According to Fmr. Pres. George W. Bush’s speechwriter at the time. This story was brought to light just before the ’04 election and turned down by The Washington Post (WaPo) and Los Angeles Times (LAT).
Journalist Russ Baker had an interview on tape with former Bush ghostwriter Mickey Herskowitz where he claims that the former president was revealing intent to invade Iraq as early as 1999. Mr. Baker’s article was finished before the 2004 election, but was turned down:
Baker said he believed if a major daily ran his Herskowitz interview it “could have changed the election” but “I could not get it published.” The story was turned down by both the Los Angeles Times and The Washington Post. He described the Post as “scared because of the Dan Rather thing, and they said to me, ‘What do you have in the way of evidence?’” Baker replied, “Here’s a tape of Mickey Herskowitz, who’s published 20-some books, long-time journalist of the Houston Chronicle, friend of the Bush family, telling me this story.” The Post said, “It’s not enough. In this climate, we need Bush on tape saying this.” Expressing his disappointment over the rejection, Baker said, “Well, that standard has never applied anywhere.”
John Byrne wrote of this in The Raw Story today. I hadn’t heard of this story or the 2004 article (only published online one week before the ’04 election) until today. From the article turned down by WaPo and the LAT:
“[Bush] 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.” Herskowitz said that Bush expressed frustration at a lifetime as an underachiever in the shadow of an accomplished father. In aggressive military action, he saw the opportunity to emerge from his father’s shadow. The moment, Herskowitz said, came in the wake of the September 11 attacks. “Suddenly, he’s at 91 percent in the polls, and he’d barely crawled out of the bunker.”
That President Bush and his advisers had Iraq on their minds long before weapons inspectors had finished their work – and long before alleged Iraqi ties with terrorists became a central rationale for war – has been raised elsewhere, including in a book based on recollections of former Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill. However, Herskowitz was in a unique position to hear Bush’s unguarded and unfiltered views on Iraq, war and other matters — well before he became president….
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 U.S. military officials have complained that the White House did not provide them with adequate resources for the task at hand.
In the 2000 election, Mr. Bush campaigned on a platform which included a ‘humble foreign policy’ (2:59):
The Newspeak is that ‘9/11 changed a lot of things’. All 9/11 changed was that the political class acquired more “political capital” as the fear manufactured consent for the American Empire. Johnathon Landay reported last April that torture was used to link Saddam Hussein to 9/11:
“There were two reasons why these interrogations were so persistent, and why extreme methods were used,” the former senior intelligence official said on condition of anonymity because of the issue’s sensitivity.
“The main one is that everyone was worried about some kind of follow-up attack (after 9/11). But for most of 2002 and into 2003, Cheney and Rumsfeld, especially, were also demanding proof of the links between al Qaida and Iraq that (former Iraqi exile leader Ahmed) Chalabi and others had told them were there.”
It was during this period that CIA interrogators waterboarded two alleged top al Qaida detainees repeatedly — Abu Zubaydah at least 83 times in August 2002 and Khalid Sheik Muhammed 183 times in March 2003 — according to a newly released Justice Department document.
“There was constant pressure on the intelligence agencies and the interrogators to do whatever it took to get that information out of the detainees, especially the few high-value ones we had, and when people kept coming up empty, they were told by Cheney’s and Rumsfeld’s people to push harder,” he continued.
“Cheney’s and Rumsfeld’s people were told repeatedly, by CIA . . . and by others, that there wasn’t any reliable intelligence that pointed to operational ties between bin Laden and Saddam, and that no such ties were likely because the two were fundamentally enemies, not allies.”
Senior administration officials, however, “blew that off and kept insisting that we’d overlooked something, that the interrogators weren’t pushing hard enough, that there had to be something more we could do to get that information,” he said.
The Bush Administration didn’t torture to find ticking time-bombs, but to ratchet up “political capital”, but this last Monday, the walking blabbermouth of the year, Fmr. Bush V.P. Dick Cheney said there were no links found between Iraq and 9/11:
“On the question of whether or not Iraq was involved in 9-11, there was never any evidence to prove that,” [Cheney] told the Fox host. “There was “some reporting early on … but that was never borne out… [Former CIA Director] George [Tenet] … did say and did testify that there was an ongoing relationship between al-Qaeda and Iraq, but no proof that Iraq was involved in 9-11.”
The point that shouldn’t be missed in all of this isn’t reaffirmation that the Bush Administration lied the country into a war that’s killed over a million people (after his predecessor killed over half a million children through sanctions). The point is that feel-good campaign rhetoric and the cult of personality is very dangerous. The love affair with the current president is no secret. Mr. Obama is killing children while escalating another pointless war, protecting the Bush Administration from prosecution for torture, suggesting ‘preventative detention’, continuing the daily torture of Gitmo detainees, and further handing the wealth of the nation over the Wall St. banksters while enjoying a 65% approval rating.
Isn’t your instinct to constantly ask yourself when you hear these things of the Bush Adminstration, ‘What if people knew this back then?’ With the Obama Administration, we’re learning of him as another trumpeter for the looting and killing machine of the Empire right now.