Gerald Ford Opposed Iraq War

Gerald Ford would not speak out against another President while alive, especially a Repubilcan President, but now that he has died an embargoed interview from July 2004 reveals that Gerald Ford opposed Bush’s decision to go to war. Bob Woodward reports:

Former president Gerald R. Ford said in an embargoed interview in July 2004 that the Iraq war was not justified. “I don’t think I would have gone to war,” he said a little more than a year after President Bush launched the invasion advocated and carried out by prominent veterans of Ford’s own administration.

In a four-hour conversation at his house in Beaver Creek, Colo., Ford “very strongly” disagreed with the current president’s justifications for invading Iraq and said he would have pushed alternatives, such as sanctions, much more vigorously. In the tape-recorded interview, Ford was critical not only of Bush but also of Vice President Cheney — Ford’s White House chief of staff — and then-Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, who served as Ford’s chief of staff and then his Pentagon chief.

“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.”

Later Woodward reports on how Bush would have handled Saddam:

Describing his own preferred policy toward Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, Ford said he would not have gone to war, based on the publicly available information at the time, and would have worked harder to find an alternative. “I don’t think, if I had been president, on the basis of the facts as I saw them publicly,” he 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.”

This comes as no surprise. It is doubtful that even many of the Republicans who have been actively supporting Bush out of party loyalty would have made this blunder if they were in the White House. Those Repubicans who are supporting the war might face problems in 2008. Wednesday’s Evans-Novak Political Report believes that supporting a surge in troops is hurting John McCain in the polls:

The decline in the polls of Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), as measured against Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.), reflects more than declining Republican popularity nationally in the weeks after the election. It connotes public disenchantment with McCain’s aggressive advocacy of a “surge” of up to 30,000 additional U.S. troops to Iraq. Unless the additional troops show immediate benefits, President George W. Bush‘s determination to put more boots on the ground is feared by Republicans as another political burden to bear.

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20 Comments

  1. 1
    KerryDemocrat says:

    Sad really, that another American had a chance to stand up in opposition and either didn’t or had his views censored by the government.

  2. 2
    janet says:

    I just read this in my newspapers this morning!

  3. 3
    Rev. Jay McLain says:

    * I’m not surprised in the least that President Ford disagreed with Dubya about invading Iraq. I’ve always held Ford in high regard; he was nothing like the currently dominant voices in the Republican Party.
    * What does surprise me is the continuing blindness to the real reasons behind McCain’s fall in popularity. It’s not because he calls for more troops in Iraq. It’s because (a) he crawled in bed with Fallwell and other opponents of the Bill of Rights (when his best chance to win was to continue to be a maverick, he instead embraced the very people most citizens admired him for opposing), and (b) he supports legitimising illegal entry into the US (this may be politically incorrect, but it’s still true, and the only people who would be helped by such an act are the corporatists).
    * The Iraq War, while undoubtedly a bad idea, is also not the real motivation for the disillusionment with the Republican Party, though media gurus have assumed otherwise. Think “USA PATRIOT Act,” and you’ll be on the right track. The attempted dismantling of the entire Constitution is the best reason to oppose the current leadership of the Republican Party. Honest polling would reflect this.

  4. 4
    Ron Chusid says:

    There are several reasons for McCain’s drop in popularity, including both the war and (as I’ve discussed in other posts) his pandering to the religious right.

    I agree with your objections to the Patriot Act but I don’t see widespread opposition to it as with the war.

  5. 5
    Rev. Jay McLain says:

    * Today was the first time I found your blog, so the fact that you have made previous comments about McCain’s prostitution of himself to the Religious Reich was unknown to me. I do think that is a much more telling reason for his decline in popularity than his refusal to advocate a pullout from Iraq. I myself had even _considered_ supporting him before he cozied up to Fallwell, Robertson, & co. (as well as other opponents of the Bill of Rights), and before he proclaimed his support for illegal “immigration.”
    * With reference to public opposition to this or that, my experience of online news polls over the past several months has suggested that they have been rather limiting in the way questions have been posed and in the options presented for answers (this is always the case, of course, but I think they have recently been slanted towards showing opposition to the Iraq War and have not given enough attention to opposition to the USA PATRIOT Act). For example, not much mention of Civil Liberties/Rights (or the Act itself) has been made in recent polling, whereas use of the terms “homeland security” and “terrorism” (and similar buzz-words) has been frequent. This is what I meant in referring to “honest polling.”

