'Bush didn't go to war for Israel'

Rove says US wished to prevent WMDs from falling into hands of dictators.

March 10, 2010 03:46
2 minute read.
Karl Rove.

karl rove 311. (photo credit: AP)

WASHINGTON – Karl Rove flatly rejects the notion that Israel was connected to the George W. Bush administration’s decision to go to war in Iraq, in a new book that hit bookstores Tuesday.

Rove, Bush’s close confidante and a senior White House adviser at the time of the US invasion in 2003, describes several theories critics offered on why the president attacked Baghdad, among them “that he was doing the bidding of Israel”; teaching the Arab world a lesson; or finishing what his father started in the first Gulf War.

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“None of these is true,” he writes. “The reason we turned our attention to Iraq was much more straightforward: We believed Saddam Hussein posed a threat to America’s national security.”

To back up his statement, Rove points to the less-than-complete international accounting Hussein had given of his chemical, biological and nuclear weapons program, his support of terrorists, his continued threatening of American pilots overseeing Iraq’s no-fly zone, his evasion of sanctions, and his flouting of 16 UN resolutions following the end of the Gulf War, among other issues.

“In the wake of 9/11, these actions made Saddam Hussein a unique threat,” says Rove in his 520-page book xxCourage and Consequence: My Life as a Conservative in the Fight.

In most cases a defense of the Bush and his administration’s decisions, the book also includes personal background on Rove’s upbringing, work as a political strategist, and role in issues ranging from Katrina to gay marriage. But the bulk of chapters devoted to policy issues revolves around 9/11 and the Iraq war.

In these passages, Rove hypothesizes that Bush wouldn’t have launched the Iraq invasion if he didn’t believe Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.

While he also offers other justifications for Bush’s decision – that the former president “believed overthrowing Saddam would provide the opportunity to transform the political cultures of the Middle East,” and that he “saw democracy as a bulwark against Islamic extremism, which spawned terrorist networks” – he stresses the role of WMD most emphatically.

“Bush was determined to do all he could to prevent the most powerful weapons from falling into the hands of the world’s most dangerous dictators” following the 9/11 attacks, according to Rove. “Would the Iraq War have occurred without WMD? I doubt it.”

He provides several possibilities for why the intelligence proved faulty, including citing Moshe Ya’alon – then Israel’s top general – claiming the WMD had been moved to Syria before the war. But he maintains that Bush “absolutely” did not lie in leading the American people into war.

He does take the blame, however, for not pushing back more strongly against that assertion.

“Our weak response in defense of the president and in setting the record straight is, I believe, one of the biggest mistakes of the Bush years,” he writes. “Who was responsible for the failure to respond? I was.”

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