulf crisis would define a new world order. But now in the endgame, what mattered most was his ability to convince Saddam Hussein, and that would depend in part on how well he understood his adversary.
McDANIEL, "Newsweek": George Bush trusts very few
people. He's comfortable with
people he knows, he relies upon. I
do think he's been listening to other heads of state, but I don't think he has
reached out very much to the expert community.
NARRATOR: One expert the president did speak with is Fouad Ajami, professor of Middle Eastern studies at Johns Hopkins University. Ajami believes the president gets most of his sense of Saddam Hussein from talking with Arab leaders, like Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak.
AJAMI, Professor, Johns Hopkins University:
Mubarak had gone to Baghdad at the height of the Iran-Iraq war, when the
war was going badly for Saddam.
And instead of seeing the self-confident Saddam, blustering Saddam,
bravado Saddam, he saw a broken man. There is also kind of a portrait of Saddam being offered to
the Americans by the Egyptians that says, "Look, we know this man. We did business with him. We saw him on the verge of
psychological breakdown during the Iran-Iraq war. He is not really the courageous man he says he is. He's a frightened man."
NARRATOR: In late December, in a Time magazine interview, the president said about Hussein, "My gut says he will get out of there."
McDANIEL: Since the new year, for the first time,
the very top people in the administration have begun musing about how they may
have miscalculated, how they may have misread Saddam, that they may have
applied Western values and a Western measurement to Saddam Hussein, who really,
by all indications, does not think like the president of the United States.
NARRATOR: At the brink of the first gulf war, one question haunted the president and his closest advisers: What kind of man was Saddam Hussein? Taking his measure in those months leading to desert storm, FRONTLINE tried to answer that question in "The Mind of Hussein."
CARTER III, FRONTLINE Correspondent: [voice-over] Saddam Hussein's life started in a
small village much like this. It's
a part of his populist appeal.
He's at home squatting with peasants. His background is hazy, rewritten by official
biographers. It is known that he
was born in 1937 and left home at an early age. He came to Baghdad when he was 10 years old to live with his
uncle and to seek an education. He
apparently lived up to the Arabic translation of his name-- Saddam, "the one who
confronts." It's said he arrived
in the Iraqi capital with a gun.
MATAR, Official Hussein Biographer: [through
interpreter] As a child, Saddam Hussein used to see
lots of guns hanging on the walls at his home. In those days, an Iraqi would boast of having a gun or
dagger. If you wanted to be seen
as a strong man, you had to carry a gun.
He saw the gun as a way of showing his strength.
CARTER III: At school, the teenage Saddam had his
problems with authority.
ABDUL WAHAD AL-HAKIM, Iraqi Exile: My
headmaster told me that he liked to expel Saddam from the school. When Saddam hear about this decision,
he came to his-- you know, his headmaster room and threaten him to death. He said, "I will kill you if you not
withdraw your threat against me to expel me from the school."
CARTER III: Saddam's political education as an
Iraqi nationalist began with his uncle Khayrallah, who had been jailed for
anti-British activities. He
apparently also taught him about hate.
Years later, Saddam would have printed and distributed one of his
uncle's pamphlets. It was entitled
Three Things God Should not Have Created: Persians, Jews and Flies.
AL-FEKAIKI, Former Ba'ath Party Member:
The main influence on Saddam's personality, I believe, the hatred
against the West, which was in the '50s and '60s because of the creation of
Israel, because of prevention of the Arab unity, because of the domination of
the British on the whole area.
This hatred is still there.
NARRATOR: In "The Survival of Saddam," FRONTLINE examined how the young Hussein turned those early political feelings into political action.
As a teenager, he moved to Baghdad and later became an enforcer for a new revolutionary movement known as the Ba'ath, or "renewal" Party. Political violence was Saddam's ticket to a better life. The party leadership needed a hit man. They were planning to assassinate Iraq's strongman, General Abdul Kareem Kassem.
K. ABURISH, Saddam Hussein Biographer:
What they needed is just a gunman, and they remembered this fellow who
had already been accused of murdering someone in his village. So they said, "Will you join in the
killing of Abdul Kareem Kassem?"
And the reaction, of course, was ecstatic. "Yeah. Well,"
you know, "let's go for it."
NARRATOR: The assassination would happen here, on Baghdad's main street. Years later, Saddam hired a James Bond director to reenact his attack on General Kassem's motorcade. The assassination attempt was botched. Saddam was slightly wounded. The next morning, Saddam escaped in a daring swim across the River Tigris.
K. ABURISH: He created just a monumental legend
around this incident. You know, "I
am a member of a hit squad which tried to assassinate the head of this
country." This made him proud.
NARRATOR: Now in exile, Saddam became the leader of the Ba'ath Party's student cell in Cairo. The Ba'ath Party had sparked the interest of the CIA, and Saddam reportedly became a regular visitor to the American embassy.
K. ABURISH: The visits to the American Embassy by
Saddam Hussein and other members of the Ba'ath Party had one purpose and one
purpose only: to cooperate with the Americans towards the overthrow of General
Abdul Kareem Kassem in Iraq.
AKINS, U.S. Diplomat in Baghdad, 1963:
Iraq clearly was very strongly under the influence of the Soviets. And I think that we decided that
something should be done.
ANNOUNCER: The storied city of Baghdad, capital of
Iraq, has been the scene once more of bloody revolt that has seated a new
NARRATOR: With CIA help, the Iraqi Ba'ath Party seized power in 1963. General Kassem was killed in the coup. The CIA provided lists of suspected communists for Ba'ath Party hit squads, who liquidated at least 800 people. Saddam Hussein rushed home to join in as a interrogator, torturer and killer.
AKINS: We were very happy. They got rid of a lot of
communists. A lot of them were
executed or shot. This was a great
K. ABURISH: The head of the Ba'ath Party started
referring to Saddam, after he got to know him, as Gabadai, "My tough guy." And he helped promote Saddam's cause in
the party because he thought what the party needed to move forward was a tough
The full interview with biographer Aburish]
NARRATOR: Saddam moved fast. He made himself indispensable to the party leader, Ahmed Hassan al-Bakr, a distant uncle. After Bakr became president in 1968, he made his 31-year-old protege vice president. A rising star in a rabidly anti-communist party, Saddam once led some visitors into his private library. They were shocked to see shelf after shelf devoted to Saddam's role model, Joseph Stalin.
MAHKMOUD OTHMAN, Kurdish Negotiator:
Well, we went in, actually, and we saw those books. I was amazed, you see? And I asked him, "Are you a communist,
reading all those books, and so on?"
Well, he say, "No, but even Stalin, was he a real communist?"
K. ABURISH: Everything Saddam did had Stalinist
overtones. Stalin is his
hero. Saddam Hussein models himself
after Stalin more than any other man in history, consciously and very, very
deliberately. He admires the man.
NARRATOR: With Stalin's methods, Saddam believed he could control and modernize Iraq. And like Stalin, he coveted his mentor's office.
AZIZ, Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister:
Saddam Hussein is a patient man.
He does not jump, you see.
He served under the presidency of Al-Bakr very, very faithfully and
honestly. But then President
Al-Bakr, you see, became older and older.
He became ill.
NARRATOR: Saddam's time had come. In July 1979, he staged a palace coup and named himself president. He summoned the party leadership to a meeting. He said there were traitors in their midst. He read out their names. One by one, they were led out, never to be seen again. Adnan Hamdani had been Saddam's close friend for 20 years. He tried to object. Saddam allowed no debate.
