WASHINGTON -- The Bush administration considered bombing Iraq in retaliation almost immediately after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks against New York and Washington, according to a new first-person account by a former senior counterterrorism adviser inside the White House.
Richard Clarke, the president's counterterrorism coordinator at the time of the attacks, said Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld complained on Sept. 12 -- after the administration was convinced with certainty that Al Qaeda was to blame -- that "there aren't any good targets in Afghanistan and there are lots of good targets in Iraq."
A spokesman for Rumsfeld said he couldn't comment immediately.
Clarke makes the assertion in a new book, "Against All Enemies," which goes on sale Monday morning. He told CBS News he believes the administration sought to link Iraq with the attacks because of longstanding interest in overthrowing Saddam Hussein; Clarke was scheduled to appear Sunday night on the network's "60 Minutes" news program.
"I think they wanted to believe that there was a connection" between Iraq and the Al Qaeda attacks in the United States, Clarke said in an interview segment CBS broadcast last evening. "There's just no connection. There's absolutely no evidence that Iraq was supporting Al Qaeda."
Clarke retired early in 2003 after 30 years in government service. He was among the country's longest-serving White House staffers, hired in 1992 from the State Department to deal with threats from terrorism and narcotics.
He had led the government's secretive Counterterrorism and Security Group, made up of senior officials from the FBI, CIA, Justice Department and armed services, who met several times each week to discuss foreign threats.