Connect with us


‘To Start a War’ author Robert Draper talks about the intelligence disasters that led Bush to invade Iraq


‘To Start a War’ author Robert Draper talks about the intelligence disasters that led Bush to invade Iraq

Reuters Robert Draper, a writer at large for The New York Times Magazine spoke with Business Insider about his new book “To Start a War: How the Bush Administration Took America into Iraq.”The book recounts all the terrible decisions based off of bad intelligence and motivated reasoning that led the most disastrous US foreign policy…

‘To Start a War’ author Robert Draper talks about the intelligence disasters that led Bush to invade Iraq


  • Robert Draper, a writer at abundant for The New York Times Magazine spoke with Trade Insider about his new e book “To Originate up a War: How the Bush Administration Took America into Iraq.”
  • The e book recounts the general awful selections based off of imperfect intelligence and motivated reasoning that led basically the most disastrous US international protection motion in fresh memory.
  • “I’m no longer fully pleased that there become the level of introspection all the map during the Washington community that there wants to be. And I am hoping if my e book can provide us a service, that shall be that it would inspire that roughly reckoning and self-inspection,” Draper talked about.
  • Visit Trade Insider’s homepage for more tales.

Robert Draper, a writer at abundant for The New York Times Magazine and a contributor to Nationwide Geographic, is the author of the new e book “To Originate up a War: How the Bush Administration Took America into Iraq.” Draper in 2008 published one other e book about Bush, “Ineffective Sure: The Presidency of George W. Bush,” which lined the most main six years of his presidency. 

In a phone interview with Trade Insider Columnist Anthony L. Fisher, Draper talked about why he felt the time become ethical to revisit the greatest international protection catastrophe of trendy events, Donald Rumsfeld’s micro-managing megalomania, and who within the administration will Colin Powell never forgive. 

This interview has been edited for dimension and clarity.

“A distinguished illogic pervaded”

Fisher: This form of catastrophic 2d in fresh American history, whereas no longer forgotten, is under no circumstances discussed nearly as grand as one could per chance well also demand. So what made you prefer to jot down this e book now? 

Draper: This become get of a case of unfinished alternate for me. I had done this biography of Bush’s presidency whereas the Iraq saga become level-headed unfolding. It become this form of transferring target that I didn’t sufficiently duvet it in that e book. On high of that I also felt at pains to basically liberate this central thriller of Bush’s presidency, which is, why did he lumber to warfare on the time that he did in opposition to a nation that had no longer attacked us? 

I made up my mind to provide this e book one day of 2017, when the Trump presidency become already underway. There become reason to ask, how did we gather thus far the put we’re governed by a reality TV host with zero political experience who has by some means pleased 63 million American citizens that “I on my own can fix it”?

Even as you happen to parse that out, some of why other folks voted for Trump could per chance well additionally be explained by cultural grievances as a lot as and alongside with out and out racism. Some of it can well additionally be explained by the echo chamber of conservative media that demonized Hillary Clinton over 25 years. some of it is because one day of the primaries Trump famed himself from his Republican opponents by in overall asserting you are portion of the downside, your entire experience, what did it gather us? It obtained us this catastrophic warfare in Iraq, which become something that Republicans on the time hadn’t given train to. 

So it ethical occurred to me that this become in a reach, a roughly starting up put point for the put we’re this day, even leaving apart the reality that it is now basically the most consequential international protection blunder of the closing half of century. For all of those reasons, I felt it become successfully worth revisiting at this point. 

And undoubtedly, there had been slightly a few other folks who ethical weren’t pleased or could per chance well no longer discuss Iraq when I become doing my interviews in 2005, 2006, and 2007. My intuition become that  separated from the events by 15 years, slightly a few other folks would be more inclined to chat and that proved to be the case.

Fisher: There had been three early intelligence mistakes that had anyone of them been caught in time, it can well also possess derailed the yarn that despatched us headlong into warfare. One become the Egyptians torturing of al Qaeda senior operate Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, and the CIA no longer admitting unless March 2004, that he gave no first charge evidence under torture. One other become the use of later-discredited Iraqi exile Ahmed Chalabi as a vital source. Then there become the intelligence claiming 9/11 hijacker Mohammad Atta met with an Iraqi first charge in Prague. 

The reach you put it become that “a distinguished illogic pervaded,” and that the scenario in overall never made any sense. Like, there is now not any reason tiring Atta to lumber to Prague to gather subject matter enhance for a fright assault that relied on field-cutters.  

Draper: Exactly. I mean, why spread the conspiracy and speed the threat that this could occasionally be exposed? There become a particular CIA analyst become consistently in dialogue with deputy secretary of protection Paul Wolfowitz about this and he confirmed me his journal, which included these notes. It included that very commentary.