CHALABI, Iraqi Opposition Leader:
And this drama, where you either get a reprieve from the life-giver or
you get a finger by the devil, who would then-- and the thugs would come, and
they would beat this man up and take him away to be executed. The whole thing was bizarre, but very
NARRATOR: After sending some of his closest friends to their deaths, Saddam wept. Tapes of the meeting were sent throughout the country. Saddam wanted the elite to know what kind of man was now ruling Iraq.
A decade later, at the end of 1990, with the world poised for war against Iraq, one question remained: Why had Saddam Hussein and George Bush so badly miscalculated the intentions of the other?
GEORGE H.W. BUSH: We're dealing with Hitler revisited, a
totalitarianism and a brutality that is naked and unprecedented in modern
times, and that must not stand!
CARTER III: Was it a smart thing for George Bush to
both penalize and mythologize Hussein?
MELHEM, Lebanese Journalist:
Absolutely not. Absolutely
not. Because it betrayed
incredible lack of knowledge about the region, certainly about the regime in
Iraq, about the individual involved, Saddam Hussein, and where he comes from.
CARTER III: Did Hussein misread George Bush?
L. ATHERTON, Jr., Asst Secy of State, N. East Affairs, '74-'78: Oh, I think so. He misread George Bush and the American
CARTER III: Why did he misread them so much?
L. ATHERTON, Jr.: I think it's his own mindset, a
lifetime of misreading the world around him, looking at the world in terms of
the Ba'ath Party climb to power and then fight to stay in power in the very
complicated, in many ways heterogeneous Iraqi political climate.
CARTER III: [voice-over] If there was one thing Saddam Hussein
had learned from Ba'ath politics, it was how to go one on one with a rival.
JERROLD M. POST, Political Psychologist:
When he succeeded in involving George Bush in a more personalized
combat, not just Iraq versus the United States but Saddam Hussein versus George
Bush, this played extremely well in the Arab world, especially to the weak,
dispossessed, alienated individuals, especially the Palestinians. Here was this man who had the ~courage
to stand up not only against the most powerful nation on earth, but against the
president of the most powerful nation on earth and engage him in one-on-one
CARTER III: Saddam Hussein probably never expected
George Bush to go to war, convinced that he wouldn't risk American lives. But he also had few illusions about the
firepower he was facing.
NARRATOR: Desert Storm hit Iraq with unparalleled force. FRONTLINE's documentary series "The Gulf War" chronicled the military campaign and the political struggle that followed.
The pilots called it "the highway of death." Three days into the land war, the army that had occupied Kuwait City for seven months no longer existed as a fighting force. Thousands of footprints led off into the desert. Hundreds had been killed. In the coming hours, what happened here would become an important factor in ending the war.
NORMAN SCHWARZKOPF: Why did we bomb them? Because there was a great deal of
military equipment on that highway.
I had given orders to all of my commanders that I wanted every piece of
Iraqi equipment that we possibly could destroyed. This was not a bunch of innocent people just trying to make
their way back across the border to Iraq.
This was a bunch of-- of rapists, murderers and thugs who had raped and
pillaged downtown Kuwait City and now were trying to get out of the country
before they were caught.
GATES, Deputy National Security Adviser, '89-'91: Colin Powell and Dick Cheney came over
to the White House to give the president their daily report on how-- how the war
was going. And by that time, we
knew both from the military reports and from satellites about the "highway of
death" leading north out of Kuwait City and the incredible destruction of the
Iraqi convoys and-- and so on.
knew all this would eventually be on television, and-- and I remember very
clearly Colin Powell saying that this thing was turning into a massacre and
that to continue it beyond a certain point would be un-American. And he even used the word
"unchivalrous." And he said that
he thought that they were probably within 24 hours of concluding the war, of
completing their objectives.
NARRATOR: In Baghdad that morning, Saddam Hussein was fighting just to survive. The allies were trying to cut off and destroy his retreating army, especially the Republican Guard, one of the keys to his power in the region and inside Iraq. Even Saddam feared his regime might be finished.
WAFIC AL SAMMARAI, Iraqi Military Intelligence: [through interpreter] He sat in front of me,
and he was almost in tears-- not crying but almost in tears. He said, "We do not know what God will
bring upon us tomorrow." He was
virtually collapsing. He had
reached the depths. He thought
that his downfall was imminent. He
asked me straight out, "Do you think that the allies will come as far as
Baghdad?" He was quite desperate
NARRATOR: On the battlefield, Apache gunships designed to destroy tank columns were hunting down individual soldiers. Colin Powell had once said of the Iraqi army, "First we're going to cut it off, and then we're going to kill it." The Iraqis were not completely cut off, but Powell decided there had been enough killing. He called Norman Schwarzkopf. It was 7:00 am in Washington, 3:00 pm in the desert.
NORMAN SCHWARZKOPF: Colin said to me, "What are your plans?" My response to him was, "We plan to continue to execute the
operation and continue to drive towards the sea, east towards the sea." And he then said to me, "How long would
that take you?" And my response to
him was, "It will probably take until-- it will take until the end of
tomorrow. So we could ceasefire
tomorrow evening at dark, and we would have completely accomplished the plan."
NARRATOR: Sitting in the Pentagon, Powell knew this meant another day of killing. The president had to make a decision.
COLIN POWELL, Chmn. Joint Chiefs of Staff, '89-'93: After talking to Schwarzkopf, I went
over to the White House. I took
the president through the situation on the ground. I pointed out that we're starting to see some scenes that
were unpleasant, and we were in the window of calling an end to it so that
there was not unnecessary additional loss of life on the part of American and
coalition forces or on the part of Iraqi youngsters.
Read Colin Powell's full interview]
GATES: Colin said, "We basically have done
it. We have destroyed the
Republican Guard. We have expelled
them from Kuwait. We have,
essentially, completed our objectives, and I believe we are just a few hours
from completing that effort."
NORMAN SCHWARZKOPF: Colin Powell called me. He said, "I'm at the White House. We've discussed ending the war. Could you execute a ceasefire, if it
was declared effective midnight Washington time tonight?" I told him that I could live with
that. Quite frankly, if we went on
another day, we were going to kill some more of our people. And we had already won an overwhelming
victory with a minimum of casualties, and that was good enough for me.
NARRATOR: At 5:57 pm, the president told Powell to stop the war. "It's the thing to do," he said.
BAKER, Secretary of State, '89-'92: It
was a decision that, as best I can recall, there was absolutely no dissent from
on the part of any of the president's advisers.
BRENT SCOWCROFT, National Security Adviser, '89-'92: Deep down, I wondered if we really had
done quite enough, but I did not dissent from the decision, did not argue that
we should go -- should go another day.
WAFIC AL SAMMARAI: [through interpreter] I phoned Saddam and told him that Bush
had agreed to the ceasefire. He
felt himself to be a great, great hero.
He started to say, "We won.
We won." His morale rose
from zero to 100.
NARRATOR: Each day of war had left Saddam's regime more vulnerable to overthrow. Now the humiliation was over. The greatest fear, of allied tanks in Baghdad, was gone. The allies had stopped the war. Saddam could concentrate on surviving.
GEORGE H.W. BUSH: [March 1, 1991]
You know, to be very honest with you, I don't-- I haven't yet felt this
wonderfully euphoric feeling that many of the American people feel. You mentioned World War II. There was a-- there was a definitive end
to that conflict. And now we have
Saddam Hussein still there.
