New York Times
September 20, 2001
Bush Advisers Split on Scope of Retaliation
By PATRICK E. TYLER and ELAINE SCIOLINO
Some senior administration officials, led by Paul D. Wolfowitz, deputy secretary of defense, and I. Lewis Libby, chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, are pressing for the earliest and broadest military campaign against not only the Osama bin Laden network in Afghanistan, but also against other suspected terrorist bases in Iraq and in Lebanon's Bekaa region.
These officials are seeking to include Iraq on the target list with the aim of toppling President Saddam Hussein, a step long advocated by conservatives who support Mr. Bush.
A number of conservatives circulated a new letter today calling on the president to "make a determined effort to remove Saddam Hussein from power" even if he cannot be linked to the terrorists who struck New York and Washington last week.
In response to these efforts, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell argued during weekend meetings with Mr. Bush that the administration must take the time to prepare the diplomatic groundwork for American military action, first in Afghanistan, by consulting with allies and building the case to justify American actions under international law. "We can't solve everything in one blow," said an administration official who has sided with Secretary Powell.
But at the Pentagon today, asked if he felt there was an Iraqi connection to the attacks, Mr. Wolfowitz said, "I think the president made it very clear today that this is about more than just one organization, it's about more than just one event.
"And I think everyone has got to look at this problem with completely new eyes in a completely new light."
Mr. Wolfowitz did not return a telephone call tonight. It is unclear what position the Joint Chiefs of Staff have taken on the scope of any possible retaliation. The State Department declined to comment.
The shock of last Tuesday's attacks and the magnitude of the challenge before it in fashioning a response has, in some ways, united and galvanized the Bush national security team.
But there are tensions. They stem in part from the basic clash of roles: Secretary Powell faces the pragmatic work of coalition building and careful diplomacy with allies who will take significant risks to support the United States when so much anger is directed at its policies in the Middle East.
The Pentagon is surveying a host of unattractive military options as officials seek to fulfill presidential and public expectations to strike back quickly and decisively.
There are also ideological differences and even old personal conflicts from the first Bush administration, the Reagan and the Ford administrations cleaving a group of people facing an urgent crisis.
Today, President Bush and his advisers watched with some anxiety as the Pakistani leader, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, addressed his people to try to persuade them to support the American response to last week's attacks. "A lot of us are worried that he may not survive politically," one official said.
Mr. Bush and Secretary Powell also met with Russia's foreign minister, Igor D. Ivanov, who expressed Russian concerns about the use of military force in Central Asia, formerly under Soviet control. The Russians already are providing intelligence information and Mr. Ivanov pledged to cooperate in other ways.
During a weekend of intense national security planning, Secretary Powell was said by several officials to have urged caution. He argued that to undertake a broad military campaign, especially including Iraq — whose civilian population draws great sympathy in the Middle East for the suffering it has endured since 1991 — would undermine the support Mr. Bush needs now.
On Sunday, Vice President Dick Cheney seemed to ally himself with Secretary Powell's view when he said in a televised interview that the administration did not have evidence linking Saddam Hussein to last week's attacks.
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld was said to have joined the consensus position of leaving Iraq and other targets out of initial plans. "Rumsfeld for whatever reason has decided that Iraq can wait," one official said, adding that "he hasn't given up on it."
But Mr. Wolfowitz, the Pentagon's influential deputy secretary, is a conservative thinker who has frequently clashed with Secretary Powell and the State Department. He has continued to press for a military campaign against Iraq that would not only punish Mr. Hussein for his past support for terrorism at home and abroad but would also eliminate the danger he poses to Israel and the West in his quest to acquire weapons of mass destruction.
One account of last weekend's private discussion among Mr. Bush and his senior aides suggested a tense exchange occurred when Mr. Wolfowitz made the the case for a broad and early campaign, including bombing Iraq. Secretary Powell said targeting Iraq and Saddam Hussein would "wreck" the coalition.
Mr. Wolfowitz has been more "concerned about bombing Iraq than bombing Afghanistan," one senior administration official said.
Another administration official, an ally of Mr. Wolfowitz, said, "Paul's very spirited position is to look at this more comprehensively."
On Monday, Secretary Powell betrayed his own impatience with Mr. Wolfowitz's assertion — later retracted — that the administration was committed to "ending states" that supported terrorism.
"We're after ending terrorism," Secretary Powell said when asked about Mr. Wolfowitz's formulation. "And if there are states and regimes, nations, that support terrorism, we hope to persuade them that it is in their interest to stop doing that. But I think `ending terrorism' is where I would leave it and let Mr. Wolfowitz speak for himself."