When it took office, the Bush Administration revoked this plan and began working on a replacement. But nothing was on hand as of September 11. For months the response to the attacks was managed by a variety of ad hoc groups. The Campaign Coordination Committee, run by Richard Clarke and his colleague Franklin Miller, oversaw strategies against al-Qaeda. The new Domestic Preparedness Committee, run by John Ashcroft's deputy, Larry Thompson, oversaw internal-security measures. And the "principals"—Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Powell, Rice, Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet, and a few others, including Wolfowitz, Powell's deputy Richard Armitage, and Cheney's aide Lewis "Scooter" Libby—met frequently to plan the showdown with Iraq. There was no established way to make sure that State knew what Defense was doing and vice versa, as became disastrously obvious after the fall of Baghdad. And there was no recognized venue for opportunity-cost discussions about the emerging Iraq policy, even if anyone had wanted them.
In the absence of other plans, initiative on every issue was increasingly taken in the Pentagon. And within the Pentagon the emphasis increasingly moved toward Iraq. In March of 2002, when U.S. troops were still engaged in Operation Anaconda on the Afghan-Pakistani border, and combat in Iraq was still a year away, inside the government Afghanistan had begun to seem like yesterday's problem. When asked about Iraq at a press conference on March 13, Bush said merely, "All options are on the table." By that time Tommy Franks had answered Bush's request for battle plans and lists of potential bombing targets in Iraq.
The more experienced in government the people I interviewed were, the more likely they were to stress the importance of the mental shift in the spring of 2002. When I asked Richard Clarke whether preparations for Iraq had really taken anything crucial from Afghanistan or other efforts, he said yes, unquestionably. "They took one thing that people on the outside find hard to believe or appreciate," he said. "Management time. We're a huge government, and we have hundreds of thousands of people involved in national security. Therefore you would think we could walk and chew gum at the same time. I've never found that to be true. You've got one National Security Adviser and one CIA director, and they each have one deputy. The same is true in Defense. Interestingly in terms of the military, both of these wars took place in the same 'CINCdom'"—by which Clarke meant that both were in the realm of Tommy Franks's Central Command, rather than in two different theaters. "It just is not credible that the principals and the deputies paid as much attention to Afghanistan or the war against al-Qaeda as they should have."
From Atlantic Unbound:Interviews: "Councils of War"
(August 18, 2004)
"Anonymous," the CIA insider who wrote Imperial Hubris
, argues that we must annihilate our Muslim enemies, while heeding their point of view.
According to Michael Scheuer, a career CIA officer who spent the late 1990s as head of the agency's anti-bin Laden team, the shift of attention had another destructive effect on efforts to battle al-Qaeda: the diversion of members of that team and the Agency's limited supply of Arabic-speakers and Middle East specialists to support the mounting demand for intelligence on Iraq. (Because Scheuer is still on active duty at the CIA, the Agency allowed him to publish his recent book, Imperial Hubris, a harsh criticism of U.S. approaches to controlling terrorism, only as "Anonymous." After we spoke, his identity was disclosed by Jason Vest, in the Boston Phoenix; when I met him, he declined to give his name and was introduced simply as "Mike.") "With a finite number of people who have any kind of pertinent experience," Scheuer told me, "there is unquestionably a sucking away of resources from Afghanistan and al-Qaeda to Iraq, just because it was a much bigger effort."