TRAINOR, Author, "The General's War":
He's sitting there with a frown on his face and saying to himself, "Why
don't I feel better about this?"
In other words, he's signaling that, "Yeah, it was all great. It went right. But there's still something wrong. There's still something missing. I don't feel the same elation I felt
when we had won World War II." And
the reason, I think, is obvious, that it was an incomplete victory. It was a modest victory snatched from
the jaws of triumph, and Saddam Hussein was still in power.
NARRATOR: Now another war began, the war to overthrow Saddam Hussein. In Iraqi cities in the south, close to the allied front lines, Saddam's rule had collapsed. Ordinary people, mostly Shia Muslims, took up arms against a regime they hated. During the war, President Bush had called again and again for the Iraqis to overthrow Saddam.
GEORGE H.W. BUSH: And there's another way for the
bloodshed to stop, and that is for the Iraqi military and the Iraqi people to
take matters into their own hands and force Saddam Hussein to step aside. We have no argument with the people of
Iraq. Our differences are with
that brutal dictator in Baghdad!
NARRATOR: As the rebellions erupted, Bush repeated his call for Saddam's overthrow. In the first heady days of the uprising, the rebels, not Iraqi officials, controlled the streets.
BAKER: We did not think-- the president nor any
of us thought at that time that Saddam would continue in power, having suffered
such a such a resounding defeat.
NARRATOR: With victory won, the political concentration that had brought such success now seemed to desert the White House team. Washington left the details of the ceasefire for the generals to work out alone. Schwarzkopf decided that the ceasefire talks would be held in coalition-occupied Iraq, near the town of Safwan. The Iraqi leadership wanted a deal that would return their captured territory and give them the freedom to crush the rebellions. Schwarzkopf's objectives were simpler.
NORMAN SCHWARZKOPF: I went to Safwan with my own
instructions, which basically, number one, was to get our POWs back, and then,
number two, to make sure that we had very, very clear lines drawn so that we
didn't have any inadvertent battles after that.
NARRATOR: A pair of Apache gunships hovered over the approaching Iraqi convoy. Just hours before, Saddam had personally briefed the Iraqi generals arriving to meet Schwarzkopf.
WAFIC AL SAMMARAI, Iraqi Military Intelligence: [through interpreter] Saddam wanted to consolidate the
ceasefire in any way he could, and he ordered his officers to give any
information they knew about the minefields and the prisoners of war. He didn't want to give the West any
excuse to resume fighting. He
wanted to sign a ceasefire agreement at any price.
NARRATOR: Accompanied by the Saudi commander-in-chief, Schwarzkopf led the defeated Iraqi generals to the tent where the meeting would be held. Once the talks got under way, Schwarzkopf got everything he wanted, but so did the Iraqis.
NORMAN SCHWARZKOPF: What they were most concerned about was
that this was going to be a permanent border. And over and over again, they kept saying, "Is this a
permanent border, or is this just temporary?" And I kept having to reassure them that, "No, this is not a
permanent border. This is a
temporary demarcation line between our forces."
then this fellow looked at me and said, "Well, can we fly our
helicopters?" And I knew the great
devastation we had inflicted upon their roads and their bridges, and that
seemed like a very reasonable request to me.
TRAINOR: And then the Iraqis asked the question
which should have given Schwarzkopf pause, and that was, "Well, how about armed
helicopters?" And Schwarzkopf,
without even thinking, said, "Yes, armed helicopters."
what the Iraqis had in mind was using their helicopter gunships to put down the
Shia uprising which had taken place, and Schwarzkopf gave them-- gave them
carte-- carte blanche to do it. So
he was-- he was finessed by the-- by the Iraqis at the Safwan conference.
NARRATOR: The Iraqi generals got exactly what Saddam wanted. Saddam Hussein now moved forces loyal to him from Baghdad to suppress the uprisings in the south. American troops could see the fighting from their positions, but they were ordered not to intervene.
COLIN POWELL: My advice to the president throughout
the period of this uprising is that this did not seem to me to be an operation
that we needed to get-- get involved in because I couldn't figure out who was
doing what to whom. And it would
have required us to move further into Iraq and take responsibility for that
part of Iraq and for a purpose that was not stated.
NARRATOR: Inside Iraq, as each rebel village and town fell, there were terrible reprisals. These pictures, filmed by the Iraqis themselves, would not reach the West for two years. They show Shia prisoners and senior officers from the Iraqi regime. There are estimates that tens of thousands of Shias were killed.
AZIZ, Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister:
The Americans did not interfere, therefore it took us only few days to
recover from the surprise, to reorganize our troops, reorganize our resources
and impose peace and order on the southern governorates. It took us two weeks to do that.
NARRATOR: Now there was a second uprising in Iraq, this time in the Kurdish north. In the south, the uprisings had been incoherent, but the Kurdish uprising was different. The Kurds had political leaders who could give the revolt shape. As the rebellion gathered momentum, these Kurdish leaders who'd been living abroad began to return. They wanted to trigger a coup against Saddam. They hoped a new Iraqi leader would let the Kurds run their own affairs.
Traveling with them was an American, an observer from the United States Senate.
GALBRAITH, US Senate Observer: At
that point, everything hung in the balance. Had the United States signaled its support for the uprising,
I am convinced it would have succeeded.
NARRATOR: That very night, Saddam Hussein's troops attacked. Washington had decided it did not want to support an uprising that might lead to the breakup of Iraq. The rebel forces fought back, but they were hopelessly outgunned.
GEORGE H.W. BUSH: [April 3, 1991]
I do not want to push American forces beyond our mandate. We've done the heavy lifting. Our kids performed with superior
courage, and they don't need to be thrust into a war that's been going on for
NARRATOR: The Iraqi forces advanced relentlessly, and the cities of Kurdistan emptied before them. Now a million people were on the move. They headed for the mountains, trying to reach the safety of the Turkish and Iranian borders. The American pilots patrolling the skies above Iraq could see the Kurds being chased into the mountains, but they had strict orders not to intervene.
MERRICK KRAUSE, F-15 Pilot: We saw
helicopters chasing a lot of people down a road, and we saw the gunships
shooting at them. You could see
the smoke coming out of the gunship and occasionally see flashes of the tracers,
even though the sun had just started coming up.
WOMAN: Saddam Hussein bombing, helicopters
destroyed us. I don't know. They saw this, but they don't talk. Why? We are human, like you are!
MERRICK KRAUSE: We felt frustrated in the fact that we
couldn't help the uprising that was going on on the ground, for whatever
political reasons that were above our rank. And the best we could do was report what we saw and
eventually hope that it was taken care of.
NARRATOR: A week after the Iraqis attacked the Kurds, the president went home to Houston to celebrate his victory. But the television images of the Kurdish exodus were making that victory ring hollow. The president asked James Baker to see how the situation could be defused.
BAKER: I called the president from the
airplane and told him I'd never seen anything like this, and that there are a
lot of-- that a lot of people were going to die if we didn't do something and do
something quickly, and that he needed to-- to really break-- break whatever china
was required in order to get it done.
GEORGE H.W. BUSH: [April 16, 1991]
I have directed the U.S. military to begin immediately to establish
several encampments in northern Iraq where relief supplies for these refugees
will be made available in large quantities.
