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Jeb Bush’s Three-Fold Mistake on Iraq
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Much ado has been made in the press about the three-fold response that Jeb Bush made last week about the war in Iraq. First, on Monday, Fox News’ Megyn Kelly aired an interview with Jeb Bush, in which he gave the impression that he would have invaded Iraq just as his brother did. The next day his staff said he misheard the question, and he responded with “knowing what we know now,” he would not have invaded. Day three of the saga and Jeb warned that any further discussion on the matter is disrespectful to our troops who served.
Fox came out ahead of the interview’s air-time claiming that Jeb Bush supported the invasion of Iraq, given the intelligence that the U.S. and a number of nations had at the time.
KELLY: On the subject of Iraq, very controversial, knowing what we know now, would you have authorized the invasion?
BUSH: I would have and so would have Hillary Clinton, just to remind everybody, and so would almost everybody that was confronted with the intelligence they got.
The narrative at this point, according to Jeb, is that the intelligence that claimed Iraq had weapons of mass destruction has since been proven false.
However, according to his brother’s speech on the eve of the war, the decision to go in and take out Saddam Hussein was because Saddam had defied the world in owning up to the WMD he possessed. And the promises he made to terminate existing chemical and biological weapons, was a decision that George W. Bush made and he and our allies had the authority to make, as he pointed out in his speech at the time.
So, the decision to go into Iraq was not just based on intelligence that Iraq possessed and continued to hide its WMD, but a decision to take out Saddam because he was defying the world, killing his own people, and causing instability in the region.
Since then, when there was no evidence that Saddam had an “active” WMD program, the Left leapt into action with their false ‘Bush lied, people died’ meme, which led to the 2006 defeat of Republicans in both the House and Senate, and gave us Obama in 2008.
One of the defeated senators, Rick Santorum, appeared in an Eli Lake piece in the Daily Beast last October. The article pointed fingers after the New York Times ran an expose about chemical and biological weapons stockpiles that the American and Iraqi militaries found. The New York Times read, in part:
In all, American troops secretly reported finding roughly 5,000 chemical warheads, shells or aviation bombs, according to interviews with dozens of participants, Iraqi and American officials, and heavily redacted intelligence documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.
A graphic of the map of Iraq included the chronological evidence of WMD.
- MAY 2004: Two soldiers exposed to sarin from a shell near Baghdad’s Yarmouk neighborhood
- SUMMER 2006: Over 2,400 nerve-agent rockets found at this former Republican Guard compound
- JULY 2008: Six Marines exposed to mustard agent from an artillery shell at an abandoned bunker
- AUGUST 2008: Five American soldiers exposed to mustard agent while destroying a weapons cache
- 2010 OR EARLY 2011: Hundreds of mustard rounds discovered in a container at this Iraqi security compound.
But then the New York Times did what they do best and diverted from facts, editorializing:
The discoveries of these chemical weapons did not support the government’s invasion rationale.
After the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Mr. Bush insisted that Mr. Hussein was hiding an active weapons of mass destruction program, in defiance of international will and at the world’s risk. United Nations inspectors said they could not find evidence for these claims.
But G.W. Bush did not mention an “active” WMD program. His speech centered on “disarming” Saddam Hussein, that he was supposed “to reveal and destroy” his WMD. Colin Powell’s testimony in front of the UN repeatedly tracked Saddam’s violations of the UNSC, with satellite photos and intercepted phone communications revealing he was hiding materials and cleaning sites before weapons inspectors showed up. Saddam Hussein was obviously doing everything he could to hide what he had, rather than “reveal and destroy.”
In the Daily Beast article by Eli Lake mentioned earlier, officials who knew that there were WMD in Iraq as reviewed by Hoekstra’s Intelligence Committee and as Santorum identified, placed the blame on a political decision made by Karl Rove to “let sleeping dogs lie,” when the evidence emerged.
