Unimpressed

The Washington Post editorial page is not impressed by Paul O”Neill’s “revelations” about President Bush’s Iraq policy, or by O’Neill himself. As to the former Secretary Treasury, the Post states: “During his rocky tenure, Mr. O’Neill proved to be a loose cannon, sometimes spooking financial markets with wild remarks, sometimes holding forth with extreme confidence on subjects, such as African development, about which he knew little.”
On the merits, the Post finds that the evidence does not support O’Neill’s claim that Bush had decided to oust Saddam from the start. The fact that Iraq was on the front-burner and that regime change was an option is not surprising — this was “the declared policy of the United States, supported by the Clinton administration and Congress.” O’Neill’s claim that Bush at an early stage had moved beyond contemplation of options to a decision “conflicts with other versions of history.” Indeed, the Post notes that “as late as Aug. 5, 2002, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell had a two-hour meeting with the president in which he laid out the dangers of going to war in Iraq. If the administration’s policy was already set in stone, a Cabinet minister who was closer to national security matters than was Mr. O’Neill evidently did not know about it.”
Finally, the Post is not impressed with the Democratic presidential candidates who were citing O’Neill’s book to support their attacks on Bush even before the book had been published. Say the editors: “The wisdom of waging war in Iraq is a legitimate and important topic of political debate. But the Democratic candidates do no favors to their positions when they accept, uncritically, a half-unsurprising and half-dubious account, for no better reason than that it fits their prejudices.”

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