May 29, 2008

Why did Bush start the Iraq War?

Former Bush press secretary Scott McClellan's new book seems to support the theory that I offered in 2005 when former Bush ghostwriter Mickey Herskowitz revealed that Bush had been talking about the political advantages of invading Iraq in 1999. I went on to speculate:

The idea of beating up on a sure loser like Saddam may have especially appealed to GWB because of the President's personal qualities. Bush sees himself not as a manager (which is certainly correct), but as a leader, one who makes tough decisions based on intuition where other men who worry about getting the facts first would suffer paralysis through analysis.

In other words, Bush doesn't particularly like to work hard, and he's not that interested in learning what it takes to administer the government. Spending eight grueling years on the blocking and tackling of effectively running the government like Dwight Eisenhower did is not for Bush. Instead, he's going to throw the Bomb, so he can then coast. And the Iraq Attaq sounded to him like a pushbutton war -- all Bush had to do was tell the Pentagon to go conquer Iraq and they'd go do it without bothering him with a lot of tiresome questions about minor details.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer


Anonymous said...

In other words, after this alleged great revelation from a former flack, with no new pertinent facts or quotes or statements by anyone inside the White House, everyone has exactly the same reasons for believing or disbelieing anything they want to about the President's reasons for going to war as they did before. At least you are honest enough to acknowledge this, Steve, while the Lefty media try to pretend their views have been butressed by the new book.

Anonymous said...

the Lefty media try to pretend their views have been butressed by the new book.

HTG, does anyone at this stage of the game need a book to know that Bush is a lousy, inarticulate, and intellectually lazy president? It's laid right out there for all to see.

Anonymous said...

I found the following, published in October 2004, fairly convincing:

Two years before 9/11, candidate Bush was already talking privately about attacking Iraq, according to his former ghost writer

By Russ Baker
Published: Wednesday October 27th, 2004

Two years before the September 11 attacks, presidential candidate George W. Bush was already talking privately about the political benefits of attacking Iraq, according to his former ghost writer, who held many conversations with then-Texas Governor Bush in preparation for a planned autobiography.

“He was thinking about invading Iraq in 1999,” said author and journalist Mickey Herskowitz. “It was on his mind. He said to me: ‘One of the keys to being seen as a great leader is to be seen as a commander-in-chief.’ And he said, ‘My father had all this political capital built up when he drove the Iraqis out of Kuwait and he wasted it.’ He said, ‘If I have a chance to invade….if I had that much capital, I’m not going to waste it. I’m going to get everything passed that I want to get passed and I’m going to have a successful presidency.”
. . . . . According to Herskowitz, George W. Bush’s beliefs on Iraq were based in part on a notion dating back to the Reagan White House – ascribed in part to now-vice president Dick Cheney, Chairman of the House Republican Policy Committee under Reagan. “Start a small war. Pick a country where there is justification you can jump on, go ahead and invade.”

Bush’s circle of pre-election advisers had a fixation on the political capital that British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher collected from the Falklands War. Said Herskowitz: “They were just absolutely blown away, just enthralled by the scenes of the troops coming back, of the boats, people throwing flowers at [Thatcher] and her getting these standing ovations in Parliament and making these magnificent speeches.”

Republicans, Herskowitz said, felt that Jimmy Carter’s political downfall could be attributed largely to his failure to wage a war. He noted that President Reagan and President Bush’s father himself had (besides the narrowly-focused Gulf War I) successfully waged limited wars against tiny opponents – Grenada and Panama – and gained politically. But there were successful small wars, and then there were quagmires, and apparently George H.W. Bush and his son did not see eye to eye.

“I know [Bush senior] would not admit this now, but he was opposed to it. I asked him if he had talked to W about invading Iraq. “He said, ‘No I haven’t, and I won’t, but Brent [Scowcroft] has.’ Brent would not have talked to him without the old man’s okaying it.” Scowcroft, national security adviser in the elder Bush’s administration, penned a highly publicized warning to George W. Bush about the perils of an invasion.

