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Friday, July 15, 2005 

Part 2 - Timeline to War 2001: May to September

"The coalition against Saddam has fallen apart or it's unraveling, let's put it that way. The sanctions are being violated. We don't know whether he's developing weapons of mass destruction. He better not be or there's going to be a consequence should I be the president"
George W Bush 10-11-00, 2nd Presidential debate

With those words, future President George Bush had set one of the main agendas for his administrations the next four years. The specter of WMD was raised and the threat of regime change made. Within days of taking office, steps were beginning to be taken that put the nation on a course that would forever change its role in foreign affairs. Not since the days of Gilded Age Imperialism had an administration so pro-actively sought to take the nation to war. By May of 2001, the Bush administration was well on its way on that path to war with Iraq.

Having spent the first few months in office planning, and integrating the various factions within the administration, by May vital steps had been taken towards regime change in Iraq. Between the findings of VP Dick Cheney's energy task force, the various policy papers and recommendations of Neocon think tanks like PNAC, and James Baker's "Strategic Energy Policy Challenges for the 21st Century" report, the case for military action in Iraq had effectively been made to all within the administration.

The military, by this time had been brought on board to make the necessary preparations for war. An active air campaign to soften up Iraqi defenses was underway and the movement of pre-positioned forces and equipment was in progress. Increased funding and training of Iraqi opposition forces was authorized and a campaign to make the case for war to the American people was starting to be formulated. Over the next four months more steps would be taken on the path to war.

The period from the beginning of May up to the events of September 11th was marked by an increase in activity by the military in preparation for a large scale operation in the Persian Gulf. In order to get around the problem presented by Saudi Arabia's reluctance to allow further missions to be flown out a Saudi air bases to attack Iraq, the military planners began to look at how to redraw the military map of the region. Top DoD officials and military brass criss-crossed the globe trying to set up basing agreements and mutual co-operation agreements. This use of the Defense Department as a mechanism of diplomacy increased over the next two years as Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz and later Feith, gained powers that had traditionally been reserved for the Department of State.
An increase in intelligence and reconnaissance flights began over Iraq in advance of a future massive air campaign. Predator and U-2 flights increased in order to gain the intelligence to effectively target Iraqi radar, Command and Control facilities and communication hubs. The training and funding of Iraqi insurgent groups (through the umbrella group: the Iraqi National Congress -INC) also increased during these months in preparation for what was hoped to be a coup that could topple the Iraqi dictator and install a regime more acceptable to US security interests. This new regime could also be expected to be friendlier to US businesses interested in the region. Although the period might appear to be a lull before the storm of September 11th, at closer inspection it becomes apparent that war preparations were proceeding at a methodical pace.

May 2, 2001
The final draft of Dick Cheney's energy task force report is released.

May 5, 2001
Sec. of Defense Rumsfeld meets with Amir Shaikh Hamad Bin Isa Al Khalifa of Bahrian to discuss the current state of US naval bases in that country. Bahrain had long been the headquarters of U.S. naval activity in the Gulf. Currently Manama Naval Base in Bahrain is the headquarters of the U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet which regularly includes a battle carrier group and other naval assets.

May 9-11, 2001
Deputy Sec. Of Defense Paul Wolfowitz and Deputy Natioal Security Advisor Stephen Hadley meet with European leaders. The tour includes Paris, Berlin, Warsaw and Moscow.

May 16-18, 2001
Commander in Chief, US Army Central Command Tommy Franks makes a five-country tour of Central Asia. .Franks meets with officials in Kazakhstan. Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. The main theme of his visit is the solidification of military ties in the region. Discussions involve the sharing of intelligence, the procurement of US equipment, and plans to strengthen military cooperation between the US and the nations of the region.

May 31, 2001
The US and UK attempt extend UN sanctions on Iraq with modifications. The two countries lobby for new "smart sanctions" that would ease the flow of oil while increasing control of Iraqi imports. The initiative fails and the UN temporarily extends sanctions for one month until a decision can be made.

June 1-9, 2001
Rumsfeld goes on a nine day trip to meet with leaders of what he will later call "New Europe". Starting in Turkey, he went to Incirlik Air Base which was the home base for Operation Northern Watch, then on to the Ukraine, Macedonia, and Kosovo. Next he was off to Greece to meet with the nine member countries of the Southeast European Defense Ministerial (SEDM). He followed that with a NATO meeting in Brussels and finished up in Finland for a meeting with the Baltic States. Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Finland were the other countries in attendance. This focus on "New Europe" would become crucial when it was time to go to the UN tg make the case against Iraq and form the "Coalition of the willing."

June 4, 2001
Iraq cuts off most of its UN-approved oil exports in protest against US and British moves to introduce so-called "smart sanctions". Iraq stopped pumping to oil terminals in Turkey and the Gulf.

June 5, 2001
Defense Sec Donald H Rumsfeld says US and British pilots who fly patrols over Iraq are under increasingly dangerous fire because of improved Iraqi defenses; blames China and other countries he says are supplying Iraqis with advanced antiaircraft technology. His remarks come as Pentagon reviews policy of reinforcing zones over Iraq.

June 11, 2001
DoD announces that they are short of anthrax vaccine and stops vaccinating certain military personnel.

June 16, 2001
The State Department tells Congress it plans to give $6 million over the next three months to the INC.

