Bob Woodward's new book is making a lot of news with the report that President Bush directed Secretary of Defense Don Rumsfeld to began planning for war with Iraq on November 21, 2001 -- little more than two months after the 9/11 attacks.
I hear it was much sooner than two months -- more like two weeks. That is to say, in September 2001.
In mid-September 2001, at the same time Don Rumsfeld tasked Centcom with drawing up plans for attacking the Taliban, they were also tasked with putting together a plan to seize Iraq's southern oil fields.
(British officers, who were embedded in the planning process and actually on location in Tampa, Florida from mid-September 2001 onwards, reacted with something close to disbelief that this was what the Secretary of Defense had ordered.)
This plan -- pushed by Wolfowitz -- is referred to obliquely in the Saturday article on Woodward's book in the Post. But this wasn't just some idea Wolfowitz proposed prior to 9/11, as the author implies. Centcom planners began putting together the plan for it right as they were putting together the war plan for Afghanistan.
What happened in November was still important, and qualitatively different, because this earlier tasking was not explicitly aimed at regime change, simply seizing the southern oil fields. But whether it was formally aimed at regime change or no, within less than two weeks after 9/11, Centcom planners were at work putting in place a plan to make war on Iraq.