Herskowitz’s revelations are not the sole indicator of Bush’s pre-election thinking on Iraq. In December 1999, some six months after his talks with Herskowitz, Bush surprised veteran political chroniclers, including the Boston Globe‘s David Nyhan, with his blunt pronouncements about Saddam at a six-way New Hampshire primary event that got little notice: “It was a gaffe-free evening for the rookie front-runner, till he was asked about Saddam’s weapons stash,” wrote Nyhan. ‘I’d take ‘em out,’ [Bush] grinned cavalierly, ‘take out the weapons of mass destruction…I’m surprised he’s still there,” said Bush of the despot who remains in power after losing the Gulf War to Bush Jr.‘s father…It remains to be seen if that offhand declaration of war was just Texas talk, a sort of locker room braggadocio, or whether it was Bush’s first big clinker. “

The notion that President Bush held unrealistic or naïve views about the consequences of war was further advanced recently by a Bush supporter, the evangelist Pat Robertson, who revealed that Bush had told him the Iraq invasion would yield no casualties. In addition, in recent days, high-ranking US military officials have complained that the White House did not provide them with adequate resources for the task at hand.
Article at

Anonymous said...

Bush started the war to cut the Gordian Knot.

For a decade or more the quandry we faced was that we could be attacked but we struggled to figure out exactly who had attacked us.

This is police thinking as opposed to soldier thinking. If you are fired upon from a house, a policeman will call for backup and try to locate the single guilty perpetrator. A good soldier however will just call for an air strike.

After 9/11 Bush merely attacked the "usual suspects". It hardly mattered as to the exact degree of Iraq's complicity. Attacking someone was necessary, exactly who was far less important.

Today or at some day soon, Islamic radicals will have the means to nuke a US city. To deter that event credibly the enemy must recognize that we will retaliate quickly.

If we had dithered until we could have perfectly identified all the guity parties in 9/11, our enemies would have been emboldened.

Most of the 9/11 conspirators were named Mohammed. In retaliation we have killed a lot of guys named Mohammed. Close enough for government work.

Anonymous said...

I think Jorge is an overreaching gutless fraud.

The following might be apocryphal. Don't know. But I think it speaks volumes about Jorge.

I met a guy who claimed to have met Jorge while Jorge was still owner of the Texas Rangers. Seems this guy's employer had a corporate box at the stadium in Arlington. The only way to the box was via a private elevator. The guy had left a game, and was taking the elevator down. He and Jorge were the only two on it.

He turned to Jorge and said, "Nice jacket."

Bush responded by first looking at his loud, plaid sportcoat, and then replying with a snotty tone, "What, you don't like my jacket?"

Probably true if you ask me. He does have an imperious attitude. Such as when he called the Constitution a "goddamn piece of paper."

So, whether the war was legitimate or not would be of no consequence to an imperious fraud like Jorge. The war allowed a richy rich kid with a Mickey Mouse CV to be front and center in front of the world for months on end.

Brent Lane said...

If we had dithered until we could have perfectly identified all the guity parties in 9/11, our enemies would have been emboldened.

I seem to recall that we organized a regime change in Afghanistan, and ousted a hostile Islamic fundamentalist government that had supported the group who claimed credit for 9/11, in the space of a few short months, with overwhelming global support. Do you think that our enemies would have been 'emboldened' if we had stopped there?

Most of the 9/11 conspirators were named Mohammed. In retaliation we have killed a lot of guys named Mohammed. Close enough for government work.

Most of those guys named Mohammed who carried out 9/11 were from Saudi Arabia. But hey, all them A-rabs look alike, so let's just kill a bunch of 'em and let Allah sort 'em out.

Anonymous said...

Maybe somebody else wrote what Herskowitz said.

Anonymous said...

Going into Iraq was still the right call.

Going into Iraq with unrealistic expectations of how long we would be there and without making a proper rhetorical case for why we should be there is another story.

Anonymous said...

Steve, you are aware that George Soros commissioned McClennan's book? That many have challenged it's accounts of verifiable incidents? That it's mostly a press-currying favor type book leaving the Bush Admin?

