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George W. Bush on War & Peace

President of the United States, Former Republican Governor (TX)


2003: Sent warships to force Liberian president to resign

Called "the Milosevic of Africa," [Liberia President] Charles Taylor became intolerable, and the international community demanded the formation of a transitional government in Liberia in 2003.

The President wanted to know what his options were in dealing with the Liberian crisis. "Why should I do something in Liberia?" he asked Colin and I.

"Because Liberia is ours," I replied. We talked about the history of the country that had been founded by freed American slaves. "Even the Liberian flag imitates the Stars and Stripes," Colin added.

The President was determined to do something about Liberia. The President reiterated that Taylor had to leave and said that the US would "participate with troops." Ad-libbing the last part of the statement, the President had committed the US to a military role.

In the face of international pressure and US resolve, Charles Taylor resigned the presidency of Liberia as three US warships drifted into view and two US helicopters hovered overhead.

Source: No Higher Honor, by Condoleezza Rice, p.230-232 , Nov 1, 2011

2008: Trivialize shoe-throwing journalist to avoid frenzy

On Dec. 13, 2008, we held a press conference in Baghdad. The room was packed tight. During the first question, a man in the Iraqi press rose abruptly. He let out a loud bark, then he wound up and threw something in my direction. What was it? A shoe?

Th scene went into slow motion. The wingtip was helicoptoring toward me. I ducked. The guy had a pretty live arm. A split second later, he threw another one. This one was not flying as fast. I flicked my head slightly and it drifted over me. I wish I had caught the damn thing.

Chaos erupted. People screamed, and security agents scrambled. I had the same thought I'd had in the Florida classroom on 9/11. I knew my reaction would be broadcast around the world. The bigger the frenzy, the better for the attacker.

I held up my hands and urged everyone to settle down. "If you want the facts, it's a size-ten shoe that he threw," I said. I hoped that by trivializing the moment, I could keep the shoe thrower from accomplishing his goal of ruining the event

Source: Decision Points, by Pres. George W. Bush, p.391-392 , Nov 9, 2010

Promised Iraq war would cost $1.7B; actual cost $750B

Iraq, an unnecessary war that has cost America's parents the lives of more than 4,300 sons and daughters, and American taxpayers 3/4 of a trillion dollars and counting (not to mention the future cost of $422 to $717 billion to care for American veterans through health-care and disability coverage)--money desperately needed for some long-overdue nation rebuilding here at home. And for what?

In the run-up to the war, General Eric Shinseki told Congress that a successful occupation of Iraq would require "several hundred thousand" troops on the ground. US deputy secretary of defense Paul Wolfowitz told Congress he found that "hard to imagine." But when defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld's attempt to win the war on the cheap failed, everyone acted shocked Who could have known?

The Bush administration also told the public that the rebuilding of Iraq would cost taxpayers more than $1.7 billion. To say the administration massively underestimated would be a massive understatement. Who could have known?

Source: Third World America, by Arianna Huffington, p.158-159 , Sep 2, 2010

OpEd: Chose to confront North Korea; then they built nukes

When Bush II came into office, both North Korea and the US were bound by the Framework Agreement of 1994. Neither was fully in accord with its commitments, but the agreement was largely being observed. North Korea had stopped testing long-range missiles. It had perhaps 2 bombs' worth of plutonium, and was verifiably not making more. After seven Bush years of confrontation, North Korea has 8 to 10 bombs and long-range missiles, and it is developing plutonium.

In Sep. 2005, under international pressure, Washington agreed to turn to negotiations, within the 6-power framework. They achieved substantial success. North Korea agreed to abandon "all nuclear weapons and existing weapons programs" and allow international inspections, in return for international aid & non-aggression pledge from the US. The ink was barely dry on the agreement when the Bush administration renewed the threat of force.

After Washington scuttled the promising Sep. 2005 agreements, North Korea carried out a test of a nuclear weapon.

Source: Hopes and Prospects, by Noam Chomsky, p.138-139 , Jun 1, 2010

We need a president who understands the lessons of 9/11

My fellow citizens, we live in a dangerous world. And we need a president who understands the lessons of September the 11th, 2001: that to protect America, we must stay on the offense, stop attacks before they happen, and not wait to be hit again. The man we need is John McCain.
Source: Speech at 2008 Republican National Convention , Sep 2, 2008

Feb. 2001: Bombed Iraq; routine enforcement of no-fly zone

Our first foreign trip was a day trip to San Cristobal, Mexico, in February 2001. In an odd bit of foreshadowing, Bush's first joint news conference with a world leader, at President Fox's ranch, was dominated by questions on Iraq. British and American military aircraft had just struck a number of radar and air defense command centers, including around Baghdad. The action required approval from the president since it was outside the no-fly zone in Iraq that we and the British enforced. Bush called the response part of a "routine mission" to enforce the no-fly zones and to make clear to Saddam Hussein that he was expected to abide by the agreements he'd made following the Gulf War.
Source: What Happened, by Scott McClellan, p. 93 , May 28, 2008

Pardoned Scooter Libby for PlameGate & leak of CIA identity

As for what Karl Rove and Scooter Libby told me when I was asked to publicly exonerate them, I can only conclude that they knowingly misled me. All objective observers agree that what I said on their behalf was false; they were in fact involved in anonymously disclosing her identity--or leaking it--to some reporters.

Neither man ever sought to correct the record when he could have. So both Rove and Libby deliberately allowed me to tell the public falsehoods on their behalf--a clear abuse of the White House press secretary's role. But I hold myself responsible for allowing that to happen. I should not have put myself in such a position--period.

It's also clear to me that Scooter Libby was guilty of the perjury and obstruction crimes for which he was convicted. When the president commuted Libby's prison sentence and thereby protected him from serving even one day behind bars, I was disappointed. This kind of special treatment undermines our system of justice.

Source: What Happened, by Scott McClellan, p.307-308 , May 28, 2008

We will not allow Tehran to acquire nuclear weapons

Shia extremists are determined to dominate the Middle East. Many are known to take direction from the regime in Iran, which is funding and arming terrorists like Hezbollah--a group second only to al Qaeda in the American lives it has taken.

Hezbollah t The result was a tragic escalation of sectarian rage and reprisal that continues to this day.

The United Nations has imposed sanctions on Iran, and made it clear that the world will not allow the regime in Tehran to acquire nuclear weapons. With the other members of the Quartet--the UN, the European Union, and Russia--we are pursuing diplomacy to help bring peace to the Holy Land, and pursuing the establishment of a democratic Palestinian state living side-by-side with Israel in peace and security.

Source: 2007 State of the Union address to Congress , Jan 23, 2007

We’ve Never Been Stay The Course

During an interview on ABC’s This Week, Pres. Bush tried to distance himself from what has been his core strategy in Iraq for the last three years. Asked about James Baker’s plan to develop a strategy for Iraq that is “between ‘stay the course’ and ‘cut and run.’” Bush responded, ‘We’ve never been stay the course.’ Bush is wrong:
Source: www.ThinkProgress.org news analysis , Oct 22, 2006

Terrorists would move the battlefield to our own shores

We cannot find security by abandoning our commitments and retreating within our borders. If we were to leave these vicious attackers alone, they would not leave us alone. They would simply move the battlefield to our own shores. There is no peace in retreat. And there is no honor in retreat. By allowing radical Islam to work its will, by leaving an assaulted world to fend for itself, we would signal to all that we no longer believe in our own ideals or even in our own courage.
Source: 2006 State of the Union Address , Jan 31, 2006

War on Terror is not about intelligence and law enforcement

KERRY: When Bush had an opportunity to capture or kill bin Laden, he took his focus off of him, outsourced the job to Afghan warlords and bin Laden escaped. Six months after he said bin Laden must be caught dead or alive this president was asked, where’s bin Laden? He said, “I don’t know. I don’t really think about very much. I’m not that concerned.” We need a president who stays deadly focused on the real war on terror.

BUSH: I don’t think I ever said I’m not worried about bin Laden. That’s kind of one of those exaggerations. Of course we’re worried about bin Laden. We’re on the hunt after bin Laden. We’re using every asset at our disposal to get bin Laden. Kerry said this war is a matter of intelligence and law enforcement. No, this is a war as a matter of using every asset at our disposal to keep the American people protected.

Source: [Xref Kerry] Third Bush-Kerry Debate, in Tempe Arizona , Oct 13, 2004

Enlisted in Texas Air National Guard in 1968

Congressman Bush had been able to pull the golden cords of his connections for his eldest son, who enlisted in the Texas Air National Guard in 1968. At a time when 350 Americans were dying in combat every week, George W. was 12 days away from losing his student deferment from the draft. He had taken the pilot-aptitude test and scored only 25%--the lowest acceptable grade--but George W was allowed to jump over the year-and-a-half waiting list of 150 names and be admitted. He was given one of the last two slots for pilots, was sworn in as an airman on the day he applied, and became a 2nd lieutenant without ever going to Officers' Training School. On his application, he specifically checked the box that read: "Do not volunteer for overseas service."

Of course, young George was not the only son saved from Vietnam by his powerful father. Of the 234 sons of senators & congressmen who came of age during the war, only 28 went to Vietnam, and only 19 saw combat--a stark testament to rank and privilege.

Source: The Family, by Kitty Kelley, p.240-241 , Sep 14, 2004

I wake up every day thinking about protecting our country

Three days after September 11th, I stood where Americans died, in the ruins of the Twin Towers. Workers in hard hats were shouting to me, “Whatever it takes.” A fellow grabbed me by the arm and he said, “Do not let me down.” Since that day, I wake up every morning thinking about how to better protect our country. I will never relent in defending America whatever it takes. So we have fought the terrorists across the earth not for pride, not for power, but because the lives of our citizens are at stake
Source: 2004 Republican Convention Acceptance Speech , Sep 2, 2004

Confront threats to America before it is too late

We have led, many have joined, and America and the world are safer. This progress involved careful diplomacy, clear moral purpose, and some tough decisions. The toughest came on Iraq. We knew Saddam Hussein’s record of aggression and support for terror. We knew his long history of pursuing, even using, weapons of mass destruction. And we know that September 11th requires our country to think differently: We must, and we will, confront threats to America before it is too late.
Source: 2004 Republican Convention Acceptance Speech , Sep 2, 2004

Will defend America every time

After more than a decade of diplomacy, we gave Saddam Hussein another chance, a final chance, to meet his responsibilities to the civilized world. He again refused, and I faced the kind of decision that comes only to the Oval Office a decision no president would ask for, but must be prepared to make. Do I forget the lessons of September 11th and take the word of a madman, or do I take action to defend our country? Faced with that choice, I will defend America every time.
Source: 2004 Republican Convention Acceptance Speech , Sep 2, 2004

Freedom is the greatest fear of the terrorists

Others understand the historic importance of our work. The terrorists know. They know that a vibrant, successful democracy at the heart of the Middle East will discredit their radical ideology of hate. They know that men and women with hope, and purpose, and dignity do not strap bombs on their bodies and kill the innocent. The terrorists are fighting freedom with all their cunning and cruelty because freedom is their greatest fear and they should be afraid, because freedom is on the march.
Source: 2004 Republican Convention Acceptance Speech , Sep 2, 2004

9/11: I'm amazed that there is hatred of America

"Why do they hate us?" Americans asked after 9/11. Pres. Bush professed himself shocked even by the implications of the questions. "I am," he declared, "amazed that in some Islamic countries there is vitriolic hatred of America. I'm amazed that there's such misunderstanding of what our country is about that people would hate us. Like most Americans, I just can't believe it. Because I know how good we are."

When others probed for a deeper answer, they were charged with "blaming America first." With due respect, these answers insult the intelligence of a second-grader. Did the Japanese attack us at Pearl Harbor because we were free, rich, good, and how low marginal tax rates?

We are not hated for who we are. We are hated for what we do. It is not our principles that we have spawned pandemic hatred of America in the Islamic world. It is our policies. If we wish to avert a clash of civilization, we need to listen to what they say--not what we say--about America.

Source: Where The Right Went Wrong, by Pat Buchanan, p. 79-80 , Aug 12, 2004

During Vietnam, did not protest, & counseled supporting war

At Yale, Bush was neither politically active nor introspective. While unrest over Vietnam was beginning to spread, Yale was still relatively untouched by it. “I don’t remember us talking much about the morality of the war,” a roommate said. Another said Bush “believed that his father’s position was correct-we’re involved so we should support the national effort rather than protest it.” A third said, “I told him I was thinking about going to Canada [to avoid the draft] & he said, ”That’s irresponsible.’“

As president, Bush would look back at Vietnam as an example of how not wage war. If a war was worth fighting, it had to be to win, Bush would say. He called Vietnam a “politicians’ war,” one where the politicians made military decisions.

But at Yale, he was acutely aware that anything he did or said could harm his father’s political career. “George didn’t have that luxury [of engaging in protest],” Laura Bush would later say. “He really didn’t. He was absolutely devoted to his father.”

Source: A Matter of Character, by Ronald Kessler, p. 29 , Aug 5, 2004

Bush Doctrine: harboring terrorists treated as terrorism

In a speech in 1999, he had said that those who sponsored terrorism or attacks on the US could expect a “devastating” response. [In Bush’s televised speech on 9/11]. the final sentence read: “We will make no distinction between those who planned these acts and those who harbors them.”

By using the broader term “harbor,” Bush had not only expanded the definition of the enemy, he shifted the burden of proof of the United States would use in going after those who support terrorism. Instead of having to show that another country was aware of and permitted terrorists to operate within its borders, the US would now use military force or apply diplomatic pressure on countries simply because terrorists lived there. The declaration became known as the Bush Doctrine. It was a sea change in foreign policy, one that would make all the difference in the war on terror.

Source: A Matter of Character, by Ronald Kessler, p.147-48 , Aug 5, 2004

Op-Ed: Bush maintains power by inspiring fear & nationalism

It is not easy, under conditions [like in recent decades], to maintain political power. Only one good method is known: inspire fear. That tactic was employed throughout the Reagan-Bush years, as the leadership conjured up one devil after another to frighten the populace into obedience.

After 9/11, Bush was compelled to adopt a strategy of diverting mass discontent--about social and economic policies--into nationalism. Karl Rove outlined how voters trusted Republicans on national security issues, and how Bush would be portrayed as a wartime leader by 2004. The “imminent threat” of Iraq was conjured up just in time, in September 2002. For the 2002 midterm electoral campaign, the strategy worked--just.

