The late President Gerald Ford disagreed with the invasion and liberation of Iraq, Bob Woodward reports in today’s Washington Post.
In July 2004, Ford said the March 2003 invasion should not have been based primarily on the claim that Saddam Hussein still had illegal weapons of mass destruction:
“Rumsfeld and Cheney and the president made a big mistake in justifying going into the war in Iraq. They put the emphasis on weapons of mass destruction,” Ford said. “And now, I’ve never publicly said I thought they made a mistake, but I felt very strongly it was an error in how they should justify what they were going to do.”
Hellfire liberation. But then Ford also said the invasion should not have been justified either on the desperate need to liberate the Iraqi people from Saddam’s cruel repression.
“Well, I can understand the theory of wanting to free people,” Ford said, referring to Bush’s assertion that the United States has a “duty to free people.” But the former president said he was skeptical “whether you can detach that from the obligation number one, of what's in our national interest.” He added: “And I just don’t think we should go hellfire damnation around the globe freeing people, unless it is directly related to our own national security.”
So according to Ford, America can do no good unless it’s for selfish reasons. “Never again” meant nothing to him. He saw no way that a freer world could benefit U.S. security.
Fallen dominos. This was the president who did nothing in 1975 as South Vietnam fell to North Vietnamese Communist invaders and Cambodian Communists murdered 1.7 million innocents on the Killing Fields. This was the president who declared bizarrely in that 1976 debate that Eastern Europe was not then under Soviet Communist domination.
Ford seemed like a nice guy. But honestly, he never seemed too smart. Rest in peace.
Update: Despite his apparent ambivalence over the reasons given for invading Iraq, Ford apparently did support winning the war for the newly democratic nation. Last May 11, he told Thomas DeFrank of The New York Daily News that Iraq needed liberating.
That’s slightly different from what he told Woodward in 2004. But then, over the last three or four years, many Americans have had wildly mixed feelings about liberating Iraq. That’s the luxury granted those without responsibility.
“Saddam Hussein was an evil person and there was justification to get rid of him,” Ford observed, “but we shouldn’t have put the basis on weapons of mass destruction. That was a bad mistake. Where does [Bush] get his advice?”