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Iraq: Bush Defends War


Washington, 9 February 2004 (RFE/RL) -- U.S. President George W. Bush yesterday defended his decision to go to war against Iraq, saying it was based on the best intelligence available at the time.

Bush told the NBC network, "I based my decision on the best intelligence possible, intelligence that had been gathered over the years. Intelligence that not only our analysts thought was valid, but analysts from other countries thought was valid."

Bush's decision to go to war has been criticized because of the failure so far to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Iraq's alleged banned weapons program was one of the main justifications for the war.

Public opinion surveys suggest Bush faces a difficult re-election bid in November over growing misgivings concerning the Iraq war and questions about the strength of the U.S. economy. A CNN/Time magazine poll released yesterday showed only 44 percent of those asked said the president is "a leader they can trust."
"On the Korean peninsula, now the United States and China along with South Korea and Japan and Russia are sending a clear message to [President] Kim Jong Il. If you are interested in a different relationship, disclose and destroy your program in a transparent way."


Bush acknowledged he too was surprised that no weapons of mass destruction had been found in Iraq. He said, however, the war was justified because of the speed with which threats develop in the modern world.

"I don't think America can stand by and hope for the best from a madman [eds: former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein]. And I believe it is essential. I believe it is essential that when we see a threat, we deal with those threats before they become imminent. It's too late if they become imminent. It's too late in this new kind of war. And so that's why I made the decision I made," Bush said.

Bush last week announced the establishment of a commission to investigate possible intelligence failures on Iraq ahead of the war. The commission, however, is not expected to render its findings before next year, well after the election.

Bush today defended the timeframe, saying there would be enough time before November for American voters to decide whether he had made the right decision on Iraq: "There is going to be ample time for the American people to assess whether or not I made a good calls, whether I used good judgement, whether or not I made the right decision in removing Saddam Hussein from power. And I look forward to that debate. And I look forward to talking to the American people about why I made the decisions I made."

Bush acknowledged continuing uncertainty in Iraq over the country's future. He said the Iraqi people are nervous because they are not sure what their government will look like.

He categorically ruled out the emergence of a hard-line Islamist regime.

He also differentiated his approach toward Iraq with U.S. policy in Iran and North Korea. "Every situation requires a different response and a different analysis. And so in Iran, there is no question they are a danger. But the international community is now trying to convince Iran to get rid of its nuclear weapons program," Bush said. "And on the Korean peninsula, now the United States and China along with South Korea and Japan and Russia are sending a clear message to [President] Kim Jong Il. If you are interested in a different relationship, disclose and destroy your program in a transparent way. In other words, the policy of this administration is to be clear and straight forward, and to be realistic about the different threats that we face."
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