Rumsfeld’s November 2001 Question About Iraq War: ‘How Start?’

SecDef Rumsfeld and Gen. Franks
Former SecDef Donald Rumsfeld and former CENTCOM Commander General Tommy Franks

Via Think Progress. Through a Freedom of Information Act request, the George Washington University National Security Archive has obtained a newly declassified top secret document that details talking points that emerged from a meeting between Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and CENTCOM Commander General Tommy Franks on November 27, 2001.

Under a section titled “How start?” participants in the Rumsfeld-Frank meeting discussed possible ways to provoke a conflict with Iraq, including an attack by Saddam Hussein against the Kurdish north, the U.S. discovering a “Saddam connection” to 9/11 or the anthrax attacks, or a dispute over WMD inspections. It appears from the language of the talking points that the Bush administration had already decided to go to war with Iraq and was looking for an excuse to invade.

How start?

It’s up to historians to connect the dots. For example, the Bush administration’s torture regime was instituted because they were desperately trying to get detainees to say there was a connection between Saddam’s regime and al-Qaeda.

  1. #1 by Larry Bergan on September 25, 2010 - 3:49 am

    Let Americans die with dignity.

    That’s all I have ever asked.

    How start?

    Fuck you!

  2. #2 by Larry Bergan on September 25, 2010 - 3:55 am

    As the stomach churns.

  3. #3 by James Farmer on September 25, 2010 - 2:58 pm

    And the stupid and susceptible continue to bury their heads deeper in the sand to continue their support for these criminals against America and the world. Another place, another time, the members of the Bush Admin. would be round up and hung.

  4. #4 by jdberger on September 28, 2010 - 4:04 pm

    Sorry – Reading comprehension fail, there….

    Unless, Dear Richard, you’re suggesting that the US controlled Saddam and would marionette him into moving against the Kurds in the north….

    I take a 6 month break and you’re as disengenuous as ever….

    The good news is that in a couple months, you can start blaming Republicans for your woes, again.

  5. #5 by cav on September 28, 2010 - 4:51 pm

    jdberger, our woes are bipartisan, and will continue to be bipartisan. We’ve been all over that for way too long.

    But you did ‘told us so’, and were the options any different, we might not have gotten so ‘hopeful’. Still, I do not think the Republican strategy has or will advance the United States in the least. Where we are going will be the fault of the political and commercial classes, but will in no way be of any visionary value to the people on whom these muckedy-mucks rely. It’s the shit-pit for them (us)- but not to worry, there’s a $20.00 down there somewhere.

  6. #6 by Richard Warnick on September 29, 2010 - 8:03 am

    History will record that the invasion of Iraq was a war of choice, which is a euphemism for war of aggression. The evidence is irrefutable.

  7. #7 by Larry Bergan on September 30, 2010 - 12:16 am

    Robert Parry has a very interesting analysis of what has been going on behind the scenes with the help of Bob Woodward’s new book. Parry knows a lot a about Robert Gates and his involvement in the Iran Contra scandal. In fact, we might not have even found out about that without his reporting.

    From his article (emphasis mine):

    Gates’s connections – and his timing – served him well when he was placed on the Iraq Study Group in 2006 along with its co-chairs, Lee Hamilton and Bush Family lawyer James Baker. By fall 2006, the ISG was moving toward recommending a drawdown of U.S. forces in Iraq.

    Meanwhile, President George W. Bush found himself in need of a new Defense Secretary to replace Donald Rumsfeld, who had grown disillusioned with the Iraq War.

    Though Rumsfeld was viewed publicly as a hardliner, privately he sided with his field commanders, Generals George Casey and John Abizaid, in favoring a smaller U.S. “footprint” in Iraq and a phased withdrawal. Rumsfeld put his views in writing on Nov. 6, 2006, the day before congressional elections.

    With Rumsfeld going wobbly on the war and the Republicans doing badly in the polls, Bush turned to Gates and – after getting Gates’s assurance that he would support Bush’s intent to escalate the war, not wind it down – Bush offered him the job.

