By: E&P Staff
President Bush today said he had tried to avoid war with Iraq “diplomatically to the max.”
Speaking to a business group in Irvine, Ca., he admitted mistakes were made in planning for the Iraq invasion, but he defended the troop level, saying “it was the troop level necessary to do the job,” and he would commit the same number if given a second chance.
The remarks came as another former general joined seven others who in recent days have called for the resignation of Pentagon chief Donald Rumsfeld, saying he had mismanaged the planning and execution of the war.
Bush also explained, in unusually stark terms, how his belief in God influences his foreign policy. “I base a lot of my foreign policy decisions on some things that I think are true,” he said. “One, I believe there’s an Almighty. And, secondly, I believe one of the great gifts of the Almighty is the desire in everybody’s soul, regardless of what you look like or where you live, to be free.
“I believe liberty is universal. I believe people want to be free. And I know that democracies do not war with each other.”
A new CNN poll released today shows Bush with his lowest approval rating in any poll so far, at 32%.
Taking questions from members of the Orange County Business Council, Bush said the United States erred in attempting large reconstruction projects soon after the invasion was completed. This “didn’t make any sense,” he said, because they “became convenient targets for the enemy.”
Bush said he’d sat in a California church on Sunday near a mother and stepfather grieving for their son who had been killed in Iraq. “I also want to let you know that before you commit troops that you must do everything that you can to solve the problem diplomatically,” he commented. “And I can look you in the eye and tell you I feel I tried to solve the problem diplomatically to the max and would have committed troops both in Afghanistan and Iraq, knowing what I know today.”
One decision he questions: After the successful invasion, “preparing an Iraqi army for an external threat. Well, it turns out there may have been an external threat but it’s nothing compared to the internal threat.” He did not explain what external threat the Iraqis were being trained for.
In his remarks, the president repeatedly referred to the need to stay in Iraq to deny terrorists a “safe haven.” He asserted, according to the White House transcript that, “Iraq has — had weapons of mass destruction and has the knowledge as to how to produce weapons of mass destruction.” He also said that our enemies “know, and it doesn’t take much to realize, that when you put carnage on our TV screens, it causes us to weep.”
He also said: “It’s not easy work, by the way, to go from tyranny to democracy. We had kind of a round go ourself, if you look back at our history. My Secretary of State’s relatives were enslaved in the United States even though we had a Constitution that said all were — that believed in the dignity, or at least proclaimed to believe in the dignity of all. The Articles of Confederation wasn’t exactly a real smooth start for our government to begin. And what you’re watching on your TV screens is a new democracy emerging.”