Operation Desert Badger
On January 12, 2004, President George W. Bush mentions Operation Desert Badger during the Question & Answer period of his joint "Remarks" with Mexican President Vincente Fox at the Quinta Real Hotel in Monterrey, Mexico. 
- "Q ... President Bush, is it true, as your former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill says, that you started planning for the invasion of Iraq within days of your inauguration?...
- "PRESIDENT BUSH: ... And, no, the stated policy of my administration towards Saddam Hussein was very clear. Like the previous administration, we were for regime change. And in the initial stages of the administration, as you might remember, we were dealing with Desert Badger, or fly-overs and fly-betweens and looks, and so we were fashioning policy along those lines. And then, all of a sudden, September the 11th hit. And as the President of the United States, my most solemn obligation is to protect the security of the American people. That's my -- to me that's the most solemn thing an American President -- or any president -- must do. And I took that duty very seriously.
On April 1, 2004, blogspot Bad Attitudes reports that Operation Desert Badger was mentioned in Paul O'Neill's book by Ron Suskind, "The Price of Loyalty," and comments that "Apparently Bush had made a semi-coherent reference to that code name back in January [see quotes cited above and below], when asked about Paul O'Neill's claim that the administration had targeted Iraq at least as early as the day after 9/11." 
Rob Kall, editor and founder of Op-Ed News, writes March 31, 2004, in "Operation Desert Badger; Bush's Failed Plan to Instigate an Early Iraq War" that
- "CNN reports the White house called it's plan to go nuts on Iraq with massive counter-attacks if a US plane was shot down. This was put into effect after 911. At the time of this writing, the search term desert badger does not show up in google news. Desert Badger was the name for the contingency plan the White house laid out in its baiting game, back when the US and the UK were daily flying dozen to 100+ flights over Iraq, attacking various targets, daily. It is obvious that Bush and Rumsfeld and the neocon nincompoops must have been highly disappointed that Saddam never gave them the response they were seeking... so they could unleash the massive retaliatory attack these chickenhawks were fantasizing."
- (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
- GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: "Like the previous administration, we were for regime change, and in the initial stages of the administration, as you might remember, we were dealing with desert badger, or fly-overs, and fly-betweens and looks, and so we were fashioning policy along those lines."
- (END VIDEO CLIP)
Al Kamen writes in the January 14, 2004, Washington Post:
- "Asked Monday about former Treasury secretary Paul H. O'Neill's allegation that the administration was preparing to attack Iraq from its first days in office, President Bush told reporters that 'we were dealing with Desert Badger or flyovers and fly-betweens and looks, and we were fashioning policy along those lines.'" .
Kall comments further that "Of course this planned mega-response would have been put into action without congressional approval, but the Bush/Republican/ right wing echo chamber would have pounded the drums of war with the bones of the dead US flyers who were shot down. That's right. No congressional approval, no UN cooperation--just a huge military response that would have flung the US alone into a foolish war, without ground forces in place, without any planning for how to proceed further. This is just more evidence that the Bush administration was obsessed with Iraq, and ready to commit huge amounts of resources to Iraq, even while talking a very different story of cooperation with the UN. They were plotting and trying to get Saddam to respond to what amounted to thousands of US flights and sorties over Iraq." 
Although the assumption has been made that Operation Desert Badger mentioned by President Bush referred to "patrolling the no-fly zone over Iraq" or other such aerial missions, on January 14, 2004, NewsDirector.org points out in its conclusion that that might not be so: 
- "Bart Laws writes from Beantown on Iraq policy:
- "The Globe reported today that GW Bush, responding to former Sec. O'Neill's allegations about when the invasion of Iraq was first planned, said: 'In the initial stages of the administration, as you might remember, we were dealing with [patrolling the no-fly zone over Iraq], and so we were fashioning policy along those lines. And then all of a sudden September the 11th hit.' That is not, in fact, what Bush said. The true quotation, as reported in the New York Times and played on radio and television, was as follows: 'And in the initial stages of the administration, as you might remember, we were dealing with desert badger or flyovers and fly-betweens and looks, and we were fashioning policy along those lines.'
- "Why censor the President's remarks? This is actually a major news story, since we had never before heard of Operation Desert Badger. (I did a Lexis/Nexis search -- this is the first reference to it in at least the last five years.) Apparently Mr. Bush has revealed a heretofore secret military operation in Iraq that was going on in early 2000.
- "Why would the Globe edit the President's statement to conceal this very important revelation? Also, though we had heard that flyovers were going on then, we had not previously heard about the fly-betweens. It is not clear that 'desert badger' refers to 'patrolling the no-fly zone,' as you reported. That conclusion is very likely incorrect, since desert badger doesn't sound like the code name for an aerial operation. Why not just report what the man actually said, rather than cleaning up his remarks to make him look like less of an idiot? Isn't it supposed to be your job to tell the truth?
- "This desert badger thing is actually quite noteworthy, I think -- if reporters didn't just assume that Bush is moronic and out of touch with reality, they no doubt would have followed up to find out exactly what desert badger was all about. But they figure it was just a brain fart, so they clean it up for him. Hmm."
- Bush administration
- Bush regime
- Dick Cheney
- Donald Rumsfeld
- Operation Iraqi Freedom
- September 11, 2001
- Richard W. Stevenson, "Bush Disputes Ex-Official's Claim That Iraq War Was Early Goal," New York Times, January 13, 2004.
- Patty Reinert, "Bush admits wanting new Iraqi regime before 9/11. Invasion plot not addressed," Houston Chronicle, January 13, 2004.
- "Was O'Neill document Classified?," AP, January 13, 2004.
- "Bush denies seeking Iraq attack from outset," Sydney Morning News, January 14, 2004.