The National Security Strategy was announced in September 2002. Manufactured fear provided enough of a popular base for the invasion of Iraq, instituting the new norm of aggressive war at will.

Source: Hegemony or Survival, by Noam Chomsky, p.115&120 , Oct 1, 2003

OpEd: 1960s enlistment was into privileged non-combat unit

In 1968 a close family friend of the Bushes telephoned Ben Barnes, then the speaker of the Texas House, and told Barnes that Congressman Bush's son needed a spot in the Texas Air National Guard. Barnes called the general in charge of the Guard, and recommended George W. for a pilot position.

Barnes ran an underground railroad that quietly moved the sons of privilege from Selective Service offices into a safe haven in Texas Guard units. The unit that accepted Bush included the son of former Texas Senator Lloyd Bentsen, the son of former Texas governor John Connolly, and enough rich young men to field a polo league. It also included a few black Guardsmen--several members of the Dallas Cowboys football team.

It is likely that this is just another instance of how privilege has worked for W. Bush over the years, without his thinking there was anything wrong about it, or even thinking about it at all. In brief, because George W. Bush was the son of a Congressman, he got an easy out from Vietnam.

Source: Shrub, by Molly Ivins, p. 4-8 , Oct 1, 2000


George W. Bush on Afghanistan

Greatest regret: not bringing bin Laden to justice

I thought back to Oct. 2001 when I announced the opening of the war. A country dominated by one of history's cruelest regimes was now governed by freely elected leaders. Women who had been prisoners in their homes were serving in parliament. While still danger, al Qaeda had lost the camps it used to train 10,000 terrorists and plan 9/11. The Afghan people had cast their ballots in multiple free elections and had built an increasingly capable army of 79,000 soldiers.

I also knew I was leaving behind unfinished business. I wanted badly to bring bin Laden to justice. The fact that we did not ranks among my great regrets. It certainly wasn't for lack of effort. For seven years, we kept the pressure on. While we never found the al Qaeda leader, we did force him to change the way he traveled, communicated, and operated. That helped us deny him his greatest wish after 9/11: to see America attacked again.

In 2010, the war in Afghanistan continues. I strongly believe the mission is worth the cost.

Source: Decision Points, by Pres. George W. Bush, p.219-220 , Nov 9, 2010

2002: Rejected bipartisan bill for more Afghanistan funding

In 2002, Biden flew to Afghanistan, as mopping-up operations continued. What Biden heard from all quarters were pleas for more of everything--money, troops, security--and a commitment for the US presence to remain, at least until circumstances greatly improved.

Biden returned conveying a plea for urgent help, and Powell joined it, but while Bush "was agreeable and willing to listen, he was also noncommittal," Biden wrote later. Though Bush talked of a Marshall Plan for Afghanistan, he had other ideas, and was already giving Cheney and Rumsfeld "the force and resources they requested for a new target"--Iraq.

By now it was becoming increasingly clear to Biden that a critical pivot was under way from the unfinished business in Afghanistan to the neoconservatives' vision of spreading democracy throughout the Middle East, starting with deposing Saddam Hussein.

Biden and Republican Senator Chuck Hagel introduced a bill providing more money for Afghanistan, but the administration opposed it.

Source: A Life of Trial & Redemption, by Jules Witcover, p.342 , Oct 5, 2010

2006: Deploy troops out of bases and into hotspots

In late 2006, the "surge" was a bad name for the new strategy. It made it sound as if the president was simply adding troops to fight the fires of Iraq. But his strategy was much more than that. He was also deploying these new troops to protect civilians by moving US forces out of bases and into hotspots I Baghdad and the massive Anbar province that had been a key recruiting ground for the enemy. But the province's tribal leaders had been turning against al-Qaeda in the summer of 2006--the terrorists' brutality was simply too much for them. By providing security to civilians in Anbar and defeating the terrorists there we could strike at the heart of the insurgency. And that's largely what happened. As the Marines applied our counterinsurgency strategy Iraqis felt safer and more of them were willing to cooperate with coalition forces in confronting al-Qaeda, especially its foreign fighters.
Source: Courage and Consequence, by Karl Rove, p.478 , Mar 9, 2010

FactCheck: Bush DID say he was not concerned about Osama

KERRY: Six months after he said Osama bin Laden must be caught dead or alive, this president was asked, “Where is Osama bin Laden?” He said, “I don’t know. I don’t really think about him very much. I’m not that concerned.”

BUSH: Bush: Gosh, I just don’ think I ever said I’m not worried about Osama bin Laden. It’s kind of one of those exaggerations.

FACT CHECK: Bush stumbled when he denied making some remarks about Osama bin Laden that Kerry had accurately paraphrased. In fact, Bush said almost exactly what Kerry quoted him as saying. It was in a news conference at the White House on March 13, 2002, after US forces had overturned the Taliban regime in Afghanistan:

Q: (March 13, 2002): Mr. President, in your speeches now you rarely talk or mention Osama bin Laden. Why is that?

BUSH: So I don’t know where he is. You know, I just don’t spend that much time on him , to be honest with you. I truly am not that concerned about him. I was concerned about him, when he had taken over a country.

Source: Analysis of Third Bush-Kerry debate (FactCheck 2004) , Oct 14, 2004

FactCheck: new al Qaeda recruits reduce 75% capture figure

BUSH: 75 percent of al Qaeda leaders have been brought to justice.

FACT CHECK: As The Associated Press reported Oct. 1, Bush was referring to the deaths or arrests of 75 percent of bin Laden’s network at the time of the September 11 attacks- not those who are running the terrorist organization today. The AP also reported that the CIA said earlier in the year two-thirds of those leaders are gone; at his acceptance speech in September, Bush increased his count to three-fourths based on unreleased intelligence data. Furthermore, the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies reported May 25 that the occupation of Iraq has helped al Qaeda recruit more members. The institute quoted “conservative” intelligence estimates as saying that al Qaeda has 18,000 potential operatives and is present in more than 60 countries.

Source: Analysis of first Bush-Kerry debate (FactCheck 2004) , Oct 1, 2004

Busted the A.Q. Khan network and convinced Libya to disarm

We busted the A.Q. Khan network. This was a proliferator out of Pakistan that was selling secrets to places like North Korea and Libya. We convinced Libya to disarm. It’s a central part of dealing with weapons of mass destruction and proliferation.
Source: First Bush-Kerry debate, Miami FL , Sep 30, 2004

Increased spending by $15B to fight terrorism

President Bush’s budget proposed $379.9 billion for the Department of Defense, increasing defense spending by $15.3 billion. The budget fully reflects the Bush Administration’s defense strategy, which calls for a focus on countering 21st century threats such as terrorism. The United States must strengthen its defenses to protect the nation’s interests and to assure a leading role in global affairs.
Source: 2004 Presidential website, georgewbush.com , Aug 30, 2003

Afghanistan was a “different type of war”

In October 2001, some war cabinet members read a news analysis in the NY Times: “Could Afghanistan become another Vietnam? Is the US facing another stalemate on the other side of the world? Premature the questions may be, three weeks after the fighting began. Unreasonable they are not.”

Bush expressed his pique at the media. “They don’t get it,” the president said. “How many times do you have to tell them it’s going to be a different type of war? And they don’t believe it. They’re looking for the conventional approach. That’s not what they’re going to see here. I’ve talked about patience. It’s amazing how quickly people forget what you say, at least here in Washington.“ The quagmire stories made little sense to him. They had a good plan. They had agreed to it. ”Why would we start second-guessing it this early into the plan?“

In a later interview, Bush recalled dealing with ”the scenario where we may need to put 55,000 troops in there“ [if the original Northern Alliance plan had failed].

Source: Bush At War, by Bob Woodward, adapted in Washington Post , Nov 18, 2002

Afghanistan model-successful plan first-used for Iraq

His blueprint for decision making in any war against Iraq, Bush told me, could be found in the story of the first months of the war in Afghanistan and the largely invisible CIA covert war against terrorism worldwide. It was all there if it was pieced together-what he had learned, how he had settled into the presidency, his focus on large goals, how he made decisions, why he provoked his war cabinet and pressured people for action.

At first, this remark seemed to suggest he was leaning toward an attack on Iraq. Earlier, however, he had said, “I’m the kind of person that wants to make sure that all risk is assessed. But a president is constantly analyzing, making decisions based upon risk taken relative to what can be achieved.” What he wanted to achieve seemed clear: He wanted Saddam Hussein out.

Bush added that he had not yet seen a successful plan for Iraq, he said. He had to be careful and patient. “A president,” he added, “likes to have a military plan that will be successful.”

Source: Bush At War, by Bob Woodward, adapted in Washington Post , Nov 18, 2002

Homeland security focus: bioterror; airports; intelligence

America is no longer protected by vast oceans. We are protected from attack only by vigorous action abroad and increased vigilance at home.

My budget nearly doubles funding for a sustained strategy of homeland security, focused on four key areas: bioterrorism, emergency response, airport and border security, and improved intelligence.

We will develop vaccines to fight anthrax and other deadly diseases. We’ll increase funding to help states and communities train and equip our heroic police and firefighters.

We will improve intelligence collection and sharing, expand patrols at our borders, strengthen the security of air travel, and use technology to track the arrivals and departures of visitors to the US.

Homeland security will make America not only stronger but in many ways better. Knowledge gained from bioterrorism research will improve public health. Stronger police and fire departments will mean safer neighborhoods. Stricter border enforcement will help combat illegal drugs.

Source: State of the Union speech to joint session of Congress , Jan 29, 2002


George W. Bush on Iraq

Pre-9-11, Saddam was a manageable problem, but not after

For my first eight months in office, my policy focused on tightening the sanctions. Then 9/11 hit, and we had to take a fresh look at every threat in the world.Before 9/11, Saddam was a problem America might have been able to manage. Through the lens of the post 9/11 world, my view changed. I had just witnessed the damage inflicted by 19 fanatics armed with box cutters. I could only imagine the destruction possible if an enemy dictator passed his WMD to terrorists.
Source: Decision Points, by Pres. George W. Bush, p.228-229 , Nov 9, 2010

"Mission Accomplished" banner was a big mistake

I had said, "You won't see us doing any victory dances or anything." On May 1, 2003, aboard the USS Lincoln, I said in my speech, "Major combat operations in Iraq have ended. The transition from dictatorship to democracy will take time, but it is worth every effort. Our coalition will stay until our work is done. Then we will leave, and we will leave behind a free Iraq."

I hadn't noticed the large banner my staff had placed on the bridge of the ship, positioned for TV. It read, "Mission Accomplished." It was intended as a tribute to the folks aboard the Lincoln, which had just completed the longest deployment for an aircraft carrier. Instead, it looked like I was doing the victory dance I had warned against. "Mission Accomplished" becam a shorthand criticism for all that subsequently went wrong in Iraq. My speech made clear that our work was far from done. But all the explaining in the world could not reverse the perception. Our stagecraft had gone awry. It was a big mistake.

Source: Decision Points, by Pres. George W. Bush, p.256-257 , Nov 9, 2010

"Bring 'em on" comment left wrong impression

I said in July, "There are some who feel like that if they attack us that we may decide to leave prematurely. My answer is 'Bring 'em on'." Anytime I spoke on Iraq, there were multiple audiences listening. I thought about four in particular.
  1. The American people. Their support was essential to funding & fighting the war.
  2. Our troops. They needed to know I stood firmly behind their mission.
  3. The Iraqi people. The vast majority of Iraqis wanted us to stay long enough to help a democratic societ emerge. It was important that I communicate my resolve.
  4. The enemy. They believed acts of savagery could affect our decisions. I had to make clear they never would.
My "bring 'em on" comment was intended to show confidence in our troops and signal that they enemy could never shake our will. But the firestorm of criticism showed that I had left a wrong impression with other audiences. I learned from the experience and paid closer attention to how I communicated with each audience in the years ahead
Source: Decision Points, by Pres. George W. Bush, p.260-261 , Nov 9, 2010

Biggest failure of Iraq war: cutting troop level too quickly

Over the years, I've spent a great deal of time thinking about what went wrong in Iraq and why. I have concluded that we made two errors that account for many of the setbacks we faced.

The first is that we did not respond more quickly or aggressively when the security situation started to deteriorate after Saddam's regime fell. In the ten months following the invasion, we cut troop levels from 192,000 to 109,000. Many of the remaining troops focused on training the Iraqi army and police, not protecting the Iraqi people.

While there was logic behind these assumptions, the Iraqi people's desire for security trumped their aversion to occupation. Cutting troop levels too quickly was the most important failure of execution in the war. The other error was the intelligence failure on Iraq's WMD.

Source: Decision Points, by Pres. George W. Bush, p.268-269 , Nov 9, 2010

Saddam wanted everyone to believe he had WMD; & everyone did

[A major error] that accounts for many of the setbacks we faced was the intelligence failure on Iraq's WMD.

Almost a decade later, it is hard to describe how widespread an assumption it was that Saddam had WMD. Supporters of the war believed it; opponents of the war believed it; even members of Saddam's own regime believed it. We all knew that intelligence is never 100% certain; that's the nature of the business. But I believed that the intelligence on Iraq's WMD was solid. If Saddam didn't have WMD, why wouldn't he just prove it to the inspectors? Every psychological profile I had read told me Saddam was a survivor. If he cared so much about staying in power, why would he gamble his regime by pretending to have WMD?

Part of the explanation came after Saddam's capture, when he was debriefed by the FBI. He told agents that he was more worried about looking weak to Iran than being removed by the coalition. He never thought the US would follow through on our promise to disarm him by force.

Source: Decision Points, by Pres. George W. Bush, p.269 , Nov 9, 2010

2006: troop levels for victory in Iraq, not victory in polls

In Sept. 2006, with the midterm elections approaching, my friend Mitch McConnell (R-KY) came to the Oval Office. Mitch has a sharp political nose, and he smelled trouble. I asked, "What do you want me to do about it?"

He said, "bring some troops home from Iraq." He was not alone. As violence in Iraq escalated, members of both parties had called for a pullout.

I said, "I believe our presence in Iraq is necessary to protect American, and I will not withdraw troops unless military conditions warrant." I made clear I would set troop levels to achieve victory in Iraq, not victory at the polls.

What I did not tell him was that I was seriously considering the opposite of his recommendations. Rather than pull troops out, I was on the verge of making the toughest and most unpopular decision of my presidency: deploying more troops into Iraq with a new strategy, a new commander, and a mission to protect the Iraqi people and help enable the rise of a democracy in the heart of the Middle East.

