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Bush rebuffed Israeli request to bomb Syrian reactor

By Glenn Kessler

In his new memoir, "Decision Points," former president George W. Bush reveals new details about the Israeli attack on a Syrian nuclear reactor and the quest to end Iran's nuclear program -- revelations that suggest military action against Iran's program is still possible.

Here are some of the key themes:

1. Israel does what it wants.

In the book, Bush reports that after he received an intelligence report that Syria had secretly built a reactor with North Korean help, he received a request from then-Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

"George, I am asking you to bomb the compound," Olmert said. Bush said he would look at the intelligence and give him an answer.

Bombing the target successfully would be "no sweat" but "bombing a sovereign country with no warning or announced justification would create severe blowback," Bush writes. And the problem was that though the CIA had "high confidence" Syria had built a reactor, analysts could not confirm that Syria had a facility to turn spent fuel into plutonium for a weapon. So they had only "low confidence" that Syria had a nuclear weapons program.

Bush decided to publicly reveal the facility and use it as leverage to pressure Syria to dismantle it and end its support of terrorist groups. But when he told Olmert of his decision, the Israeli leader replied: "Your strategy is very disturbing to me."

Israel then destroyed the facility itself.

"Prime Minister Olmert's execution of the strike made up for the confidence I had lost in the Israelis during the Lebanon war," Bush writes. "The bombing demonstrated Israel's willingness to act alone. Prime Minister Olmert hadn't asked for a green light, and I hadn't given one. He had done what was necessary to protect Israel."

Most experts believe an attack on Iran would be testing the outer limits of Israel's capabilities. But Bush's account makes clear that Israel will act in its own interests when it believes the United States is not.

2. Bush was no fan of the National Intelligence Estimate on Iran.

The 2007 NIE earned international headlines when it declared with "high confidence" that in 2003 Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program. Bush said he decided to declassify the NIE so the administration could "shape the news stories" before it leaked. Even so, the news ended any momentum for new sanctions against Iran.

In an effort at damage control, Bush traveled to the Middle East to reassure leaders that the United States was still committed to ending Iran's nuclear program. Bush writes that he told the Saudi ruling family that "I'm confident every one of you believes I wrote the NIE as a way to avoid taking action against Iran....You have to understand our system. The NIE was produced independently by our intelligence community. I am as angry about it as you are."

Bush writes that after the NIE, there was no way he could conduct a military strike on Iran even though he had ordered a study of how to conduct a strike. "After the NIE, how could I possibly explain using the military to destroy the nuclear facilities of a country the intelligence community said had no active nuclear weapons program?" He said he wondered if the analysts were trying to avoid the mistakes made on Iraq -- and hoped they were not trying to shape policy. "Whatever the explanation, the NIE had a big impact -- and not a good one," Bush writes.

3. Sometimes a threat of military force gets action.

Bush writes that when he learned in 2002 that intelligence indicated that North Korea was violating an agreement to halt its nuclear programs, he tried to enlist China's help. "If we combine together, we could make an impressive team," Bush told Chinese President Jiang Zemin during an October 2002 meeting at Bush's ranch at Crawford, Tex. But Jiang told Bush that North Korea was "my problem, not his," Bush says. Jiang added: "Exercising influence over North Korea is very complicated."

A few months later, Bush tried another argument: that if North Korea had nukes, he would not be able to stop Japan from developing its own nuclear weapons. That didn't work either. Finally, a month later, he told Jiang that he was considering a military strike against North Korea.

That got China's attention, and it agreed to chair six-nation talks -- now long dormant -- to halt Pyongyang's nuclear ambitions.

By Glenn Kessler  | November 9, 2010; 5:27 PM ET
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We should be rebuffing anything that Israel wants to do. No military supplies, no military intel, no financing, no nothing. Israel can carry it's own water in middle eastern politics and fighting. We don't need to help them in any way, and shouldn't!

Posted by: surfer-joe | November 9, 2010 5:56 PM | Report abuse

I'll give Bush this; he's successfully making sure that history's view of him doesn't cast him as a complete idiot. And I think it's foolish to treat Bush as if he were an idiot. I say this as a progressive Democrat.

Misguided, arrogant, and stubborn are good words to describe his administration. Stupid or lacking in intellectual wherewithal are not.

Those words are reserved for Sarah Palin.

Posted by: j762 | November 9, 2010 6:16 PM | Report abuse

rewriting history and whitewashing crimes that is the sole purpose of this book. I like Steven Walt's masterful, brilliant take down of the Bush Presidency

Delusion Points

Don't fall for the nostalgia -- George W. Bush's foreign policy really was that bad.