I would, by the reach, add a fourth, and that is the unmanned aerial automobiles intelligence. It become this no doubt alarming proposition that the president realized within the spring of 2002 that it appears to be like the Iraqi regime become buying a mapping machine of American cities. That become the most main readily accessible evidence that Saddam become indeed concerned about inserting the American place of origin. It no doubt freaked Bush out. It freaked slightly a few other folks within the administration out, and it ethical grew to change into out to be unsuitable. It grew to change into out that there become an innocuous motive of the acquisition of that machine — that it came with hardware [the Iraqis] wished for home reconnaissance missions for their surveillance automobiles. 

Nevertheless this become roughly same outdated after 9/11. The Bush administration had been so unprepared for that eventuality had failed to perceive it coming and overcompensated by seeing demons in each put and viewing issues within the darkest conceivable gentle. 

Or no longer it is attention-grabbing to match this now because we witness the new president, anyone who actively promotes untruths. And if there is anything that that it’s essential to to well also map as connective tissue between President Bush and President Trump — Bush I fabricate no longer mediate become promoting issues that he knew to be false. He become finally promoting issues that he believed to be pretty with no need any accurate evidence to enhance that perception. 

Fisher: At one point you talked about that — whereas the administration become making the case for warfare to the public and the UN — Bush suggest that they’d level-headed voice anyone in “with Madison Avenue experience.”

Draper: That become one amongst the more attention-grabbing revelations when I become doing the reporting because it be been broadly belief that Bush become no longer certain of whether or no longer Saddam had weapons of mass destruction and thus whether or no longer we could per chance well level-headed lumber to warfare. And George Tenet, the CIA director tells them, “it be a slam dunk, sir.” And that is the reason no longer what took field. 

The president no doubt believed Saddam had weapons. He ethical didn’t imagine the CIA become doing an especially ethical job of creating that case. And so, as you talked about, he talked about let’s gather other folks in, let’s gather lawyers in to lend a hand with the case. Let’s gather other folks from Madison Avenue. And then he added one step further and talked about, and lets them create certain and tie within the general alternate of terrorism for a home viewers. 

I become ethical literally ethical earlier than you called trading emails with a aged CIA supervisor to blame of the Iraq subject. And she or he become very pleased with the reality that they managed to beat again the general argument that Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Weighted down had been in cahoots. And as I become telling her, I no doubt fabricate no longer mediate they did succeed because there is the president in overall encouraging the CIA to create certain to chat about Saddam’s ties to fright groups and the categorical ties that had been of any meaningfulness had been that he had ceaselessly minimize checks to widows of Palestinian bombers. Which didn’t in any reach, distinguish himself from the Jordanians, the Saudis, and the Egyptians. They did the same ingredient. 

Rumsfeld the alter freak 

Fisher: [Former Secretary of Defense] Donald Rumsfeld in overall ran roughshod over every dissenting train, no longer most attention-grabbing int administration, nonetheless in his possess division. Or no longer it has been successfully reported that he become in opposition to nation building and to spending grand time pondering an exit approach. Nevertheless I fabricate no longer know that I ever saw it as allege because it did for your e book. You reported that he’d subject edicts that there would be no planning for a post-descend Saddam, and that it become forbidden within the Department of Defense for anyone to be distributing memos about what to provide after the descend of Saddam. 

Draper: That is same outdated of the secretary of protection. He would pose riddles and no longer no doubt want to answer to them, nonetheless ethical wished to get of present his superior knowledge by asking the ethical questions. And he did enlighten that we wants to be thinking more about what comes after, nonetheless that did no longer mean that he himself wished the accountability for it. And when finally it did descend to the Pentagon to in overall be on high of issues of post-warfare Iraq, that become belief to be all the map during the Pentagon by Wolfowitz and [former undersecretary of Defense] Douglas Feith, and even Rumsfeld as a roughly victory, nonetheless no longer so grand because they themselves had fastidiously crafted plans for govern Iraq after the invasion. It become more that they had been ethical jubilant that the Negate Department didn’t gather to be to blame. 

Rumsfeld’s current peek become to bear the hands off the bicycle seat, as he continually described it, to possess the Iraqis govern themselves. Nevertheless so many unwise assumptions had been built into that very thought, largely that the Iraqis could per chance well themselves repair a broken nation and that every of those diversified sectarian groups would by some means rally collectively within the unreal to provide so. There become ethical no evidence to enhance those eventualities. 

Fisher: I be aware on the time there become so grand made concerning the “coalition of the willing.” In the e book, you touch on how Lithuanian troops volunteered to provide night patrols in Sadr Metropolis, nonetheless the Department of Defense talked about that they’d now not give them night imaginative and prescient goggles. [Former National Security Adviser] Condoleezza Rice knew that there weren’t sufficient troops to make a selection Iraq successfully after the warfare become over. And Rumsfeld wouldn’t enable the Brits or the Aussies to bear a increased feature in that. Did Rumsfeld oppose the premise of even having a coalition?

