Rumsfeld 'wanted to bomb Iraq' after 9/11

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The Independent US

Donald Rumsfeld, the US Secretary of Defence, urged President Bush to consider bombing Iraq almost immediately after the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, says a former senior aide.

Richard Clarke, the White House counter-terrorism coordinator at the time, has revealed details of a meeting the day after the attacks during which officials considered the US response. Already, he said, they were certain al-Qa'ida was to blame and there was no hint of Iraqi involvement. "Rumsfeld was saying we needed to bomb Iraq," Mr Clarke said. "We all said, 'No, no, al-Qa'ida is in Afghanistan.'"

But Mr Clarke, who is expected to testify on Tuesday before a federal panel reviewing the attacks, said Mr Rumsfeld complained in the meeting that "there aren't any good targets in Afghanistan and there are lots of good targets in Iraq." A spokesman for Mr Rumsfeld last night said he could not comment immediately.

Mr Clarke makes the assertion in a book, Against All Enemies, published tomorrow. In an interview for CBS's 60 Minutestonight he says he believes the administration sought to link Iraq with the attacks because of a long-standing interest in overthrowing Saddam Hussein. "I think they wanted to believe that there was a connection" between Iraq and the al-Qa'ida attacks in the US, he says. "There's absolutely no evidence that Iraq was supporting al-Qa'ida."

Mr Clarke also criticised Mr Bush for now promoting his efforts against terrorism."Frankly, I find it outrageous that the President is running for re-election on the grounds that he's done such great things about terrorism," he told CBS. "He ignored terrorism for months."