In 1992, a year after the first Gulf War, I heard Dick Cheney, then secretary of defense, say that the US had been wise not to invade Baghdad and get 'bogged down in the problems of trying to take over and govern Iraq'. I heard him say: 'The question in my mind is how many additional American casualties is Saddam worth? And the answer is: not that damned many.'
In February 2001, I heard Colin Powell say that Saddam Hussein 'has not developed any significant capability with respect to weapons of mass destruction. He is unable to project conventional power against his neighbours.'
That same month, I heard that a CIA report stated: 'We do not have any direct evidence that Iraq has used the period since Desert Fox to reconstitute its weapons of mass destruction programmes.'
In July 2001, I heard Condoleezza Rice say: 'We are able to keep his arms from him. His military forces have not been rebuilt.'
On 11 September 2001, six hours after the attacks, I heard that Donald Rumsfeld said that it might be an opportunity to 'hit' Iraq. I heard that he said: 'Go massive. Sweep it all up. Things related and not.'
I heard that Condoleezza Rice asked: 'How do you capitalise on these opportunities?'
LRB 3 February 2005 | PDF Download