Note:For a timeline of the first Gulf War and other events before 1993, see "Before and After the First Gulf War, 1973-1993."
June 3, 1993: The Project for the New American Century, a group of neo-conservative politicians and journalists, releases its founding statement, claiming that “American foreign and defense policy is adrift.”
April 15, 1994: In an interview at the American Enterprise Institute, Dick Cheney repeats that invading Baghdad would have been unwise, and would have led to a “quagmire.”
January 26, 1998: The Project for the New American Century writes a letter to President Bill Clinton that states that his Iraq policy is failing: “The only acceptable strategy,” the letter’s signatories say, “is one that eliminates the possibility that Iraq will be able to use or threaten to use weapons of mass destruction. In the near term, this means a willingness to undertake military action as diplomacy is clearly failing. In the long term, it means removing Saddam Hussein and his regime from power. That now needs to become the aim of American foreign policy.” Signatories include Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, John Bolton, William Kristol, Paul Wolfowitz and Zalmay Khalilzad.
January 20, 2001: President George W. Bush is inaugurated president.
January 30, 2001: Ten days after Bush’s inauguration, the president meets with the principals of his National Security Council for the first time. “So, Condi, what are we going to talk about today? What’s on the agenda?,” the president asked Condoleeezza Rice, his national security adviser. “How Iraq is destabilizing the region, Mr. President,” she replied. According to the account reported by then-Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill, who was in the meeting, to author Ron Suskind in “The Price of Loyalty,” CIA Director George Tenet pulled out the poster-size surveillance photograph of a factory in Iraq. The photograph looked grainy, hard to decipher, but Tenet said the factory might be “a plant that produces either chemical or biological materials for weapons manufacture.” Secretary of State Colin Powell declared the sanctions against Iraq ineffective. The president ordered Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld to explore military options. The meeting was adjourned after an hour. “Ten days in,” Suskind wrote, “and it was about Iraq.”
September 12, 2001: Speaking to Richard Clarke, his chief counter-terrorism adviser, and others in the White House Situation Room, President Bush, referring to the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon the day before, says: “Look, I know you have a lot to do and all… but I want you, as soon as you can, to go back over everything, everything. See if Saddam did this. See if he’s linked in any way.” Clarke, taken aback, tells the president that “al-Qaeda did this.” According to Clarke, who reports the exchange in “Against All Enemies” (Free Press, 2004), Bush replies: “I know, I know, but… see if Saddam was involved. Just look. I want to know any shred… Look into Iraq, Saddam.”
January 29, 2002: In his State of the Union message, President Bush declares Iraq part of the “axis of evil,” which includes Iran and North Korea.
February 2002: The Defense Intelligence Agency issues an assessment discrediting links between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda.
Late February 2002: Joseph Wilson, a career foreign service officer and ambassador, travels to Niger on behalf of the CIA to investigate a claim that Saddam had acquired yellowcake uranium from Niger in the late 1990s. Wilson finds no evidence supporting the claim. The CIA transmits the results of the trip to Vice President Dick Cheney’s office. The yellowcake-uranium document is later shown to be a forgery.