Source: Decision Points, by Pres. George W. Bush, p.355 , Nov 9, 2010

2006: For first time, worried we might not succeed in Iraq

The summer of 2006 was the worst period of my presidency. I thought about the war constantly. I was deeply concerned that the violence was overtaking all else. An average of 120 Iraqis a day were dying. The war had stretched to more than three years. By a margin of almost two to one, Americans said they disapproved of the way I was handling Iraq.

For the first time, I worried we might not succeed. If Iraq split along sectarian lines, our mission would be doomed. We could be looking at a repeat of Vietnam--a humiliating loss for the country, a shattering blow to the military, and a dramatic setback for our interests. If anything, the consequences of defeat in Iraq would be even worse than in Vietnam. We would leave al Qaeda with a safe haven in a country with vast oil reserves. We would embolden a hostile Iran in its pursuit of nuclear weapons.

Source: Decision Points, by Pres. George W. Bush, p.367-371 , Nov 9, 2010

2007: Fully fund troops, with no timetable for withdrawal

After a day of heavy violence in April 2007, Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) declared, "This war is lost, the surge is not accomplishing anything." The majority leader of the US Senate had just used his platform to tell 145,000 American troops and their families that they were fighting for a lost cause. He had written off the surge as a failure before all of the additional troops had even arrived. It was one of the most irresponsible acts I witnessed in my eight years in Washington.

On May 1, Congress sent me war-funding bill mandating a troop withdrawal deadline later in the year. Setting an arbitrary pullout date would allow our enemies to wait us out and would undermine our ability to win over the local leaders who were critical to our success. I vetoed the bill. Democrats didn't have the votes to override the veto. On May 25, I signed a bill fully funding our troops with no timetable for withdrawal.

Source: Decision Points, by Pres. George W. Bush, p.382 , Nov 9, 2010

Saddam posed unique threat post-9-11

We knew that Saddam Hussein had never fully accounted for his chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons programs. He repeatedly showed hostile intentions toward his neighbors, by invading Kuwait and attacking Iran. He maintained a brutal regime that held on to power by carrying out sadistic atrocities against its own people. Killing 300,000 Iraqi civilians. He has supported terrorists, attempted to assassinate the first President Bush in the 1990s (after he had left office), continued to threaten American pilots overseeing a no-fly zone over Iraq, evaded the sanctions put on his country, and flouted 16 UN resolutions demanding that he live up to the terms of the cease-fire agreement that ended the Persian Gulf War in 1991.

In the wake of 9/11, these actions made Saddam Hussein a unique threat. This dangerous combination of factors--a post 9/11 world, Saddam Hussein in violation of a slew of U.N. resolutions, and the evil nature of his regime--made Iraq a unique threat in our eyes.

Source: Courage and Consequence, by Karl Rove, p.300 , Nov 2, 2010

May 2003: Combat operations are ended; mission accomplished

"Iraqis are freer today and we are safer. Relax and enjoy it."
--Richard Perle, May 1, 2003

"Major combat operations are ended."--George W. Bush, aboard USS Abraham Lincoln, May 1, 2003

"MISSION ACCOMPLISHED."
--Banner on USS Abraham Lincoln, May 1, 2003

"You want to do Iran for the next one?"--George W. Bush, on meeting with just-fired Jay Garner, June 2, 2003

Source: The War in Quotes, by G.B. Trudeau, p. 51 , Oct 1, 2008

2003: If they want to attack us in Iraq, bring 'em on

"Pockets of dead-enders are trying to reconstitute. Gen. Franks and his team are rooting them out."
--Donald Rumsfeld, 6/18/03

"Any remaining violence is due to thugs, gangs, and terrorists."
--Rumsfeld, 3/14/04

"There are some who feel that the conditions are such that hey can attack us there. My answer is, bring 'em on. We've got the force necessary to deal with the security situation."
--George W. Bush, 7/2/03

"You know, the country is basically peaceful."
--Paul Bremer, 9/24/03

Source: The War in Quotes, by G.B. Trudeau, p. 62-65 , Oct 1, 2008

2001: Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists

"I'm going to be judicious as to how I use the military. It needs to be in our vital interest; the mission needs to be clear; and the exit strategy obvious. I think one way for us to end up being viewed as the ugly America is for us to go around the world saying, 'We do it this way. So should you.' "
--George W. Bush, Oct. 11, 2000

"If we're an arrogant nation, they'll resent us. If we're a humble nation but strong, they'll welcome us."
--George W. Bush, Oct. 12, 2000

"Every nation, in every region, now has a decision to make. Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists."
--George W. Bush, Sept. 20, 2001

Source: The War in Quotes, by G.B. Trudeau, p. 4-5 , Oct 1, 2008

2003: We will find WMDs; Saddam destroyed some & hid some

"As this operation continues, those WMDs will be identified and found, along with the people who produced them and who guard them."
--Gen. Tommy Franks, March 22, 2003

"We know where they are. They are in the area around Tikrit and Baghdad."
-- Donald Rumsfeld, March 30, 2003

"We know that the regime has them; we know that as the regime collapses we will be led to them."
--Tony Blair, April 8, 2003

"We have high confidence that they have weapons of mass destruction. This is what this war was about and is about."
--Ari Fleischer, April 10, 2003

"We are learning more as we interrogate Iraqi scientists and people within the Iraqi structure, that perhaps he destroyed some, perhaps he dispersed some. And so we will find them."
-- George W. Bush, April 24, 2003

"We will find them. It'll be a matter of time to do so."
--George W. Bush, May 3, 2003.

"I expected them to be found. I still expect them to be found."
--Gen Michael Hagee, Marine Corps commander, May 21, 2003

Source: The War in Quotes, by G.B. Trudeau, p. 58-60 , Oct 1, 2008

Transition from leading operations to partnering with Iraqis

I ask Congress to meet its responsibilities to these brave men and women [in Iraq] by fully funding our troops. Our enemies in Iraq have been hit hard. They are not yet defeated, and we can still expect tough fighting ahead. Our objective in the coming year is to sustain and build on the gains we made in 2007, while transitioning to the next phase of our strategy. American troops are shifting from leading operations, to partnering with Iraqi forces, and, eventually, to a protective overwatch mission.

Source: 2008 State of the Union address to Congress , Jan 28, 2008

FactCheck: Troop drawdown of 20,000 still above pre-surge

Bush was correct when he said that some US troops are returning from Iraq, but so far the drawdown only amounts to a few thousand. Bush said that all drawdowns “taken together [mean] more than 20,000 of our troops are coming home.

This is accurate. But to put that in context, at the peak of the surge about 162,000 US troops were in Iraq. Prior to the surge, the total was about 130,000, [so the 20,000 troop reduction now does not reduce to the pre-surge level].

And Bush left out a bit of the back story of the sheer numbers of Iraqi Security Forces. Bush said, “Today, this grassroots surge includes more than 80,000 Iraqi citizens who are fighting the terrorists.” But at least 60,000 of the Iraqi citizens to which Bush refers--they’re called “Concerned Local Citizens” by the US military--are under contract with the U.S. military and being paid about $300 a month.

Source: FactCheck.org on 2008 State of the Union address , Jan 28, 2008

2007 surge: 20,000 more troops with aggressive engagement

On January 10, 2007, after months of speculation that the White House was finally considering a plan to withdraw from Iraq, President George Bush gave a prime-time address announcing instead the deployment of 20,000 additional U.S. troops, who would be given more aggressive rules of engagement. The new surge strategy went over like a lead balloon in pubic opinion, but within minutes John McCain popped up on Larry King Live to praise the speech as "excellent." This was hardly surprising given that McCain had been calling for more boots on the ground in Iraq for more than three years; but still the enthusiasm stuck out like a buoy in a sea of skepticism.
Source: The Myth of a Maverick, by Matt Welch, p. 21-22 , Oct 9, 2007

2002: Clear that war vote was to strike Iraq, not diplomacy

Several days before the Iraq Resolution vote in Congress, President Bush made a speech, leaving no doubt he was prepared to strike Iraq. The president, secondarily, spoke of one last try and diplomacy. Hillary gravitated toward this option and hoped that Bush was serious when he mentioned it.

A day after the speech, she had a rare opportunity to explore whether he was. Hillary and a few other senators met privately at the White House with the president and some of his advisors. The president had “no recollection of Sen. Clinton asking a question” at the meeting.

Given the subsequent revelations regarding the Bush administration’s inaccurate statements during the run-up to eh war, it is impossible to know if the president and Rice were telling the truth about the exchange with Hillary. But both seem to agree that Hillary’s opportunity to push the president regarding diplomacy--if for no other reason to get it on the record that she had done so--was squandered.

Source: Her Way, by Jeff Gerth & Don Van Natta, p.243 , Jun 8, 2007

20,000 additional soldiers and Marines to Baghdad & Anbar

This is not the fight we entered in Iraq, but it is the fight we are in. It is still within our power to shape the outcome of this battle. So let us find our resolve, and turn events toward victory.

We are carrying out a new strategy in Iraq--a plan that demands more from Iraq’s elected government, and gives our forces in Iraq the reinforcements they need to complete their mission. Our goal is a democratic Iraq that upholds the rule of law and is an ally in the war on terror.

We are deploying reinforcements of more than 20,000 additional soldiers and Marines to Iraq. The vast majority will go to Baghdad, where they will help Iraqi forces to clear and secure neighborhoods, and serve as advisers embedded in Iraqi Army units. And in Anbar province we are sending an additional 4,000 US Marines, with orders to find the terrorists and clear them out. We did not drive al Qaeda out of their safe haven in Afghanistan only to let them set up a new safe haven in a free Iraq.

Source: 2007 State of the Union address to Congress , Jan 23, 2007

We’re on the offensive in Iraq with a clear plan for victory

We’re on the offensive in Iraq, with a clear plan for victory. First, we’re helping Iraqis build an inclusive government, so that old resentments will be eased and the insurgency will be marginalized. Second, we’re continuing reconstruction efforts and helping the Iraqi government to fight corruption and build a modern economy. And third, we’re striking terrorist targets while we train Iraqi forces that are increasingly capable of defeating the enemy. We are proud to be their allies in the cause of freedom.

Our work in Iraq is difficult, because our enemy is brutal. But that brutality has not stopped the dramatic progress of a new democracy. In less than three years, the nation has gone from dictatorship to liberation to sovereignty to a constitution to national elections. At the same time, our coalition has been relentless in shutting off terrorist infiltration, clearing out insurgent strongholds and turning over territory to Iraqi security forces.

Source: 2006 State of the Union Address , Jan 31, 2006

Terrorists aim to seize power in Iraq

No one can deny the success of freedom, but some men rage and fight against it. And one of the main sources of reaction and opposition is radical Islam, the perversion by a few of a noble faith into an ideology of terror and death. Terrorists like bin Laden are serious about mass murder, and all of us must take their declared intentions seriously. They seek to impose a heartless system of totalitarian control throughout the Middle East and arm themselves with weapons of mass murder

Their aim is to seize power in Iraq and use it as a safe haven to launch attacks against America and the world. Lacking the military strength to challenge us directly, the terrorists have chosen the weapon of fear. When they murder children at a school in Beslan or blow up commuters in London or behead a bound captive, the terrorists hope these horrors will break our will, allowing the violent to inherit the earth. But they have miscalculated. We love our freedom, and we will fight to keep it.

Source: 2006 State of the Union Address , Jan 31, 2006

Sudden withdrawal from Iraq would abandon our Iraqi allies

Those of us in public office have a duty to speak with candor. A sudden withdrawal of our forces from Iraq would abandon our Iraqi allies to death and prison, would put men like bin Laden and Zarqawi in charge of a strategic country and show that a pledge from America means little. Members of Congress, however we feel about the decisions and debates of the past, our nation has only one option. We must keep our word, defeat our enemies and stand behind the American military in this vital mission.
Source: 2006 State of the Union Address , Jan 31, 2006

2002: Keep the peace by authorizing use of force in Iraq

Yes, Kerry voted to authorize the President to use force against Iraq. But he voted for that in order for Bush to go to the UN and get the inspectors back into Iraq, which Bush lyingly said was the only way to avoid a war.

It sounds counterintuitive that Bush would want an authorization to use force in order to avoid war. But Bush claimed that that's what this was all about. Here's an exchange between Bush and a reporter from September 19, 2002, just before the vote in Congress:

Reporter: Mr. President, how important is it that that resolution give you an authorization of the use of force?

Bush: That will be part of the resolution, the authorization to use force. If you want to keep the peace, you've got to have the authorization to use force. This is a chance for Congress to indicate support. It's a chance for Congress to say, "We support the administration's ability to keep the peace." That's what this is all about.

Source: The Truth (with jokes), by Al Franken, p. 89-90 , Oct 25, 2005

Guard eager to go to Iraq-relief will come from Iraqi troops

Q: What would you do about holding National Guard and Reservists for repeated call-ups?

KERRY: I’ve proposed adding two active-duty divisions to the armed forces -- one combat, one support. I’m going to double the number of Special Forces so that we can fight a more effective war with less pressure on the National Guard and Reserve. And what I would like to do is see the National Guard and Reserve be deployed differently. There’s much we can do with them with respect to homeland security.

BUSH: The best way to take the pressure off our troops is to train Iraqis to give them a chance to defend their country. We’ll have 125,000 troops trained by the end of this year. I remember going to say thanks to the reservists and Guard that were headed overseas. Some of them had been there before. The people I talked to their spirits were high. They didn’t view their service as a back-door draft. They viewed their service as an opportunity to serve their country.

Source: [Xref Kerry] Third Bush-Kerry debate, in Tempe AZ , Oct 13, 2004

Saddam was a unique threat because of the potential WMD

After 9/11, we had to recognize that when we saw a threat, we must take it seriously before it comes to hurt us. In the old days we’d see a threat and we could deal with it if we felt like it, or not. But 9/11 changed it all. I vowed to our countrymen that I would do everything I could to protect the American people. That’s why we’re bringing al Qaeda to justice; 75 percent of them have been brought to justice. That’s why I said to Afghanistan, if you harbor a terrorist, you’re just as guilty as the terrorist. And the Taliban is no longer in power, and al Qaeda no longer has a place to plan. And I saw a unique threat in Saddam Hussein, as did my opponent, because we thought he had weapons of mass destruction. And the unique threat was that he could give weapons of mass destruction to an organization like al Qaeda, and the harm they inflicted on us with airplanes would be multiplied greatly by weapons of mass destruction. And that was the serious, serious threat.
Source: Second Bush-Kerry debate, St. Louis, MO , Oct 8, 2004

Saddam wanted to restart his weapons programs

BUSH: I went to the UN. But as we learned in [the Iraq Survey Group Report], Saddam was gaming the oil-for-food program to get rid of sanctions. He was trying to get rid of sanctions for a reason. He wanted to restart his weapons programs. We all thought there was weapons there. Kerry called him a grave threat. I wasn’t happy when we found out there wasn’t weapons, and we’ve got an intelligence group together to figure out why.

