Another CFR-UN War: Paul O'Neill's Revelations in Ron Suskind's Book the Price of Loyalty Do Not Tell the Whole Story of Why the Bush Administration Planned to Attack Iraq before 9-11

Article excerpt

Paul O'Neill served as secretary of the treasury for the first 23 months of the Bush administration. Forced out because he was perceived as less than a "team player," he took all his papers with him. About a year ago, O'Neill delivered a speech full of disparaging comments about Mr. Bush and the way the government was being run. Former Wall Street Journal reporter Ron Suskind then contacted O'Neill and asked if he would cooperate in producing a book. O'Neill readily agreed to do so.

After seeking and receiving approval from the top legal counsel at Treasury, O'Neill turned over 19,000 documents to Suskind. The result is the now-famous book The Price of Loyalty. In a typical example of Washington-style retaliation, O'Neill is currently being investigated for possible unauthorized disclosure of sensitive documents. He says that, if his disclosure of any material is an issue, the Treasury official who cleared what he had done ought to be the target.

Serious watchers of the president weren't terribly surprised to learn of O'Neill's description of Mr. Bush as "disengaged," or his characterization of a typical Bush-led cabinet meeting as "a blind man in a room full of deaf people." O'Neill said that when he approached the president with serious economic plans soon after taking office, he found Mr. Bush only capable of listening. He emerged from one session with the feeling that the president had a complete lack of awareness about the nation's fiscal problems. O'Neill termed one hour-long meeting he had with the president as a "monologue" where he did all the talking to a neophyte.

This book belongs to Suskind. As neither the author nor the co-author, O'Neill claims he will receive no financial reward from it. While it contains criticism of Bush's economic policies, especially the tax cut, the recent headlines about The Price of Loyalty focus far more on revelations about the president's overriding determination to go after Saddam Hussein from the very day he entered the White House. In addition, according to O'Neill, no one at the topmost level of government ever produced any credible evidence that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction.

In TV interviews and in comments to Time magazine, O'Neill has let it be known that, from day one of the Bush administration, there was discussion only of "how" to effect regime change in Iraq and not "why." No sooner had the Bush team taken office, O'Neill has stated, than "there was a conviction that Saddam Hussein was a bad person and that he needed to go." He added: "It was all about finding a way to do it. The president saying: 'Go find me a way to do this.'" It is important to recall that the time frame being discussed here is more than seven months before the 9-11 terrorist attack, the event suggested by many in and out of government as the reason for the eventual attack on Iraq known as "Operation Iraqi Freedom."

"For me," O'Neill has now summarized, "the notion of pre-emption, that the U.S. has the unilateral right to do whatever we decide to do, is a really huge leap." As welcome as his questioning of the war's justification might be, O'Neill fails to provide details about any of the little-known maneuvering during the 1990s that culminated in what has been labeled "Operation Iraqi Freedom."

Bush Aides Call the Shots

In numerous passages, the Suskind book corroborates the view that George W. Bush is the dutiful implementer of the plans of his subordinates. But it presents no hard evidence to back up such a view. This we now offer,

The top Bush aides began training the future president as far back as April 1998, two-and-one-half years before he won election. It was then that the Bush "brain trust," dominated by Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) members, formed quietly at the California home of former Secretary of State George Shultz (CFR). From that day forward, Shultz, Dick Cheney (CFR), Condoleezza Rice (CFR), Paul Wolfowitz (CFR) and several others began tutoring the then-Texas governor, an exercise they kept up via conference calls, foxes, e-mails and gatherings until Election Day 2000 and beyond. …