A powerful, largely invisible influence on Bush’s Iraq policy was former secretary of state Kissinger.
“Of the outside people that I talk to in this job,” Vice President Cheney told me in the summer of 2005, “I probably talk to Henry Kissinger more than I talk to anybody else. He just comes by and, I guess at least once a month, Scooter and I sit down with him.” (Scooter is I. Lewis Libby, then Cheney’s chief of staff.)
The president met privately with Kissinger every couple of months, making him the most regular and frequent outside adviser to Bush on foreign affairs.
Kissinger sensed wobbliness everywhere on Iraq, and he increasingly saw the situation through the prism of the Vietnam War. For Kissinger, the overriding lesson of Vietnam is to stick it out.
In his writing, speeches and private comments, Kissinger claimed that the United States had essentially won the war in 1972, only to lose it because of the weakened resolve of the public and Congress.
In a column in The Washington Post on Aug. 12, 2005, titled “Lessons for an Exit Strategy,” Kissinger wrote, “Victory over the insurgency is the only meaningful exit strategy.”
He delivered the same message directly to Bush, Cheney and Hadley at the White House.
The image of Henry Kissinger schooling George W. Bush on the lessons of Vietnam is enough to make a grown man cry.