Bush's Legacy in Iraq
President George W. Bush says history will be the final judge of the success, or lack thereof, of the Iraq War.
Bob Woodward, the investigative reporter who has authored four books on Bush's presidency, agrees that the legacy of the war has yet to be determined. He calls the conflict a "war of choice" that hasn't come to a conclusion.
"As we know the war is not over, 146,000 troops there, almost the same number of civilian contractors," Woodward said. "It is a massive land army presence in the heart of the Middle East. Gen. (David) Petraeus is keeping that large force there because he know it's not over, it's not stabilized."
Woodward said Bush's decision to invade Iraq in March 2003 was part of his "freedom agenda" and that the president believed he had "really pulled something off that was going to be important."
"You had the support, the encouragement of Cheney, the intelligence community saying Saddam has weapons of mass destruction," Woodward said during a Post roundtable discussion on Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney's legacies. "And Bush looked at this as an opportunity."
In his closing news conference yesterday, Bush acknowledged that historians were poised to analyze every facet of his decision-making, including his then-unpopular decision to commit an additional 30,000 troops in 2007.
"The situation was, looked like it was going fine, and then violence for a period of time began to throw, throw the progress of Iraq into doubt," he said.
"And rather than accepting the status quo and saying, 'Oh, it's not worth it,' or 'the politics makes it difficult,' or, you know, 'the party may end up being -- you know, not doing well in the elections because of the violence in Iraq,' I decided to do something about it and sent 30,000 troops in as opposed to withdrawing." (A year before, U.S. officials estimated 1,000 attacks per week on U.S.-led forces. The surge helped stabilize the war-torn country and has caused the number of troop deaths to drop.)
CNN reports on an Iraqi television journalist who threw his shoes at President Bush during a news conference in Baghdad on Dec. 14
The war began in 2003, and less than two months later, Bush declared victory aboard an aircraft carrier behind a giant banner that read: "Mission Accomplished." That speech, and the banner, have been cited by Bush several times as a mistake.
Likewise, Bush has spoken more candidly in recent days about the erroneous government intelligence claiming there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and the political environment following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
"A lot of people put their reputations on the line and said the weapons of mass destruction is a reason to remove Saddam Hussein," Bush told ABC News in a December interview. "It wasn't just people in my administration. A lot of members in Congress, prior to my arrival in Washington, D.C., during the debate on Iraq, a lot of leaders of nations around the world were all looking at the same intelligence. I wish the intelligence had been different, I guess."
More than 4,200 American soldiers have been killed in combat in Iraq since 2003 and the war has cost more than $650 billion, according to budget estimates.
"There was a sense that we had to do something," Woodward said, describing the mood before the war began. "There was a sense that was valid that Saddam was a bad actor. But when you look back on that, and study it and study particularly the neglect and the failure to manage the aftermath, it's hard to look at it as a good thing."
Bush's time as commander-in-chief ended with a little-known Iraqi television journalist throwing his shoes at Bush during a Dec. 14 joint news conference with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, an incident that seemed to encapsulate Bush's status in the region.
By Derek Kravitz |
January 13, 2009; 7:01 PM ET
The Bush-Cheney Legacy
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