By ERNEST F. HOLLINGS, former U. S. senator


AUG. 14, 2015 -- Editorialists and political pundits keep talking about President George W. Bush's Iraq War being an intelligence failure. For example, Fred Hiott quotes the Rob Silverman Commission in the Washington Post (8/10/15): "The Iraq War was fought on the basis of 'one of the most public- and most damaging - intelligence failures in recent American history.'" On the contrary, Iraq was intentional.

In 1996, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel funded a think tank in Jerusalem to recommend a course for Israel with the Palestinians. Richard Perle, Douglas Feith and David Wurmser headed up the study: "Clean Break" which recommended that Israel make a clean break from the negotiations with Arafat. The Perle group recommended 1.) Bombing Lebanon 2.) Invading Syria for possessing weapons of mass destruction and 3.) Replacing Saddam Hussein with a Hashemite ruler favorable to Israel. When Netanyahu rejected "Clean Break", Perle, Feith, and Wurmser returned to the United States and joined Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, Scooter Libby, Steve Cambone, etc. in the Project for the New American Century (PNAC). The New American Century pressured Trent Lott for a Resolution for regime change in Iraq which we adopted unanimously on October 9, 1998. The last paragraph of the Resolution prohibited any military action. The intent of the Resolution was to stir internal dissention in Iraq.

On the Hoover Commission Intelligence Task Force in 1954, I learned that Mossad, Israel's intelligence, was the best. Mossad had "plants" all over the Mid-East and had discovered a nuclear facility in Baghdad in 1981. Israel knocked it out. Many had different reasons for the Iraq invasion in 2003; like Cheney's reason for oil, etc. But the overwhelming reason was "Clean Break". When George W. Bush was elected President, proponents of "Clean Break" hit pay dirt. Richard Perle became Chairman of the Defense Policy Board and the top three positions in the Defense Department were occupied by Wurmser, Wolfowitz, Fieth. In January, 2001, ten days before George W. Bush was sworn in as President, he came to Washington and went straight to the Pentagon. Later that afternoon, I saw Secretary of Defense Bill Cohen and I asked: "What did Bush come to the Pentagon for?" Cohen answered: "To everyone's surprise, a briefing on Iraq." After the inauguration, Secretary of Treasury Paul O'Neill went to the first National Security Council meeting to brief everyone on the recession. But all they wanted to talk about was Iraq.

President George H.W. Bush in 1998, in A World Transformed stated: "I firmly believe that we should not march into Baghdad. To occupy Iraq would instantly shatter our coalition, turning the Arab world against us and making a broken tyrant into a latter day Arab hero…"

Just before the Iraq invasion in 2003, I asked Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld: "What does Mossad say about Iraq?" Rumsfeld finessed the question. Days before the invasion on March 19, President Bush stated in Cincinnati: "We cannot wait until the smoking gun is a mushroom cloud." I knew that the CIA only told the President important matters and Bush's statement convinced me that Saddam possessed a nuclear weapon. I voted for the Iraq War.

At the first vote in Iraq, when Maliki was elected Prime Minister, the Kurds put out a separate tent and voted two things: 1.) Not to pay taxes to Baghdad 2.) The oil in Kirkuk belonged to the Kurds. We should have known at that time that the military couldn't meld three religions into a democracy. Now, with the confusion of ISIS, the U.S. is not going to meld three religions plus Turkey into an Army against ISIS. ISIS is only practicing the Salafi or Wahhabi version of the Muslim religion that pupils are taught in the ninth grade in Saudi Arabia - that Christians and Jews are infidels; ought to be eliminated; ought to be beheaded (Frontline 11/9/2001). Religion will continue to be taught in Saudi Arabia. But the United States must get a commitment from Saudi Arabia to stop teaching violence against other religions. Then the U.S. can go in and clean up ISIS.

Senator Fritz Hollings of South Carolina served 38 years in the United States Senate, and for many years was Chairman of the Commerce, Space, Science & Transportation Committee. He is the author of Making Government Work (University of South Carolina Press, 2008).

© 2015, Ernest F. Hollings. All rights reserved. Contact us for republication permission.

About Fritz Hollings

Ernest F. Hollings served the public for 56 years -- 38 years in the United States Senate and as South Carolina's governor, lieutenant governor and a member of the S.C. House of Representatives. Today, Hollings continues to be influential in public affairs and offers this website as a compendium of current and past positions on public issues. Learn more about Fritz Hollings.

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