By Lews M. Branscomb.
Mr. Branscomb an American physicist, government policy advisor, and corporate research manager. He is best known as former head of the National Bureau of Standards and, later, chief scientist of IBM; and as a prolific writer on science policy issues.
To The New York Times
I am writing in response to your extremely interesting editorial discussion which dealt with the role of government leaders in deliberately planning war with Iraq. I have a story I would like to share with you for possible publication in the Times. It involves the specific role of L. Paul Bremer, III in planning for the Iraq war.
Shortly after the attack on September 11, 2001, I attended a meeting of senior officers of the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine (now Institute of Medicine). I am one of 17 living members elected to all three Academies. After 9/11 the three Academies launched a book project, to be written by relevant disciplines entitled “Making the Nation Safer, the Role of Science and Technology in Countering Terrorism”. In this important national effort, I was co-author with Richard D. Klausner. To oversee the project a committee of 24 experts were assigned to work with us including L. Paul Bremer and R. James Woolsey.
The book was almost finished in April 2002, when a team of authors specializing in social science suggested they wanted to add a chapter on “why government agencies should sponsor projects on “why terrorists are motivated to do these activities.” The committee discussed this idea and delayed decision to the next meeting.
After this meeting, L. Paul Bremer, III, accompanied by R. James Woolsey, insisted on an immediate, private meeting with me (Co-editor Klauser was no longer editing and not present at the meeting). Bremer told me directly, with great emotion “If you add that chapter to the book, I will call a press conference and condemn the book’s quality and value.” Woolsey was present but said nothing. I said “Why, on earth, would a chapter on social science research be harmful?” Bremmer replied: “If you publish that chapter it will damage our plan to start war with Iraq.”
At the time L. Paul Bremer III was not a government official, and a chapter on social motivations for terrorism did not seem to fit our assignment and the book was on deadline , so I dropped the chapter and we published without my revealing Bremer’s comments to me some 11 months before our war start in March 2003. But since after Iraq war began and Bremer was made the commanding civilian manager in Iraq, I discussed this event with a few academics at Harvard, but now I want to make this public.
Lewis M. Branscomb,
School of Government, Harvard University