March 31, 2006


Bush Wanted War (Richard Cohen, March 30, 2006, Washington Post)

There remains, though, the little matter of what was in Bush's gut -- not his head, mind you, but that elusive place where emotion resides. It was there, in the moments after 9/11, that Bush truly decided on war, maybe because Saddam had once tried to kill George H.W. Bush, maybe because the neocons had convinced him that a brief war in Iraq would have long-term salutary consequences for the entire Middle East, maybe because he could not abide the thought that a monster like Saddam might die in his sleep -- and maybe because he heard destiny calling.

Whatever Bush's specific reason or reasons, the one thing that's so far missing from the record is proof of him looking for a genuine way out of war instead of looking for a way to get it started. Bush wanted war.

Was Mr. Cohen living in the United States in 2000? If so, how could he have not known that a President Bush, or a President Gore for that matter, was going to remove Saddam sooner or later?
Bush/Gore on S. Hussein/Iraq/Sanctions (2nd Presidential Debate-11 Oct 00)
MODERATOR: People watching here tonight are very interested in Middle East policy, and they are so interested they want to base their vote on differences between the two of you as president how you would handle Middle East policy. Is there any difference?

GORE: I haven't heard a big difference in the last few exchanges.

BUSH: That's hard to tell. I think that, you know, I would hope to be able to convince people I could
handle the Iraqi situation better.

MODERATOR: Saddam Hussein, you mean, get him out of there?

BUSH: I would like to, of course, and I presume this administration would as well. We don't know --
there are no inspectors now in Iraq, the coalition that was in place isn't as strong as it used to be. He is a danger. We don't want him fishing in troubled waters in the Middle East. And it's going to be hard, it's going to be important to rebuild that coalition to keep the pressure on him.

MODERATOR: You feel that is a failure of the Clinton administration?

BUSH: I do.

GORE: Well, when I got to be a part of the current administration, it was right after -- I was one of the few members of my political party to support former President Bush in the Persian Gulf War resolution, and at the end of that war, for whatever reason, it was not finished in a way that removed Saddam Hussein from power. I know there are all kinds of circumstances and explanations. But the fact is that that's the situation that was left when I got there. And we have maintained the sanctions. Now I want to go further. I want to give robust support to the groups that are trying to overthrow Saddam Hussein, and I know there are allegations that they're too weak to do it, but that's what they said about the forces that were opposing Milosevic in Serbia, and you know, the policy of enforcing sanctions against Serbia has just resulted in a spectacular victory for democracy just in the past week, and it seems to me that having taken so long to see the sanctions work there, building upon the policy of containment that was successful over a much longer period of time against the former Soviet Union in the communist block, seems a little early to declare that we should give up on the sanctions. I know the governor's not necessarily saying that but, you know, all of these flights that have come in, all of them have been in accordance with the sanctions regime, I'm told, except for three where they notified, and they're trying to break out of the box, there's no question about it. I don't think they should be allowed to.

Posted by Orrin Judd at March 31, 2006 11:48 AM

Too many decent, sensible columns by Richard over the previous few week for him not to return to his historical batting average range of between .200 and .250 before long.

Posted by: John at March 31, 2006 12:32 PM

Looking at Gore's answer in light of what we know now about both the strength of the opposition movement in Iraq (ie, nonexistant) and the Oil for Cash program, it seems pretty obvious that Bush was the better judge of the situation.

Posted by: Timothy at March 31, 2006 1:13 PM

"Bush wanted war" He says it like it is a bad thing.

Posted by: Bob at March 31, 2006 1:25 PM

the one thing that's so far missing from the record is proof of him looking for a genuine way out of war instead of looking for a way to get it started

Yes, if only Bush had tried diplomacy by going to the UN and getting resolutions passed!

Oh, wait....

Posted by: PapayaSF at March 31, 2006 2:02 PM

Some quotes on war...

The fact that slaughter [battle] is a horrifying spectacle must make us take war more seriously, but [it does] not provide an excuse for gradually blunting our swords in the name of humanity. Sooner or later someone will come along with a sharp sword and hack off our arms.
- Carl von Clausewitz

Beware lest in your anxiety to avoid war you obtain a master.
- Demosthenes

The justest dispositions possible in ourselves, will not secure us against it [war]. It would be necessary that all other nations were just also. Justice indeed, on our part, will save us from those wars which would have been produced by a contrary disposition. But how can we prevent those produced by the wrongs of other nations? By putting ourselves in a condition to punish them. Weakness provokes insult and injury, while a condition to punish often prevents them.
- Thomas Jefferson

War is evil, but it is often the lesser evil.
- George Orwell

"The Americans will always do the right thing... After they've exhausted all the alternatives."
- Winston Churchill

Posted by: Michael at March 31, 2006 2:11 PM

"Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition"

Navy chaplain at Pearl Harbor.

Posted by: ratbert at March 31, 2006 2:20 PM