Geronimo : What if Osama Bin Laden was killed prior to 9/11?

Who will win the Republican Nomination?

  • Dick Cheney

    Votes: 21 19.6%
  • John McCain

    Votes: 61 57.0%
  • Jon Huntsman

    Votes: 15 14.0%
  • Rick Santorum

    Votes: 10 9.3%

  • Total voters
Good lord it’s like the bastard child of Bay of Pigs and Eagle Claw only worse! What a debacle lol

BTW - I think you missed footnote numbers in the text for 5 and 6?
Off the back of a relatively beleaguered, unsuccessful Bush term the 2004 election should be very interesting. Wouldn’t surprise me tho if Edwards is himself a bad President (owing both to the impending GFC and his own moral failings) and Bush pulls a Cleveland becoming the 43rd and 45th President.
Off the back of a relatively beleaguered, unsuccessful Bush term the 2004 election should be very interesting. Wouldn’t surprise me tho if Edwards is himself a bad President (owing both to the impending GFC and his own moral failings) and Bush pulls a Cleveland becoming the 43rd and 45th President.
I doubt Bush would be able to pull a Cleveland. If Edwards defeats Bush in 2004 and ends up being a one-termer too, he'll probably get defeated in the 2008 election by someone like John McCain or Mitt Romney.
Wow great chapter! Qusai getting killed will have some interesting consequences. A) will Udai be reinstated as heir even though his father sidelined him earlier due to his insanity? Will he choose some other relative to succeed him? (I don't see him choosing someone outside the family) Or will he leave his options open until his death?
B) will this cause Saddam to foster more ties with terrorists/militants? I know his capabilities are limited but still.

Deleted member 145219

Part XXXV Wolverine

Saddam Hussein the long-time dictator of Iraq sat down for a rare in-depth interview with western media channels. The president was upbeat in his mood, and it wasn’t hard to see why, from his perspective, he had won a great victory over the United States. The United Nations had just completed an investigation, concluding that it had found no evidence that Iraq had violated international laws regarding its weapons programmes, and inspectors were preparing to leave the country.

It was a long interview where the dictator at times stared down the lens of the camera, or the interviewer Dan Rather, times where he pounded his balled-up fist on the table and through a translator he conveyed his absolute conviction that he would remain the President of Iraq and that the United States would never conquer the Iraqi people “Despite their lies, or their supposed superpower status, the Iraqi people will never submit to a godless American force, and now we have convinced the world of this!”

View attachment 785726
Saddam Hussein interview with 60 minutes

It had been a year since the beginning of the Iraqi disarmament crisis, when an American jet had crashed/been shot down in the Iraqi desert, killing the pilot and its weapons officer, igniting tensions between the USA and Iraq, with the US accusing Saddam of violating UN accords and hoarding so-called ‘weapons of mass destruction' but after months of missile strikes upon Iraq, the great behemoth of the United States had been forced to back down, confronted by the US’s allies, and the Democratic-controlled congress who were against the Presidents intervention in Iraq.

Saddam had been making the same gloating remarks for months, mocking President Bush, calling him the ‘lesser Bush’ and declaring that he was far smarter than the ‘chimp president’. His interviews and taunts did not go unnoticed in the White House.

The American president, despite efforts by members of his administration to try to move on from Iraq and into his re-election bid, had been prevented by powerful advocates who continued to call for the downfall of the Baathist regime. American policy had begun to reflect this increasingly hardline policy. The 'no-fly' zones in the north and south of Iraq became policed heavier still, and the rules of engagement were opened, allowing coalition forces to strike at any attempt to organize Iraqi forces in the regions. The harsh enforcement policy was described as a ‘no drive zone’ designed to deny the Iraqi government any ability to coordinate its forces in Kurdish or Southern regions. It was a policy that had been championed by the hardliners in the Bush administration since the beginning. US and British jets targeted military bases (largely destroyed in the previous year's campaign), lines of communication and even military convoys and troop movements. This harsh enforcement was heavily criticised by humanitarian and anti-war groups as exacerbating the pain for Iraqi civilians, the harsh bombing campaigns, and harsh sanction enforcement had devastated Iraqi infrastructure and quality of life, leading to routine electricity, food and water poverty.