Draper: In a shiny sense, he could per chance well also as successfully possess opposed it. Nevertheless he didn’t oppose the belief that of a coalition. He ethical believed that the coalition wants to be entirely on America’s phrases. Interior that belief become that the coalition wanted also to be nearly entirely under Secretary Rumsfeld phrases, and amongst the issues on which he positioned such primacy had been the tasks of his field of job and of the Pentagon writ abundant. He didn’t desire anyone poaching on his turf. Whether that become the nationwide safety advisor, who he believes become incorrectly interposing herself into the chain of present between the secretary of protection and the commander in chief. Or diversified worldwide locations who could per chance well also possess their possess views and their possess stipulations about what to provide. 

What you are going to possess got described is terribly grand in accordance to this guy who become to position it bluntly, a alter freak. Nearly nothing become too little for Rumsfeld. If anything become of the slightest significance, he wished to be the one who formed the protection. And undoubtedly, as a shiny matter, that grew to change into ethical an infuriating ingredient that can tiring issues down. And it also created an entire bunch complications within the get of interagency discussions between Negate and the Pentagon and the CIA Joint Chiefs of Workers about when and produce what Rumsfeld wished. 

AP Describe/Pablo Martinez Monsivais

Fisher: You paint a report of President Bush as grand more thoughtful and competent than I mediate slightly a few other folks perceived them to be on the time. Nevertheless there are a few moments the put it appears to be like fancy he’s ethical delusional concerning the penalties of going to warfare. He even belief that invading Iraq could per chance well also lead to peace between Israel and the Palestinians in a year. There could be one other dramatic 2d the put Basra is darkish and looted and occupied by British troops —  and Bush is staring at in TV, dumbfounded by the reality that they are now not cheering and handing out sweets. Used to be Bush’s higher worldview ethical fatally erroneous from the gather-lumber? 

Draper: I mediate that the weak wisdom, namely amongst slightly a few Democrats, become Bush is uninteresting. He wasn’t and he is no longer. Nevertheless it is undoubtedly the case that Bush’s mental curiosity could per chance well fail him at events. Or no longer it is ironic because he’ll be very dutiful when it came to the issues that he believed the president is purported to provide, fancy bear a presidential day to day briefing with the CIA. He did that six days per week for the entirety of his presidency. Nevertheless when it came to immersing himself within the primary parts, in what he would disparagingly assuredly known as “nuance,” —  he’d enlighten “I fabricate no longer produce nuance” — he had these roughly sweeping notions that gave him the unreal to minimize the corners that can in another case require laborious work. 

He believed in his bones that all people yearns for freedom. And that anyone given the unreal for freedom would jump at that substitute. So he believed that’s what would happen in Iraq. It ethical merely made sense to him. Sadly, no longer most attention-grabbing become that no longer pretty, nonetheless there had been heaps of different folks who will possess told him that wasn’t pretty. And I produce mediate right here is the put his high aides, alongside with Condoleezza Rice, failed him in that no one brought into the Oval Office a dissenting point of peek. 

The closest that we saw to that become the dinner that [former Secretary of State] Colin Powell had with Bush within the White Residence situation, the put he talked about in quit, “you damage it, you possess it.” That become unwelcome info for Bush and it become also singular. Nobody else talked about that roughly stuff to him. In its put, they trotted in Iraqi refugees who had no longer seen their nation in 30 years to give pleased discuss how other folks would throw sweets and flowers on the feet of soldiers when they came in to liberate Iraq.

Saddam belief 9/11 become the 2d when the US and Iraq would change into allies

Fisher: Conception to be one of many more attention-grabbing observations I chanced on for your e book become Saddam’s reaction to 9/11. He belief that this become going to be a sea trade for him, nonetheless he belief it become going to be the reverse route. He figured that the US political equipment would needless to enlighten he become in opposition to Islamist extremists and that they’d come calling as an ally within the War on Alarm. Used to be that ever a consideration within the US authorities? Did anyone come up and enlighten, “You admire what, Saddam will likely be no doubt a lend a hand if we produce this ethical?”

Draper: Paradoxically, Rumsfeld talked about in one amongst his many snowflakes that amongst the possibilities — I mediate this become pre- 9/11 — become maybe we reach out to Saddam and forge some roughly relationship with him. Nevertheless again, it become one amongst those mental workout routines, no longer as severely belief-out protection, grand less something that he become promoting. The learn on Saddam by the Bush administration become that this guy become a malevolent threat. That he no doubt had it out for America and therefore would quit at nothing, would Confederate with al-Qaeda or whomever else, and likely surrender his possess weapons of mass destruction to others who wished to provide America in. Everything about what I’ve ethical talked about become factually inaccurate. Noteworthy nearer to the reality become, as you referenced, that Saddam no doubt believed after 9/11, that America would understand they wanted him, they wanted Iraq, and that theirs would be an evident alliance.