Here is a list of 14 targets Walt takes on. Read his great piece for more on each:

1. Listening to Cheney

2. Criminal Minded

3. No-Go on Kyoto

4. Osama bin Who?

5. Department of Rhetorical Catastrophes, Part I: The "Global War on Terror"

6. Making "Waterboard" a Household Word

7. Department of Rhetorical Catastrophes, Part II: The "Axis of Evil"

8. Iraq

9. Snubbing Iran, Again

10. Sabotaging Peace in the Middle East

11. Hurricane Katrina

12. Democracy, but Only When Our Guys Win

13. How Not to Stop Nuclear Proliferation

14. The Crash Heard 'Round the World

Posted by: wpost16 | November 9, 2010 6:46 PM | Report abuse

Thank you for the book, Mr. President. I look forward to the read.

Posted by: alexleroc | November 9, 2010 7:41 PM | Report abuse

What can you say about this grade "C" mind who let Bush family friend Bin Laden go in Afghanistan just when we had him in our clutches and instead sent us into a country with no ties to 9/11 where over 4500 Americans lost their lives in Iraq, and his brother made millions, Veep Cheney made millions, his conglomerate Halliburton made up to a hundred billion dollars, and is headquartered in Dubai. What can you say about him when his administration knew for a month al-Qaeda was going to launch attacks against the U.S. utilizing aircraft?
What can you say about him after he said "Bin Laden, I don't think about him".
What can you say about him after he joked around looking for imaginary WMD's under white house furniture, knowing he knew there were none, and that over 4500 American kids, husbands, wives, grandmothers and grandfathers died even though he knew there were none.
George Bush and his fellow Neo Conservative cronies have no ethics, scruples, morality or legal standing when their policies of Colonialism are nothing less than theft and murder and results in terrorist attacks against us.
The centuries the European and American governments invaded and manipulated weaker countries to steal their natural resources and lands for colonization. With the enslavement, rape, murder and genocide of the indigenous inhabitants. Theft and Murder.
No ethics, morality or legal standing for the Neo Conservatives who let innocents die in order to wrest natural resources away from the indigenous inhabitants.
The Neo Conservatives and their bought off American government officials and politicians will never admit their policies of colonialism are nothing less than theft and murder and results in terrorism.
To do so, they'll be forced to admit to the world they are guilty of theft and murder and are ultimately responsible for the murder of 3,000 Americans on 9/11.
Bush is nothing more than a thief and a murderer as is his fellow neo con cronies and the politicians and officials who have worked for them or will work for them, or the judges who have personal relationships with them as well as investments in their entities.
Theft and Murder and this murderer should be tried by the International Criminal Court.

Posted by: CurtJ | November 9, 2010 9:00 PM | Report abuse

When you learn the true complexities of these issues it really makes one nervous we have such an inexperienced teleprompter-in-chief in charge now. He can't even answer simple questions in India. Good greif. Bring back Bush.

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Posted by: goodlucky88 | November 9, 2010 9:14 PM | Report abuse

Israel sends clear messages to its neighbours and the world:
1. It will impose its will on its neighbours by force;
2. If Israel does something then it is inherently right and cannot, therefore, be wrong, unfair or indecent;
3. The US exists to protect Israel in the event that it is attacked.

The US has foolishly attached itself to Israel. Israel has not developed the self-constraints that one would expect of a democratic or 'non-rogue' nation.

Although Israel insists that its sovereignty must be respected it ignores the sovereign rights of its neighbours.

Only when the US stops writing blank cheques for Israel and refuses to sell it weapons and spare parts that permit it to behave brutally will it be forced to behave respectfully towards its neighbours and, in particular, The Palestine.

The US makes many foolish mistakes in its foreign affairs policies and this is one of them. It should learn that only a fool makes the same mistake twice. However, it makes them every decade. It doesn't learn that it cannot control the conduct and agendas of other nations and that it does not possess the wisdom or have the right to do so.

Posted by: robertjames1 | November 9, 2010 10:01 PM | Report abuse

Bottom Line:
No matter how much rhetoric Fox Pundits, and Bush and his "Liberry" selections vomit out to rewrite his character and Presidency . . . The FACTS remain that HE planned to and did attack Iraq (KNOWING that Saddam was not a threat and callously SACRIFICED 5,400 of our troops, horribly maimed tens of thousands of them AND killed and maimed hundreds of thousands of Iraqi men, women and children. . . . in order to LOOK like a swashbuckling decider military Leader.
Bush also allowed Rove and Gonzales to gut our Justice system, appointed right wing unqualified (Thomas) and Vatican indoctrinated Justices (Alito, Scalia, Roberts, etc.) WHO HAVE GIVEN OUR ELECTORAL SYSTEM OVER TO CORPORATE CONTROL, and by eviscerating Regulatory Departments (EPA, FAA, Energy watchdogs, Wall Street watchdogs, etc.) and giving UNPAID FOR (meant huge deficit increase) Tax Breaks to his billionaire cronies, D_MN NEAR DESTROYED OUR NATION! He DID destroy Iraq while Halliburton made despicable and unethical millions.