NARRATOR: Once the safe havens were established, the Iraqis backed off, raising questions about how much suffering could have been avoided if decisive action had been taken earlier.
The men who planned the war feared what they called a "ragged ending," a quagmire like Vietnam or a stalemate like Korea. They had been completely surprised by what actually happened: Two rebellions brutally suppressed by an Iraqi military which threw in its lot with the humiliated Saddam and kept him in power. This was a ragged ending no one had seen coming.
At that moment, the seeds of today's confrontation with Iraq were sown. In "The War Behind Closed Doors," FRONTLINE investigated how some of the men who are pushing hard for war today reacted to the gulf war's ragged ending.
But inside the Bush administration, there was an angry group of staffers less than enthusiastic about the way the war ended. They called themselves "neo-Reaganites," but were willing to answer to neo-conservatives or hawks. Paul Wolfowitz was generally considered the brains of the outfit.
PERLE, American Enterprise Institute:
Paul Wolfowitz believed then that it was a mistake to end the war, as we
did under the circumstances that we did.
They underestimated the way in which Saddam was able to cling to power
and the means he would use to remain in power. That was the mistake.
KRISTOL, V.P. Chief of Staff, '89-'93:
That, I think, was a key moment.
I know that Paul Wolfowitz was very unhappy at that moment, had argued
that we should intervene. It was
more that we-- more than that we hadn't removed Saddam, is that we had-- we had
stood by and watched people we had encouraged to rise up against Saddam-- we
stood by and watched them get slaughtered.
POLLACK, CIA Analyst: The problem for the Bush administration
at that point in time is that their whole policy toward Iraq was predicated on
a false assumption, on the assumption Saddam wouldn't be in power. And so at that point in time, people
within the administration have to start picking up the pieces of the failed
policy, the assumption that Saddam would fall automatically, to try to find
some other way to deal with this.
And the policy that they effectively come up with is one of containment.
NARRATOR: But containing Saddam would prove to be a big job: creating no-fly zones, economic sanctions, U.N. inspections. There were attempts to overthrow him and later even kill him. Nevertheless, Saddam would survive and was always challenging containment.
More on assassination attempts]
NARRATOR: Right after the gulf war, Paul Wolfowitz began to work on a new policy for dealing with Saddam -- and the rest of the world. Wolfowitz believed containment was an old idea, a relic of the cold war. America should talk loudly and carry a big stick and use it before weapons of mass destruction could be used. And if America had to act alone, so be it.
Wolfowitz was busy writing it all down in a top-secret set of military guidelines when a draft was leaked to the press.
GELLMAN, "The Washington Post":
Inside the U.S. defense planning establishment, there were people who
thought this thing was nuts, and they wanted a public debate about it. And that's why they talked to me and
that's why they talked to The New York Times.
it was very controversial in Congress, and it was an election year. The first draft said that the United
States would be prepared to preempt the use of nuclear, biological or chemical
weapons by any other nation, even, the document said, where our interests are
otherwise not engaged. That is to
say, in a war somewhere else that's not about us. It spoke of punishing or retaliating for that use, but it
also said preempt. This is the
NARRATOR: The document outlined seven scenarios in potential trouble spots. The primary case studies were Iraq and North Korea.
JOHN LEWIS GADDIS, Political Science, Yale Univ.: Wolfowitz basically authored a doctrine
of American hegemony, a doctrine in which the United States would seek to
maintain the position that it came out of the cold war with, in which there
were no obvious or plausible challengers to the United States. That was considered quite shocking in
1992, so shocking, in fact, that the Bush administration at that time -- that
Bush administration -- disavowed it.
KRISTOL: And I remember the day that appeared on
the front page because I was Dan Quayle's chief of staff. I went to the White House senior staff
meeting, as I usually did, at 7:30 in the morning. Brent Scowcroft, the national security adviser, attended
that meeting. And though he was
always very close-lipped and taciturn about his thoughts, it was clear there
was unhappiness at the highest levels of the White House about this document.
NARRATOR: The White House ordered Defense Secretary Cheney to rewrite Wolfowitz's draft. Those who know the story aren't sure how much of a role Cheney played in the original Wolfowitz document, but he personally took a role in rewriting it. The new, sanitized document reiterated the nation's reliance on containment and coalitions before taking action. Wolfowitz's notion of preemption and America's willingness to act alone was cut.
KRISTOL: Wolfowitz was ahead of his time and
really beginning to try to think through the post-cold war era. But it was not a conclusion that most of
the Bush administration was comfortable with.
NARRATOR: As George H.W. Bush left office, Wolfowitz's draft plan went into the bottom drawer, but it would not be forgotten. One day, there would be a more receptive president and another opportunity.
Meanwhile, President Bush's policy of containing Saddam was playing out on the ground in Iraq. At the end of the gulf war, the U.N. security council had created UNSCOM and sent U.N. inspectors to find and destroy Saddam's weapons of mass destruction. In "Spying on Saddam," FRONTLINE examined the battle between the inspectors and the Iraqi regime.
One of UNSCOM's first assignments was to investigate Iraq's nuclear weapons program. An American, David Kay, led the team.
KAY, Former Inspector, UNSCOM: We
were going to use the full powers we had under Resolution 687. We were going to carry out a zero-,
no-notice inspection because otherwise we weren't going to find anything.
we suddenly appeared at the gate of a military facility at a place called Abu
Ghraib and demanded access. The
poor commander of the base that day said, "I have no orders to let you in," but
he made what turned out to be a genuinely fatal mistake for him. He said, "You can put up as many
members of your team as you want to on this water tower, which is right inside
NARRATOR: The inspectors on the water tower spotted Iraqi trucks slipping out the back gate. Kay immediately ordered his team to chase after them.
Go get 'em, Pee-Wee! Go get
'em, boy! Folks, this is cops and
robbers, cowboys and Indians in the desert.
NARRATOR: The U.N. Land Rovers caught up with the trucks and tried to pull them over. The Iraqis refused to stop.
KAY: In the process, the Iraqis decided to
fire shots over their head, but we did get the photographs. And the photographs are damning as to
what the Iraqis were doing.
NARRATOR: The photographs showed the trucks were carrying calutrons -- giant iron magnets which can be used to enrich uranium.
KAY: Well, this was the proof that no one
could deny. It was physical
evidence of a very, very large uranium enrichment program. And it was also the evidence of
concealment, that from the very beginning, the Iraqis had not been living up to
their obligations. And you
couldn't deny that.
Iraqi military site] --that you're in serious violation, a
flagrant violation of Resolution 687, and it will be up to the Security Council
members and the Secretary General of the United Nations to determine how they
NARRATOR: The inspectors learned that Saddam's nuclear scientists had made a feverish attempt to build at least one crude atomic bomb in time for the gulf war. Saddam's chief bomb maker, Dr. Khidir Hamza, later defected to the West.
KHIDIR HAMZA, Iraqi Nuclear Scientist: Yes,
there was a program to-- that's called the "crash program," to use the French
fuel, which is bomb-grade, what contains bomb-grade uranium, extract the
uranium out of it. The process of
cutting the fuel and preparations started, and bomb model was made, a complete
bomb mock-up without the fuel. It
was a little too big.
NARRATOR: When the war started, Iraq was still trying to miniaturize the bomb into a warhead that could be carried on a missile.
HAMZA: It was close. They had the mock-up.
All they needed was the fuel, and the fuel was there. All they needed was to process it. But it was not a deliverable weapon.