KERRY: I’ve never changed my mind about Iraq. I always believed Saddam was a threat. I wanted to give Clinton the power to use force if necessary. But I would’ve used that force wisely, not rush to war without a plan to win the peace. I would’ve brought our allies to our side. I would’ve fought to make certain our troops had everybody possible to help them win the mission. Bush rushed to war, pushed our allies aside, and Iran now is more dangerous, and so is North Korea, with nuclear weapons. He took his eye off the ball, off of bin Laden.

Source: Second Bush-Kerry debate, St. Louis, MO , Oct 8, 2004

UN sanctions were not effective at removing Saddam

BUSH: Kerry said that America must pass a global test before we use force to protect ourselves. That’s the kind of mindset that says sanctions were working. That’s the kind of mindset that said let’s keep it at the UN and hope things go well. Saddam was a threat because he could have given weapons of mass destruction to terrorist enemies. Sanctions were not working. The UN was not effective at removing Saddam.

KERRY: The goal of the sanctions was not to remove Saddam. It was to remove the weapons of mass destruction. And, Mr. President, just yesterday the Duelfer report told you and the whole world they worked. He didn’t have weapons of mass destruction, Mr. President. That was the objective. And if we’d used smart diplomacy, we could have saved $200 billion and an invasion of Iraq, and right now Osama bin Laden might be in jail or dead. That’s the war against terror.

Source: Second Bush-Kerry debate, St. Louis, MO , Oct 8, 2004

Had the right plan with the right troops level invading Iraq

BUSH: I remember going down to the basement of the White House the day we committed our troops, as last resort, looking at Tommy Franks and the generals on the ground, asking them do we have the right plan with the right troops level? And they looked me in the eye and said, yes, sir, Mr. President. Of course I listened to our generals. A president sets the strategy and relies upon good military people to execute that strategy.

KERRY: You rely on good military people to execute the military component of the strategy, but winning the peace is larger than just the military component. General Shinseki had the wisdom to say you’re going to need several hundred thousand troops to win the peace. Military’s job is to win the war. Bush’s job is to win the peace. Bush did not do what was necessary. Didn’t bring in enough nations, didn’t deliver the help, didn’t close off the borders, didn’t even guard the ammo dumps. And now our kids are being killed with ammos right out of that dump.

Source: Second Bush-Kerry debate, St. Louis, MO , Oct 8, 2004

Sent a $87 billion bill that gives troops equipment

BUSH: Kerry complains about the fact our troops don’t have adequate equipment, yet he voted against the $87 billion supplemental I sent to the Congress, and then issued one of the most amazing quotes in political history: “I actually did vote for the $87 billion before I voted against it.” Saddam Hussein was a risk to our country. He was a risk that and this is where we just have a difference of opinion.

KERRY: Not necessarily be in power. But here’s what I’ll say about the $87 billion. I made a mistake in the way I talk about it; he made a mistake in invading Iraq. Which is a worse decision? Now, I voted the way I voted because I saw that he had the policy wrong and I wanted accountability. I didn’t want to give a slush fund to Halliburton. I also thought the wealthiest people in America ought to pay for it, ladies and gentlemen. He wants your kids to pay for it. I wanted us to pay for it, since we’re at war. I don’t think that’s a bad decision.

Source: Second Bush-Kerry Debate, in St. Louis MO , Oct 8, 2004

Went to the UN hoping the world would listen to our demands

The world is better off without Saddam Hussein. I was hoping diplomacy would work. I understand the serious consequences of committing our troops into harm’s way. It’s the hardest decision a president makes. So I went to the UN. I went there hoping that, once and for all, the free world would act in concert to get Saddam Hussein to listen to our demands. They passed the resolution that said, Disclose, disarm, or face serious consequences. When an international body speaks, it must mean what it says.
Source: First Bush-Kerry debate, Miami FL , Sep 30, 2004

Saddam Hussein was systematically deceiving the inspectors

Saddam Hussein had no intention of disarming. He had 16 other resolutions and nothing took place. As a matter of fact, my opponent talks about inspectors. The facts are that he was systematically deceiving the inspectors. That wasn’t going to work. That’s kind of a pre-September 10th mentality, the hope that somehow resolutions and failed inspections would make this world a more peaceful place. He was hoping we’d turn away. But there was fortunately others who believed that we ought to take action.
Source: First Bush-Kerry debate, Miami FL , Sep 30, 2004

The front on the war on terror is more than just one place

The front on this war is more than just one place. The Philippines - we’re helping them there to bring Al Qaida affiliates to justice there. And, of course, Iraq is a central part in the war on terror. That’s why Zarqawi and his people are trying to fight us. Their hope is that we grow weary and we leave. The biggest disaster that could happen is that we not succeed in Iraq. We will succeed. We’ve got a plan to do so. We’ll succeed because the Iraqis want to be free.
Source: First Bush-Kerry debate, Miami FL , Sep 30, 2004

Start bringing troops home when Iraq is stable and free

The best way for Iraq to be safe and secure is for Iraqi citizens to be trained to do the job. And that’s what we’re doing. We’ve got 100,000 trained now, 125,000 by the end of this year, 200,000 by the end of next year. That is the best way. We’ll never succeed in Iraq if the Iraqi citizens do not want to take matters into their own hands to protect themselves. The best indication about when we can bring our troops home - which I really want to do, but I don’t want to do so for the sake of bringing them home; I want to do so because we’ve achieved an objective - is to see the Iraqis perform and to see the Iraqis step up and take responsibility. When our general is on the ground and Ambassador Negroponte tells me that Iraq is ready to defend herself from these terrorists, that elections will have been held by then, that their stability and that they’re on their way to, you know, a nation that’s free; that’s when we will start bringing our troops home. But I know putting artificial deadlines won’t work.
Source: First Bush-Kerry debate, Miami FL , Sep 30, 2004

A free Iraq is essential for the security of America

BUSH: A free Iraq will be an ally in the war on terror, and that’s essential. A free Iraq will set a powerful example in a part of the world that is desperate for freedom. A free Iraq will help secure Israel. A free Iraq will enforce the hopes and aspirations of the reformers in places like Iran. A free Iraq is essential for the security of this country.

KERRY: The other day in Wisconsin, a couple of young returnees were in the line, one active duty, one from the Guard. And they both looked at me and said: We need you. You’ve got to help us over there. Bush’s father did not go into Iraq, into Baghdad, beyond Basra. And the reason he didn’t is, he said - he wrote in his book - because there was no viable exit strategy. And he said our troops would be occupiers in a bitterly hostile land. The only building that was guarded when the troops when into Baghdad was the oil ministry. We didn’t guard the nuclear facilities. We didn’t guard the foreign office.

Source: First Bush-Kerry debate, Miami FL , Sep 30, 2004

Allocated $7 billion over months for reconstruction efforts

BUSH: We’re training Iraqi soldiers so they can do the hard work. And it’s not only just America, but NATO is now helping, Jordan’s helping train police, UAE is helping train police. We’ve allocated $7 billion over the next months for reconstruction efforts. There’s going to be a summit of the Arab nations. Japan will be hosting a summit.

KERRY: You can’t tell me that that we have a genuine coalition when the most troops any other country has on the ground is Great Britain, with 8,300, and below that the four others are below 4,000, and below that, there isn’t anybody out of the hundreds. You can’t tell me that on the day that we went into that war and it started - it was principally the US, Great Britain and one or two others. That’s it. Today, we are 90% of the casualties and 90% of the costs. Meanwhile, North Korea has got nuclear weapons. Talk about mixed messages. Bush is the one that said, “We can’t allow countries to get nuclear weapons.” They have. I’ll change that.

Source: First Bush-Kerry debate, Miami FL , Sep 30, 2004

Calls on UN to do more in Iraq

Since the last meeting of this General Assembly, the people of Iraq have regained sovereignty. The UN, and its member nations, must respond to Prime Minister Allawi’s request, and do more to help build an Iraq that is secure, democratic, federal, & free.

A democratic Iraq has ruthless enemies, because terrorists know the stakes in that country. They know that a free Iraq in the heart of the Middle East will be a decisive blow against their ambitions for that region. So a terrorists group associated with al Qaeda is now one of the main groups killing the innocent in Iraq today-conducting a campaign of bombings against civilians, and the beheadings of bound men. Coalition forces now serving in Iraq are confronting the terrorists and foreign fighters, so peaceful nations around the world will never have to face them within our own borders.

Source: Address to the United Nations General Assembly , Sep 21, 2004

Deny terrorists a base of operation in Iraq

The return of tyranny to Iraq would be an unprecedented terrorist victory and a cause for killers to rejoice. It would also embolden the terrorists, leading to more murders of the innocent around the world. The rise of a free and self-governing Iraq will deny terrorists a base of operation, discredit their narrow ideology and give momentum to reformers across the region. This will be a decisive blow to terrorism at the heart of its power, and a victory for the security of America and the civilized world.
Source: Speech on Iraq at Army War College , May 24, 2004

Saddam loyalists have joined with foreign terrorists

The swift removal of Saddam Hussein’s regime last spring had an unintended effect. Instead of being killed or captured on the battlefield, some of Saddam’s elite guards shed their uniforms and melted into the civilian population. These elements of Saddam’s repressive regime and secret police have reorganized, rearmed and adopted sophisticated terrorist tactics. They’ve linked up with foreign fighters and terrorists.

These groups and individuals have conflicting ambitions, but they share a goal: They hope to wear out the patience of Americans, our coalition and Iraqis before the arrival of effective self-government and before Iraqis have the capability to defend their freedom. Iraq now faces a critical moment. As the Iraqi people move closer to governing themselves the terrorists are likely to become more active and more brutal. There are difficult days ahead. Yet our coalition is strong. Our efforts are focused and unrelenting. And no power of the enemy will stop Iraq’s progress.

Source: Speech on Iraq at Army War College , May 24, 2004

We’re constructing democracy; terrorists can only destroy

Helping construct a stable democracy after decades of dictatorship is a massive undertaking. Yet we have a great advantage. Whenever people are given a choice in the matter, they prefer lives of freedom to lives of fear. Our enemies in Iraq are good at filling hospitals, but they don’t build any. The can incite men to murder and suicide but they cannot inspire men to live and hope and add to the progress of their country.

The terrorists only influence is violence and their only agenda is death. Our agenda in contrast is freedom and independence, security and prosperity for the Iraqi people. And by removing a source of terrorist violence and instability in the Middle East we also make our own country more secure. Our coalition has a clear goal understood by all. To see the Iraqi people in charge of Iraq for the first time in generations.

Source: Speech on Iraq at Army War College , May 24, 2004

Request of $25 billion for war just the beginning

The White House asked Congress for an additional $25 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. “While we do not know the precise costs for operations next year, recent developments on the ground and increased demands on our troops indicate the need to plan for contingencies. We must make sure there is no disruption in funding and resources for our troops.” The White House conceded yesterday that the $25 billion it is seeking is likely to be only the first installment.
Source: Jonathan Weisman, Washington Post , May 10, 2004

$389M in 2002-2003 for CIA to overthrow Saddam

[The CIA] worked on a new Top Secret intelligence order for regime change in Iraq that Bush signed on Feb. 16, 2002. It directed the CIA to support the US military in overthrowing Hussein and granted authority to support opposition groups and conduct sabotage operations inside Iraq. The cost was set at $200 million a year for two years. After some disputes in Congress, the budget was cut to $189 million for the first year.

In March 2002, [CIA director George] Tenet met secretly with two Kurdish leaders who would be critical to covert action inside Iraq. Tenet had one message: The US was serious, the military and the CIA were coming. Bush meant what he said. It was a new era. Hussein was going down.

When Tenet took problems to Bush, the president asked, Well, what’s a solution? How do you take the next step? It was a new ethos for the intelligence business. Suddenly there seemed to be no penalty for taking risks and making mistakes.

Source: Plan of Attack, by Bob Woodward, adapted in Washington Post , Apr 19, 2004

Saddam a “madman” who could make WMDs

Bush said the war in Iraq was justified because Saddam Hussein could have made weapons of mass destruction. “Saddam Hussein was dangerous, and I’m not just going to leave him in power and trust a madman. ”He’s a dangerous man. He had the ability to make weapons at the very minimum.“
Source: Dana Milbank, Washington Post , Feb 8, 2004

We’ve already internationalized the war in Iraq

Some critics have said our duties in Iraq must be internationalized. This particular criticism is hard to explain to our partners in Britain, Australia, Japan, South Korea, the Philippines, Spain, and the [27] other countries that have committed troops to Iraq. We must never ignore the vital contributions of our international partners or dismiss their sacrifices. From the beginning, America has sought international support for our operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, and we have gained much support.
Source: 2004 State of the Union address to joint session of Congress , Jan 20, 2004

We haven’t come this far to falter unfinished

As we gather tonight, hundreds of thousands of American service men and women are deployed across the world in the war on terror. By bringing hope to the oppressed and delivering justice to the violent, they are making America more secure.

We have faced serious challenges together, and now we face a choice: We can go forward with confidence and resolve, or we can turn back to the dangerous illusion that terrorists are not plotting and outlaw regimes are no threat to us. We can press on with economic growth and reforms in education and Medicare, or we can turn back to old policies and old divisions.

We’ve not come all this way, through tragedy and trial and war, only to falter and leave our work unfinished. Americans are rising to the tasks of history, and they expect the same from us. In their efforts, their enterprise and their character, the American people are showing that the state of our union is confident and strong.

Source: 2004 State of the Union address to joint session of Congress , Jan 20, 2004

Saddam had WMD-related program activities

Some did not support the liberation of Iraq. Objections to war often come from principled motives. But let us be candid about the consequences of leaving Saddam Hussein in power. We’re seeking all the facts. Already, the Kay report identified dozens of weapons of mass destruction-related program activities and significant amounts of equipment that Iraq concealed from the UN.