The ‘no-drive zone’ envisaged by Deputy Defence Secretary Paul Wolfowitz was designed to break Baghdad’s hold on Southern Iraq just as it had done in the north, hoping to trigger some kind of uprising against Saddam as had occurred in 1991 or 1999 or even a military coup like in 1996. But unlike the neocon Wolfowitz, most officials were confident that Iraq would continue to defy the U.S., Saddam still controlled enough military, paramilitary and police forces to enforce his rule in southern Iraq and the Shia were not in a position to rise up, despite the CIA’s growing efforts to sow the seeds with bribes and propaganda, which flooded the Kurdish and Shia regions. All of these activities encompassed the IFRA (Iraqi Freedom Activities), a series of covert actions greenlit by the President designed to bring about the overthrow of the Iraqi dictatorship.

IFRA included large-scale espionage on the Iraqi regime, coercion of members of the regime and using weapons inspections as additional cover for said operations. Supplying opposition groups with money and equipment, the funding of Iraqi expatriate groups prominently the Iraqi National Congress (INC) led by controversial leader Ached Chalabi and the creation of exile militant groups like the ‘Free Iraqi Forces’ (FIF were forces prepared in Kuwait expected by Chalabi to one day succeed the Iraqi Army). U.S. propaganda was spread throughout the country via pamphlets, radio and television stations established in Kurdish and Kuwaiti territory to blast out the 'truth' of the Saddam regime and encourage revolt.

President Bush had already ordered covert military action in the Kurdish region to aid the Kurdish Peshmerga forces to drive out radical Islamist forces encamped in the border region between Kurdish territory and Iran. This was to allow any Kurdish forces to join a potential war or aid an uprising against Saddam’s Iraq, this activity ended in a Kurdish victory and the militants fleeing onto Iranian soil.

View attachment 785725
Kurdish Fighters on the left and the area of the Kurdish offensive on the left

The covert activity didn’t go entirely unnoticed by the wider world, it became publicly known during the crisis that the US had a large-scale espionage operation inside Iraq, and the Iraqi government had taken every opportunity to publicly expose the ‘American meddling’ showing off supposed bugs and rounding up accused traitors to receive swift and brutal executions, including several Iraqi colonels accused of providing the Americans with military information who were consequently dragged to death through the desert. The cat-and-mouse game between the US and Iraqi intelligence was a brutal one, with significant sums of money used to bribe and extract assets before the Fedayeen militia could cull them. The extent of the bribery payments stretched so far that in some villages the American dollar replaced the Iraqi dinar as local currency.

There were worries in Washington that these operations were stretching the capability of US intelligence, or that the number of operations was tipping the CIA’s hand and aiding Iraqi anti-espionage efforts. Additionally, there was no clear goal to the operations outside destabilization and it wasn’t clear that these efforts were very successful. Despite the no-drive zones Baghdad’s influence in the south did not waver and attempts to sow seeds of protest were stamped out just as quickly by local police and militia. But the department of Defence wanted results regardless, frustrated by the CIA and the State departments disagreements, Vice President Cheney, and Defence Secretary Rumsfeld entirely sidestepped them, taking their directives straight to the President.

Operation Wolverine was an operation to finally pull off regime change in Iraq, authorized by the President in the previous year, but instead of a U.S. invasion, something the public and the President had now dismissed as too politically risky, Wolverine blueprinted a surgical strike to remove Saddam Hussein and decapitate the Iraqi government. The death of President Saddam Hussein would be used to trigger a revolt in Southern Iraq, aided by harsh enforcement of the no-drive zone and what remained of those loyal to the old regime, would be cast out of the south. After that the plans were vague, perhaps the U.S. would expand their aerial operations to the whole of Iraq enabling the end of the Baathist state entirely, and U.S. special forces in Kuwait could enter to aid the new autonomous southern Iraq. These vagaries were one of the many reasons that the full scale of the operation was never widely discussed or taken seriously by many career intelligence officers or diplomats, except between its architects and the President, with major cabinet departments only vaguely aware of the plot to instigate an internal coup, the hardliners feared that Secretary of State Colin Powell or maybe National security advisor Condoleezza Rice would try to dissuade an attempt to kill the dictator, warning the unknown consequences, the lack of a clear successor and allegations that the U.S. would be breaking international and domestic laws. Reluctantly CIA director George Tenet (over the heads of some subordinates) supported the operation agreeing that killing Saddam according to analysts would bring down the state, reportedly telling the President he was “the keystone, without him it all falls apart” (Tenet has objected to this version of events)[1].