KAY: It turned out they'd spent over $10
billion in the 1980s to develop a program that explored practically every known
way to enrich uranium and to craft a nuclear weapon. This was not a small program. It was one that was so extensive that, as an inspector, when
you faced it, your mind just boggled.
NARRATOR: In September 1991, David Kay led another surprise raid, this time invading a government building in downtown Baghdad, where his team discovered a hidden archive of documents detailing Iraq's plan to make an atomic weapon.
KAY: We suddenly were in the building, and
the Iraqis realized we had the damning evidence, the full extent of their
program, which even then we didn't know.
And this laid out exactly in black and white that they were proceeding
to produce a nuclear weapon.
kicked us out of the building, literally by force, and said, "You can leave the
parking lot, but you're not taking these documents." We said, "If the documents don't go, we're not leaving the
NARRATOR: The standoff lasted four days. The weapons inspectors were held hostage in a parking lot outside the building. The United States declared it was prepared to intervene militarily on behalf of UNSCOM.
More stories of the confrontations]
HAASS, Middle East Adviser to Pres. Bush, '89-'93: The only reason Saddam Hussein was
going to comply with UNSCOM was because he feared the American-led military
reaction. And UNSCOM knew this, as
well. They knew that we would not
leave them in the lurch.
NARRATOR: The threat of force worked.
OFFICIAL: [to UNSCOM inspectors]
I hope there is a decision that will at least alleviate this agonizing
situation for you and for me.
OK? Please. Please.
NARRATOR: In the end, the inspectors were allowed to leave with all their evidence.
WRIGHT, "Los Angeles Times":
Within a year, the United States began to see deep fissures in the
coalition that it had built, with three critical members of the Security
Council -- China, Russia and France -- all beginning to call for some kind of
easing of sanctions, to review the entire process.
all had economic interests that were more important than the regional security
threat. China and France both
looked for economic deals, both for reconstruction of Iraq and in the oil
business. And for Russia- of
course, it was owed billions from Saddam Hussein for weapons it had bought
before the Gulf war.
HAASS: And you've got to remember, when
Resolution 687 was written after the Gulf war, in the back of people's minds,
this was not a 10-year resolution.
People were thinking in terms of months. It was very telescoped. And I think the willingness, almost the psychological
preparation of the international community, was fairly short-term.
NARRATOR: In the summer of 1992, a year after coming to Baghdad, UNSCOM launched a major inspection at Iraq's Ministry of Agriculture. But this time, the inspectors would find they could no longer rely on solid support from the Security Council. One of the inspectors that day was an American, Scott Ritter.
RITTER, Former Inspector, UNSCOM:
First target we hit, agricultural ministry. Surround it, and the Iraqis say, "You can't come in." "This is a ministry. This is a symbol of our national
sovereignty." And we said, "All
right, you want to play that game?
We're parking. We're
surrounding it. Nobody's going in
and out unless they run through our inspectors." The Iraqis went, "All right, we'll play that."
we said, "OK." "Security Council,
they're not letting us in."
Nothing. Day goes by. "Excuse me, gentlemen. We're parked out in front of the
agriculture ministry. They're not
letting us in. We want to do an
inspection." Silence. Nothing.
NARRATOR: UNSCOM was now stymied. It had to find a new way of doing business. To hunt down the weapons Iraq was hiding, UNSCOM decided it must act more like an intelligence agency.
KAY: It became necessary because the Iraqis
did not live up to their obligations under the resolution to declare everything
they had and let the inspectors go in, identify it, tag it and destroy it. Once you were dealing in a clandestine,
competitive environment, you needed access to satellite photography, access to
NARRATOR: One of UNSCOM's most important tools became the U-2, the world's most famous spy plane, the same plane the U.S. flew over Russia during the Cold War. Using a U-2 on loan from the CIA, UNSCOM collected surveillance photos of Iraq.
UNSCOM was pleased with the U-2 photo analysis and the other intelligence provided by the CIA. But on the ground, UNSCOM inspectors were frustrated. When they arrived at a suspected weapons site, it would invariably be empty. The Iraqis insisted they were no longer concealing any banned weapons. They wanted UNSCOM to go home.
WRIGHT: In 1995, Saddam Hussein actually
appeared to be winning in his strategy of "cheat and retreat." He had actually managed to hide so many
of his weapons that many of the U.N. weapons inspectors thought that he had
turned over most of them. But the
defection changed everything.
NARRATOR: In August 1995, Hussein Kamel, a high-ranking Iraqi general, announced at a press conference in Amman, Jordan, that he had defected. Kamel was Saddam Hussein's son-in-law. He was also the commander of the SSO, the special security organization that guarded Saddam. The SSO was the same elite military unit that was hiding Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.
In Jordan, Kamel began to tell UNSCOM about a vast arsenal of weapons it had failed to uncover, and how the Iraqis were hiding them.
KAMEL: [through interpreter] [courtesy of
CNN] We were ordered to hide everything from
the beginning, and indeed, much information was hidden, and many files were
destroyed in the nuclear, chemical and biological programs. These were not individual acts of
concealment, but the result of direct orders from the Iraqi leadership.
GELLMAN, "The Washington Post":
Now, Hussein Kamel's defection tells UNSCOM that not only have they been
missing something, but they've been missing a huge, huge amount of what they
were supposed to be finding, way more than they had ever suspected.
RITTER: And it's out there, laid before the
world. Iraq is cheating. Iraq is lying. Iraq has not complied, and not complied
in a big way. What are you going
to do about it? Now all the brakes
are off. Ekeus said, "Go."
NARRATOR: One of the first places UNSCOM struck was Al Hakam. Hussein Kamel had said that this was Iraq's top-secret germ warfare production facility. The Iraqis had steadfastly denied having any biological weapons program. But here the UNSCOM inspectors discovered Russian-built fermenters used to produce anthrax and growth medium used to grow biological toxins. The inspectors buried 17 tons of it, and then blew up the entire facility.
But the relationship between the inspectors and the Iraqis continued to deteriorate. The CIA had backed an unsuccessful plot by Iraqi military leaders to overthrow Saddam. And in 1998, Saddam accused UNSCOM of spying on him for the CIA. Saddam blocked further inspections, and the U.N. pulled the inspectors out of Iraq.
RITTER: The departure of this team in no way
reflects a change in UNSCOM's determination to conduct inspections or to have
these inspections led by chief inspectors of the executive chairman's choosing,
to include myself. We'll be back.
NARRATOR: In Washington, the president again threatened military action if Saddam did not back down.
BILL CLINTON: [February 10, 1998]
The choice is up to Saddam Hussein. Let the weapons inspectors back on the job with free and
unfettered access. But if Saddam
will not comply with the will of the international community, we must be
prepared to act.
ALBRIGHT, Secretary of State: [town hall meeting, February 18,
1998] --and that there is no one that has done
to his people or to his neighbors what Saddam Hussein has done or-- [audience
NARRATOR: President Clinton dispatched his top foreign policy advisers to a town hall meeting at Ohio State University to marshal public support for a U.S. military strike against Saddam Hussein.
ALBRIGHT: He is qualitatively and quantitatively
different from every brutal dictator that has appeared recently. And we are very concerned about him,
specifically, and what his plans might be.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: What do you have to say about dictators
in countries like Indonesia, who we sell weapons to, yet they are slaughtering
people in East Timor? What do you
have to say about Israel, who is slaughtering Palestinians, who imposed martial
law? What do you have to say about
that? Those are our allies. Why do we sell weapons to these
countries? Why do we support
them? Why do we bomb Iraq when it
commits similar problems?
