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By Mark Hosenball and Michael Isikoff
Aug. 9 issue - Days after 9/11, a senior Pentagon official lamented the lack of good targets in Afghanistan and proposed instead U.S. military attacks in South America or Southeast Asia as "a surprise to the terrorists," according to a footnote in the recent 9/11 Commission Report. The unsigned top-secret memo, which the panel's report said appears to have been written by Defense Under Secretary Douglas Feith, is one of several Pentagon documents uncovered by the commission which advance unorthodox ideas for the war on terror. The memo suggested "hitting targets outside the Middle East in the initial offensive" or a "non-Al Qaeda target like Iraq," the panel's report states. U.S. attacks in Latin America and Southeast Asia were portrayed as a way to catch the terrorists off guard when they were expecting an assault on Afghanistan.
Other proposals got greater traction. The 9/11 Commission says the idea of attacking Iraq also was pushed in a Sept. 17 memo by Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz. Wolfowitz argued that the odds were "far more" than one in 10 that Saddam Hussein was behind the 9/11 attacks, citing in part theories by controversial academic Laurie Mylroie that Ramzi Yousef, mastermind of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, was an Iraqi intelligence agent.