Book Bombshell: Iraq Attack Scrubbed for Clinton Golf Game
Ex-President Bill Clinton kept a squadron of F-117
fighter-bombers and B-52s waiting to launch a critical 1996 airstrike on
Iraq while he finished watching a golf tournament - dithering so long
that U.S. pilots lost the cover of darkness and the mission had to be
That's the explosive charge leveled in a brand new
book by Lt. Col.
Robert Patterson, a key Clinton military aide from 1996 through 1998
whose primary mission was to carry the president's copy of America's
nuclear launch codes.
"We dispatched eight F-117 stealth
fighter-bombers capable of
carrying 2,000-pound bombs into the region and sent B-52s to Diego
Garcia, in the Indian Ocean, in preparation for action," reveals
Col. Patterson in his bombshell security scandal tell-all,
of Duty: The Eyewitness Account of How Bill Clinton Compromised
America's National Security."
The Sept. 13, 1996, air strike was planned as the
U.S.'s response to
an Aug. 31 tank attack launched by Saddam Hussein on the northern
Kurdish city of Irbil, a blatant violation of the 1991 Gulf War
surrender accords that had an estimated 300,000 Kurdish refugees fleeing
for their lives.
At the same time, Saddam's Republican Guard had
estimated 100 Iraqi dissidents and arrested 1,500 more - extinguishing
whatever opposition the Iraqi dictator might have faced from within.
Two days before he attended the President's Cup golf
Clinton had warned the world that "action is imminent" and
determination of the United States in dealing with the problem of Iraq
should not be underestimated," reports the national security
With the F-117s and B-52s ready to take off and the
darkness in Iraq slipping away, National Security Adviser Sandy Berger
placed a series of desperate phone calls to the Manassas, Va., golf
course seeking clearance from Clinton. But the president refused to come
to the phone.
"Sir, Mr. Berger is on the line and needs a
decision about the
proposed attack on Iraq," Lt. Col. Patterson remembers telling the
Clinton's response? "Tell him I'll get back with
As mission-critical minutes evaporated, an anxious
"This time he was animated, obviously
upset," remembers Patterson.
"Pilots were in the cockpits waiting to launch, targets were
everything was in place, all he needed was the go-ahead."
The presidential military aide promised the national
adviser that he would do everything he could to get Clinton to pay
attention to the mission at hand.
"This time, the president was engaged in
conversations with several
people and was less approachable," Patterson reports. "I
through the crowd and caught his eye. When President Clinton saw me, he
seemed disturbed at being interrupted again with something unimportant.
He frowned as I neared him."
Still Patterson persisted. "'Mr. President, Mr.
Berger has called
again and needs a decision soon.' I explained in a low tone, 'We have
our pilots in cockpits, ready to launch, and we're running out of the
protective cover of nighttime over there.'"
But Clinton seemed unmoved. "I'll call Berger
when I get the
chance," he told the aide.
Less than 15 minutes later Berger called back.
"This time he was
irate," Patterson recalls. "Where is the president? What is he
doing? Can I
talk to him?"
The presidential military aide was forced to explain:
Sir, he is
watching the golf tournament with several friends. I've approached him
with your request. I've communicated your concerns about the window of
opportunity and about the pilots being prepared and
ready to go.
"I'm an Air Force pilot myself, sir."
Patterson told Berger. "I
understand the ramifications. I'll try again."
For the third time in an hour, the military aide
to get Clinton to focus on the mission - hoping he would appreciate that
further delay could jeopardize the lives of U.S. pilots now waiting for
But Clinton remained oblivious. "Tell Berger that
I'll give him a
call on my way back to the White House," he said, in what Patterson
describes as an "indifferent" tone of voice. "That's
added, in words the military man understood to mean the president didn't
want to hear any more about the problem.
"I called Mr. Berger and explained that the
president would contact
him from the limo," Patterson recalled. "We both knew what
We'd missed our opportunity."
The trusted soldier says he remains haunted by the
lives were at stake - the lives of American service members and the
lives of our allies who opposed Saddam at our behest and were now under
"At a time when America's honor and grander
principles were being
challenged and the world was watching our every move ... the president
was watching golf."