AUDIENCE MEMBER: We are not going to be able to stop
Saddam Hussein. We are not going
to be able to eliminate his weapons of mass destruction, all of them. President Clinton admitted it. All he wants to do, Clinton said, was send
a message to Saddam Hussein. We,
the people of Columbus and central Ohio and all over America, will not send
messages with the blood of Iraqi men, women and children! If we want to deal with Saddam, we deal
with Saddam, not the Iraqi people! [audience cheers, boos]
WRIGHT, "Los Angeles Times":
The Town Hall meeting at Ohio State really was a tremendous
embarrassment for the administration.
It was clear that the administration hadn't done a very good job in
bringing the public along. It was also
clear that Saddam Hussein's propaganda had actually had an impact inside the
United States, as well.
think the United States was frankly exhausted by this ongoing confrontation
with Saddam Hussein. He'd win a
round, and then the West would win a round. It was back and forth.
And it was becoming incredibly costly. Twice the U.S. had to send additional troops to the region
and maintain a strong military presence.
This was costly. It wasn't
very popular. The coalition
basically was falling apart.
NARRATOR: At this moment, as FRONTLINE reported in "The War Behind Closed Doors, Paul Wolfowitz and the disgruntled hawks from the first Bush administration tried to persuade the Clinton White House to take action.
In 1998, Wolfowitz and the hawks wrote an open letter to President Clinton. Containment has been eroding. Impossible to monitor chemical and biological weapons production. The president is encouraged to undertake military action and urged to act decisively.
SCIOLINO, "The New York Times": A number
of leading military policy makers wrote a letter, basically arguing that Saddam
Hussein had to be overthrown. Paul
Wolfowitz was one of the signatories.
The current secretary of defense, Donald Rumsfeld, signed the
letter. The leading lights of the
conservative wing of the Republican Party signed the letter.
PERLE, American Enterprise Institute:
One of the results of that letter was a meeting at the White House with
Sandy Berger. And I remember
walking out of that meeting with Don Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz, and Don
Rumsfeld observing-- and these were his words. He said, "Did you notice that with respect to every argument
we made, Sandy Berger's response had to do with how it would look and not with
what it meant for our security," totally preoccupied with the political
perceptions of administration policy and practically indifferent to the
situation we were in and the danger that we faced.
Read Richard Perle's interview]
NARRATOR: Former National Security Adviser Sandy Berger declined FRONTLINE's request for an interview. However, one of Berger's aides remembers that Clinton also wanted to take down Saddam, but the U.N. and the allies were unwilling.
POLLACK, National Security Council Staff, '95-'96,: By 1998, Saddam had gotten to the point
where the United States really couldn't do anything about it. We went to the United Nations and said,
"Saddam is not complying. He is
not doing anything that he is supposed to as a result of the U.N.
resolutions." And the rest of the
world simply said, "We don't care anymore."
NARRATOR: Then, in November of 1998, an exasperated President Clinton ordered a bombing campaign, but at the last minute, turned the planes around.
KRISTOL, V.P. Chief of Staff, '89-'93:
Kofi Annan worked out a deal, a face-saving deal, and Clinton decided --
and this was, of course, in the middle of Monica -- that he would take the
face-saving deal and backed away from the use of force. So there's a kind of wishfulness, I
think, to Clinton's world view. He
hoped these multilateral agreements or bilateral agreements could replace the
exertion of U.S. force, and I don't think they do.
NARRATOR: Finally, the U.S. responded with Operation Desert Fox. But the bombardment of Baghdad and key military installations only lasted four days.
POLLACK: And Saddam had effectively triumphed,
at that point in time. He had
figured out a strategy of hiding his weapons of mass destruction, preventing
the U.N. inspectors from finding any, and simultaneously going back and challenging
the inspections and the sanctions in clever ways that made it difficult for the
United States to rally international support to mount some kind of a-- of a
NARRATOR: The weapons inspectors had left in 1998. To the hard-liners, Saddam had won.
Around this time, a group of foreign policy wisemen known as "the Vulcans" were descending on Austin, Texas, to prepare the eventual Republican nominee for the white house. At the governor's mansion, the hawks, the moderates and all varieties of Republicans came to bring the young governor of Texas up to speed about the world.
THOMAS, Asst. Managing Editor,
"Newsweek": When George Bush was running for
president, he essentially went to school.
And various great and worthy men trooped down to Austin to teach George
Bush about the world. By and
large, they told him that Iraq was unfinished business, but they had to be a
little careful about it because, of course, George Bush's father was the one
who hadn't finished the business.
And if George W. Bush was elected president, he may end up having to do
what his father didn't do or couldn't do, and that is killing off Saddam
NARRATOR: In Bush, Wolfowitz saw a chance to get his ideas about a tougher American stance in the world implemented. But „W,¾ as he was known, was also being advised by Colin Powell. And during the campaign, neither side really knew where they stood with the candidate.
GEORGE W. BUSH (R-TX), Presidential Candidate:
[September 23, 1999] I will work hard to find political solutions
that allow an orderly and timely withdrawal from places like Kosovo and
Bosnia. We will encourage our
allies to take a broader role. We
will not be hasty, but we will not be permanent peacekeepers dividing warring
KRISTOL: And if you read Condi Rice's article in
in 1999 or 2000 -- and she was clearly the main adviser to Governor Bush -- she
was skeptical about a lot of these claims that the U.S. really had to shape a
new world order, that we had to engage in nation-building, that we might have
to intervene in several places at once.
I mean, she was much more, I think, then of a cautious realist than she
NARRATOR: As George W. Bush took the presidency, both sides presented the new president with their nominations for the most powerful posts in his government. He had chosen his father's secretary of defense, Dick Cheney, as his vice president and put him in charge of the transition.
KRISTOL: Cheney is a complicated figure and,
obviously, a very cautious and reticent figure, so hard to know what he thinks
in his heart of hearts. I think he
had beaten both camps, so to speak.
NARRATOR: But the hawks got three important jobs. Lewis "Scooter" Libby would be Cheney's chief of staff, Wolfowitz would be number two at the Pentagon, and his boss would be Donald Rumsfeld.
KRISTOL: Presumably, his helping of Wolfowitz to
get the deputy defense secretary job, his selection of Scooter Libby as his
chief of staff, suggested at least an openness to a neo-Reaganite point of
view. And I think, incidentally,
the selection of Rumsfeld as secretary of defense was obviously, in retrospect,
a very important one.
NARRATOR: Most of the hawks set up camp with Rumsfeld at the Pentagon.
DANNER, "The New Yorker": If you can
identify two strains in this administration, one of which would be the
Reaganites -- that is, officials who take a somewhat ideological and almost
evangelical view of the world -- they would be officials who descend from Ronald
Reagan's "evil empire" speech, the notion that American power should be used to
change the world, not simply to manage it.
NARRATOR: At the State Department, Colin Powell was a formidable counterweight to Rumsfeld's forces.
DANNER: The other group would be officials who
really follow in the path of Bush 1, of the president's father. These are pragmatists. These are so-called realists. They believe that foreign policy is the
patient management of alliances, competitions and, to some extent, conflict.
NARRATOR: But the skirmishes between the State Department and the Pentagon's hawks hardly captured the new president's attention during that first year in office. Adrift, his foreign policy apparatus stalled between the two competing forces.
