By Joseph Kay
22 December 2004
A newly released memo from the Justice Department, written shortly after the attacks of September 11, 2001, argued for the unlimited war-making powers of the president. The memo sought to create a pseudo-legal justification for launching a “preemptive” war against any country, even those such as Iraq that were in no way connected with the terrorist attacks.
The memo was recently posted without notice on the Justice Department’s web site. It was first reported by Newsweek’s Michael Isikoff in an article published December 18 on the magazine’s web site. The title of the memo (“The President’s Constitutional Authority to Conduct Military Operations against Terrorists and Nations Supporting Them”) had been previously released, but its contents were unknown until this week.
One of the main conclusions of the memo, dated September 25, 2001, is that “the President may deploy military force preemptively against terrorist organizations or the States that harbor or support them, whether or not they can be linked to the specific terrorist incidents of September 11.”
This finding was made amidst ongoing debate within the administration as to whether Afghanistan or Iraq should be the country that would be first on the list of targets in the so-called “war on terrorism.” It is a clear indication that immediately after the terror attacks the Bush administration was planning to exploit them to launch preemptive wars against Iraq or any other country it chose.