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The White House dismissed the book as "reckless" and "baseless," and Rumsfeld's spokesman said the secretary had no comment because he hadn't read it yet.
But Clarke's recollections tend to reinforce the opinion of critics who think Rumsfeld and Bush had made up their minds to attack Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein before Osama bin Laden struck on American soilregardless of whether there were any ties between Saddam and bin Laden or whether Saddam had weapons of mass destruction. In September 2002, CBS reported that it had obtained a note written by Rumsfeld at 2:40 p.m., September 11, 2001: "Best info fast. Judge whether good enough [to] hit S.H. [Saddam Hussein] at the same time. Not only UBL [Usama bin Laden, as he was then sometimes called]. . . . Go massive. Sweep it all up. Things related and not."
In Ron Suskind's book about Paul O'Neill, the former treasury secretary refers to a Pentagon document dated March 5, 2001, and entitled "Foreign Suitors for Iraqi Oilfield Contracts." The document included a map of potential areas for exploration. And O'Neill reveals that he got top-secret briefing materials, including a "Plan for post-Saddam Iraq"which, according to Suskind, were discussed in January and February of 2001.
Despite the continued assaults on his credibility, Rumsfeld continues to hold forth as wacko warlord-in-chief, saying whatever comes into his head. Last week, Dom Giordano of Philadelphia's WPHT-AM asked the secretary whether he now thought there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.
Rumsfeld replied: "Well, I mean, clearly, one would have assumed from the intelligence we had that you would go into that country and, within a reasonably short period of time, find the chemical and biological weapons that everyone, not just in our country, but in other countries, believed existed. I mean, how many times the president said to General Franks and to me: 'Now walk me through precisely what our troops do when chemical weapons are used against them and the way Saddam Hussein used them on his neighbors and his own people.' . . . Why did Saddam Hussein have 3,000 chemical protective suits that we found in one of his caches? Because he had chemical weapons. Now, we haven't found them. . . . We've got to continue this process. We've got 1,200 people over there looking and it's a country the size of California. If you picture the spider hole that Saddam Hussein was found in and pulled out of, you could put enough chemical weapons or biological weapons in there to kill thousands of people."
And in a BBC interview last week, Nick Childs asked Rumsfeld, "Do you personally have confidence that weapons will ultimately be found? Where does your view lie on that at the moment?"
Rumsfeld replied: "There's no question that all of us believed, absolutely, that he had chemical and biological weapons. You could put enough biological weapons into the room you're sitting in today to kill tens of thousands of people."
Additional reporting: Ashley Glacel and Alicia Ng