    Rumsfeld’s firing and Gates’s hiring were announced the day after the Nov. 7 elections and were widely misinterpreted as signs that Bush was throwing in the towel on Iraq.

    Rumsfeld’s memo was disclosed by the New York Times on Dec. 3, 2006, two days before Gates was scheduled for his confirmation hearing. [See’s “Gates Hearing Has New Urgency.”]

    But Democrats on the Senate Armed Services Committee were so enthralled by the false narrative of Bush tossing over the ideologue (Rumsfeld) in favor of the realist (Gates) that they took no note of what the real sequence of events suggested, that Bush was determined to send more troops.

    Gates was whisked through to confirmation with no questions about the Rumsfeld memo and with unanimous Democratic support. Sen. Hillary Clinton and other senior Democrats praised Gates for his “candor.”

    Within a few weeks, however, it became clear that Bush – with Gates’s help – had bamboozled the Democrats.

    Obama really did work to find a way out of Afghanistan, but was outnumbered by everybody who was forced on him:

    According to Woodward’s book, Gates, Petraeus and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman, Adm. Mike Mullen, refused last year to even prepare an early-exit option that Obama had requested. Instead, they offered up only plans for their desired escalation of about 40,000 troops.

    Woodward wrote: “For two exhausting months, [Obama] had been asking military advisers to give him a range of options for the war in Afghanistan. Instead, he felt that they were steering him toward one outcome and thwarting his search for an exit plan.

    “He would later tell his White House aides that military leaders were ‘really cooking this thing in the direction they wanted.’”

    Woodward identified Gates, Petraeus and Mullen as “unrelenting advocates for 40,000 more troops and an expanded mission that seemed to have no clear end.”

    I don’t have any idea why Woodward is allowed to hang around these guys, but we live in strange times.

  8. #8 by Larry Bergan on September 30, 2010 - 3:12 am

    From somebody called Papa Dish.

    What a great song!

  9. #9 by Larry Bergan on September 30, 2010 - 3:23 am

    True story…

    Yesterday I was driving to work and just before I got there, I was driving behind a truck with a bumper sticker which said “Don’t Mess With Texas”. On the other side of his bumper, it said “I Love America, But I Hate The Government!”

    I didn’t want to cause an accident, so I didn’t pull up along-side him and yell “YOU STUPID TEABAGGER!”

    Then I noticed a small sign on his back windshield which said “impeach bush”

    I didn’t want to cause an accident, so I didn’t pull up along-side him and yell “WHERE WERE YOU?!”

  10. #10 by Richard Warnick on September 30, 2010 - 8:41 am


    It was illuminating to see the contrast between President Bush, who did not hesitate to fire anyone who stood in his way, and President Obama, who allowed his options to be circumscribed by the Pentagon brass.

    As I said here on One Utah, you are either the Commander-in-Chief or you’re not. And now Obama wants his supporters to “buck up” and show some spine?

  11. #11 by Larry Bergan on September 30, 2010 - 8:53 am


    But Bush was “with them” and Obama is “against them”

    There’s a difference; Bush never had to show a spine!

  12. #12 by Richard Warnick on September 30, 2010 - 1:21 pm


    There were a number of generals and admirals who told Bush things he didn’t want to hear about Iraq. They must have known they were sacrificing their careers.

    General Petraeus was more devious. He pretended to support the so-called “surge” (knowing full well that it wasn’t anywhere near enough for a real counterinsurgency campaign), and then implemented the successful plan to pay off Sunni insurgents before Bush knew about it.

    I’m also mystified that anybody lets Woodward into top secret meetings. Or that people tell him their real opinions:

    By the middle of this year, the book reports, Vice President Biden was “more convinced than ever that Afghanistan was a version of Vietnam.” The U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, Karl W. Eikenberry, is quoted as saying, “Basically we’re screwed.” National security adviser James L. Jones’s view is “you can’t win.” Lt. Gen. Douglas E. Lute, who is the senior coordinator for Afghanistan on the National Security Council, says, “This is a house of cards.”

