January 9, 2012

Starting the Iraq War Might Not Have Been the Right Thing to Do, But At Least We Erred on the Side of Thousands and Thousands of Deaths


By GEORGE W. BUSH, 43rd PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES

It has been a wonderful experience these past few weeks witnessing the return of our troops from Iraq. To watch as these brave men and women come home with a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction is one of life’s true joys.

Making the call to start the Iraq War was perhaps the most difficult of my life. I struggled with it for a long time, and it was a source of tremendous anguish. In the end, the benefits of a liberated Iraq — including its ability to fight terror and to be a source of stability and freedom in a troubled region of the world — were too important to simply ignore.

Certainly the Iraq War had its detractors since the beginning, and I can’t say that they are all totally wrong. Any war has major drawbacks, and as president I was forced to balance the pros and cons and make some hard decisions.

I can’t say that I am absolutely sure that starting the Iraq War was the right thing to do. In my heart I believe that it was, but I am haunted by that small bit of uncertainty, and may be for the rest of my life.

One thing I am positive about, however, is that if a mistake was made, at least we erred on the side of thousands and thousands of deaths.

A lot of you out there have never been president, and probably never will be, so you’ll never know what’s it’s like to walk a mile in my boots. When you’re president of a country like I was, sometimes hard choices have to be made.

I could have sat on my hands and NOT invaded Iraq, but where would that have gotten us? There was the possibility that the fake intelligence I asked for that said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction could accidently turn out to be right, but that was a long-shot at best.

Maybe Saddam was planning to massacre his own people again, or invade a neighboring country. These were real, though remote, possibilities, but one thing we can’t do in a post-September 11th world is to sit back and be reactive. The United States of America is a PRO-active nation.

The only way to guarantee thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands, of deaths was to start a war myself, and by-gum, that’s what I did.

It’s easy in hindsight to say that the Iraq War was ultimately a mistake, that we should have waited until we had a reason to go to war with Iraq or anyone else, and perhaps gotten into an even greater, better war, but I’m comfortable with my decision.

It might not have been the absolute best I could have done, but the Iraq War was a pretty darn good war, wasn’t it?