Meanwhile, Doug Feith has a book with meticulously documented material showing how Bush decided to go to war with Iraq. There are declassified memos, transcripts, etc. in explicit detail. No invented conversations ala Woodward.

Bush campaigned in 2000 on an isolationist platform. He didn't even know who Musharraf was, and was only interested in amnesty/open borders with Mexico. He didn't even want engagement with Haiti. I remember his debates with Gore calling for a more "humble" nation.

What happened was, after 9/11 his appetite for risk with Saddam was about zero, along with everyone else in Congress including most Democrats, among them Bill Clinton. Feith's book argues that Saddam would not get with the program, sought to deliberately provoke a political confrontation with the US to end the No Fly Zones (constant Combat Air Patrols) and the embargo.

The decision to go to war with Iraq was based on: A. the view that status-quo, i.e. constant threats of force to get even minimal compliance with Saddam, and the Combat Air Patrols, collapsing sanctions (as most nations wanted out) was unsustainable, B. the view that Saddam presented an unpredictable and uncontrollable threat to give WMD or other assistance to terrorists of any stripe (a worry Clinton shared in the 1990s though it only merited an indictment), C. constant violations of UN resolutions had to be punished to "keep the UN viable" and D. concerns over WMDs.

The concern over the "viability" of the UN was a joke, but Bush took it seriously. He's far more liberal than people credit, which is why Libs hate him so. WMDs never turned up, though everyone thought he had them (including Clinton in the 1990s) and Saddam was hardly trustworthy having been caught with them so many times before.

Was the status-quo sustainable? Probably not. Without removing Saddam, the US probably would have been forced out of the Gulf as sanctions dropped, and the Saudis sought accommodation with him. It's as least as likely we'd see oil at $130 a barrel years earlier, in 2003. It's probably a minor miracle we kept 12 years of combat air patrols over Iraq running.

Was Saddam a risk to arm AQ or other groups? Maybe. He sponsored two gulf terrorist groups against the Saudis and Americans. With Saddam, you never knew. He could be your best pal one day, the next you're in the industrial shredder.

Was Iraq worth it? Maybe, maybe not. We'll never know. But it's likely Al Gore would have made the same call. For much of the same reasons. No one trusted Saddam an inch, and no one wanted to look "weak" against him after 9/11. For fear of inviting more attacks.

That fear is not irrational either. We're dealing with not Western actors but tribal people who deal in intimidation. Saddam forced a confrontation that either the US or he would "lose" by backing down or being defeated. That created a cost (despite Dem rhetoric now) that no one in either party wanted to pay back then.

Anonymous said...

15 of the 19 9/11 terrorists were from Saudi Arabia. The planner and financier, Osama Bin Laden, was Saudi. The Saudi government has been financing some of the most radical Islamic elements on the planet, and they also, conveniently happen to sit atop the largest oil deposits in the world. 9/11 was the perfect excuse to take over a little Saudi territory - the same Saudis who are now (appropriately) giving us the finger when we ask them to lower the price of oil.

So what did Bush do? Invade Iraq and spend a trillion dollars trying to turn it into Renaissance Italy. Of course - it all made perfect sense.

Anonymous said...

Without removing Saddam, the US probably would have been forced out of the Gulf as sanctions dropped, and the Saudis sought accommodation with him. It's as least as likely we'd see oil at $130 a barrel years earlier, in 2003


Well, without the invasion, we wouldn't have Iraqi oil production lowered as much as it has been (it went above pre-war levels in late 2007 ,after close to 4 years below pre-war production, and there was a period where oil was being imported into Iraq), and we wouldn't have fleets of very fuel-inefficient tanks and Humvees cruising around Iraq-not to mention all the planes that are flying there when senior officers or visiting VIPs want to go somewhere in Iraq, since they aren't keen on risking a close encounter with an IED or an ambush.

Sanctions caused Iraqi oil production to be less than it could have been (though nowhere near as much as invading Iraq decreased production!), so I really doubt an end to sanctions would have decreased Iraqi oil production.

