On Tuesday, September 16, 2003, George W. Bush said what virtually every other senior member of his administration had been going out of their way to refute.
"We've had no evidence," he told CNN's John King, "that Saddam Hussein was involved with the September the eleventh. No."
This came as a shock to the 70 percent of Americans who support the invasion and occupation of Iraq because they believed Saddam was a mastermind of 9/11 or that Iraqis were among the pilots who hijacked our planes.
But the bigger shock may be to members of Congress, who, hearing that, may now conclude that Bush just admitted he had explicitly misled them.
It started in the months leading up to the 2002 elections. In many parts of the nation Democrats were doing well in the polls, and it looked like Republicans may lose control of the House along with the Senate control they'd lost earlier when Jim Jeffords left the party in disgust.
An October Surprise was needed to turn 9/11 into a partisan issue the Republicans could exploit, some partisans suggest, so congressional allies of the Bush Administration trotted out Public Law 107-243, "A Joint Resolution to authorize the use of United States Armed Forces against Iraq."
The law specified that:
"Whereas Iraq both poses a continuing threat to the national security of the United States...by, among other things, continuing to possess and develop a significant chemical and biological weapons capability, actively seeking a nuclear weapons capability, and supporting and harboring terrorist organizations. ..."
"Whereas members of al Qaida, an organization bearing responsibility for attacks on the United States, its citizens, and interests, including the attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, are known to be in Iraq;
"Whereas Iraq continues to aid and harbor other international terrorist organizations, including organizations that threaten the lives and safety of United States citizens;
"Whereas the attacks on the United States of September 11, 2001, underscored the gravity of the threat posed by the acquisition of weapons of mass destruction by international terrorist organizations;
"... the risk that the current Iraqi regime will either employ those weapons to launch a surprise attack against the United States ... and the extreme magnitude of harm that would result to the United States and its citizens from such an attack, combine to justify action by the United States to defend itself;...
"Whereas Congress has taken steps to pursue vigorously the war on terrorism ... requested by the President to take the necessary actions against international terrorists and terrorist organizations, including those nations, organizations, or persons who planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such persons or organizations;..." that the President could use force against the perpetrators of terrorism, implicitly, of 9/11.
Thus, the President was given a blank check to "defend the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq;" a nation whose Air Force had been destroyed and who UN inspectors had just said was almost certainly lacking any major (WMD) offensive or defensive weapons.
The law further required that Bush notify the Speaker of the House and the President of the Senate (the Vice President of the U.S.) before exercising the war powers that were being handed him, and to justify his actions at that time.
The passage of Public Law 107-243 on October 16, 2002 caused a national uproar, and enabled the Republicans to paint the Democrats as war-wimps, weak on defense, and only grudgingly willing to go along with efforts to get the guy who, as Public Law 107-243 said, "aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001..."
It was one of Karl Rove's shining moments: the Republicans swept the elections a month later. The corporate aristocracy was on the move, quickly staking out more and more of the public commons of America as its own territory.
By March 2003, however, things were starting to turn against the Republicans again. Dick Cheney was under investigation for Halliburton dealings, and on March 5th an FBI agent who said the Bush administration had thwarted his efforts to investigate 9/11 made the headlines by refusing to speak out on TV "for fear of his job" according to Judicial Watch, who represented him.
On March 9th, Reuters reported that Halliburton had been awarded a contract to fight oil well fires in Iraq. On March 11th, a GOP consultant was named in an Enron investigation. On March 12th the Washington Post revealed that GOP consultant Ralph Reed had received $300,000 from Enron before its collapse; and the same day saw the Inquirer newspaper in London drop a bombshell that, "[Halliburton] payments, which appear on Mr. Cheney's 2001 financial disclosure statement, are in the form of 'deferred compensation' of up to $1m a year."
Things weren't going well.
On March 18th, George W. Bush wrote to the Speaker of the House (Hastert) and the President of the Senate (Cheney) invoking the powers granted him by Public Law 107-243. Initiating the invasion of Iraq, he wrote:
"...I determine that:... [Declaring war on Iraq and] acting pursuant to the Constitution and Public Law 107-243 is consistent with the United States and other countries continuing to take the necessary actions against international terrorists and terrorist organizations, including those nations, organizations, or persons who planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001."
Thus the invasion of Iraq and seizure of its oil fields, was, according to George W. Bush, legally justified by 9/11.
But now he says there's no connection between Iraq and 9/11.
Which will inevitably raise the question for many in Congress: Did George Bush deceive them and the nation in October of 2002 and March of 2003, and, in response to a reporter's question, inadvertently blurt out an admission of that deception on September 16, 2003?
And, if so, how will Congress respond?