Saddam Hussein had survived half a dozen plots to kill him. The U.S. had launched missile attacks in the ’90s that struck locations that Saddam was known to frequent, and several members of the Iraqi military had been briefly swayed only to be swiftly purged by the dictator. Numerous CIA and Mossad plots had been put into the planning stages, but all these operations were scrapped due to the Iraqi leader's increasingly evasive nature, he utilized body doubles, often arrived to meetings late or not at all and he had become far more reclusive reportedly in fear of an American assassination attempt, neglecting to communicate over the telephone and relying on an informal line of communication with his subordinates.

View attachment 785724
Saddam Hussein tile portrait in Iraq

Despite the administration trying to shift away from Iraq following the UN report, a constant warm simmer of criticism remained, the administration used the House investigation to attack Iraq and Democrats as soft on Saddam, reminding the public of his misdeeds, massacring Kurds and Shia, invading Kuwait, the oil fires, the deaths of American servicemen, plots to assassinate Americans, and ties to terrorist groups that had plotted attacks inside the United States and killed Americans abroad. The administration rejected to provide Congress evidence going straight to the public, President Bush told the Press “Regardless of what some in Congress or the media say, we must stop this dangerous killer”

The final stage of Wolverine involved a covert military mission to be undertaken by specially trained Iraqi exiles nicknamed Scorpions, unlike the regular exile forces in the FIF the Scorpions were usually Kurds and had undergone some specialist training and some held connections to opposition groups inside Iraq. The Scorpions represented the CIA’s best-trained assets inside and outside of Iraq, who conducted the bulk of espionage and sabotage exercises, as well as plotting out targets for American strikes. In the event of an American invasion, the Scorpions were supposed to help create chaos but since its postponement, their mission had changed dramatically. The Scorpions were given the task of sparking the planned uprising, 80 men equipped with Soviet equipment and dressed as Iraqi soldiers would seize control of an Iraqi airbase near the Kuwaiti border outside the city of Basra and broadcast its message, giving the impression of an internal uprising already in progress.[2]

With the decapitation strike and the internal revolt, the DoD thought that it would provide ample opportunity for the Iraqi people to revolt and cast out the remnants of Saddam’s forces. It was a radical plan, but it was a big step down for the hardliners and went down well with the President. There were detractors, the legalists and diplomats who worried that the President would be in breach of international and domestic law, but after a year of internal division over Iraq policy, the administration settled on Wolverine as swift and decisive action with manageable consequences for them politically and globally. For Bush it was something that needed to be done, he wasn’t going to back down against Saddam.[3]

On May the 2nd 2004, U.S. intelligence reported that Saddam Hussein would be leading a meeting of his national security team from a compound located in the suburbs of Baghdad for the first time since the Desert Badger bombing campaign began nearly a year ago. It represented the first real opportunity to strike at Saddam and came a month after Hussain’s U.S. interview which had infuriated the President and compelled the national security team to action a strike. Following confirmation of Saddam’s arrival and upcoming address. President George W Bush ordered the strikes.

Publicly the strikes were yet another round of punishment, ordered to demolish terrorist infrastructure. But these strikes were clearly different, rather than the fifth fleet unveiling a round of missiles, the compound required greater force, the security and potential depth of the supposed compound meant that conventional missiles would leave the President unscathed, only demolishing its above-ground layer. To properly destroy the site, stealth fighters would need to drop bunker-buster bombs. The two jets would be required to enter Iraqi airspace unprotected, through the stormy Persian Gulf from Qatar, being mid-air refuelled on the Iraq border, then traverse the most heavily defended section of Iraqi airspace. Their only defence was some cover provided by strikes into the no-fly zone, and a few UAVs to lure the attention of the Iraqi forces. The jets weaved across the sky over the Tigris River just above the overcast sky, an hour and a half after the order was given, the bombs were released, and the planes curled off still very alone in enemy airspace dashing to escape and to refuel when the refuelling tanker got in radio contact with a jet pilot and asked how everything went. The pilot replied, “I’ll let you know when I find out what we hit.”

