Gerald Ford’s Parting Shotby Doug Mataconis
With the death of former President Ford comes the release of a 2004 interview in which he harshly criticized the Bush Administration’s decision to go to war in Iraq:
Former president Gerald R. Ford said in an embargoed interview in July 2004 that the Iraq war was not justified. “I don’t think I would have gone to war,” he said a little more than a year after President Bush 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 Cheney — Ford’s White House chief of staff — and then-Defense Secretary Donald H. 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, of course,, was absolutely correct for several reasons. The intelligence on weapons of mass destruction was, as the years have shown, incredibly faulty to begin with. More importantly, though, it became clear within months of the downfall of Saddam’s regime that the United States had absolutely no plan on how to handle the post-war situation. Hence the world we live in today.
And, at one point, Ford shows that, in the not-too-distant past there was some sanity in Republican foreign policy:
“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 number one, 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.”
This, I am beginning to thing, is where Bush went wrong on Iraq. The idea of making the Middle East safe for democracy is as foolhardy as was Woodrow Wilson’s idea of fighting World War I to make the world safe for democracy.
And, in case you forgot, World War I accomplished little more than setting the stage for World War II.