    But who knows, maybe Petraeus can pay off the Taliban too. The bottom line for most of these guys is that they need jobs in a country where warfare accounts for the bulk of the economy.

  13. #13 by Whoops! on September 30, 2010 - 1:25 pm

    Controlling the oil adjacent to China’s growing reality is what all these wars in the ME are about. This stuff has been planned for over 30 odd years, which is why we the People were unable to do a damn thing about them.

    No amount of trying to make sense of it, applying blame does not mean anything without acknowledging this geo-political reality.

    “If anything happens in politics, you can be sure it was planned”. FDR.

  14. #14 by Whoops! on September 30, 2010 - 1:27 pm

    BTW rich, my anti virus software warns about 1U as a host of malware. You have an angle on that?

  15. #15 by Whoops! on September 30, 2010 - 2:04 pm

    Trending towards irrelevance is 1U. Nothing in the dialogue based on people’s political leanings is getting the true reality. The days of partisanship will appear mighty stupid mighty soon. The problems will transcend whatever ideology appeals to you. This has been a good site until it became a mouthpiece for the left and Obama. The most damning thing was the hope that led to him getting elected and continuing almost all of Bush policy. Friggen’ amazing really.

    You up on the DRONE strikes? We are launching more into Pakistan than ever before, and it barely makes mention in the media. Have to read the euro papers. Brezezinski’s Boy is doing exactly what he has been told to do. The CFR is running the show, they are likely just sad that they are not likely to get much more deceptive mileage out of Obama. The “dumb” American public caught on sooner than they ever imagined. cheers Rich.

  16. #16 by Dronarang on October 1, 2010 - 2:59 pm

    Suspected militants in southern Pakistan set ablaze more than two dozen tankers carrying fuel for foreign troops in Afghanistan on Friday, highlighting the vulnerability of the U.S.-led mission a day after Pakistan closed a major border crossing.

    The Pakistani government shut the Torkham border in the northwest in apparent protest at a NATO helicopter incursion that killed three of its soldiers on the border. The events raised tensions between Pakistan and the United States, which have a close but often troubled alliance in the fight against militants.

    The convoy of tankers attacked Friday was likely headed to a second crossing in southwest Pakistan that was not closed. It was not clear if the vehicles had been rerouted because of the closure at Torkham.

  17. #17 by Whoops! on October 1, 2010 - 3:54 pm

    Lose the roads, and annihilation commences in Afghanistan historically. Then we will be in same position as the Soviets, chasing ghosts in lumbering helicopters as the only viable transportation.

    Great. Has this been thought through?

  18. #18 by Richard Warnick on October 1, 2010 - 5:29 pm

    Welcome back, Glenn Hoefer.

    I tend to post about stuff that I think isn’t getting enough media coverage. Rachel Maddow and other cable shows I watch have been covering recent events in Pakistan pretty well, but you’re probably right in saying our “third war” (as Rachel calls it) is not getting as much attention as it deserves.

  19. #19 by Whoops! on October 2, 2010 - 1:22 pm

    Rachel Maddow? The poster child of irrelevance, Nice enough, but who is watching?

    The fact that we have more dead in Afghanistan in 2 years under Obama than 8 years of Bush. You just don’t hear the shrill insane attacks that Bush experienced being directed at Obama’s own war mongering. It is the tell that the hole affair is strictly partisan.

  20. #20 by Kyber on October 2, 2010 - 2:20 pm

    Lose the roads, and annihilation commences in Afghanistan historically. Then we will be in same position as the Soviets, chasing ghosts in lumbering helicopters as the only viable transportation.

    Great. Has this been thought through?

  21. #21 by Larry Bergan on October 3, 2010 - 8:28 am

    Rumsfeld is a turd.

  22. #22 by kyle on May 11, 2012 - 11:27 am

    Larry Bergan :
    Let Americans die with dignity.
    That’s all I have ever asked.
    How start?
    Fuck you!


  23. #23 by Titsmcgee on May 11, 2012 - 11:33 am

    shut up ^^^ Larry Bergan

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