Back to Jeb’s “flubbed” answer. He said he would go into Iraq as his brother did, highlighting that the intelligence at the time has since been proven faulty.
KELLY: You don't think it was a mistake?
BUSH: In retrospect, the intelligence that everybody saw, that the world saw, not just the United States, was faulty. And in retrospect, once we invaded and took out Saddam Hussein, we didn't focus on security first, and the Iraqis in this incredibly insecure environment turned on the United States military because there was no security for themselves and their families. By the way, guess who thinks that those mistakes took place as well? George W. Bush.
Jeb’s, “knowing what we know now” he would have not gone into Iraq, second answer is problematic because it does not match the first answer, which as you can see, answered both the real question and the unasked, “Would you have gone in at the time?”
The reason this is damaging for Jeb is two-fold:
Jeb’s answers prove he does not have a clear grasp of the overall complexity of what is going on in the Middle East.
First, Jeb Bush believed Saddam was a bad guy and needed to be taken out. Therefore, his second answer that he wouldn’t have gone into Iraq in the first place is a massive flip-flop. Second, as things deteriorated badly after toppling Saddam, just as the American military started to unearth the WMD we knew Saddam had been hiding, the political calculation by Rove to not use these findings to strike back at the Left’s ‘Bush lied people died’ meme, allowed the Left to build momentum and use the war as a political weapon. Therefore, Jeb’s answer that “faulty” intelligence made Iraq a mistake covers up the truth, and in fact, is probably a direct result of Rove’s foolish “let sleeping dogs lie” insistence.
But Jeb is still answering questions on Iraq, and has now said that “ISIS didn’t exist” when his brother’s Iraq war was in full swing. We now know that many of the Islamic State fighters are former Saddam Baathists, committing jihad and forming a caliphate against their enemies in Iran. Surely, it is true that Obama’s removal of troops in Iraq proved disastrous and precipitated the IS butchers to take over. Pulling out was mandated by Obama’s campaign promises, because the American public believed the ‘Bush lied people died,’ argument. An argument that would have never gained the traction it did had the Bush/Rove White House did not allowed the Left to command the narrative. Analysts believe that there was in fact an “active” WMD program and Saddam, as evidence of the buried stockpiles of an older program turned up displayed, how adept his regime was at hiding and spiriting off to ally countries his WMD. This cannot be completely proven but it fits Saddam’s pattern of hiding and evading.
While the media forced Jeb to declare he would not have gone into Iraq, his stance on the Iraq war becomes increasingly murky. A conservative stance would be to oppose going into a country where a really bad dictator reigns and try to make the people free and democratic, especially when that largely secular and non-jihadi dictator was the wall against Iran – a totalitarian jihadist state – which is now closer to getting the nuclear weapons they always wanted and whose coined chant “Death to America” is a national motto. The Bush administration risked a lot to hold public elections in Iraq, and expended an enormous amount of effort to try to build a democracy where no civil society exists.
Bush’s triple answer failed the conservative test.
Jeb Bush would have gone into Iraq with blinders as his brother had, and with a foreign policy team headed up by the infamous anti-israel James Baker, because he has the same weird logic that many have when it comes to the Middle East—that if conditions were perfect, and things worked a certain way, that a democracy could materialize from nothing.
In a lot of ways, the Left took charge of the Iraq war in the media as well as in the policy shift of the Bush administration. The so-called “Democracy Project” gave rise to the “Arab Spring” which compounded the problems in the Middle East, installing bloodthirsty jihadis in place of dictators who kept these barbarians under control. And now we have Obama, who any rational observer would say, is helping to create the world where barbarians thrive.
Jeb’s answers prove he does not have a clear grasp of the overall complexity of what is going on in the Middle East, and that he is a repeater of conventional wisdom rather than a true thinker.
America deserves better.
Jen Kuznicki is a contributor to Conservative Review, blue collar, wife, mom, political writer, humorist, conservative activist, a seamstress by trade, and compelled to write. Follow her on Twitter @JenKuznicki.
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