Saddam being an tainted jerk, now to now not expose a scandalous dictator, gave us heaps of reason now to now not pray to gather in mattress with a dictator. Announcing on September the 12th that America reached the thorns of its insurance policies. That roughly gloating become positively taken veil of by the Bush administration. Nevertheless that it’s essential to to well also argue that it become ethical fancy an extremist pandering to his grievous unpleasant. 

In actuality, his deputy prime minister Tariq Aziz talked about as grand when  a few weeks after 9/11 he despatched two diversified letters to a aged Reagan first charge with the map of getting them transmitted to the Bush White Residence, in overall asserting pay no attention to my man’s bluster. We want to be allies. We wants to be allied. We have got been targets of assassination from Islamic extremists ourselves, so we could per chance well level-headed work collectively on this. And I mediate that it no doubt didn’t happen to Saddam unless grand too gradual that we could per chance no longer witness the common sense of that. 

Colin Powell holds a grudge

Fisher: You wrote about Colin Powell’s evident regrets for his involvement and that he’s talked about he believes the most main line of his obituary will likely be something to provide with making the false case for warfare with Iraq. I know you are going to possess got been in contact with him no longer too long ago for this e book, does he no doubt feel betrayed by anyone within the administration? Does he preserve a grudge in opposition to anyone namely? 

Draper: I mediate he very pronouncedly holds a grudge in opposition to the CIA director George Tenet. I mediate that he feels fancy he become misled by Tenet, who surrounded him one day of the speech preparation for his UN presentation with all these analysts who had been assuring him, “Yes, yes. We fully imagine that this intelligence is righteous.” While finally there had been other folks within the company who very grand doubted the validity of that prognosis and [Powell] never obtained to meet those guys. So I mediate he feels led down a primrose route by Tenet. 

He undoubtedly developed a abhor of Cheney and Rumsfeld, nonetheless curiously, absent from his monologues about his aged colleagues is any animus in the direction of President Bush. To this day, it be sophisticated for me to uncover whether or no longer he ethical believes that it is unbecoming for a four smartly-known individual same outdated to be criticizing his commander in chief or it be that he no doubt believes that Bush himself did basically the most efficient with the tips that he had, nonetheless become misled by those other folks spherical him. I suspect a mix of those two. 

Fisher: There could be an episode reach the tip of the e book the put captured Iraqi protection power officials are being led spherical suspected WMD sites. And one Iraqi same outdated parts to a truly innocuous truck and says to his interrogators, “Anybody who told you that this truck become passe for natural weapons that cause wants to be fired. To your knowledge, become anyone fired? Used to be there any reckoning within the intelligence community?

Draper: No. In actuality, the closest to anyone being fired had been a few analysts who had been talked about within the e book — Jerry Watson and Larry Fox — who had been so afflicted by how so terrible the WMD intelligence grew to change into out to be that they had been pestering their senior managers that now we possess to come tremendous with the American public about it. And the senior managers obtained so drained of taking note of those two that they in overall moved them off campus out of Langley headquarters. Nevertheless to my knowledge, no longer one individual become fired for those intelligence failures, slightly the opposite. Many of them are doing slightly successfully this day. Tenet obtained the Presidential Medal of Honor. 

Surely in any distinguished company to perceive this form of unpleasant failure in judgment and competence you are going to witness slightly a few heads roll. That did no longer happen right here. 

Real Life. Real News. Real Voices

Help us tell more of the stories that matter

Become a founding member

The Iraq debacle grew to change into out to be an all-encompassing institutional failure. And by all encompassing, I no doubt mean all of Washington, no longer ethical the Bush administration, nonetheless the legislative branch and the media and the intelligence community, as successfully. Or no longer it is no doubt laborious to know what, if anything, could per chance well also’ve stopped George W Bush’s singular resolution to lumber to warfare. Nevertheless what we produce know is that he encountered the closest ingredient to a waft route. And whereas I impress the context for this become 9/11 and an accurate anxiousness all the map through Washington and beyond that one other wave become coming, the blindness that put in as a results of that anxiousness no doubt sick-served the American public. I’m no longer fully pleased that there become the level of introspection all the map during the Washington community that there wants to be. And I am hoping if my e book can provide us a service, that shall be that it would inspire that roughly reckoning and self-inspection.

LoadingSomething is loading.


George W. Bush
Colin Powell
Donald Rumsfeld
Saddam Hussein

Chevron iconIt signifies an expandable portion or menu, or ceaselessly earlier / subsequent navigation strategies.

TOP Domains

Subscribe to the newsletter news

We hate SPAM and promise to keep your email address safe

Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

To Top
Skip to toolbar