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George W. Bush Was Contemplating Invading Iraq in 1999

Com­ment: Among the dis­clo­sures in the bril­liant recent book Fam­i­ly of Secrets [1] by Russ Bak­er [2] are state­ments by Bush fam­i­ly asso­ciate and author Mick­ey Her­skowitz that Bush felt that start­ing a war was key to being a suc­cess­ful leader, and that W was con­tem­plat­ing invad­ing Iraq in 1999.

Bush clear­ly felt that a suc­cess­ful pos­ture as a mil­i­tary con­queror would enable real­iza­tion of his reac­tionary domes­tic agen­da. After read­ing the fol­low­ing excerpts, recall his com­ment after his re-elec­tion in 2004 that he had “some polit­i­cal cap­i­tal” and that he was “going to spend it.”

Read a Mini-Review of Fam­i­ly of Secrets here. [3]

” . . . Her­skowitz keeps think­ing about what might have hap­pened if the pub­lic had learned how W. real­ly thinks. ‘He told me that as a leader, you can nev­er admit to a mis­take,’ Her­skowitz said. ‘That was one of the keys to being a leader.’

There were oth­er things that W. told Her­skowitz about what makes a suc­cess­ful leader. Promi­nent among them, the future Pres­i­dent of the Unit­ed States con­fid­ed, was the ben­e­fit of start­ing a war. [Ital­ics are mine–D.E.] . . . .

. . . While W. seemed some­what hazy on specifics, on one point he was clear: the many ben­e­fits that would accrue if he were to over­throw Sad­dam Hus­sein. Her­skowitz recalled that Bush and his advis­ers were sold on the idea that it was dif­fi­cult for a pres­i­dent to real­ize his leg­isla­tive agen­da with­out the high approval num­bers that accom­pa­ny successful–even if modest–wars.

‘He was think­ing about invad­ing Iraq in 1999,’ Her­skowitz told me in our 2004 inter­view, lean­ing in a lit­tle to make sure I could hear him prop­er­ly. ‘It was on his mind. He said to me: ‘One of the keys to being seen as a great leader is to be seen as a com­man­der in cheif.’ And he said, ‘My father had all this polit­i­cal cap­i­tal built up when he drove the Iraqis out of Kuwait, and he wast­ed it.’ He said, ‘If I have a chance to invade . . . if I had that much cap­i­tal, I’m not going to waste it.’ I’m going to get every­thing passed that I want to get passed, and I’m going to have a suc­cesss­ful pres­i­den­cy. . . .” (Fam­i­ly of Secrets; pp. 422–423.)