KRISTOL: You had bureaucratic gridlock, no big
increase in the defense budget, no change in Clinton's China policy, a lot of
talk about pulling troops back from around the world, no evident change in Iraq
policy. I think you could make a
case that on September 10th, 2001, that it's not clear that George W. Bush was
in any fundamental way going in our direction on foreign policy.
FRUM, White House Speechwriter '01-'02:
Television is a very unkind thing to presidents. The cameras were there on 9/11, and so
people saw President Bush on 9/11, and they saw him stagger, as we were all
staggered. We didn't know what to
do about this. We had been picked
up and pitched forward into a new world.
BALZ, "The Washington Post":
His first comments that morning down in Florida were not particularly
GEORGE W. BUSH: --to hunt down and to find those folks
who committed this act.
BALZ: His short speech from Barkesdale
mid-day didn't look particularly good--
GEORGE W. BUSH: We have taken all appropriate--
appropriate security precautions--
BALZ: --wasn't a very strong statement. He stumbled over a little bit of it.
GEORGE W. BUSH: We will show the world that we will
pass this test. God bless.
NARRATOR: The president wanted to get back to Washington as fast as possible, to go on television to the nation. In the situation room at the White House, the vice president and the senior White House staff were locked down. By late afternoon, they were trying to focus on the words the president would say to the American people.
BALZ: Bush talked several times to Don
Rumsfeld, but Colin Powell was on an airplane and, basically, out of
communication most of the time, coming back from South America.
NARRATOR: Then the presidential helicopter appeared in the Washington sky. Then another and another and another, six in all, swooping and feinting toward the White House. Finally, the chopper carrying the president made its move to the south lawn.
BALZ: When Bush finally got back to the White
House at about 7:00 o'clock that night, there was a draft of the speech
NARRATOR: The president wanted to include a tough new passage about punishing those who harbor terrorists, words that would be seen as widening the U.S. response enough to put Iraq on the agenda.
BALZ: And he had a short meeting that included
Condoleezza Rice, the national security adviser. And she said to him, "Do you want to say this tonight?" And he said to her, "What do you
think?" She said, "First moments
matter most. I think we ought to
keep it in."
GEORGE W. BUSH: We will make no distinction between the
terrorists who committed these acts and those who harbor them.
BALZ, "The Washington Post": It
set the tone for where the administration was going both with Afghanistan and,
I think, with Iraq.
PERLE, American Enterprise Institute:
The president made what I think is probably the most important statement
in all the statements that have been made by him and others, and that was that
we would not distinguish between the terrorists and the countries that harbor
FRUM: When he laid down those principles, I
don't know whether he foresaw all of their implications, how far they would
take him. I don't know if he
understood fully and foresaw fully the true radicalism of what he had just
W. BUSH: --we go forward to defend freedom and
all that is good and just in our world--
NARRATOR: The hawks welcomed the president's phrase, "those who harbor terrorism."
GEORGE W. BUSH: And God bless America.
POLLACK, Former National Security Council Staff: It does seem very clear that after
September 11th, this group seized upon the events of September 11th to
resurrect their policy of trying to go after Saddam Hussein and regime change
NARRATOR: The next day and the day after, the president began to find his footing and the rhetoric of response.
GEORGE W. BUSH: The deliberate and deadly attacks which
were carried out yesterday against our country were more than acts of terror,
they were acts of war.
FRUM, White House Speechwriter '01-'02:
Within 48 hours, he had made the two key decisions that have defined the
war on terror. First, this is a
war, not a crime. And second, that
this war is not going to be limited to just the authors of the 9/11 attack but
to anyone who assisted them and helped them and made their work possible,
including states. And that is a
dramatic, dramatic event. And that
NARRATOR: And on September 13th, Wolfowitz expanded on the president's definition.
The president has said that the United States intends to find those who
were responsible for these attacks and hold them accountable. How should we look at that?
WOLFOWITZ, Deputy Secretary of Defense: Well, I think
the president's words are pretty good, so let me say these people try to hide,
but they won't be able to hide forever.
They think their harbors are safe, but they won't be safe forever. I think one has to say it's not just simply
a matter of capturing people and holding them accountable but removing the
sanctuaries, removing the support systems, ending states who sponsor
terrorism. And that's why it has
to be a broad and sustained campaign.
It's not just--
BALZ, "The Washington Post":
And that was taken by everybody to be a sign that he felt that, at this
point, we should go after Iraq.
And it alarmed Powell and the people in the State Department, who again
felt it was inflaming the situation, taking their eye off the real ball, which
was to go after al Qaeda and Afghanistan.
Are we really after ending regimes, or are we simply going to try to
POWELL, Secretary of State: We're after ending terrorism, and if
there are states and regimes, nations that support terrorism, we hope to
persuade them that it is in their interests to stop doing that. But I think ending terrorism is where I
would like to leave it, and let-- let Mr.
Wolfowitz speak for himself.
BALZ: That afternoon, there's another meeting
of the National Security Council, or the war cabinet, and General Shelton, who
was then the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was there. And Powell sidled up to him and said to
General Shelton, you know, "You've got to keep these guys in a box. I don't know what's going on over
there, but this whole-- all of this Iraq stuff is a problem." And General Shelton had a similar view,
that to go after Iraq, at that point, was not the smart thing to do.
NARRATOR: So by the time the war cabinet gathered at Camp David on that first Saturday, four days after September 11th, the war about the war was well under way. Wolfowitz and Rumsfeld knew the president had committed himself to using force even against states, maybe even against Iraq. But Colin Powell, General Shelton and others were determined to rein in the hawks.
BALZ: Powell was always very skeptical of
this. Powell's reaction was that
Wolfowitz was fixated on Iraq, that they were looking for kind of any excuse to
bring Iraq into this. And his view
was we will never get international support if we make Iraq a primary target in
this first round.
NARRATOR: Powell told the president a big coalition would only come together to get Al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan. For now, the senior war cabinet voted with Powell. Rumsfeld abstained.
As the president returned to the White House, he weighed Powell's tactics versus Wolfowitz's strategy. The insiders were betting on Powell and his allies, at least in the short run.
GEORGE W. BUSH: We will pursue nations that provide aid
or safe haven to terrorism. Every
nation in every region now has a decision to make. Either you're with us, or you are with the terrorists.
DANNER, "The New Yorker": Terrorism has
become the new communism. You can
hear echoes again and again in President Bush's speeches of a vision of the
world that is very familiar to American ears. That is, there is-- there is us, and there is them. There is good, and there is evil.
GEORGE W. BUSH: Freedom and fear are at war.
DANNER: Indeed, it's very reminiscent of
President Truman's "Truman doctrine" speech in 1947, that there are two systems
in the world today, there is ours -- free elections, free rights of assembly,
and so on, free press -- and there is theirs-- government by repression.
GEORGE W. BUSH: Freedom and fear, justice and cruelty
have always been at war, and we know that God is not neutral between them.
DANNER: It was an all-embracing, evangelical
policy of American power in the world.
American power would be used to support ideas, the ideas of freedom,
everywhere where they were threatened.
GEORGE W. BUSH: In all that lies before us, may God
grant us wisdom and may he watch over the United States of America. Thank you.
DeYOUNG, "The Washington Post": I
remember writing a story saying, "Hey, there's a doctrine. This is a doctrine. And they see it as the new paradigm for
American foreign policy on the same level as the Truman doctrine."
