Oneill: Bush drew bead on Iraq before 9-11

Jan. 10, 2004 at 10:29 AM

NEW YORK, Jan. 10 (UPI) -- A former top Bush Administration official says the president had made up his mind to attack Iraq before the Sept. 11 attacks, CBS News reported Saturday.

Former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill, in a "60 Minutes" interview to be broadcast Sunday, said the administration began laying plans for an invasion of Iraq, including the use of American troops, within days of the January 2001 inauguration.

"From the very beginning, there was a conviction that Saddam Hussein was a bad person and that he needed to go," he told interviewer Leslie Stahl. "For me, the notion of pre-emption, that the U.S. has the unilateral right to do whatever we decide to do is a really huge leap."

O'Neill, fired by the White House for his disagreement on tax cuts, is the main source for an upcoming book, "The Price of Loyalty," authored by Ron Suskind.

Suskind said O'Neill and other White House insiders he interviewed gave him documents that show that in the first three months of 2001, the administration was looking at military options for removing Saddam Hussein from power and planning for the aftermath of Saddam's downfall.

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