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THE WORLD

Bombing Iraq Discussed on 9/12, Ex-Aide to Bush Says

March 20, 2004|From Associated Press

WASHINGTON — The Bush administration considered bombing Iraq in retaliation almost immediately after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, a former senior counter-terrorism advisor in the White House said.

Richard Clarke, the president's counter-terrorism coordinator at the time of the attacks, said Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld complained on Sept. 12 -- after the administration was convinced that the Al Qaeda terrorist network was to blame -- that "there aren't any good targets in Afghanistan and there are lots of good targets in Iraq."

A spokesman for Rumsfeld said he couldn't comment immediately.

Clarke makes the assertion in a book, "Against All Enemies," which will go on sale Monday. He told CBS News that he believed the administration sought to link Iraq with the attacks because of long-standing interest in overthrowing Saddam Hussein.

"I think they wanted to believe that there was a connection" between Iraq and the Al Qaeda attacks in the United States, Clarke said in a broadcast Friday evening. "There's just no connection. There's absolutely no evidence that Iraq was supporting Al Qaeda."

There have been earlier published accounts of the administration's suspicion during the week after the 2001 attacks that Iraq might have been involved, but none by a direct participant in such senior-level meetings and none that suggested attacking Iraq was discussed the day after.

For example, a discussion among President Bush and Cabinet leaders at Camp David on Sept. 16 included remarks about whether it would be prudent to attack Iraq.

Clarke retired in 2003 after 30 years in government service.

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