Pressure from Israel and the Lobby was not the only factor behind the decision to attack Iraq in March 2003, but it was critical. Some Americans believe that this was a war for oil, but there is hardly any direct evidence to support this claim. Instead, the war was motivated in good part by a desire to make Israel more secure. According to Philip Zelikow, a former member of the president’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board, the executive director of the 9/11 Commission, and now a counsellor to Condoleezza Rice, the ‘real threat’ from Iraq was not a threat to the United States. The ‘unstated threat’ was the ‘threat against Israel’, Zelikow told an audience at the University of Virginia in September 2002. ‘The American government,’ he added, ‘doesn’t want to lean too hard on it rhetorically, because it is not a popular sell.’And here's a passage from Philip Zelikow's denial of that passage in the orginal piece:
First, like most of the world, I did think that, if Saddam Hussein possessed nuclear weapons, this would endanger the interests of America and the world in several ways, including the direct threat of a possible strike on Israel. Second, I did not state an opinion about whether this should be a cause for war in 2002-03. Third, I did not state an opinion – or even have any special knowledge – about the motives of the Bush administration in going to war in 2003.And here's Mearsheimer and Walt's response that appears below Zelikow's letter in the latest edition.
Philip Zelikow claims he did not say in September 2002 that the present war in Iraq was motivated in good part by concerns about Israel’s security. He suggests that our reference to his remarks came from an unreliable source and says we ‘misused’ his comments. He implies that he was talking mainly about the 1990-91 Gulf War, not the US decision to invade Iraq in March 2003. Furthermore, he maintains that he ‘expressed no view’ on ‘whether or when the US ought to go to war with Iraq’. None of these assertions is correct.An advisor to Condoleezza Rice has taken time out to deny something that is matter of public record. This M & W article, flawed as it may be, has the zionist veering from concern to blind panic.
Emad Mekay, who wrote the Asia Times Online article we referenced, is a well-regarded journalist who worked for Reuters and the New York Times before moving to Inter Press Service, a legitimate news agency. He did not rely on ‘local reports’ in writing his story, but had access to a complete and unimpeachable record of Zelikow’s talk. He repeatedly tried to contact Zelikow while writing his story, but his inquiries were not returned.
Below are excerpts from Zelikow’s remarks about Iraq on 10 September 2002 (we have the full text). It shows that 1. he was focusing on the possibility of war with Iraq in 2002-03, not the 1990-91 Gulf War; 2. he supported a new war with Iraq; and 3. he believed Iraq was an imminent threat to Israel, but not to the United States.Finally. . . I wanted to offer some comments on Iraq. . . . I beg your patience, but I think there are some points that are worth making that aren’t being made by either side in the current debate.In sum, it is Zelikow, not us, who is attempting to rewrite history. He was admirably candid in 2002, but not in 2006.
The Iraq situation this administration inherited is and has been unsustainable. Ever since 1996 the Iraqi situation has basically unravelled. . . . So then the real question is, OK, what are you going to do about it? How are you going to end up fixing it? And if you don’t like the administration’s approach, what’s the recommended alternative?
Another thing Americans absorb, and this administration especially, is the lesson of Afghanistan. Because remember we knew that international terrorist groups were plotting to kill Americans in a sanctuary called Afghanistan. . . [I]n retrospect, it is perfectly clear that only . . . an [American] invasion could reliably have pre-empted the 9/11 attacks, which relied on people who were being trained in that sanctuary . . . So what lesson does one take from that with respect to Iraq? Well you can see the lesson this administration has taken from that example. And so contemplate what lesson you take.
Third. The unstated threat. And here I criticise the [Bush] administration a little, because the argument that they make over and over again is that this is about a threat to the United States. And then everybody says: ‘Show me an imminent threat from Iraq to America. Show me, why would Iraq attack America or use nuclear weapons against us?’ So I’ll tell you what I think the real threat is, and actually has been since 1990. It’s the threat against Israel. And this is the threat that dare not speak its name, because the Europeans don’t care deeply about that threat, I will tell you frankly. And the American government doesn’t want to lean too hard on it rhetorically, because it’s not a popular sell.
Now . . . if the danger is a biological weapon handed to Hamas, then what’s the American alternative then? Especially if those weapons have developed to the point where they now can deter us from attacking them, because they really can retaliate against us, by then. Play out those scenarios . . . Don’t look at the ties between Iraq and al-Qaida, but then ask yourself the question: ‘Gee, is Iraq tied to Hamas, and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and the people who are carrying out suicide bombings in Israel?’ Easy question to answer, and the evidence is abundant.
Yes, there are a lot of other problems in the world . . . My view, by the way, is the more you examine these other problems and try to put together a comprehensive strategy for America and the Middle East, the more I’m driven to the conclusion that it’s better for us to deal with Iraq sooner rather than later. Because those other problems don’t get easier . . . And the Iraq problem is a peculiar combination at the moment, of being exceptionally dangerous at a time when Iraq is exceptionally weak militarily. Now that’s an appealing combination for immediate action . . . But . . . if we wait two years, and then there’s another major terrorist attack against the United States, does it then become easier to act against Iraq, even though the terrorist attack didn’t come from Iraq? No. . . . [A]t this moment, because of the time we bought in the war against terror, it actually makes it easier to go about Iraq now, than waiting a year or two until the war against terror gets harder again.
John Mearsheimer & Stephen Walt