View attachment 785723
(Left) Stealth fighter over Iraq, (Right) compound strike position

8000 pounds worth of explosives had struck the compound that supposedly contained members of the Iraqi leadership including Saddam Hussein. But there was no way of knowing if anyone had been killed in the strike. But in its aftermath, there was clearly panic amongst the Iraqi government as forces struggled to communicate with one another, and Baghdad readied for further attacks. With the bombing carried off, the remainder of Wolverine began. The American radio, television stations and propaganda leaflets reported on the strike describing that President Hussein had been ‘gravely injured’, President Bush gave a short announcement to the press reporting the U.S. bombing as part of a “routine American strategy to deplete Iraq’s warfighting capabilities and to destroy its ability to conduct terror” saying that the action was “necessary and just, killers cannot hide from justice”. The President's statement did not mention the target of the operation, and there was still no firm confirmation of Saddam’s death.

The President's statement resembled one made by his father following the Gulf War, calling directly upon the Iraqi people to take action. “Only the Iraqi people have the ability to take the action that would end this, that would bring our nations together, to remove the killers and dictators that rule them, to build a free Iraq” That message was subsequently broadcast on the U.S.-operated Iraqi media outlets. As his words carried through American and Iraqi ears, the Scorpion forces crossed the border aboard soviet era transport helicopters and converged on the Az-Zubayr airstrip, the airstrip was easily captured by the well-armed exiles and they quickly began to broadcast their own message calling for an uprising, a message that was also picked up by the U.S. propaganda and spread “Saddam and his Sons are criminals and the Iraqi military calls on the Iraqi people to overthrow them to take to the streets.”.

View attachment 785722
(Left) Iraqi military helicopter, (Right) Scorpion strike point

The global reaction was of shock, besides some verbal back-and-forth, there had been no serious escalation between the United States and Iraq since the end of UN inspections. The President had given away very little to America's allies, fearing that someone would forewarn the Iraqis. The world and the American public reacted as they always did, with dismay from those opposed to Bush’s unilateralism and applauding from those in favour, there had been little groundwork laid for the military strikes and most assumed that tensions were easing. But no one in the administration was listening to the protests of the UN.. or a few liberals in congress, they were all waiting with bated breath to learn the results of the military strikes and the response of the Iraqi people.

The President also waited for more info as he met with the Prime Minister of Australia Kim Beazley. The two had an awkward history, Beazley had been an overall supporter of the President's foreign policy and had joined an informal anti-terror alliance of the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia to collaborate in intelligence to counter Islamic terrorist groups in the middle east and south-east Asia, but Beazley had been forced to withdraw support from an invasion of Iraq due to domestic opposition. In the meeting ‘Bomber' Beazley took a strong interest in the U.S. strike, committing himself to a continued alliance with the U.S. and shared his hope privately with Bush “Saddam’s regime of ratbag thugs are overthrown with the support of the Iraqi people”.

View attachment 785718
Prime Minister Kim Beazley meets President George Bush

The stage had been set for a year, the Iraqi military had been battered, unable to organize through most of the country with the ever-present American air force hanging over them, the President's military compound was in flames and the oppressed Iraqi people had been urged by a supportive American government and a hundred ‘Iraqi troops’ to revolt. The world watched waiting to see if the Iraqi people would seize the opportunity, but by the night of the 2nd, the world had yet to witness much. The CIA fed reports of defiant civilians breaking curfew, and other signs of protest, some Shia militia strode out in defiance of Baathist law to practise faith and spread illegal literature, but these stories were coupled with those of continued suppression.

Thousands of Iraqi soldiers, police and loyal Fedayeen travelling street by street, house by house to impose curfews, beat protesters and fire on anyone who demonstrated. When news of a government building supposedly being occupied in Nasiriyah, regime forces levelled it with mortars. And in Basra where the Scorpions broadcast could still be heard, regime forces switched off the power, tore up telephone lines and raised barricades to prepare for a potential invasion. There were some signs of confusion, Fedayeen squared off with the military in the port city, confused that a coup could be underway and destroyed their own government helicopters. The sound of gunshots either exchanges of fire or summary executions continued through the night.