NARRATOR: So armed with a doctrine and a developing road map of the future, President Bush approved phase one, Afghanistan. Within weeks, the Taliban had fallen and Al Qaeda had dispersed. Now it was time for phase two.
DeYOUNG: Condi Rice describes it almost as a
lightbulb going off inside the president's head. "Oh, Iraq. Now it's time to turn back to Iraq."
DANNER: And the first public sign of this came
at the beginning of the year, with the president's State of the Union address,
in which he announced the idea of the "axis of evil," which was the beginning
of the public case to attack Iraq.
GEORGE W. BUSH: [January 29, 2002]
States like these and their terrorist allies constitute an axis of evil,
arming to threaten the peace of the world!
POLLACK, National Security Council Staff, '95-'96,: He does believe that there is evil in
the world, and he looks for strategies and policies that allow him moral
clarity, so that resonated very deeply with the American people, the idea that
no longer was the United States going to simply sit back and wait for these bad
guys to come and attack us, but we were going to go out into the world, shape
the international environment, root out the evildoers, as the president always
likes to call them, and take action to prevent them from doing anything before
they could come and hurt us.
GEORGE W. BUSH: I will not wait on events while dangers
gather. I will not stand by as
peril draws closer and closer. The
United States of America will not permit the world's most dangerous regimes to
threaten us with the world's most destructive weapons!
KRISTOL, V.P. Chief of Staff, '89-'93:
And I wrote a piece in The Post two days after the State of the Union,
saying, "We've just been present at a very unusual moment, the creation of a
new American foreign policy."
NARRATOR: Then a routine White House publication known as the "National Security Strategy" suddenly took on new significance. In the months after September 11th, with the war on terror apparently expanding to Iraq and beyond, this was the first time the "Bush Doctrine" had been formally written down. But when the press and public read it, they would find inside these pages much that reflected that controversial document written by Paul Wolfowitz back in 1992.
GELLMAN, "The Washington Post": I
see a very strong overlap between the National Security Policy, as expressed
today, and the first and very muscular draft of the 1992 policy. You have many of the same players, who
are in primary positions of influence, and you simply have to lay the documents
side by side and you'll see huge areas in which they're the same and, frankly,
very few in which there are striking differences.
NARRATOR: The new document relies on preemption, on a muscular American posture in the world. It elaborates justification for military action, like the war with Iraq. It outlines the game plan for new American interventions. And some see hidden between the lines a design to democratize the world, beginning with the Middle East.
DANNER, "The New Yorker": The policy is
breathtakingly ambitious because it talks about transforming regimes that have
been in place and have been harsh and dictatorial for decades. The notion of making democracies out of
many of these states is a terribly ambitious one.
POLLACK: I think it's one thing to suggest that
the United States should go to war with Iraq, but it's a very different thing
to suggest that Iraq should then become a model for the United States to be
taken and transplanted elsewhere around the world -- in other words, that we
would go to war with a whole variety of other countries -- Syria, Iran, Sudan,
Libya, Cuba, North Korea -- to remake their societies and their parts of the
JOHN LEWIS GADDIS, Political Science, Yale Univ.: This is a strategy that's ultimately
targeted at the Saudis and at the Egyptians and at the Pakistanis, at these
authoritarian regimes that, in fact, have been the biggest breeders of
terrorism in recent years. Iraq
has not been.
More on the larger strategy]
NARRATOR: In August 2002, with the hawks and the president saying America was prepared to go it alone, moderate Republicans -- the so-called realists that had surrounded the president's father -- started to weigh in. Brent Scowcroft, his father's national security adviser, wrote an op-ed piece in The Washington Post.
ROSS, State Dept. '89-'93: You saw an
article by Brent Scowcroft that was seized to be a kind of indicator that,
look, there's an important establishment out there, including the Republican
establishment, that thinks this isn't necessarily the way to go. The Scowcroft article suddenly created
a kind of momentum behind those who were saying, "We don't understand where
you're going. And you look like
you're going without having made a case.
And you look like you're going on your own. Where's the international support?" And suddenly, the administration was on
NARRATOR: They call each other "41" and "43." 41 is thought to be the realists' most formidable force against the hawks. Around the capital, insiders took to comparing the way each man has approached going to war with Saddam.
ROSS: I mean, that's one of the distinctions
I see, is the public presentation is different. There truly was a readiness in 41 to do what it took, even
if no one else was going to join us.
But if you go back and you take a look at the public presentation, it
was very different. From the
beginning, there was a focus on getting a series of Security Council
resolutions to cloak what we were doing in a kind of broader legitimacy, even
though the president said four days after the invasion, "This won't
stand." But he said, "This won't
stand." He didn't say, "We
will go ahead and we will take care of this, whether anybody's prepared to join
us or not." And the image, I
think, was such that we were prepared to work with others, and as a result, it
made it a little bit easier.
NARRATOR: Scowcroft and the other realists had put diplomacy back in play. Powell, desperate, seized the moment. He lobbied for a private dinner with the president.
DeYOUNG, "The Washington Post": It
was a Monday night, August 5th, at the White House. It was President Bush, Colin Powell and Condi Rice
alone. Powell had requested the
meeting. He had a notepad on which
he had written down the arguments that he wanted to make, and it was that Bush
would look like a bully, like he didn't care, like the administration was only
interested in getting its own way, was not interested in what the rest of the
world had to say, was rejecting this international institution, which, for all
of its flaws, was basically all the world had as a venue for resolving these
kinds of issues, and that without the United States as a strong presence in the
United Nations, the United Nations pretty much might as well not exist.
GEORGE W. BUSH: [September 12, 2002]
We will work with the U.N. Security Council for the necessary
resolutions, but the purposes of the United States should not be doubted. The Security Council resolutions will
NARRATOR: The pundits and the press believed the president's asking for a resolution represented a victory for Powell. The hawks didn't think so.
KRISTOL: I think Powell wins a lot of tactical
arguments because he's the one that talks to all the allies, and you've got to
care about those, if you're president of the United States. But I would still say it's ultimately
Powell's tactics in the service of Bush's and Cheney's and Rumsfeld's and
NARRATOR: But in the end, only one man's decision will really matter. The next days will be a time of testing for George W. Bush. The men closest to his father are warning about the consequences. Waging war is always uncertain. Getting bogged down in Baghdad would be a disaster. Long-time allies are leaving America's side.
But the insiders who helped define the "Bush Doctrine" are determined to set a course that will remake America's role in the world. They believe the removal of Saddam Hussein is the first and necessary act of that new era. And that fateful decision to take the nation to war now rests with the president of the United States.
LONG ROAD TO WAR
ARMING OF IRAQ"
Air Date: September 11, 1990
Sullivan and Jim Gilmore
THE BRINK OF WAR"
Air Date: January 15, 1991
Kirk and Michael Sullivan
MIND OF HUSSEIN"
Air Date: February 26, 1991
Richards and Jim Gilmore
Air Date: January 9, 1996
AND PRODUCED BY
Air Date: April 27, 1999
SURVIVAL OF SADDAM"
Air Date: January 25, 2000
PRODUCED AND DIRECTED BY
WAR BEHIND CLOSED DOORS"
Air Date: February 20, 2003
PRODUCED AND DIRECTED BY
FRONTLINE Co-Production with Kirk Documentary Group, Ltd.
is a production of WGBH Boston, which is solely responsible for its content.