Had we failed to act, the dictator’s weapons of mass destruction programs would continue to this day. Had we failed to act, Security Council resolutions on Iraq would have been revealed as empty threats, weakening the UN and encouraging defiance by dictators around the world. Iraq’s torture chambers would still be filled with victims-terrified and innocent. The killing fields of Iraq, where hundreds of thousands of men and women and children vanished into the sands, would still be known only to the killers. For all who love freedom and peace, the world without Saddam Hussein’s regime is a better and safer place.

Source: 2004 State of the Union address to joint session of Congress , Jan 20, 2004

France, Germany, Russia excluded from Iraq contracts

President Bush stood firm in the face of the international furor that began with the publication of a Pentagon memo that included France, Germany, Russia, and Canada on a list of countries ineligible to bid on prime Iraqi reconstruction contracts. [Bush said,] “Men and women from the US and other countries, in a broad coalition, risked their lives to free Iraq. And the expenditure of US dollars will reflect the fact that US troops and other troops risked their life.” The president suggested that those countries might be able to change their status by joining the coalition, saying, “We want to work with all countries. We welcome contributions, we welcome people’s willingness to participate in this difficult, yet important job of rebuilding Iraq.” Bush responded to a question of whether troop deployments or forgiveness of debt would be qualifications for participation by saying, “It would be a significant contribution, for which we would be very grateful.”
Source: Jeff Gannon, Talon News, on GOPusa.com , Dec 15, 2003

Saddam captured: War on terror is a different kind of war

I have a message for the Iraqi people: You will not have to fear the rule of Saddam Hussein ever again. All Iraqis who take the side of freedom have taken the winning side. The goals of our coalition are the same as your goals-sovereignty for your country, dignity for your great culture, and for every Iraqi citizen, the opportunity for a better life. I also have a message for all Americans: The capture of Saddam Hussein does not mean the end of violence in Iraq. We still face terrorists who would rather go on killing the innocent than accept the rise of liberty in the heart of the Middle East. Such men are a direct threat to the American people, and they will be defeated. We’ve come to this moment through patience and resolve and focused action. And that is our strategy moving forward. The war on terror is a different kind of war, waged capture by capture, cell by cell, and victory by victory. Our security is assured by our perseverance and by our sure belief in the success of liberty.
Source: Address to the nation on the capture of Saddam Hussein , Dec 14, 2003

Conflict with Iraq dominated war against terror

Even on the day of 9/11-as Osama bin Laden was becoming a household name in America-there were suggestions from some quarters to seek “state sponsorship” and to name Saddam Hussein as the real culprit behind the terrorists. Hostile, aggressive, stymied- but still striving to pursue his grand transformation of the region-Saddam was unfinished business, a rogue leader who had defied the international community and had made no secret of his support for various anti-Israeli terrorists over the years. Some kind of connection to the perpetrators of 9/11 certainly sounded plausible, and at the minimum Saddam posed a continuing challenge to the US.

Although the administration did not at the time conclusively establish Saddam’s complicity, over the next eighteen months looming conflict with Iraq came to dominate the war against terror. Arguments and evidence would be presented; the case taken to Congress, the US and the American people. And ultimately the US would act.

Source: Winning Modern Wars, by Wesley Clark, chapter 1 , Oct 26, 2003

Seeking $87B and UN Aid for Iraqi War Effort

President Bush said he would ask Congress for an additional $87 billion in emergency spending for military operations and reconstruction in Iraq and Afghanistan, and that Iraq had now become “the central front” in the campaign against terrorism. Bush left open-ended how long US troops would remain in Iraq and how much the conflict and occupation would ultimately cost. “We will do what is necessary, we will spend what is necessary, to achieve this essential victory in the war on terror, to promote freedom, and to make our own nation more secure,“ Bush said.

The president also said he would ask the United Nations for additional international troops for Iraq. Bush’s appeal was a recognition that the administration cannot unilaterally maintain its current level of 181,000 American troops in both Iraq and neighboring Kuwait.

The $87 billion request for the next fiscal year would add to the amount that Congress approved in a $79 billion bill last spring to pay the war costs.

Source: Elisabeth Bumiller, NY Times , Sep 7, 2003

Defeating terrorists in Iraq will require time and sacrifice

In a nationally televised address, Bush said defeating terrorists in Iraq “will take time, and require sacrifice.” Bush continued, “Our strategy in Iraq has 3 objectives: destroying the terrorists, enlisting the support of other nations, & helping Iraqis assume responsibility for their own defense.”

In his 18-minute speech, Bush did not mention Osama bin Laden, who has eluded capture in Afghanistan. He also did not mention the failure to find any unconventional weapons in Iraq, the major stated reason that the US went to war. Nor did Bush dwell on the conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians, which he predicted would abate if Saddam Hussein was ousted from power. That conflict has worsened.

This was Bush’s first extended address about Iraq since he declared an end to major combat operations on May 1. He was more triumphal then, asserting that “the US and our allies have prevailed.” But 149 Americans have died in Iraq since then, compared with the 138 in the invasion itself.

Source: Elisabeth Bumiller, NY Times , Sep 7, 2003

“Axis of Evil” links Saddam with 9/11

The pursuit of stability in the Middle East had brought chaos and slaughter to New York and Washington. Bush decided that the US was no longer a status-quo power in the Middle East. He wanted to see plans for overthrowing Saddam, and he wanted a speech that explained to the world why Iraq’s dictator must go.

Bush needed something to assert, something that made clear that Sept. 11 & Saddam Hussein were linked after all and that for the safety of the world, Saddam must be defeated rather than deterred.

The more I though about it [as speechwriter], the more the relationship between the terror states resembled the Tokyo-Rome-Berlin Axis. The Axis powers disliked and distrusted one another, but shared resentment of the West and contempt for democracy. [Now], much as they quarreled with each other, Iraq, Iran, and al-Qaida shared beliefs.

Bush edited the speech [and settled on the term “Axis of Evil.”]. He understood all its implications. He backed them with all the power of his presidency.

Source: The Right Man, by David Frum, p.231-38 , Jun 1, 2003

Bush to Arab World: terrorism must stop, or else

The war on terror, Bush told the United Nations, would not end in Afghanistan. There would be no more tolerance for the corrupt side arrangements that many Islamic governments had made with terror. And terror did not become more tolerable when it targeted Israelis rather than Americans.

“We must unit in opposing all terrorists, not just some of them. There is no such thing as a good terrorist. No national aspiration, no remembered wrong, can ever justify the deliberate murder of the innocent. Any government that rejects this principle, trying to pick and choose its terrorist friends, will know the consequences.“

Everyone understood who the governments were that rejected Bush’s principle: They included the greater part of the governments of the Arab world, including many of America’s traditional Arab allies. For 30 years, the UN had been the playpen of these Arab states. Bush delivered an ultimatum to the Arab world: The terrorism must stop-or else.

Source: The Right Man, by David Frum, p.173-74 , Jun 1, 2003

UN founded to fight threats like Saddam and 9/11

Our principles & our security are challenged today by outlaw groups & regimes that accept no law of morality and have no limit to their violent ambitions. In the attacks on America a year ago, we saw the destructive intentions of our enemies. Our greates fear is that terrorists will find a shortcut to their mad ambitions when an outlaw regime supplies them with the technologies to kill on a massive scale.

In one place-in one regime-we find all these dangers, in their most lethal and aggressive forms, exactly the kind of aggressive threat the UN was born to confront.

If Iraq’s regime defies us again, the world must move deliberately, decisively to hold Iraq to account. We will work with the UN Security Council for the necessary resolutions. But the purposes of the US should not be doubted. The Security Council resolutions will be enforced-the just demands of peace and security will be met-or action will be unavoidable. And a regime that has lost its legitimacy will also lose its power.

Source: Address to the United Nations General Assembly , Sep 12, 2002

Fight freedom’s fight against Axis of Evil

States like these, and their terrorist allies, constitute an axis of evil, arming to threaten the peace of the world. The price of indifference would be catastrophic. We can’t stop short. History has called America and our allies to action, and it is both our responsibility and our privilege to fight freedom’s fight.
Source: State of the Union speech to joint session of Congress , Jan 29, 2002


George W. Bush on Iraq Criticism

2003: No WMD, but it was not a major point against Saddam

In the summer of 2003, our troops in Iraq had not found the weapons of mass destruction we all expected, and the media's scramble for a scapegoat had commenced. In my 2003 State of the Union address, I had cited a British intelligence report that Iraq sought to buy uranium from Niger. The single sentence in my 5000-word speech was not a major point in the case against Saddam. The British stood by the intelligence (In 2004, the nonpartisan Butler Report concluded that the statement was "well-founded.") Yet those sixteen words became a political controversy and a massive distraction.

In July 2003, former ambassador Joseph Wilson wrote a New York Times column alleging that the administration had ignored his skeptical findings when he traveled to Africa to investigate the Iraq-Niger connection. There were serious questions about the accuracy and thoroughness of Wilson's report, but his charge became a prime talking point for critics of the war.

Source: Decision Points, by Pres. George W. Bush, p.102-103 , Nov 9, 2010

Reason for invading Iraq: Saddam was a threat

Our administration began looking toward Iraq in the early part of 2002. The question many people have is why. Bush critics had a range of theories: that Bush was determined to finish what his dad started in the first Gulf War; that he was doing the bidding of Israel; or that he wanted to teach the Arab world a lesson.

None of these theories is true. The reason we turned our attention to Iraq was much more straightforward: we believed Saddam Hussein posed a threat to America's national security. This view reflected a significant shift in the president's thinking after 9/11, and it was a view he repeatedly laid out in public speeches.

Source: Courage and Consequence, by Karl Rove, p.299-300 , Nov 2, 2010

OpEd: Tortured prisoners to connect al-Qaeda & Saddam

The 9/11 Commission report states that "the Bush Administration repeatedly tied the Iraq War to 9/11. The panel finds no al-Qaeda-Iraq tie." Bush then did some backpedaling, saying: "This administration never said that the 9/11 attacks were orchestrated between Saddam and al-Qaeda. We did say there were numerous Intelligence contacts that took place in Sudan in the mid-1990s." But one prisoner, Ibn al-Sheikh al-Libi, was tortured in 2002 until he'd agreed to say that al-Qaeda was linked to Saddam.
Source: American Conspiracies, by Jesse Ventura, p.161 , Mar 9, 2010

OpEd: Iraq war came from post-9-11 terrorism mindset

Would the Iraq War have occurred without WMD? I doubt it: Congress was very unlikely to have supported the use-of-force resolution without the threat of WMD. The Bush administration itself would probably have sought other ways to constrain Saddam. But that's hypothetical. What America's leaders faced in 2002 and 2003 was an overwhelming international and domestic consensus that Saddam had WMD.

So, then, did Bush lie us into war? Absolutely not.

So why did President Bush choose to go after Saddam Hussein in the first place? Wasn't it a diversion from what should have been the real goal, which was to defeat al-Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan?

Part of the reason why the president felt strongly about Iraq has to do with how the attacks on 9/11 affected his mind-set and that of the administration, Congress, and the country. After 9/11, we believed Iraq represented a deeply dangerous threat--a rogue regime with WMD, no constraints on using them, and a record of support for terrorists.

Source: Courage and Consequence, by Karl Rove, p.339-341 , Mar 9, 2010

2008: Iraq occupation could last 10 years

"I can't tell you if the use of force in Iraq today would last five days, or five weeks, or five months, but it certainly isn't going to last any longer than that."
--Donald Rumsfeld, November 14, 2002
"It could last six days, six weeks. I doubt six months"
-- Donald Rumsfeld, February 7, 2003
"I think it will go relatively quickly. Weeks rather than months."
-- Dick Cheney, March 16, 2003
"No one is talking about occupying Iraq for five to ten years."
-- Richard Perle, March 9, 2003
"It could be that, absolutely."
-- George W. Bush, when asked of the United States would have troops in Iraq for the next ten years, January 11, 2008
Source: The War in Quotes, by G.B. Trudeau, p. 40-41 , Oct 1, 2008

Mission evolved from WMDs to stability to nation-building

"Should we have to go in, our mission is very clear in Iraq: disarmament."
-- Pres. Bush, March 6, 2003
"Our mission is clear: to train Iraqis so they can do the fighting and make sure they can stand up to defend their freedoms."
--Pres. Bush, June 2, 2005
"Our mission in Iraq is clear: We're hunting down the terrorists. We're helping Iraqis build a free nation that is an ally in the war on terror. We're advancing freedom in the broader Middle East. We are removing a source of violence and instability, and laying the foundation of peace for our children."
--Pres. Bush, June 29, 2005
"We have a new strategy with a new mission: helping secure the population, especially in Baghdad. Our plan puts Iraqis in the lead."
--Pres. Bush, Jan.13, 2007
"It's a new mission. Its goal is to help the Iraqis to build a free nation that respects the rights of its people, upholds the rule of law, and is an ally against the extremists in this war."
--Pres. Bush, June 28, 2007
Source: The War in Quotes, by G.B. Trudeau, p. 88-89 , Oct 1, 2008

OpEd: Knowing misrepresentations plus self-deception

By the time Pearl Harbor was attacked, Roosevelt had transformed American public opinion and defeated isolationism. The American military was ready, though just barely. But the American people were ready.

The comparison with George W. Bush's push for war against Iraq is revealing, on several counts. Like Roosevelt, Bush endeavored to educate the American people, to persuade Congress to either approve or stand aside, and sometimes to ignore Congress entirely. But unlike Roosevelt, Bush's war was based on actual fictions on the ground and knowing misinterpretations as well as self-deceptions.

Roosevelt also had immense respect for American and British intelligence professionals. One reason that the D-Day invasion succeeded against immense tactical odds was that US and British intelligence of German troop movements and defense plans was superb.

By contrast, when Bush and Cheney did not like the intelligence reports they received, they fired the messenger and made up their own intelligence.

Source: Obama`s Challenge, by Robert Kuttner, p. 69-70 , Aug 25, 2008

9/11: Persisted in seeking Iraq link to terrorist attacks

As a result of the 9/11 Commission report, we have the sworn testimony of the president's White House head of counterterrorism, Richard Clarke, that on the day after the attack, September 12, the president wanted to connect the attacks to Saddam. Clarke recounted, "The president said, 'I want you to find whether Iraq did this.' I said, 'Mr. President, there's no connection.' He came back at me and said, 'Iraq. Saddam. Find out if there's a connection.' The CIA/FBI report we sent to the president got bounced back saying, 'Wrong answer. Do it again.' I don't think the president sees memos that he wouldn't like the answer."

