Ford: Bush’s invasion of Iraq a ‘big mistake’

President George W. Bush and his top advisers made a “big mistake” in their justification for invading Iraq, Gerald Ford told journalist Bob Woodward in an interview embargoed until after the former president’s death.

Ford, who died on Tuesday at his home in California at age 93, said he would not have gone to war, based on what was known publicly at the time, said the report on The Washington Post Web site on Wednesday.

 Former President Gerald R. Ford (AP Photo)

“I don’t think, if I had been president, on the basis of the facts as I saw them publicly,” Ford said, “I don’t think I would have ordered the Iraq war. I would have maximized our effort through sanctions, through restrictions, whatever, to find another answer.”

In a four-hour tape-recorded interview in July 2004, Ford “very strongly” disagreed with the justification for the 2003 invasion of Iraq advocated and carried out by key Bush advisers and veterans of his own administration — Vice President Dick Cheney and former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld — reported Woodward.

“Rumsfeld and Cheney and the president made a big mistake in justifying going into the war in Iraq. They put the emphasis on weapons of mass destruction,” Ford said.

“And now, I’ve never publicly said I thought they made a mistake, but I felt very strongly it was an error in how they should justify what they were going to do.”

The Bush administration’s initial justification for the war was that Iraq posed a threat because it had stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction. None were found.

The interview and a subsequent conversation in 2005 were done for a future book project, although Ford, who became president in 1974 after Richard Nixon resigned over the Watergate scandal, said his comments could be published any time after his death, Woodward wrote.

Woodward’s reporting with fellow Washington Post journalist Carl Bernstein played a key role in uncovering the Watergate scandal.

Ford was quoted as saying he understood the theory of “wanting to free people.” But the former president said he was skeptical “whether you can detach that from the obligation number one, of what’s in our national interest.”

He added, “And I just don’t think we should go hellfire damnation around the globe freeing people, unless it is directly related to our own national security.”

Woodward said Ford fondly recalled his close working relationship with Cheney and Rumsfeld, while expressing concern about the policies they pursued in more recent years.

“He (Cheney) was an excellent chief of staff. First class,” Ford said. “But I think Cheney has become much more pugnacious” as vice president.

According to the article, Ford said he agreed with former Secretary of State Colin Powell’s assertion that Cheney developed a “fever” about the threat of terrorism and Iraq. “I think that’s probably true.”

Copyright © 2006 Reuters Limited


  1. Rob

    Pardoning Nixon meant that your leaders could get away with anything and never be held legally accountable.

  2. Robert

    I’m just glad to see so many of you offering opinions and discussing current events. I thought discussion was on it’s way out in America. Keep it up folks.

  3. Johnny Flatline

    Ford sat on the Warren Commission and protected Nixon from his role in moving secret funds to Cuban rebels in the 1950’s -a question so sensitive that Nixon couldn’t resist worrying about it when a certain lawyer switched teams and moved his office to a place called . . . . what was it? Oh yeah, I almost forgot . . . . Watergate.

    Washington nearly crapped it’s pants when Oliver Stone considered this ugly detail in his ‘Nixon’ movie. That is one piece of the puzzle strictly forbidden in the American lexicon. So of course Nixon chose him to be President. He earned it!

    And now we learn Ford was against the Iraq War, but waited until he was dead to tell us. How manly is that?

    All this proves to me is that this guy is just one more yes-man, who is more concerned about protecting entrenched power, than he is in reforming it’s abuses on our democracy. You call that love of country? I don’t.

    Democracy is messy, and not fun for some to watch when it’s working well. Progress requires struggles that look abuse in the eye. MLK gets a trophy for NOT keeping his mouth shut. Gerald Ford gets to hide in a grave and reap the false rewards of doing nothing about everything.

  4. But did Ford mention that Saddam Hussein was just another tinhorn dictator used by the US and then sacrificed when convenient? The focus on justifying the attack on the basis of nonexistent WMD just ignores the whole sordid history of US involvement in Iraq, not to mention Ford’s own sins, like setting up the careers of Cheney and Rumsfeld, helping with the JFK assassination cover-up, and involvement in Indonesia. but leave it to the US press to eulogize him instead of doing its duty to inform the American public about the dirty dealing that Ford and other presidents have engaged in.

    BTW, nice comment by Lance.

  5. Sandy Price

    Good luck to you Lance. Many of us are reading the writings everywhere. How long will you be gone? I hope you will have a lap top to keep us with what we are doing and sharing you experiences with us.

  6. Lance

    Unfortunately it really doesnt matter much anymore.

    UAE just announced it has started trading Dollars for Euro, because of the rapidly weakening dollar, USA just got voted the worst place for business travelers to got to, we lost 31 billion in sales last year due to the onerous visa process. The new port of call for business deals has become Dubai and Budaphest. This will also get worse as of Jan 13th when the really draconian security measures are put in place for Entrance.
    The Comptroller of the US has said, “staying on this course will put us 46 trillion in debt in 10-15 years.”
    The US bond will hit junk bond status in 5 years.

    Me, I am shifting all my investents overseas, and as soon as I am out of Med School I am off to Dubai. The US is finacially imploding in 10 years.

    I recommend that anyone out there with half a brain start really reading the writing on the wall.

  7. Daryl

    Just remember who is against us Rothchild ,the banks an corporations are bringing the dollar down as Ross Perot sain a giant sucking sound as the bubble burst’s no matter who is in they all allow the criminal elements to control them none have a back bone since Kennedy,the TV trained them well.

  8. Bill Jonke

    Gerald Ford was a good man. I voted for him and did not bear any grudges for his pardon of Nixon. Furthermore, Nixon himself had it all over george w bush as far as integrity was concerned, though it would not have been very hard to have integrity over mr. bush.

    The Republican Party was a different entity in those days. Integrity existed there where at present, bush and his minions have tainted its reputation indefinitely with the total ignorance of it.

    Gerald Ford will be thought of fondly.