There is absolutely NO redeeming quality in that worthless Playboy! NONE!
He should be prosecuted as an International War Criminal, and at least exiled from the nation (USA) that he damaged so severly!

Posted by: lufrank1 | November 9, 2010 10:39 PM | Report abuse

Two years later and Bush tries to whitewash his crimes. He act's like he is happy Israel did not listen to what he had to say. Israel could have triggered a wider regional war. No blow back? I wonder how many insurgents Syria decided to support after their facility was bombed? Bush was the biggest loser of a president we ever had. A wanna-be "decider" who in reality is a bloody fool. BUsh never "decided" anything, he was only a puppet on a string for Cheney, Rummy, and the rest of the real axis of evil.

Sorry "W" you are still a war criminal in the world's eyes, and a shame on the USA.

Posted by: Desert_Fox | November 9, 2010 11:00 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Kessler:
You state that Israel bombed a "nuclear reactor" in Syria, as if this were an established fact. It seems much more likely that Israel bombed a Syrian military depot. See the following link for example:

The "Syrian nuclear reactor" will some day join "Saddam Hussein's nuclear weapons" in the list of pro-war hoaxes.

Posted by: johnwfarley | November 10, 2010 1:26 AM | Report abuse

When has Israel NOT done whatever it wants?

Posted by: postfan1 | November 10, 2010 6:52 AM | Report abuse

At least the international community now has indisputable confirmation from no less a credible source than a former US President that Israel controls America!

Naturally, this has been known in international circles for many years but credible confirmation is always welcome.

It was interesting in the run up to the "Obama" Presidential election that all three candidates had to apppear and grovel publically at an AIPAC gathering to pledge their willingness to protect Israel before they were obliged to swear to protect the American electorate who would eventually vote one of them into the second most powerful office in the world.

The most powerful office in the world of course remains that of the Israeli Prime Minister who can command the American President by telephone to bomb any country Israel wants him to.

Thanks George

Posted by: tuatha-de-dannan | November 10, 2010 7:46 AM | Report abuse

Why is there a shopping website posted in this Comments section? Looks like someone is trying to get some free advertising from the Washington Post.

Posted by: lddoyle2002 | November 10, 2010 9:45 AM | Report abuse

Israel attacked the USS Liberty with impunity. If Israel can attack the America and pay no price, it can attack anyone.

Posted by: Garak | November 10, 2010 9:49 AM | Report abuse

I'm getting confused. Is the name of Bush's book "Decision Points" or "Deception Points"?

Posted by: lddoyle2002 | November 10, 2010 12:19 PM | Report abuse

This: "We don't need to help them (Israel) in any way, and shouldn't!"

Said by: "Posted by: surfer-joe | November 9, 2010 5:56 PM | Report abuse"


"Dude, been out in the sun too long? The USA (where I presume you reside) has but two allies: Israel and what's left of the British Empire (Britan, Ireland, Scotland, Australia and at times, Canada). As far as the USA is concerned, these are the only two allies we should be giving "help" to. Period.

Posted by: nickthimmeschearthlinknet | November 10, 2010 12:21 PM | Report abuse

Another sterling example of Bush kissing Saudi ass. That's where the real treason lies:

Posted by: BillinChicago | November 10, 2010 12:33 PM | Report abuse

Take a last stand. GWB said "either you're with us or against us". It's still the good guys vs. the bad guys. Now which will it be.

Posted by: truth34 | November 10, 2010 12:35 PM | Report abuse

nickthimmeschearthlinknet wrote:

"Dude, been out in the sun too long? The USA (where I presume you reside) has but two allies: Israel and what's left of the British Empire ....these are the only two allies we should be giving "help" to". Period.

Dude yourself , you are living on Zionist propaganda. The US Congress is controlled by AIPAC and that is why the US supports Israel. The rational world needs only common sense to understand who is the colonizing Palestine by ethnically cleansing it of its indigenous inhabitants and who are the persecuted having their land stolen by foreigners.

The USA is staining their global reputation by supporting the perversion of justist that Zionism has inflicted on Palestine for the past 61 years. The American people are slowly coming out of the Zionist propaganda fog and are challenging why the Congress supports Israel. Eg Why did Congress listen to the likes of the AIPACers : Wolfowitz, Feith, Perle,Edelman,Wurmser et al , all of whom were Bush II appointees in the Penatagon and the creaters of the lies needed to rev up US public support to invade Iraq. A war that benefitted only Israel (to get rid of Saddam and his support of Hamas).

Posted by: ddmjlennox | November 10, 2010 3:09 PM | Report abuse

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