Jeb Bush had a very bad week. The presumptive Republican presidential candidate repeatedly failed the most basic foreign policy test of his candidacy. The question, offered up in a friendly Fox News interview, was straightforward. “Knowing what we know now, would you have authorized the invasion (of Iraq).” His first answer, “Yes”, was diametrically opposed to the view of fully two-thirds of the American people as reflected in recent polling. Surprisingly, it even enraged the right wing echo chamber – the same voices that accused opponents of the war at the time of un-American and even treasonous behavior. One of the loudest conservative voices even questioned Mr. Bush’s sanity.
Bush’s subsequent answers were a multiple-choice potpourri: the question, he said, is a hypothetical; and then he said the question does a disservice to those who have sacrificed. These responses were even more confusing until he finally got to “No”. Why a candidate whose brother was responsible for the worst unforced foreign policy decision in the history of the nation would be so unprepared for this inevitable question has raised legitimate questions of what he would do if he were in the Oval office.
Mr. Bush has tried to defend himself and his brother by arguing that the intelligence was faulty: “mistakes were made.” That is yet another of his responses. But many of those mistakes were not mistakes at all; they were the result of the deliberate political abuse and fabrication of intelligence. The deliberately cherry-picked intelligence was concocted in order to influence the decision that led to the deaths and injuries of tens of thousands of Americans, countless hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and the quagmire in the Middle East in which we have been enmeshed for the past decade. As the head of British intelligence reported back to his government after meetings in Washington in June, 2002: “The intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy.” Alan Foley, the Director of the CIA’s Weapons Intelligence Non-Proliferation and Arms Control Center (WINPAC) told his people in late 2002 or early 2003: “If the president wants to go to war, our job is to find the intelligence to allow him to do so.”
All of this is well known, so why is Mr. Bush still apparently so confused about our failed war in Iraq? It is possible that he is hesitant to criticize his brother’s administration as some have suggested, even though he recently called the former president his top adviser on the Middle East? It might also be that many of the same people responsible for the disastrous invasion, conquest and occupation of Iraq are now members of his foreign policy team. Seventeen of the twenty-one names on the list of advisers to the Bush campaign-in-waiting worked in his brother’s administration and a majority of those were in one way or another associated with the war in Iraq or its aftermath.
Three names stand out in particular: Paul Wolfowitz, John Hannah and Stephen Hadley, all of whom were intimately involved in promoting the war, and in deceiving not just the American people but the entire world. Wolfowitz and Hannah had their fingers all over the document that formed the basis for Secretary Powell’s speech to the UN in February 2003. Hadley, as President Bush’s Deputy National Security Adviser offered his resignation to then-President Bush after discovering three documents in his files from the CIA telling the White House not to include the claim of yellowcake from Niger in the case for war. These were but two of the many lies promulgated by the cabal that brought such disgrace to the Bush administration and to the country.
How can Jeb Bush claim to be his own man when he has eagerly surrounded himself with the architects of the deception that led to the Iraq war? These very deceivers and failures are the men he has shown he will rely on in the future. So, he is his own man, after all. That explains why his first answer to Megyn Kelly’s question was the most honest one. Yes, knowing what we know now, he would still have invaded Iraq and he has the team of dunces to prove it.
Ambassador Joseph Wilson (USFS, ret.) is the author of The Politics of Truth