Yes, I know there are limits to how fuel-efficient you can make something that is big and carries a lot of armor. What we've got, though, appears to have been designed without much of an attempt to make them less wasteful of fuel.

Planetary Archon Mouse

Dennis Dale said...

GWB is like Brett Farve on a bad day, following interceptions with ever-more desperate and ill-advised passes.

Unknown said...

Sounds right to me. Now, will certain quarters stop blaming Iraq soley on Israel's amen corner. They deserve some share of the blame, but the buck stops in Dubya's orifice.

Anonymous said...

I think we have to view Mickey Herskowitz’s comments with both a little doubt and some perspective. Bush viewed the entire political world through the events of his father’s presidency. Thus, Bush referring to his father’s alleged failure to use the first Gulf war to secure a domestic agenda is just that, it isn’t some indication that Bush had some grand plan of invading Iraq. Of course, Bush thinking this about his father’s war, and it was a common view that Bush no doubt adopted from someone else, made it easier for the Neocons to sell the invasion and occupation of Iraq post-9-11, but absent the Neocons and most of the rest of the establishment favoring the Iraq war after 9-11, Bush wouldn’t and couldn’t have invaded Iraq.

Has anyone ever asked why Herskowitz waited until 2005 to tell us that Bush was planning on invading Iraq way back in 1999? Notice that Herskowitz waited until the Iraq war had gone bad to blame it on Bush. This has been the bailout position of the Neocons all along, blame the dumb front man for the failure of their policy.

Anonymous said...

"Why did Bush start the Iraq War?"

To deflect attention from his awful domestic policies? Because he was instructed to do so by his PNAC masters? Because oil companies (and investors) who backed him gain material benefit from instability in the Middle East? Because it follows an established pattern of presidents starting wars for political benefit? Because he simply would have lost the 2004 election without scaring the security moms into voting for him?

Some combination of the above is the best answer I can give.

Anonymous said...

Saudis have no reason to help America after Bush's stupid war made Iran the strongest power in the Gulf region. Americans should be grateful the price of oil is not 250 dollars a barrel.

Anonymous said...

Americans should be grateful the price of oil is not 250 dollars a barrel.

There is a practical limit to how high the price can go - besides the economic distress it would cause, at some point it becomes practical for the Canadians and Americans to start tapping our tar sands and oil shale. We may already be at that point or very well near it.

GWB is like Brett Favre on a bad day, following interceptions with ever-more desperate and ill-advised passes.

So typical of former drug addicts...

Anonymous said...

WMDs never turned up, though everyone thought he had them

Horseshit. It was obvious to anyone who cared that none of the ostensible reasons for Iraq Attaq 2 were bunk.

That's why I (some nobody in the sticks in SC) and tens of thousands of other people talking on the Web from the get go (as soon as the whispers of Iraq Attaq started to leak) said as much, over and over and over and over and over and over and over.

If Saddam was the problem, we could've grabbed (or squished) him, installed his cousin, and left gracefully.

I was arguing with hordes of your clones from day one, and I didn't buy any of the nonsense for a moment. None of you wanted to hear the facts.

Sing whatever song you wish, but the "everybody thought" line is flat out horseshit.

Anonymous said...

"testing99 said...

Was Iraq worth it? Maybe, maybe not. We'll never know."

Wait a minute, there, Evil Neocon. That seems to be quite a climb down from your previous stated positions on this site. Maybe it was worth it? Maybe? Not so sure anymore?

But what about AQ, and all the "intel", and the speedboats? Don't forget the speedboats.

I agree with Svigor - you and your ilk were blowing smoke from day one. I myself favored invading Iraq back in 2003. I'm sorry I did. I have since come to realize that it was a gross folly. I'll admit it flat out - I was wrong.

You armchair hegemons, on the other hand, are never wrong, are you? You don't make mistakes. You just reprioritize your threat assessments. Idiots.

Anonymous said...

Of course it was wrong for Osama Bin Laden to attack The Twin Towers , World Trade Center , Pentagon , and in a field in Pensylvania. But we could have settled it a different way .