- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld planned to raid a terrorist camp in northeastern Iraq at the same moment Secretary of State Colin L. Powell was delivering his later-discredited indictment of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction program to the United Nations in 2003.

President Bush called off the raid, siding with the State Department.

According to his memoir, “Known and Unknown,” Mr. Rumsfeld lost an argument to Mr. Powell over whether U.S. and Kurdish militia forces should strike a terrorist base in Khurmal affiliated with the suspected terrorist group Ansar al-Islam while Mr. Powell was presenting the case for the Iraq War to the U.N.

The disclosure provides evidence that a terrorist group in northern Iraq had a makeshift chemical-weapons facility, though Mr. Rumsfeld is careful to say that the evidence collected from the site is not conclusive.

In the memoir, Mr. Rumsfeld acknowledges that much of the pre-Iraq War intelligence was wrong. But he also does not say he regrets the 2003 invasion that led to the ouster of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.

Former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, along with a team of six aides, worked four years on his memoirs, "Known and Unknown," a 700-page narrative with an additional 100-plus pages of end notes. (Associated Press)
Former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, along with a team of six ... more >

At a Feb. 3, 2003, National Security Council meeting, two days before Mr. Powell’s presentation on Iraq and weapons of mass destruction before the U.N. Security Council, Mr. Rumsfeld said, “We should hit Khurmal during the speech … given that Colin will talk about it.”

Mr. Rumsfeld recounts that Mr. Powell objected. “That would wipe out my briefing,” Mr. Rumsfeld quotes Mr. Powell as saying. “We’re going to get Khurmal in a few weeks anyway,” Mr. Powell added, according to Mr. Rumsfeld.

Peggy Cifrino, a spokeswoman for Mr. Powell, said: “General Powell said he might have been concerned that bombing Khurmal at a time when he was making the case to the U.N. Security Council might suggest the war had already started. He was not clear that anything of significance was there, either.”

In the first days of the war, U.S. military and intelligence operatives did raid the Khurmal site and, according to Mr. Rumsfeld, found “clear signs of chemical-weapons production.”

They included “chemical hazard suits, manuals to make chemical weapons in Arabic, and traces of the deadly toxins cyanide, ricin and potassium chloride,” according to Mr. Rumsfeld.

But the U.S. forces did not find anyone in the senior leadership of Ansar al-Islam, such as Abu Musab Zarqawi, who would later go on to lead al Qaeda’s wing in Iraq.

“Ironically, had Powell not objected to the [Defense Department] and CIA proposal to attack the Khurmal site before he gave his presentation to the U.N., we might have been able to gather the conclusive evidence of an active WMD facility, that he said existed in his U.N. speech,” Mr. Rumsfeld says in his memoir.

In an interview with The Washington Times, Mr. Rumsfeld praised Mr. Powell as a “seasoned and experienced government leader.” He also said the discussion at the National Security Council was a “legitimate debate.”

“Our view was we should send in a ground force before the war and find out precisely what was going on,” Mr. Rumsfeld said. “Colin Powell felt it would weaken his speech at the U.N. The minute he announced the Khurmal facility existed, the people [there] were evacuated.”

In the interview, Mr. Rumsfeld also said that he thought it was proper for the American people and Congress to review from time to time the extraordinary powers Mr. Bush and later President Obama have asserted to fight the global war on terrorism.

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