University of Alabama, October 13, 2006
…So, when 9/11 happened, we didn’t have a national strategy. The American people weren’t engaged, and what happened is that we went to war in Afghanistan. We had to, but this administration determined shortly after 9/11, perhaps on the same day, that they would invade Iraq and settle an old score and move into that strategy that Paul Wolfowitz had described to me in 1991. There was no public debate. There was no discussion of what this meant. There was obfuscation. I went through the Pentagon a week after 9/11. One of the Generals called me in, and he said, “Sir,” he said, “come in here in my office.” I’d gone in to see Secretary Rumsfeld, because after you’ve been in the uniform for 35 years, when you’re suddenly on CNN, and you know the people who are in, and you feel like you’re still part of the Army. I kept looking at my suit and looking for that big black stripe that you wear around your sleeve and looking, my, my shoulder was bare, and I was in a blue suit, not a green one, and I wasn’t Air Force either. (laughter) And so, I had to go back and touch base, you know, to the Pentagon.
So, the General calls me after I’d seen Rumsfeld. He said, “Sir, come in here.” He said, “Sir, we’re going to invade Iraq.” I said, “We’re going to invade Iraq!?! Why?” And he said, “Because,” he says, “I don’t know why. Really,” he said, “It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, but,” he said, “I guess they don’t know what to do about the problem of terrorism, and if the only tool you have is a hammer, then every problem has to look like a nail.” He said, “We don’t know what to do about terrorists, but we can take down governments. So, I guess they’re looking for a government to take down. Meanwhile we started bombing in Afghanistan. So well, I came back to see the same General in early November. I said, “Are we still going to invade Iraq?” He said, “Yes, Sir,” he said, “but it’s worse than that.” I said, “How do you mean?” He held up this piece of paper. He said, “I just got this memo today or yesterday from the office of the Secretary of Defense upstairs. It’s a, it’s a five-year plan. We’re going to take down seven countries in five years. We’re going to start with Iraq, then Syria, Lebanon, then Libya, Somalia, Sudan, we’re going to come back and get Iran in five years. I said, “Is that classified, that paper?” He said, “Yes Sir.” I said, “Well, don’t show it to me, because I want to be able to talk about it.” And I begin to see what wasn’t being explained to the American people, which was the overall drift of where the policy was. We still didn’t have a strategy, but we were driven to take action.”