CNN's Malveaux noted H.W. Bush's defense of son on Iraq, but not his assertion in 1990s that invasion would have been "disastrous"

››› ››› BEN ARMBRUSTER

In a report on CNN's Late Edition, Suzanne Malveaux reported that President George H.W. Bush recently came out "very forcefully defending" his son against critics of his decision to invade Iraq "because he feels that he does have some experience when it comes to dealing with Saddam Hussein, and he absolutely believes that the criticism against his son has just not been fair." But Malveaux did not mention that the former president declined to order an invasion of Iraq in 1991, saying that after coalition forces expelled Iraqi troops from Kuwait, "going into Baghdad" and "going to be an occupying power ... with no allies on our side ... would have been disastrous."

On the November 11 edition of CNN's Late Edition, CNN White House correspondent Suzanne Malveaux asserted that former President George H.W. Bush recently came out "very forcefully defending" his son, President George W. Bush, against critics of his decision to invade Iraq "because he feels that he does have some experience when it comes to dealing with Saddam Hussein, and he absolutely believes that the criticism against his son has just not been fair." Yet Malveaux did not mention that the elder President Bush declined to order an invasion of Iraq during the 1991 Gulf War and later defended that decision by saying that after coalition forces expelled Iraqi troops from Kuwait, "going into Baghdad" and "going to be an occupying power -- America in an Arab land -- with no allies on our side. It would have been disastrous."

In a November 9 article, USA Today reported that, during an interview with the newspaper the previous day, President George H.W. Bush "forcefully defended his son's handling of the Iraq war ... saying critics of the current president have forgotten the 'extraordinary brutality' of deposed Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein." Unlike Malveaux's report, however, the article noted that the elder Bush "rejected calls to topple Saddam" and that an interactive computer program installed at his presidential library at Texas A&M University "that allows visitors to consider options Bush weighed during the Gulf War ... calls the idea of going to Baghdad 'very tempting' but says it 'would have been a disastrous decision,' splintering the international coalition and leaving U.S. and possibly British troops on their own in Iraq."

At a reunion of Operation Desert Storm veterans in February 1999, President George H.W. Bush explained his administration's decision to forgo invading Iraq and toppling Saddam from power after Iraqi forces were forced to withdraw from Kuwait in 1991. He speculated that it might have resulted in "a fruitless hunt in an urban guerilla war to find the most-secure dictator in the world," asking, "Whose life would be on my hands as the commander-in-chief because I, unilaterally, went beyond the international law, went beyond the stated mission, and said we're going to show our macho?" Bush then added that "[w]e're going into Baghdad. We're going to be an occupying power -- America in an Arab land -- with no allies at our side. It would have been disastrous."

In the memoir he co-wrote with his former national security adviser Brent Scowcroft, A World Transformed (Knopf, September 1998), the elder Bush stated that an invasion of Iraq would have led to "incalculable human and political costs" and that the coalition would have "instantly collapsed":

Trying to eliminate Saddam, extending the ground war into an occupation of Iraq, would have violated our guideline about not changing objectives in midstream, engaging in "mission creep," and would have incurred incalculable human and political costs. Apprehending him was probably impossible. We had been unable to find Noriega in Panama, which we knew intimately. We would have been forced to occupy Baghdad and, in effect, rule Iraq. The coalition would instantly have collapsed, the Arabs deserting it in anger and other allies pulling out as well. Under those circumstances, there was no viable "exit strategy" we could see, violating another of our principles. Furthermore, we had been self-consciously trying to set a pattern for handling aggression in the post-Cold War world. Going in and occupying Iraq, thus unilaterally exceeding the United Nations' mandate, would have destroyed the precedent of international response to aggression we hoped to establish. Had we gone the invasion route, the United States could conceivably still be an occupying power in a bitterly hostile land. It would have been a dramatically different -- and perhaps barren -- outcome.

From the November 11 edition of CNN's Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer:

BLITZER: Suzanne, I want you to listen to what the current president of the United States, George Bush, said about his legacy this past week in an interview with German TV.

BUSH [video clip]: I think I'll be remembered as a guy who, you know, was dealt some pretty tough issues to deal with and I dealt with them head on. You know, I didn't try to shy away. I didn't, you know -- I didn't sacrifice. I just was -- I was firm. And that I made decisions based upon principles, not based upon the latest Gallup poll.

BLITZER: Is he already looking ahead to -- you know, he's still got more than a year to go on the job. What do you think?

MALVEAUX: I know that he wants to get some things done, but, obviously, he is looking at his legacy as well. Usually when the legacy question comes up, it's a journalist who's asked him about it, whether or not he has any regrets.

And he's always saying that, in the long term, he feels that he will be validated, his policies will be validated. So, he believes, because George Washington is still being analyzed, that, in his lifetime, there really isn't going to be an accurate assessment of his presidency. It's going to be long after he's gone.

What was interesting is that we actually heard from his father, Bush 41, this week, coming out very forcefully defending his son here. I mean, obviously, the former president, he has nothing to lose. This is a guy who's 83 years old, jumped out of an airplane, did another skydiving trip just this past week to memorialize, to mark off the remodeling of his own presidential library.

And he is coming out very forcefully to defend his son because he feels that he does have some experience when it comes to dealing with Saddam Hussein, and he absolutely believes that the criticism against his son has just not been fair.

BLITZER: Suzanne Malveaux, get ready for Las Vegas. She's going to be there with me, with John Roberts, with Campbell Brown for the next Democratic presidential debate. That's Thursday night. Suzanne, thanks very much.

Posted In
National Security & Foreign Policy
Network/Outlet
CNN
Person
Suzanne Malveaux
Show/Publication
Late Edition
We've changed our commenting system to Disqus.
Instructions for signing up and claiming your comment history are located here.
Updated rules for commenting are here.