WASHINGTON (CNN) # Former Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill said Tuesday his account of the Bush administration’s early discussions about a possible invasion of Iraq has been distorted.
“People are trying to make a case that I said the president was planning war in Iraq early in the administration,” O’Neill told NBC’s “Today” show.
“Actually, there was a continuation of work that had been going on in the Clinton administration with the notion that there needed to be regime change in Iraq.”
The controversy started with comments in a book published this week on the administration in which O’Neill suggests Iraq was the focus of President Bush’s first National Security Council meeting.
O’Neill also said he believes that he did not provide classified government documents to the author of the book. (Full story)
The idea that Bush “came into office with a predisposition to invade Iraq, I think, is a total misunderstanding of the situation,” Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told reporters at the Pentagon.
Bush administration officials have noted that U.S. policy dating from the Clinton administration was to seek “regime change” in Iraq, although it focused on funding and training Iraqi opposition groups rather than using military force. (Full story)
Retired Army Gen. Hugh Shelton, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said he saw nothing to indicate the United States was close to attacking Iraq early in Bush’s term.
Shelton, who retired shortly after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, said the brass reviewed “on the shelf” plans to respond to crises with the incoming Bush administration.
But in the administration’s first six months, “I saw nothing that would lead me to believe that we were any closer to attacking Iraq than we had been during the previous administration,” Shelton told CNN.
O’Neill, former CEO of aluminum producer Alcoa, sat on the National Security Council during his 23 months as treasury secretary.