The day after the attack, the president did not ask about Osama bin Laden. He did not ask Mr. Clarke about al-Qaeda. He did not ask about Saudi Arabia or any country other than Iraq. When Clarke responded to that first question by saying that Iraq was not responsible for the attack and that al-Qaeda was, the president persisted in focusing on Iraq.

Source: The Assault on Reason, by Al Gore, p.107-108 , Jul 1, 2008

Campaign to sell the Iraq War began with 2002 UN speech

Bush's 9/16/02 UN speech signaled a stepped-up effort in the administration's carefully scripted campaign to win broad public support for a possible military confrontation:
"If Iraq's regime defies us again, the world must move decisively to hold Iraq to account. We will work with the UN Security Council for the necessary resolutions. But the purpose of the US should not be doubted. The Security Council resolutions will be enforced. And a regime that has lost its legitimacy will also lose it power."
Bush's speech provided new talking points for "educating the public about the threat" (as we described the campaign to sell the war).

Of course, not all Americans supported the idea of confronting Iraq. But more than 8 in 10 believe the regime of Saddam Hussein supported terrorist organizations intent on attacking America, and more than 9 in 10 believed it possessed or was developing WMD. A majority also believed--erroneously--that Saddam was involved in the 9/11 attacks.

Source: What Happened, by Scott McClellan, p.119-121 , May 28, 2008

2004: Unwilling to admit mistakes in invading Iraq

[At a press conference in April 2004, a reporter asked], "After 9/11, what would your biggest mistake be? What lessons have you learned from it?" The president responded, "I'm sure historians will look back and say, gosh, he could have done it better this way or that way. I'm sure something will pop into my head here in the midst of this press conference, with all the pressure of trying to come up with an answer, but it hadn't yet." His response was followed by an agonizingly long pause.

Finally th president came out with a rambling, rather incoherent, ultimately unsatisfying response: "Even knowing what I know today about the stockpiles of weapons, I still would have called upon the world to deal with Saddam Hussein. We'll find out the truth about the weapons at some point in time."

[In the debriefing afterwards], Bush said, "I kept thinking what they wanted me to say--that it was a mistake to go into Iraq. And I'm not going to. It was the right decision." His tone was cocksure & matter-of-fact.

Source: What Happened, by Scott McClellan, p.204-207 , May 28, 2008

Iraq was top issue at start of presidency, even before 9/11

On Monday [after the inauguration], our first full work day, we hit the ground running. Even at the outset, Iraq was looming in the background. That very Monday, the New York Times, citing a new internal U.S. government intelligence estimate, ran a front-page story about Iraq rebuilding factories "that the US has long suspected of producing chemical and biological weapons, according to senior government officials." The Times called it an early test of Bush's pledge to "take a tougher stance against Saddam Hussein than his immediate predecessor had.

Iraq would continue to be a top issue of administration focus and media interest in months to come. The National Security Council made Iraq an early priority of the policy formulation process. As for that first day, with no new policy in place, we simply told the press that the president expected Saddam Hussein to live up to his agreement with the United Nations that his regime not produce weapons of mass destruction.

Source: What Happened, by Scott McClellan, p. 89 & 93 , May 28, 2008

Adviser resigned after revealing Iraq might cost $200B

The Wall Street Journal ran a story quoting Bush's chief economic adviser, Larry Lindsey, offering an analytical opinion as to the cost of a possible war with Iraq: somewhere between $100 and $200 billion.

Looking at those numbers from today's perspective, with the Iraq war having lasted five years and counting, they look comfortably low (though Lindsey assumed the costs would be for a war of shorter duration). But at the time, when many--especially within the administration--expected a relatively quick & easy war, followed by a smooth transition funded largely by Iraqi oil, they seemed high.

But Lindsey's biggest mistake wasn't the size of the figures he chose to cite. It was citing any figures at all. Talking about the projected cost of a potential war wasn't part of the script. In fact, none of the possible unpleasant consequences of war--casualties, economic effect, geopolitical risks, diplomatic repercussions--were part of the message. [Lindsey ended up resigning as a result]

Source: What Happened, by Scott McClellan, p.121-123 , May 28, 2008

OpEd: Bush had decided by Nov. 2001 to invade Iraq

When & why Bush made the decision to go to war in Iraq are probably the most fundamental questions to explore in order to understand the way his administration went about selling it to the American people.

Bush's foreign policy team had always held Saddam in low regard. Even before 9/11, the Bush team advocated tougher measures against the Iraqi regime than those employed by the Clinton administration.

But after 9/11, the president and his team took an even closer look at Iraq. They quickly came to view the war on terror as a broad war with many fronts--potentially including an invasion of Iraq. This was why Bush pulled Rumsfeld aside in a private one-on-one discussion in late Nov. 2001, and instructed him to update the Pentagon's war plans for Iraq. That meant, in effect, Bush had already made the decision to go to war--even if he convinced himself it might still be avoided. But as I would learn upon reflection, war was inevitable given the course of action the president set from the beginning

Source: What Happened, by Scott McClellan, p.127 , May 28, 2008

2003: No difference if Saddam had WMD or trying to get WMD

In Oct. 2003, the Iraq Study Group "discovered dozens of WMD program-related activities" but no WMD. Our talking point had now shifted from focusing on WMD to WMD programs.

In a Dec. 2003 interview with Diane Sawyer, Bush said the intelligence had been sound and that "there was no doubt that Saddam Hussein was a threat." He repeated his assertion that he had made the right decision regardless of the presence or absence of WMD. "Saddam Hussein was a danger and the world is better off because we got rid of him," he said.

Sawyer focused on the distinction between WMD and WMD programs, since the administration had previously asserted "that there were WMD, as opposed to the possibility that he could move to acquire those weapons."

Bush's response was telling: "So what's the difference?" Bush asked. The president's response was criticized by Democrats, some of whom noted that the rationale had been that the Iraqi regime posed an urgent threat that required preemptive action.

Source: What Happened, by Scott McClellan, p.200-201 , May 28, 2008

No difference between war of necessity and war of choice

During a Feb. 2004 interview, Tim Russert asked, "In light of not finding WMD, do you believe the war in Iraq is a war of choice or a war of necessity?" The president said, "It's a war of necessity. In my judgment, we had no choice, when we look at the intelligence I looked at, that says the man was a threat."

Following the interview, Bush seemed puzzled and asked me what Russert was getting at with the question. Surely this distinction between a necessary, unavoidable war and a war that the US could have avoided but chose to wage was an obvious one.

But evidently it wasn't obvious to the president. It strikes me today as an indication of his lack of inquisitiveness and his detrimental resistance to reflection.

Most objective observers today would say that in 2003 there was no urgent need to address the threat posed by Saddam with a large-scale invasion, and therefore the war was not necessary. But this is a question President Bush seems not to want to grapple with.

Source: What Happened, by Scott McClellan, p.202-203 , May 28, 2008

OpEd: Selling war instead of open debate damaged presidency

Selling war through a political marketing campaign rather than openly and forthrightly discussing the possible need for war with the American people is fraught with danger. Today we are seeing its destructive results play out. The president has seen his once seemingly untouchable credibility--his honesty and trustworthiness--plummet, leaving questions of deliberate deception lingering in the public discourse.

I still like and admire George W. Bush, and I do not believe he or his White House deliberately or consciously sought to deceive the American people. But he and his advisers confused the propaganda campaign with the high level of candor and honesty so fundamentally needed to build and then sustain public support during a time of war. Had a high level of openness and forthrightness been embraced from the outset of his administration, I believe President Bush's public standing would be stronger today. In this regard, he was terribly ill-served by his national security advisers.

Source: What Happened, by Scott McClellan, p.312 , May 28, 2008

OpEd: Linked Saddam & al-Qaeda despite lack of evidence

[The neo-conservative] vision of a democratic Middle East would inject a large permanent American force presence in the region to act as the guarantor of a regional realignment. They believed that by taking the relatively easy step of toppling Saddam, they could begin to realize this vision through the use of America's unequaled military power, thereby establishing America's preeminence in the Middle East and bolstering the defense of Israel. They obviously made a convincing case to the president.

There was never any reliable evidence or intelligence linking Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda or any terrorist group. But the Bush administration continued to propound this fabrication. They knew that America, thrown tragically off balance by the terrorist attack of 9/11, was susceptible to incessant administration warnings that more terrorist attacks were coming unless we acted against Saddam Hussein--one of the triumvirate of Bush's "axis of evil."

Source: Our Next Chapter, by Chuck Hagel, p. 50 , Mar 25, 2008

2002 NIE said Saddam making nukes by 2007; Bush said 2002

Bush was to give a speech on Oct. 7 2002 spelling out the case against Saddam. The CIA kept tabs on what Bush was going to say, and at one point realized that Bush planned to nake an alarming claim about a potential Saddam nuclear program, by charging that Iraq had been caught trying to buy uranium oxide in Africa.

“You need to take this sentence out because we don’t believe it,” CIA Directot Geroge Tenet said to Bush’s aide. The speech was edited to say “Many people have asked how close Saddam is to developing a nuclear weapon. We don’t know exactly, and that’s the problem.“ It was a modest claim that accurately reflected the National Intelligence Estimate. The to psecret NIE said that ”Iraq does not have a nuclear weapon but is likely to have a weapon by 2007 to 2009.“

But instead of saying that a nuclear Iraq was 5 years off, Bush warned, ”Facing clear evidence of peril, we cannot wait for the final proof--the smoking gun--that would come in the form of a mushroom cloud.“

Source: State of Denial, by Bob Woodward, p. 97 , Oct 1, 2006

Decision to invade Iraq was certain by fall 2002

In the fall of 2002, CIA chief George Tenet and Bush had a 30-second conversation in which Bush made it clear that war with Iraq was necessary and inevitable. Tenet was extremely surprised, but the president’s short remarks were made with such conviction that Tenet suddenly realized they were on a march to war. All the war planning had a specific purpose. Bush said that the risks presented by Saddam would grow with time. “We’re not going to wait,” he said.

One CIA analyst asked Tenet if it really looked like war. “You bet,” Tenet said bluntly. “It’s not a matter of if. It’s a matter of when. This president is going to war. Make the plans. We’re going.”

Tenet didn’t think that invading Iraq was the right thing to do. But Tenet never conveyed these misgivings to the president. Bush had never asked him directly for his bottom-line counsel, although Tenet felt that Bush had nonetheless opened the door to the point where Tenet could have said, “No, we shouldn’t do this.” But Tenet never said it.

Source: State of Denial, by Bob Woodward, p. 89-90&106 , Oct 1, 2006

Claimed 946 WMD sites “known”; none found

[After the invasion of Iraq, the US forces began searching for WMD, based on a list of 946 suspected sites known as the WMDMSL, or Weapons of Mass Destruction Master Site List. One analyst said], “946 sites! They couldn’t be wrong about all of them, could they?” But so far there had been no WMD stockpiles found.

Then on May 29, Bush declared, “We have found the WMD. We found biological laboratories. They’re illegal. They’re against the UN resolutions, and we’ve so far discovered two. And we’ll find more weapons as time goes on. But for those who say we haven’t found the banned manufacturing devices or banned weapons, they’re wrong. We found them.“

Bush made similar remarks in other interviews. The only problem was that the weapons hadn’t actually been found. Despite a series of highly publicized false positives, each time the military found a smoking gun--an alleged stockpile, a vat or even a small vial of biological weapons--it would soon be discredited.

Source: State of Denial, by Bob Woodward, p.160&209-210 , Oct 1, 2006

Kay Report: WMDs never existed; hence WMD-related activities

David Kay gave an interim report on Iraqi WMDs to Congress in Oct. 2003. “We have not yet found stocks of weapons,” Kay said, but said he had found “dozens of WMD-related program activities.” In essence, Kay was trying to have it both ways: No stockpiles had been found but they might someday be found.

In his state of the union speech in Jan.2004, Bush did not refer to “WMD,” but to “weapons of mass destruction related program activities.” Kay urged others to follow the president’s lead, to stop talking about WMD, and to stop building a case for the Iraq war based on the actual weapons, “because you’re not going to find that.”

“I don’t think they existed,” Kay said when asked about the WMD. “We were almost all wrong, and I certainly include myself. It is important to acknowledge failure.”

How did US intelligence miss all this? “We missed it because the Iraqis actually behaved like they had weapons,” Kay said. Saddam didn’t have WMD but wanted to appear as if he did. His purpose was deception.

Source: State of Denial, by Bob Woodward, p.258&277-278 , Oct 1, 2006

CIA’s Tenet considered “slam dunk” his dumbest 2 words ever

In April 2004, Plan of Attack was published, reporting that three months before the war, CIA Director George Tenet had twice told the president that the intelligence case on Iraq’s WMD was a “slam dunk.” Tenet later claimed he did not remember saying “slam dunk,” though he did not dispute it. He asserted that the meeting was to determine what intelligence could be made public to “market” the case for war, as reported in Plan of Attack.

But a public case for war could hardly be a “slam dunk“ if the CIA Director did not believe that the underlying intelligence was also a ”slam dunk.“ Obviously, Tenet had believed it was, based on the NIE of three months earlier. Tenet has a strong case when he asserts that his ”slam dunk“ assertion did not cause the president to decide on war. Tenet believes Bush had already made the decision.

In 2005, Tenet was asked publicly about the ”slam dunk“ comment. ”Those are the two dumbest words I ever said,“ h replied.

Source: State of Denial, by Bob Woodward, p.303-304 , Oct 1, 2006

President, not Congress, decides on Iraq investigations

Since taking office in 2001, President Bush has issued signing statements on more than 750 new laws, declaring that he has the power to set aside the laws when they conflict with his legal interpretation of the Constitution. The federal government is instructed to follow the statements when it enforces the laws. Here is an example:

Law passed by Congress on Nov. 6, 2003: US officials in Iraq cannot prevent an inspector general for the Coalition Provisional Authority from carrying out any investigation. The inspector general must tell Congress if officials refuse to cooperate with his inquiries.

Signing statement: The inspector general ‘’shall refrain“ from investigating anything involving sensitive plans, intelligence, national security, or anything already being investigated by the Pentagon. The inspector cannot tell Congress anything if the president decides that disclosing the information would impair foreign relations, national security, or executive branch operations.