June 18, 2001
Rumsfeld consolidates DoD command structure to reflect a more "business-like" model. "The Senior Executive Committee will function as a business board of directors for the Department. It will be made up of Secretary Rumsfeld, Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics Edward C. "Pete" Aldridge, and the Service secretaries. Secretary of the Army Thomas E. White, Secretary of the Navy Gordon R. England, and Secretary of the Air Force James G. Roche will use their unique qualifications as experienced business leaders to recommend changes to the Defense Department's business practices."

Sometime in June, 2001
"communications capability completed" at "secret " Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar.

(For the complete story of the building of Al-Udeid Air Base see: "Secret" Air Base for Iraq War started prior 9-11. )

July 20, 2001
Leading Neocons and founding members of PNAC join the DoD. Douglas J. Feith, Peter W. Rodman and Peter T.R. Brookes assume senior policy positions in the Department of Defense.

August 29, 2001
INC starts beaming satellite television propaganda programs into Iraq using funds provided by the U.S. Congress. The station is headquartered in Washington DC, with a "large production bureau" in London. The INC produces these programs with the help of a contract from Lockheed Martin Corp.

Sept.4, 2001
DOD announces plan to produce new strain of anthrax.

THE "SPY-PLANE WAR": 7/25 TO 9/11, 2001
By the middle of the Summer of 2001 a game of cat and mouse was being played in the skies above Iraq. The US, wishing to gain more intelligence about Iraqi air defense systems increased the U2 and predator surveillance missions over Iraqi installations. The Iraqis, having upgraded their systems over the last few years, now had the capability to down the slow moving spy planes. With each mission the stakes were raised as the Iraqis tried to prevent the US from finding, then destroying their new defense systems.

July 25, 2001
Iraq launches a ground-to-air missile at a US spy plane.

July 26, 2001
Pentagon sources tell CNN "The United States plans a military response to the attempted shoot down of a U-2 spy plane over Iraq's southern no-fly zone. Although the United States bombs Iraqi air defenses on a regular basis,the sources said targets this time will likely include early warning radars Iraq uses to track the high-flying, slow-moving U-2s.The radar sites, last hit by U.S. and British warplanes in February,have since been rebuilt, along with a fiber optic network linking them, installed with Chinese assistance."

August 7, 2001
US warplanes attacked a multiple-rocket launcher near Mosul in northern Iraq.

August 10, 2001
Air strikes stepped up, in the largest strike since Feb. US and British warplanes launched a major strike against three air-defense sites in southern Iraq in response to recent attacks on coalition aircraft patrolling the no-fly zone, Pentagon officials said. About 50 aircraft -- including tankers and other support aircraft -- participated in the raid. A Pentagon official said the targets included a communications node, a surface-to-air missile site and a radar site.

August 14, 2001
U.S. Air Force F-16 fighter jets bombed a surface-to-air missile site in southern Iraq near the town of An Nasiriyah, some 170 miles south east of Baghdad.

August 17, 2001
"Iraqi forces threatened Operation Northern Watch coalition aircraft by firing anti-aircraft artillery from sites north of Mosul. Coalition aircraft were also targeted by Iraqi radar while conducting routine enforcement of the Northern No-Fly Zone. Coalition aircraft responded to the Iraqi attacks by delivering ordnance on elements of the Iraqi integrated air defense system."

August 27, 2001
Iraq downs a US spy plane. The official Iraqi News Agency (IRA) reported that Iraqi anti-aircraft forces had shot down a U.S. spy plane in a region of the southern port city of Basra. . The Pentagon would only say that they lost contact with the Predator spy drone before dawn near Basra, and the plane either was shot down or crashed August 27th. One Iraqi was killed and three others wounded in the combined US/British air strikes in northern Iraq. The bombing in northern Iraq followed the disappearance earlier of an unmanned US surveillance plane in the region of the southern port city of Basra.

September 4, 2001
Large air strikes in both Northern and Southern Regions. The US European Command said coalition warplanes struck "elements of Iraq's integrated air defence" in northern Iraq in response to anti-aircraft artillery fire and after coalition aircraft monitoring a no-fly zone in the north were targeted by Iraqi radar.In the south US jets used precision guided munitions to attack anti-aircraft artillery and surface-to-air missile sites around As Samwah, 209 kilometers (130 miles) southeast of Baghdad, a spokesman for the US Central Command said.

September 10, 2001
Eight Iraqis killed and three others injured in air strikes. US Air Force F-16, Navy F-18 and British Tornado GR-4 aircraft struck missile sites near al-Numinayah, al-Kut and Tallil, all south-east of Baghdad.

Sept. 11, 2001
US predator shot down in Iraq. Making it the second unmanned US spy plane downed by Iraq in less than a month.

The four month period that led up to September 11th can be viewed as the time when the administration began to get their ducks in a row in their quest for regime change in Iraq. Military agreements were made, the alliances that would become the "coalition of the willing" were being fostered and the air defenses of Iraq were beginning to be methodically taken apart piece by piece. The tragedy of September 11th would allow the next, and most crucial phase of the agenda to begin: The selling of the war to the American people.

In the next installment in this series we will look at the events of Sept 11th and the month that followed. Data compiled by the IRAQFACT working group.


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