April 24, 2013

Library opening reopens George W. Bush debate

A government professor says it's still too soon to judge the man and his presidential life.

By ANNA M. TINSLEY/Fort Worth Star-Telegram

(Continued from page 1)

Former President Bush speaks at a topping-out ceremony for the George W. Bush Presidential Center in Dallas
click image to enlarge

George W. Bush will celebrate the opening of his presidential library in Dallas on Thursday with all four living U.S. presidents at Southern Methodist University.

Reuters

"Afghanistan was an arguably necessary war," Buchanan said. "It was the decision to go into Iraq that was controversial."

In 2002, George W. Bush asked Congress to authorize military force against Iraq because of concerns that Saddam Hussein was developing weapons of mass destruction that could threaten American lives. None had been used -- and ultimately none were found -- but Congress gave Bush the power to use force and by the next year, U.S. military troops were in Iraq.

Skeptics questioned whether George W. Bush was making the right decision to move forward.

One of those skeptics was Lt. Gen. Brent Scowcroft, who served as his father's national security adviser during the Gulf War. He wrote an op-ed that was published in The Wall Street Journal saying he feared George W. Bush may have "overreacted" to threats and that his administration may have exaggerated concerns about weapons of mass destruction. "The central point is that any campaign against Iraq, whatever the strategy, cost and risks, is certain to divert us for some indefinite period from our war on terrorism," Scowcroft wrote in his 2002 piece.

Some critics went further, charging that Bush simply wasn't truthful about the existence of WMDs.

Others said he was trying to finish the job his dad started.

"Bush and (Vice President Dick) Cheney created war crimes -- they lied the country into a war," said Hadi Jawad, an activist with the Dallas Peace Center, who will be among the protesters at the presidential center this week. "They must be held accountable. We are a nation where laws must apply equally to all. We hope our fellow Americans will consider the devastating effects of the Bush/Cheney administration."

Bush supporters to this day defend the president and his decision.

"Every intelligence agency in the world believed that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction," Schieffer said. "He had built and used them in the past. President Bush was worried that Hussein would sell or distribute those weapons to terrorists that would use them to strike our homeland again. He was haunted by the thought of facing more families and having to say to them, 'I knew it could happen, but I thought we could contain him.'

"The intelligence was wrong, but you don't get a chance for do-overs in war."

Former presidential advisers said they knew Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.

"We saw them after 1990 and 1991," said Stephen Hadley, who was national security adviser under President George W. Bush. "Saddam committed to the U.N. that he would reveal them and destroy them, which he never showed us he had done. The entire intelligence thought he had weapons of mass destruction.

In 2003, Hussein was captured by American troops as he hid in a spider hole near a farmhouse in Tikrit. By late 2006, he had been executed by hanging in Iraq after being convicted of crimes against humanity.

The final U.S. troops left Iraqi territory in late 2011.

"This was a war of last resort," Hadley said. "The U.S. government and the international community tried to deal with this problem of a guy who had weapons of mass destruction, oppressed his people and went to war with his neighbors. The U.S. tried to deal with it every way possible short of war."

But ultimately, he said Bush had to take action and move forward.

Through the years, he said mistakes were made.

"In the early years of the war, we lost our way," he said. "It turned out to be a lot tougher than we thought. What we didn't see is that al-Qaida would rush in and choose Iraq as the place to confront the U.S.

"We lost our way, things surprised us and then the president made the courageous decision on the surge to add troops and things got better."

But the future of Iraq is yet to be seen.

"It is part of the changing Middle East," he said. It's a story that goes on and will continue to be important."

 

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