Source: Boston Globe analysis of presidential signing statements , Apr 30, 2006

FactCheck: Yes, Bush gave 23 different rationales for war

KERRY-EDWARDS CLAIM:“By one count, the president offered 23 different rationales for this war.”

CNN FACT CHECK:The source for this count was a Devon Largio, a University of Illinois college senior, who addressed the topic in her senior thesis. A Kerry campaign spokesman initially described this paper as a “doctoral dissertation.” The implication in Kerry’s speech was that Bush gave 23 different rationales for war, but some of the rationales listed in this student paper are somewhat repetitive- for example “prevent[ing] the proliferation of WMD” and “the lack of inspections” both deal with the threat of WMDs. Largio also lists “the desire to remove the Hussein regime” and “the fact that Saddam Hussein was an evil dictator” as separate, discrete rationales. Largio graduated in spring 2004, and now is a law student at Vanderbilt University. The Bush campaign responds to the charge by saying there were indeed many reasons to go to war, including the threat of WMDs.

Source: CNN FactCheck on 2004 statements by Bush and Kerry , Oct 29, 2004

FactCheck: Yes, troops had inadequate body armor

KERRY-EDWARDS CLAIM:“You don’t send troops to war without the body armor that they need.”

CNN FACT CHECK:After frequent criticism that he voted against body armor, Kerry accused Bush of not providing enough body armor for troops. Army Gen. John Abizaid, chief of the US Central Command, told a congressional committee on Sept. 24, 2003, that there was not enough of the best-grade body armor to equip all the troops in Iraq at the start of the war. However, as Republicans often point out, Kerry voted against Bush’s $87 billion Iraq/Afghanistan reconstruction bill in 2003, which included a $300 million request for state-of-the-art body armor for troops in Iraq. There were no up-or-down votes on funding specific pieces of equipment, so Kerry did not specifically cast a vote against body armor. Kerry did support a Democratic alternative reconstruction bill (which also included body armor funding) that would have temporarily rolled back Bush’s tax cuts for those making $400,000 or more annually.

Source: CNN FactCheck on 2004 statements by Bush and Kerry , Oct 29, 2004

Bush rejected NATO’s suggestion to help training in Iraq

KERRY: Two weeks ago, there was a meeting of the North Atlantic Council, which is the political arm of NATO. They discussed the possibility of a small training unit or having a total takeover of the training in Iraq. Did the Bush administration push for the total training of Iraq? No. Were they silent? Yes. Was there an effort to bring all the allies together around that? No. Because they’ve always wanted this to be an American effort. They even have the Defense Department issue a memorandum saying don’t bother applying for assistance or for being part of the reconstruction if you weren’t part of our original coalition.

BUSH: Two days ago I met with the finance minister from Iraq. He came to see me and talked about how optimistic he was and the country was about heading toward elections. My opponent says he has a plan. It sounds familiar because it’s called the Bush plan. We’re going to train troops, and we are. We’ll have 125,000 trained by the end of December. We’re spending about $7 billion.

Source: [X-ref Kerry] Second Bush-Kerry debate, St. Louis, MO , Oct 8, 2004

Other nations will not risk troops in a war called a mistake

BUSH: He talks about a grand idea; let’s have a summit; we’re going to solve the problem in Iraq by holding a summit. And what is he going to say to those people that show up to the summit? Join me in the wrong war at the wrong time at the wrong place? Risk your troops in a war you’ve called a mistake? Nobody is going to follow somebody who doesn’t believe we can succeed and somebody who says the war where we are is a mistake.

KERRY: The right war was Osama bin Laden and Afghanistan. That was the right place. And the right time was Tora Bora when we had him cornered in the mountains. Everyone in the world knows that there were no weapons of mass destruction. That was the reason Congress gave him the authority to use force, not an excuse to get rid of the regime. Now we have to succeed. I’ve always said that. I have been consistent. Yes, we have to succeed, and I have a better plan to help us do it.

Source: Second Bush-Kerry debate, St. Louis, MO , Oct 8, 2004

FactCheck: Iraq reconstruction money is not flowing

BUSH: (Referring to Iraq) There will be elections in January. We’re spending reconstruction money. And our alliance is strong.

FACT-CHECK: Bush gave a rosy picture of progress in Iraq, glossing over significant problems with reconstruction contracts and training of Iraqi security forces. Bush cited as a sign of progress in Iraq that the US is “spending reconstruction money,” when in fact the slow pace of spending has become a major problem for US officials. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage testified to a House Appropriations subcommittee Sept. 24 that only $1.2 billion in reconstruction money had actually been spent so far, out of the total of $18 billion that was appropriated almost a year earlier in “emergency” funds for Iraq and Afghanistan.

Source: Analysis of first Bush-Kerry debate (FactCheck 2004) , Oct 1, 2004

FactCheck: “100,000 trained” are mostly 3-week police course

BUSH: The best way for Iraq to be safe and secure is for Iraqi citizens to be trained to do the job. And that’s what we’re doing. There are 100,000 troops trained, police, guard, special units, border patrol. There’s going to be 125,000 trained by the en of this year. Yes, we’re getting the job done. It’s hard work.

FACT-CHECK: Bush’s “100,000 troops” trained to date is the official figure, but the President failed to mention that many trainees have received nothing more than a 3-week course in police procedures-Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage clarified in House testimony:

ARMITAGE: It’s 100,000 total security forces, and I don’t want anyone to make the mistake that security force equals soldier-could be the 8-week trained policemen, of which there are a little over 8,000, or it could be what I refer to as the shake-and-bake 3-week police force, which are previous policemen who are now given a 3-weeks course. So it’s a mixed bag , but there are about 100,000 total security forces.

Source: Analysis of first Bush-Kerry debate (FactCheck 2004) , Oct 1, 2004

You can’t lead the country if you criticize the Iraqi war

Kerry wants you to forget is that he voted to authorize the use of force and now says it’s the wrong war at the wrong time at the wrong place. I don’t see how you can lead this country to succeed in Iraq if you say wrong war, wrong time, wrong place. What message does that send our troops? What message does that send to our allies? What message does that send the Iraqis? The way to win this is to be steadfast and resolved and to follow through on the plan that I’ve just outlined.
Source: First Bush-Kerry debate, Miami FL , Sep 30, 2004

Commander in chief shouldn’t give mixed messages to troops

BUSH: Kerry says help is on the way, but what kind of message does it say to our troops in harm’s way, wrong war, wrong place, wrong time? Not a message a commander in chief gives, or this is a great diversion. As well, help is on the way, but it’s certainly hard to tell it when he voted against the $87-billion supplemental to provide equipment for our troops, and then said he actually did vote for it before he voted against it.

KERRY: When I talked about the $87 billion, I made a mistake in how I talk about the war. But the president made a mistake in invading Iraq. Which is worse? I believe that when you know something’s going wrong, you make it right. That’s what I learned in Vietnam. When I came back from that war I saw that it was wrong. Some people don’t like the fact that I stood up to say no, but I did. And that’s what I did with that vote. And I’m going to lead those troops to victory.

Source: First Bush-Kerry debate, Miami FL , Sep 30, 2004

There are summits being held-world won’t follow “wrong war”

BUSH: I sit down with the world leaders frequently and talk to them on the phone frequently. They’re not going to follow somebody who says this is the wrong war at the wrong place at the wrong time. They’re not going to follow somebody whose core convictions keep changing because of politics in America. There are summits being held. Japan is going to have a summit for the donors; $14 billion pledged; the Prime Minister is going to call countries to account, to get them to contribute. And there’s going to be an Arab summit, of the neighborhood countries. And Colin Powell helped set up that summit.

KERRY: The UN and Kofi Annan offered help after Baghdad fell. We never took him up on that and did what was necessary to transfer authority and to transfer reconstruction. It was always American-run. Secondly, when we went in, there were three countries: Great Britain, Australia and the US. That’s not a grand coalition. We can do better.

BUSH: He forgot Poland. And now there’s 30 nations involved

Source: First Bush-Kerry debate, Miami FL , Sep 30, 2004

Can’t change the dynamics in Iraq by criticizing the leader

KERRY: I will make a flat statement: The US has no long-term designs on staying in Iraq. Our goal in my administration would be to get all of the troops out of there with a minimal amount you need for training and logistics as we do in some other countries in the world after a war to be able to sustain the peace. But that’s how we’re going to win the peace, by rapidly training the Iraqis themselves. Even the Bush administration has admitted they haven’t done the training, because they came back to Congress a few weeks ago and asked for a complete reprogramming of the money.

BUSH: You can’t change the dynamics on the ground if you’ve criticized the brave leader of Iraq. The way to make sure that we succeed is to send consistent, sound messages to the Iraqi people that when we give our word, we will keep our word, that we stand with you, that we believe you want to be free. And I do. I reject the notion that some say that if you’re Muslim you can’t free, you don’t desire freedom.

Source: [Xref Kerry] First Bush-Kerry debate, Miami FL , Sep 30, 2004

I know bin Laden attacked; but Saddam had WMD-capabilities

BUSH: I know Osama bin Laden attacked us. Secondly, to think that another round of resolutions would have caused Saddam Hussein to disarm, disclose, is ludicrous, in my judgment. It just shows a significant difference of opinion. We tried diplomacy. We did our best. He was hoping to turn a blind eye. He would have been stronger had we not dealt with him. He had the capability of making weapons, and he would have made weapons.

KERRY: 35 to 40 countries in the world had a greater capability of making weapons at the moment the president invaded than Saddam Hussein. And while he’s been diverted, with 9 out of 10 active duty divisions of our Army, either going to Iraq, coming back from Iraq, or getting ready to go, North Korea’s gotten nuclear weapons and the world is more dangerous. Iran is moving toward nuclear weapons and the world is more dangerous. Darfur has a genocide. The world is more dangerous. I’d have made a better choice.

Source: First Bush-Kerry debate, Miami FL , Sep 30, 2004

CIA argued against “16 words” but took responsibility

The biggest flap arose over Bush’s sixteen-word statement in his State of the Union speech that British intelligence believed Saddam had been trying to buy uranium from Niger. To be sure, George Tenet, as director of Central Intelligence, did not believe the information was solid enough to include in Bush’s speech. Yet when Bush said it, the statement was true.

In fact, M16, the British intelligence service, still believed that its intelligence about Niger was correct. Contrary to the news reports, its information did not rely on bogus documents. Nor did Powell mention Niger eight days after the State of the Union in his formal presentation to the United Nations. Few news stories mentioned these points.

Tenet stepped up to the plate and said he took overall responsibility for the fact that, when reviewing drafts of the president’s speech, his agency did not object more vigorously to citing the Niger report. [Tenet resigned in July 2004]

Source: A Matter of Character, by Ronald Kessler, p.196-97 , Aug 5, 2004

Majority misunderstood that Bush connected Saddam with 9/11

Gore said the war was started because of “false impressions” that Hussein was “on the verge of building nuclear bombs,” that he was “about to give the terrorists poison gas and deadly germs,” and that he was “partly responsible for the 9/11 attacks.”

The “impressions” were, in fact, mis-impressions. To be sure, a majority of Americans thought that Bush had said Saddam Hussein was involved in the September 11 attacks. But they confused Bush’s simple point that, after 9/11, America must never again be in the position of passively waiting for an attack by a country like Iraq.

“After September 11, the doctrine of containment just doesn’t hold any water, as far as I’m concerned,” Bush said with typical bluntness. “We must deal with threats before they hurt the American people again.”

In his interim report, David Kay, the leader of the US hunt for Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction, concluded that his team “discovered dozens of WMD-related program activities. concealed from the UN.”

Source: A Matter of Character, by Ronald Kessler, p.200-01 , Aug 5, 2004

CIA report hedged on whether Saddam had WMD

The CIA had never declared categorically that it believed Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction. The Dec. 2000 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) concluded that Hussein “retained a small stockpile” of chemical warfare agents-not actual warheads perhaps 100 tons. This conclusion was drawn largely from accounting discrepancies between UN [reports of what had been destroyed].

A long NIE has a section called “Key Judgments” in which the intelligence analysts would try to give a bottom-line answer If the Key Judgments used words such as “maybe” or “probably,” the NIE would be “pablum.” The real and best answer was that Saddam probably had WMD, but that there was no proof and the case was circumstantial. [But the final] document said under the Key Judgments, without qualification, “Baghdad has chemical and biological weapons.” No pablum. From that attention-getting assertion, the NIE makes muted but clear equivocations. In the end, the hedging and backing off telegraphed immense doubt.

Source: Plan of Attack, by Bob Woodward, adapted in Washington Post , Apr 19, 2004

CIA chief told Bush “slam dunk” that Saddam had WMD

[On Dec. 21, 2002, CIA director George] Tenet went to the Oval Office to present “The Case” on WMD to the president, Cheney, Rice, & Andrew Card. [When the presentation was done], there was a look on the president’s face of, What’s this? And then a brief moment of silence. “Nice try,” Bush said. “I don’t think this is quite something that Joe Public would understand or would gain a lot of confidence from.” Bush turned to Tenet. “I’ve been told all this intelligence about having WMD and this is the best we’ve got?“

Tenet rose up, threw him arms in the air. ”It’s a slam-dunk case!“ the director of central intelligence said. It was unusual for Tenet to be so certain. Cheney could think of no reason to question Tenet’s assertion. Bush said of Tenet’s reassurance -- ”That was very important.“

”Needs a lot more work,“ Bush told Card & Rice. ”Let’s get some people who’ve actually put together a case for a jury.“ The president told Tenet several times, ”Make sure no one stretches to make our case.“

Source: Plan of Attack, by Bob Woodward, adapted in Washington Post , Apr 19, 2004

Clarke: Bush insisted on connecting 9-11 with Saddam

On September 12th, I left the video conferencing center and there, wandering alone around the situation room, was the president. He looked like he wanted something to do. He grabbed a few of us and closed the door to the conference room. “Look,” he told us, “I know you have a lot to do and all, but I want you, as soon as you can, to go back over everything, everything. See if Saddam did this. See if he’s linked in any way.”

I was once again taken aback, incredulous, and it showed. “But, Mr. President, Al Qaeda did this.”

“I know, I know, but - see if Saddam was involved. Just look. I want to know any shred-”

“Absolutely, we will look-again.” I was trying to be more respectful, more responsive. “But you know, we have looked several times for state sponsorship of Al Qaeda and not found any real linkages to Iraq. Iran plays a little, as does Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia, Yemen.”

