George W. Bush wasn't always for finishing off the Iraq job that many NeoCons came to believe he had left unfinished.
In 1997, while governor of Texas, President Bush was actively opposed to further war on Iraq, and believed deposing Saddam Hussein would lead to the rise of an insurgency, as this story details :
"There are a lot of Americans (who say), 'Why didn't you go get him?'" Bush told the San Antonio Express-News, referring to Saddam Hussein. "Well, I'm confident that losing men and women as a result of sniper fire inside of Baghdad would have turned the tide of public opinion very quickly."
..Bush said efforts to ferret out Saddam from his many Baghdad hideouts would have transformed the battle from a desert conflict to an unpopular "guerrilla war."
A decade later, proponents of the Iraq war, including President Bush and his father, dismiss those reservations, saying the 9-11 terrorist attacks forced the conflict.
"The world has changed since 1997," White House spokesman Blair Jones said Friday. "Since that time this nation experienced one of the most horrific moments in our history — the attacks on September 11, 2001.
"As the president has said many times, one of the lessons learned from that day is that we have to take emerging threats seriously. We have to deal with them before they fully materialize."
Still, the fears expressed 10 years ago have become reality.
The United States is mired in a ground war, with no military or political solutions in near sight. Insurgents, using increasingly sophisticated roadside bombs to target coalition troops, are waging the very guerrilla war that Bush predicted.
(President George W. Bush and his father) have consistently supported one another on how they handled their conflicts in the Persian Gulf. Back then, the elder Bush told the Express-News his son "got it right" in his assessment of the first Gulf War.
The former president also suggested that the decision he did not make — to send U.S. troops all the way into Baghdad — would have led America into another Vietnam-like conflict, "and one guerrilla war in my lifetime was enough."
The comments of both men a decade ago stand in contrast to statements they made at the end of last week. President Bush said at a Terrell Hills fund-raiser Thursday that history would vindicate his decision.
"Some day people are going to look back at this time and day and say, 'Thank God there was a generation that did not lose faith ... because the Middle East is a place free of suiciders..."
As the president met with troops and his backers before heading to Crawford, his father lashed out at critics of the war.
"Do they want to bring back Saddam Hussein, these critics?" he told USA Today on Thursday. "Do they want to go back to the status quo ante? I don't know what they are talking about here. Do they think life would be better in the Middle East if Saddam were still there?"
The younger Bush told the Express-News a decade ago that people didn't "really fully understand" why Gens. H. Norman Schwarzkopf Jr. and Colin Powell, then chairman of the Joint Chiefs, decided to stop the invasion "because it seemed so easy out in the battlefield."
"The mission wasn't to destroy his forces, the mission wasn't to destroy Saddam Hussein, the mission was damned sure not to occupy Baghdad," the elder President Bush told the Express-News at the time in a phone interview. "The mission was to end the aggression, kick him out of Kuwait. So when the commanders said mission accomplished, I was very happy to declare victory."
...long before crafting the policy of pre-emption, Bush had a different position. Pointing to Iraqi efforts to toss the U.S. inspectors, he said 10 years ago this week that Clinton would be wise to talk with his father, saying, "I think my dad conducted himself brilliantly during Desert Storm and understands the situation pretty clearly."
The subject came up again in an Express-News interview with the elder Bush when the USS San Antonio was commissioned last year in Texas.
Asked about the wisdom of invading Iraq, Bush said, "I support the president 100 percent on that, but you know our mission as you may remember wasn't to do anything other than to eject this guy from Kuwait, which we did. Salute, come home, and that's what we did. You don't hear it much anymore, incidentally, 'Why did you not march into Baghdad?' You don't hear that so much."
Old interviews like this explain why Bush and the NeoCons always say "9/11 changed everything." They have to say that, to explain why they thought so differently about Iraq and Saddam Hussein after the attacks.
But there are numerous books quoting highly placed insiders of the first George W. Bush administration who said the 'War On Iraq' was on the cards from virtually they day President Bush took over the White House, some eight months before the 9/11 attacks.
It's fascinating to see that President Bush was actually more prescient about what would result from a new war on Iraq in 1997 than he was in 2002.