Just before the morning light broke over the cradle of civilisation a familiar voice crept out across Iraq’s national airwaves “In the name of Allah, The Merciful, The Compassionate, remember his words with this message 'I am with you: give firmness to the Believers: I will instil terror into the hearts of the Unbelievers: smite ye above their necks and smite all their fingertips off them.' … Long live Great Iraq and its valiant army of Mujahideen. Long live our glorious Arab nation. The wretched aggressors and infidel traitors shall be extinguished” said the voice of Saddam Hussein.

Operation Wolverine was already a failure. The objective was out of grasp, Saddam’s apparent survival and the broadcast of his voice were the nails in the coffin. Outside of Basra, there were no signs of a breakdown in Iraqi command or a military revolt to be seen. Iraqi protests never escalated to a significant degree to disturb the regime failing to reach that of the 99 or 91 uprisings and didn’t require significant bloodshed to put them down. The frustration was apparent in the west wing, as cabinet members and advisors who had been primed to believe that the Iraqi people were begging for an opportunity to overthrow Saddam, were noticeably dismayed by the results.

As for the elite ‘Scorpions’, it didn’t take long for their forces to be surrounded by bands of Iraqi troops, ordered to eliminate all descent by the President (and supposedly the prophet) himself. Isolated and without orders the Scorpions were doomed. The CIA always intended such an operation to be the spark of a greater revolt and would be willing to provide air support to destroy the Iraqi military. But with the failure of the operation, the Iraqis did not need to send organized divisions into the region instead relying on its loyal local militia to take back the airbase with small arms. There was no chance of safely extracting the soldiers without putting American soldiers at severe risk of being shot down. Unwilling to assist or extract the Scorpions they were left to their ultimate fate when Saddam’s loyal forces closed in, attacking the airbase destroying their helicopters and killing most of the exiles and capturing the rest.

View attachment 785717
(Left) Iraqi police celebrate, (Right) captured Iraqi 'Scorpions'

Operation Wolverine was a calamitous failure, post-operation analysis, as well as congressional investigation, showed that at every point the United States had systematically failed to grasp its lack of clarity in Iraq. The CIA and DoD had continued to rely on inaccurate assessments of the Iraqi population and Saddam's power structure. American informants were more often than not double agents supplying false information, deliberately lying as a means of escaping the country or were totally misinformed themselves. DoD came under fire for its continued reliance on patently inaccurate information supplied by exile groups, including the publically reported fraudster Achmed Chalabi who fed information on Iraq’s supposed readiness for revolution directly to the executive branch (congressional inquiry revealed that Iran was also paying Chalabi for the same information). Most of the criticism was initially levelled at the strike in Baghdad when the Department of Defence was eventually forced to admit that there was no confirmation of the existence of any bunker, or if Saddam Hussein had ever been present at the compound on the day in question (the informant who provided this crucial tip, a guard at the Presidents palace was subsequently killed for conspiring against the regime), additionally the compound strike was reported to be a complete failure, one stealth fighter had missed its target entirely and the other only destroyed the exterior wall of the compound. However, there was pushback citing the merits of cruise missile strikes in the south, against Iraqi military movements as being far more successful. The regime's immediate reaction to news of a potential uprising sent a few columns of Iraqi troops out, including a Republican Guard formation from a command base in Amrah. These formations were struck under the basis of the no-fly zone causing significant casualties and a few notable deaths including the Governor of Basra, Walid Tawfiq and the head of the Republican Guard Qusay Hussein (One of Saddam's sons), both deaths were confirmed in a subsequent broadcast by Saddam who hailed them as martyrs who were supposedly going south to defeat the potential uprising, President Bush, in contrast, hailed Qusay's death calling him a’ perpetrator of genocide and said the strikes were necessary to prevent Iraq killing more Shia.

View attachment 785716[5]
(Left ) Qusay Hussain, Saddam's middle child and head of the Fedayeen, (Right) Walid Tawfiq Governor of Basra

The role of the Scorpions took longer to be raised in the public eye, but a congressional inquiry, leaks and an Associated Press expose in 2005 detailed the extent of the US’s role in the mission even revealing the site in Nevada where the Scorpions were trained. It was also revealed that the operation was widely predicted to be a failure by many members of the CIA who derided the Scorpions as unprofessional and referred to the entire incident as the Bay of Goats’ [4] a parody of the CIA Bay of Pigs operation, the failed attempt to invade Cuba and overthrow Castro using exiles in 1961.

