Date registered: Aug 2002
Vehicle: 2021 SL770
Location: Fountain Hills, AZ
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Ford: Iraq war was not justified
WASHINGTON -- Former President Gerald Ford said in an newly disclosed interview that the Iraq war was not justified.
"I don't think I would have gone to war," he said in July 2004, a little more than a year after President Bush had launched the invasion advocated and carried out by prominent veterans of Ford's own administration.
In a four-hour conversation at his house in Beaver Creek, Colo., Ford "very strongly" disagreed with the current president's justifications for invading Iraq and said he would have pushed alternatives, such as sanctions, much more vigorously.
In the tape-recorded interview, Ford was critical not only of Bush but also of Vice President Dick Cheney--Ford's White House chief of staff--and then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who served as Ford's chief of staff and then his Pentagon chief.
"Rumsfeld and Cheney and the president made a big mistake in justifying going into the war in Iraq. They put the emphasis on weapons of mass destruction," Ford said. "And now, I've never publicly said I thought they made a mistake, but I felt very strongly it was an error in how they should justify what they were going to do."
Ford took issue with the notion of the United States entering a conflict in service of the idea of spreading democracy.
"Well, I can understand the theory of wanting to free people," Ford said, referring to Bush's assertion that the United States has a "duty to free people." But the former president said he was skeptical "whether you can detach that from the obligation No. 1, of what's in our national interest." He added: "And I just don't think we should go hellfire damnation around the globe freeing people, unless it is directly related to our own national security."
The Ford interview--and a subsequent lengthy conversation in 2005--took place for a future book project, though he said his comments could be published at any time after his death. In the sessions, Ford fondly recalled his close working relationship with key Bush advisers Cheney and Rumsfeld while expressing concern about the policies they pursued in more recent years.
"He was an excellent chief of staff. First class," Ford said. "But I think Cheney has become much more pugnacious" as vice president. He said he agreed with former Secretary of State Colin Powell's assertion that Cheney developed a "fever" about the threat of terrorism and Iraq. "I think that's probably true."
Describing his own preferred policy toward Saddam Hussein's Iraq, Ford said he would not have gone to war, based on the publicly available information at the time, and would have worked harder to find an alternative. "I don't think, if I had been president, on the basis of the facts as I saw them publicly," he said, "I don't think I would have ordered the Iraq war. I would have maximized our effort through sanctions, through restrictions, whatever, to find another answer."
"If spending money you don't have is the height of stupidity, borrowing money to give it away is the height of insanity." -- anon