Shenon: Zelikow Designed Bush Administration’s Pre-Emptive War Doctrine In 2002

In his new book, The Commission: The Uncensored History of the 9/11 Investigation, New York Times reporter Philip Shenon alleges that 9/11 Commission staff director Philip Zelikow had an obvious conflict of interest while serving on the panel.

Zelikow allegedly scaled back criticisms of the White House and did not inform the Commission he helped Condoleezza Rice set up Bush’s National Security Council in 2001. Zelikow also held periodic discussions with Karl Rove, which he ordered his secretary to keep off-the-record. He also helped “demote” Richard Clarke, a vocal critic of the administration’s counterterrorism policies.

This weekend on CSPAN’s Book TV, Shenon bolstered the case that Zelikow was inextricably tied to the administration. Shenon said Zelikow authored the September 2002 National Security Strategy (NSS), which outlined the Bush doctrine of pre-emptive war and helped make the case for the invasion of Iraq:

Zelikow was the author of a very important document issued by the White House in Sept. 2002 that really turned military doctrine on its head and said that the United States could become involved in pre-emptive war, pre-emptive defense, that we could attack a nation that didn’t pose an immediate military threat to this country.

And obviously in September 2002, it sure appeared that document was being written with one target in mind: Iraq.

Watch it:


The author of the NSS at the time was anonymous, Shenon explained. Commission members, including Chairmen Tom Kean and Lee Hamilton reportedly did not know Zelikow authored it when the Commission was created in December 2002. Only in the “final months” of the investigation did members discover this fact.


Zelikow’s White House ties were so pronounced that former senator Bob Kerrey threated to Kean, “It’s either him or me. Zelikow goes, or I go.” In the interview, Shenon concluded that Zelikow’s authorship of of the pre-emptive strategy “appeared to pose yet another conflict of interest for Zelikow.”