The operation drew near uniform condemnation by the world and the administration's political opponents who slammed Bush for conducting military action seemingly without sufficient pretence or authorization while ignoring military or analytical consensus. The 2004 Democratic nominee John Edwards called the President's actions ‘preposterous’ “Congress has been clear to the President, if he has legitimate reasons to use military force, he must share those reasons with Congress, the President hasn’t asked or received our authorization”. The U.S. Senate which had already opened an investigation into possible attempts by the administration to mislead the public regarding Iraq opened up a new line of attack on the Department of Defence, that some officials specifically Secretary Rumsfeld and his deputy Wolfowitz, were continuing to promote unverified information and sourcing. Honing in on their relationship with Achmed Chalabi, the millions provided to his exile group, Chalabi’s criminal history and connections with the Iranian government. The ‘Bay of Goats’ became a fiasco for the administration, perceived as a blunder by most of the public with key members of the administration under the microscope, the President decided to act requesting the resignation of both Paul Wolfowitz and CIA director George Tenet accused by many of promoting Operation Wolverine over the heads of his subordinates. Wolfowitz was replaced by the Secretary of the Navy Gordon England and Tenet was replaced with career diplomat and counter-terrorism expert Paul ‘Jerry’ Bremer.

View attachment 785715[6]
(Left to Right) Former Deputy Secretary of Defence Paul Wolfowitz and his successor Navy Gordon, President George W Bush, Former Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet and his successor Paul Bremer

[1] George Tenet was divided over Iraq policy, giving into the invasion to keep his job, ITTL he gives into this plan instead
[2] this was one of many real plans to formulate a casus belli against Iraq, IOTL the scorpions became a military police force/ torture team
[3] it is clear from his own writings that George Bush was very personally involved in the decision to remove Sadda,
[4] this is how former CENTCOM commander Anthony Zinni described such an operation
[5] A♣, flap flap flap
[6] Ladies and gents, we got him
Great post. And pretty realistic.
I think that George W. Bush sans 9/11 would attempt some kind of regime change in Iraq, and probably fail miserably.
Bush's "strategery" for the 2004 presidential election in TTL seems to be backfiring on him as he's simply barking up the wrong tree. By pursuing regime change in Iraq so fervently without giving Congress and the public sufficient evidence and justification for his hawkishness, he's providing lots of ammunition for Edwards to attack him as abusing his power as President to commit to unilateral actions that go against the best interests of the country.

Saddam's broadcast of his survival in TTL contrasts with the Osama Bin Laden video that came out during the 2004 presidential election in OTL. The Osama Bin Laden video arguably helped Bush by reminding the public of Bush's toughness on terrorism (This was the public perception in OTL due to 9/11), whereas Saddam's broadcast has harmed Bush by reminding the public of Bush's overly belligerent approach towards suspected sponsors of terrorism (This is the public perception in TTL due to no 9/11).
Last edited:
Great update. Saddam surviving is definitely a big change. More so than Bin Laden Saddam was Bush's quote "enemy" and him surviving will definitely have a lot of consequences going forward. Really enjoyed reading it. Good job :)
This really makes one think of how many breaks the Bush administration got IOTL. If you look at the cast of clowns that actually made up American leadership during that time period it's quite possible they would have tried flying a single plane over enemy territory, dropping precise and powerful bombs, and still failing.
"the head of the Republican Guard Qusay Hussein (One of Saddam's sons)" - well some good came out of this mess.

Surprised Bush managed to survive- he is going to get reminded of this mess all the way up to the election, and probably for decades after. Many people have died for your obsession George.
Aren't some of the factors for the Great Recession not related to the War on Terror though like the housing bubble so wouldn't it still be pretty awful?
There is an economic argument that the Iraq War (and probably Afghanistan too) played a key role in triggering the 2008 Recession, if not as as the primary factor than as an aggravating one.

I think the Housing Bubble still pops — but without costly wars in the Middle East, things aren’t as severe. Maybe President Edwards pushes through a bill to fix things.
If there isn't a war on terror then the FBI could be focusing its attention on financial crimes and TTL prosecute the miscreants responsible for this problem especially those in the banks responsible for subprime mortgages.
Something that just occurred to me is that with Osama bin Laden getting killed in 1998, the scene where he appears in the Family Guy episode Road to Rhode Island probably won't be made.