“Look into Iraq, Saddam,” the president said testily and left us.

Source: Against All Enemies, by Richard Clarke, chapter 1 , Mar 23, 2004

Bush admin knew Iraq not a threat, & had no time for terror

[Anti-terror czar Dick Clarke said], “I am unaware of any Iraqi-sponsored terrorism directed at the US since 1993, and I think FBI and CIA concur in that judgment?” CIA Deputy Director John McLaughlin replied, “Yes, that is right. We have no evidence of any active Iraqi terrorist threat against the US.”

The truth was that the [Bush administration had] a full agenda and a backlog of Bush priority issues: the Antiballistic Missile Treaty, the Kyoto agreement, and Iraq. There was no time for terrorism.“

Source: Against All Enemies, by Richard Clarke, p.231-234 , Mar 23, 2004

Clarke: CIA and FBI intelligence failures allowed 9/11

Somewhere in CIA there was information that two known al Qaeda terrorists had come into the US. Somewhere in FBI there was information that strange things had been going on at flight schools in the US. Could we have stopped the September 11 attack? It would be facile to say yes. What is clear is that there were failures in the organizations that we trusted to protect us, failures to get information to the right place at the right time, earlier failures to act boldly to reduce or eliminate the threat.
Source: Against All Enemies, by Richard Clarke, p.236-8 , Mar 23, 2004

Clarke: Bush Iraq policy generates Islamic hatred of America

[Clarke says, “Ideological infiltrations by al Qaeda] would not inflame Islamic opinion and further radicalize Muslim youth into heightened hatred of America in the way invading Iraq has done. We and our values needed to be more appealing to Muslims than al Qaeda is. Far from addressing the popular appeal of the enemy that attacked us, Bush handed that enemy precisely what it wanted and needed, proof that America was at war with Islam, that we were the new Crusaders come to occupy Muslim land.”
Source: Against All Enemies, by Richard Clarke, p.245-6 , Mar 23, 2004

Fact Check: No evidence of bio, chemical, or nuclear WMDs

FACTCHECK on WMD: The President made no mention of the failure so far to locate nuclear, chemical or biological weapons in Iraq.

BUSH: We are seeking all the facts. Already the Kay Report identified dozens of weapons of mass destruction-related program activities and significant amounts of equipment that Iraq concealed from the UN.

FACTCHECK: True, former UN weapons inspector David Kay, now heading the US effort to locate Saddam Hussein’s unconventional weapons, did report that last October. But Kay also told the House and Senate intelligence committees:

KAY: We have not yet found stocks of weapons. We have not yet been able to corroborate the existence of a mobile biological weapons production effort. Multiple sources say that Iraq did not have a large, ongoing, centrally controlled chemical warfare program after 1991. To date we have not uncovered evidence that Iraq undertook significant post-1998 steps to actually build nuclear weapons or produce fissile material.

Source: FactCheck.org on the 2004 State of the Union address , Jan 20, 2004

O’Neill: Bush planned on war in Iraq before 9/11

Bush’s campaign positions, that the US would be noninterventionist-that we would hesitate to become embroiled in disputes; that we would be ‘humble abroad’ and not ‘engage in nation-building’-were the very opposite of the policy that O’Neill & Powell saw unfolding. Actual plans, to O’Neill’s astonishment, were already being discussed to take over Iraq & occupy it-complete with disposition of oil fields, peacekeeping forces, and war crimes tribunals-carrying forward an unspoken doctrine of preemptive war.
Source: The Price of Loyalty, by Ron Suskind, p. 129 , Jan 13, 2004

Paul O’Neill: Bush planned to overthrow Saddam before 9/11

Former Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill said he never saw any evidence that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction-President Bush’s main justification for going to war.

In a new book chronicling his rocky two-year tenure and in an interview with CBS’s “60 Minutes”, O’Neill said removing Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein was a top priority at Bush’s very first National Security Council meeting-within days of the inauguration and eight months before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

O’Neill told CBS the discussion of Iraq continued at the next National Security Council meeting two days later and that he was given internal memos, including one outlining a “Plan for post-Saddam Iraq.”

“In the 23 months I was there, I never saw anything that I would characterize as evidence of weapons of mass destruction,” O’Neill told Time magazine in a separate interview. “There were allegations and assertions by people... To me there is a difference between real evidence and everything else.”

Source: [X-ref O’Neill] Adam Entous, Reuters, on AOL News , Jan 11, 2004

Saddam’s uranium from Niger: admits facts were not checked

President Bush’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board has concluded that his 2003 State of the Union address included information about Iraq’s weapons program that wasn’t checked carefully.

In an effort to draw support for waging war with Iraq, Bush told the nation in January: “The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.”

An Advisory Board source said the report concludes there was no intention to deceive; instead it was “a goof“ as the administration searched for examples to share with the public of why the US believed Iraq was attempting to build a nuclear program.

The Bush administration initially defended the inclusion of the sentence under pressure to explain how the speech was written based on information that was known to be unreliable. After a US Ambassador sent to Niger to investigate said publicly it was false, the White House acknowledged in July that the line should not have been included in Bush’s speech.

Source: Dana Bash, CNN.com , Dec 25, 2003

Rejected Powell’s plan for refocused UN sanctions on Iraq

In 2000, many within the Republican Party cited Iraq as dangerous unfinished business-a code word for weak leadership by Clinton/Gore. Work on a new policy for Iraq began soon after the inauguration of the new president, George W. Bush, when Colin Powell visited the region in Feb. 2001. He returned a few days later to call for narrower, more focused sanctions-the so-called smart sanctions-as a way of rebuilding UN support for the sanctions regime. But the effort died inside the Bush administration itself
Source: Winning Modern Wars, by Wesley Clark, chapter 1 , Oct 26, 2003


George W. Bush on Mideast

2002: Palestinian peace not possible with Arafat in power

In 2002, the Israeli navy intercepted a ship in the Red Sea with an arsenal of deadly weapons headed from Iran to Gaza. Yasser Arafat sent a letter pleading his innocence. "The smuggling of arms is in total contradiction of the Palestinian Authority's commitment to the peace process," he wrote. But we and the Israelis had evidence that disproved the Palestinian leader's claim. Arafat had lied to me. I never trusted him again. In fact, I never spoke to him again. By the spring of 2002, I had concluded that peace would not be possible with Arafat in power.

I said on June 24, 2022, "There is simply no way to achieve that peace until all parties fight terror. I call on the Palestinian people to elect new leaders, leaders not compromised by terror."

While I considered Arafat a failed leader, many in the foreign policy world accepted the view that Arafat represented the best hope for peace. By rejecting Arafat, the heralded Nobel Peace Prize winner, I had upended their worldview.

Source: Decision Points, by Pres. George W. Bush, p.400-405 , Nov 9, 2010

Prevent Iranian nukes to avoid WWIII

We worked with the UN Security Council to ban Iranian arms exports, freeze key Iranian assets, and prohibit any country from providing Iran with nuclear weapons-related equipment.

Persuading the Europeans, Russians, and Chinese to agree on the sanction was a diplomatic achievement. Every member faced the temptation to take commercial advantage. I frequently reminded our partners about the dangers of a nuclear-armed Iran. In 2007 a reporter asked me about Iran. "I've told people that if you're intereste in avoiding WWIII," I said, "It seems like you ought to be interested in preventing them from having the knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon."

My reference to World War III produced near hysteria. Protestors showed up outside my speeches with signs that read, "Keep Us Out of Iran." Journalists authorized breathless, gossip-laden stories portraying America on the brink of war. They all missed the point. I wasn't looking to start a war. I was trying to hold our coalition together to avoid one.

Source: Decision Points, by Pres. George W. Bush, p.418 , Nov 9, 2010

2002: First president to support Palestinian state

The president's key to success, he declared, would be the creation of a Palestinian state. This was groundbreaking. No American president had ever backed an independent Palestinian state.

The president unveiled his Israeli-Arab peace plan in 2002. He pledged that America would support founding a Palestinian state in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, the "disputed territories" that Israel had occupied since the end of the 6-Day War in 1967.

But the new Palestinian nation was not to be. As in Iraq, the president would make matters worse in the West Bank & Gaza, not better. Over the next 5 years, his actions on the peace process--importantly, his very INACTION--seemed designed to ensure that the Palestinians would not achieve a homeland in the occupied territories.

Some may be credulous enough to believe the president sincerely worked for peace between Israel and the Palestinians; but the only people rejoicing in his policy are the leaders of Hamas and a minority of Israeli clashists.

Source: Against the Tide, by Sen. Lincoln Chafee, p.204-205 , Apr 1, 2008

Iran: suspend nuclear enrichment before any negotiations

We’re standing against the forces of extremism embodied by the regime in Tehran. Wherever freedom advances in the Middle East, it seems the Iranian regime is there to oppose it. Iran is funding and training militia groups in Iraq, supporting Hezbollah terrorists in Lebanon, & backing Hamas’ efforts to undermine peace in the Holy Land. Tehran is also developing ballistic missiles of increasing range, & continues to develop its capability to enrich uranium, which could be used to create a nuclear weapon

Our message to the people of Iran is clear: We have no quarrel with you. Our message to the leaders of Iran is also clear: Verifiably suspend your nuclear enrichment, so negotiations can begin. And to rejoin the community of nations, come clean about your nuclear intentions and past actions, stop your oppression at home, cease your support for terror abroad. But above all, know this: America will confront those who threaten our troops, and we will defend our vital interests in the Persian Gulf.

Source: 2008 State of the Union address to Congress , Jan 28, 2008

Hamas must disarm and reject terrorism and work peace

The Palestinian people have voted in elections, and now the leaders of Hamas must recognize Israel, disarm, reject terrorism and work for lasting peace. Democracies in the Middle East will not look like our own, because they will reflect the traditions of their own citizens. Yet liberty is the future of every nation in the Middle East, because liberty is the right and hope of all humanity.
Source: 2006 State of the Union Address , Jan 31, 2006

Confront Iran as terrorism sponsor; hold Syria accountable

To promote peace in the broader Middle East, we must confront regimes that continue to harbor terrorists and pursue weapons of mass murder. Syria still allows its territory, and parts of Lebanon, to be used by terrorists who seek to destroy every chance of peace in the region. [Congress has] passed, and we are applying, the Syrian Accountability Act, and we expect the Syrian government to end all support for terror and open the door to freedom.

Today, Iran remains the world’s primary state sponsor of terror, pursuing nuclear weapons while depriving its people of the freedom they seek and deserve. We are working with European allies to make clear to the Iranian regime that it must give up its uranium enrichment program and any plutonium reprocessing and end its support for terror. And to the Iranian people, I say tonight: As you stand for your own liberty, America stands with you.

Source: 2005 State of the Union Speech , Feb 2, 2005

$350M for Palestinian reforms

To promote democracy [in Israel and Palestine], I will ask Congress for $350 million to support Palestinian political, economic, and security reforms. The goal of two democratic states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace is within reach -- and America will help them achieve that goal.
Source: 2005 State of the Union Speech , Feb 2, 2005

Bush supports peaceful Palestinian state

In a recent meeting with the Malaysian prime minister, President Bush spoke about an eventual Palestinian state: “I told him that I am fully committed to the development of a Palestinian state that can live side by side with Israel in peace.” To the president, the key is a Palestinian leader that Israel can trust and work with - meaning one without Yasser Arafat.
Source: Brent Hurd, Voice of America News , Sep 16, 2004

First president to use the term “Palestine”

Almost everyone recognized the need for a Palestinian state, but the issue was so politically charged that no president prior to Bush had come out and said it. When government officials discussed the issue, they used vague terminology to refer to such a state.

“Presidents used to mumble when it got to a question of a Palestinian state,” Rice told me in her office one Saturday morning. “They couldn’t bring themselves to say ‘Palestinian State.’ In preparing a speech to the UN, he said, ‘There’s going to be a Palestinian state, so let’s say that. What will it be called? It will be called Palestine. If that’s the case, let’s call it Palestine.’“

On November 10, 2001, Bush told the UN, ”We are working toward a day when two states, Israel and Palestine, live peacefully together within secure and recognized borders as called for by the Security Council resolutions.“

Source: A Matter of Character, by Ronald Kessler, p.176 , Aug 5, 2004

Libya renounces WMDs; anti-proliferation has high priority

The leader of Libya, Colonel Kadhafi, publicly confirmed his commitment to disclose and dismantle all weapons of mass destruction programs, and to allow inspectors to enter Libya. Kadhafi’s commitment, once it is fulfilled, will make our country more safe and the world more peaceful.

Opposing proliferation is one of the highest priorities of the war against terror. Terrorists would, if they ever gained weapons of mass destruction, kill thousands-without hesitation and without mercy. This danger is dramatically increased when regimes build or acquire weapons of mass destruction and maintain ties to terrorist groups.

[We] have sent an unmistakable message to regimes that seek or possess weapons of mass destruction. Those weapons do not bring influence or prestige. They bring isolation and otherwise unwelcome consequences. And another message should be equally clear: leaders who abandon that pursuit will find an open path to better relations with the US and other free nations.

Source: Joint statement with Prime Minister Tony Blair , Dec 20, 2003

No peace for Israel or Palestine without freedom for both

In the Middle East, there can be no peace for either side without freedom for both sides. America stands committed to an independent and democratic Palestine, living side by side with Israel in peace and security. Like all other people, Palestinians deserve a government that serves their interests and listens to their voices. My nation will continue to encourage all parties to step up to their responsibilities as we seek a just and comprehensive settlement to the conflict.
Source: Address to the United Nations General Assembly , Sep 12, 2002

Israel: America should be a stronger friend

“In recent times, Washington has tried to make Israel conform to its own plans and timetables,” the Texas governor told an audience of more than 1,000 at the annual meeting of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. “But this is not the path to peace.” Bush repeated his vow to move the US Embassy to Jerusalem. Bush also said that Iran should be held responsible for the treatment of the 13 Iranian Jews imprisoned in that country on espionage charges.
Source: T. Christian Miller; L.A. Times , May 23, 2000

Israel: Recognize Jerusalem as capital

Supports moving the U.S. embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and said if elected President, he would set the process of moving the Embassy in motion immediately upon taking office.
Source: georgewbush.com/Message/75.htm “Specific Issues” , Jul 23, 1999

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