THE PRESIDENT: I think your premise — in all due respect to your question and to you as a lifelong journalist — is that — I didn’t want war. To assume I wanted war is just flat wrong, Helen, in all due respect —
Q Everything —
THE PRESIDENT: Hold on for a second, please.
Q — everything I’ve heard —
THE PRESIDENT: Excuse me, excuse me. No President wants war. Everything you may have heard is that, but it’s just simply not true. […]
Part of that meant to make sure that we didn’t allow people to provide safe haven to an enemy. And that’s why I went into Iraq — hold on for a second —
Q They didn’t do anything to you, or to our country.
THE PRESIDENT: Look — excuse me for a second, please. Excuse me for a second. They did. The Taliban provided safe haven for al Qaeda. That’s where al Qaeda trained —
Q I’m talking about Iraq —
THE PRESIDENT: Helen, excuse me. […] I also saw a threat in Iraq. I was hoping to solve this problem diplomatically. That’s why I went to the Security Council; that’s why it was important to pass 1441, which was unanimously passed. And the world said, disarm, disclose, or face serious consequences —
The New York Times today takes a closer look at the Manning Memo, the memo dated January 23, 2003 detailing a meeting between George Bush and Tony Blair, written by David Manning (Blair’s chief foreign policy advisor).
The memo cites Bush as acknowledging that he was going to invade Iraq . . . regardless. In fact, since the inspectors were unable to find WMD, Bush was talking about provoking Saddam into a war:
During a private two-hour meeting in the Oval Office on Jan. 31, 2003, he made clear to Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain that he was determined to invade Iraq without the second resolution, or even if international arms inspectors failed to find unconventional weapons.
….The memo also shows that the president and the prime minister acknowledged that no unconventional weapons had been found inside Iraq. Faced with the possibility of not finding any before the planned invasion, Mr. Bush talked about several ways to provoke a confrontation
…."The U.S. was thinking of flying U2 reconnaissance aircraft with fighter cover over Iraq, painted in U.N. colours," the memo says, attributing the idea to Mr. Bush. "If Saddam fired on them, he would be in breach."
It also described the president as saying, "The U.S. might be able to bring out a defector who could give a public presentation about Saddam’s W.M.D," referring to weapons of mass destruction.
A brief clause in the memo refers to a third possibility, mentioned by Mr. Bush, a proposal to assassinate Saddam Hussein.
People who have Bush scandal fatigue (that would include me) might pass this item by with a ho-hum, but history will not be so forgiving.
UPDATE: Think Progress has a nice side-by-side comparison of Bush’s public/private statements regarding the Iraq War.