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Wolfowitz Testifies Before 9/11 Commission

By Sgt. 1st Class Doug Sample, USA
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 24, 2004 – Striking al Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan earlier in the year would not have prevented the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz told a special commission here March 23.

Wolfowitz, along with Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers, Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman, appeared before the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States.

Killing a few relatively low-level al Qaeda operatives might have been a worthy thing to do as part of a general plan, Wolfowitz told the commission, but it "certainly wasn't going to affect 9/11" except as Rumsfeld already had noted to make 9/11 seem like a retaliation.

Rumsfeld had told the commission that targeting terrorist training camps "over and over" and expending millions of dollars in U.S. weapons against targets that are "dirt and tents" accomplishes next to nothing. He said he and others in DoD were concerned that a missile attack without having a plan that was "different, distinctly different," would be a mistake and indeed a sign of "weakness, not strength."

Instead, Wolfowitz said, the Pentagon had more ambitious plans for al Qaeda. The first phase included assisting the Northern Alliance in eliminating Afghanistan as a sanctuary for al-Qaeda.

In response to questions about the length of time it took for the plan to develop, Wolfowitz told the commission that putting together a plan to fight al Qaeda was more complex than simply targeting terrorists with cruise missiles, and he used a football analogy to make his point.

"I think there's a basic difficulty of understanding what a plan really is," he explained. "A plan is not a military option. A military option is to a plan what a single play in football is to a whole game plan. And this notion that there's a single thing that if we had only done it, it would work, is like a 'Hail Mary' pass in football, which is what a desperate losing team does in a hope that maybe they can pull things off at the end."

He said a plan has to anticipate more than what the enemy will do next. "It has to anticipate what the government of Pakistan will do," he said. "It has to anticipate what world reaction will be. It has to go down many pathways. And it's not a timetable. No one can tell you what's going to happen next."

Wolfowitz told the commission that President Bush had no plan to rush to war with Iraq in the immediate wake of the Sept. 11 attack. He said that in January 2002, four months after 9/11, the president asked to see military options for Iraq. And it wasn't until nine months later, he said, that the president finally got to see those options.

"And that still wasn't a plan, because that only allowed him to go to the United Nations and be prepared to use all necessary means," Wolfowitz said. "It wasn't a decision to use all necessary means."

Wolfowitz said Army Gen. Tommy Franks, commander of coalition forces during the early part of the Iraq war, continued planning for the assault for another five or six months.

The commission reconvened this morning for testimony from Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet.

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Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld
Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz
Gen. Richard B. Myers

Related Sites:
Text of Defense Secretary Rumsfeld's Prepared Opening Statement to the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, March 23, 2004
National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States

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