  6. 6
    Mr. Bible Belt says:

    Gerald Ford was ahead of his time in politics! If Jimmy Carter can thank the 38th president for helping to heal this nation so should we!!

  7. 7
    Christoher Skyi says:

    “It is doubtful that even many of the Republicans who have been actively supporting Bush out of party loyalty would have made this blunder if they were in the White House.”

    Yes, it was an impressive feat of stupidity and arrogance.

    President Obama rose to power on the basis of his early opposition to the Iraq war and his promise to end it:  in Oct. 2007, Obama supported removing all combat troops from Iraq within 16 months, saying, “I will remove one or two brigades a month, and get all of our combat troops out of Iraq within 16 months. The only troops I will keep in Iraq will perform the limited missions of protecting our diplomats and carrying out targeted strikes on al Qaeda. And I will launch the diplomatic and humanitarian initiatives that are so badly needed. Let there be no doubt: I will end this war.”

    So it is with great disappointment that  but now has decided keep the war in Iraq going for another 19-20 months, after which we will have about 50,000 American troops in Iraq in what amounts to a permanent presence.

    Finally, to add insult to injury:

    McCain Backs Obama’s Iraq War Plan

    (Sigh)

  8. 8
    Christoher Skyi says:

    Just to clarify — I don’t think Obama was dis-honest, mis-leading or deceitful.  It was just a foolish and naive thing to promise, and I was afraid it was going to be a let down. Even though I saw it coming, it was still even a let down for me.

  9. 9
    Ron Chusid says:

    Despite cherry picking a few articles to try to make a bogus argument, Obama has radically changed foreign policy compared to the Bush years. My response has turned into an entire post.

  10. 10
    Fritz says:

    The decision to keep 50K American troops in Iraq is interesting.  It is too many to not be perceived as a permanent occupation and too few to keep patrolling boots on the group to gather the intelligence and personal contacts that are necessary to protect themselves and accurately direct force.  So we will, as in Afghanistan, be suckered by locals into using our air power to settle grievances. 

    Good times.

  11. 11
    Fritz says:

    Christopher — how can you call the promise that won him the nomination “foolish and naive”?  It worked.

  12. 12
    Ron Chusid says:

    It worked, and Obama is ending the war. His definition of ending the war, right or wrong, just might not be what everyone interpreted it as.

    During the primaries, some candidates such as Bill Richardson and Dennis Kucinich were taking a far more extreme view on getting out of Iraq more quickly. There really wasn’t any great degree of support for this in the Democratic primaries. Of course there was something about Richardson which made it hard to take him seriously as the candidate of  more radical change.

  13. 13
    Christoher Skyi says:

    “claiming that Obama’s policies in Iraq are no different than Bush’s as they now have a similar time schedule for withdrawal.”

    Good heavens! I never said that!  But — yeah, I’d say they’re more similar than different when comes to what’s actually happening on the ground. 

    Your post conflates a true honest overall change and stance in foreign policy with a real backslide on Iraq. They’re completely different issues. Just because Obama gets points (well deserved) for one doesn’t means those points apply to the other.

    And, ah, where’s the withdrawal part of Obama’s plan?  Will  those 50,000 troops be there just to sight see? 

    Remember: Obama supported removing all combat troops from Iraq within 16 months, saying, “I will remove one or two brigades a month, and get all of our combat troops out of Iraq within 16 months.”

    Is there some other definition of “all” I’m not familiar with?

    Again, Americans who elected Barack Obama believing that he was likely to end the unpopular Iraq war are NOT  pleased to learn that the bulk of troop withdrawals will not begin until 2010, and that as many as 50,000 U.S. military personnel will remain in Iraq through the end of 2011.
    They shouldn’t be surprised, however. Obama always qualified his call for ending the Iraq war by stipulating that a residual force would remain behind, and John McCain’s endorsement of the Obama plan is further proof of the bipartisan support in Washington for a policy that Americans outside the Beltway turned against long ago.
    Democrats in Congress were unable to force George W. Bush to end the war, and they seem unlikely to challenge a president from their own party. Ironically, we have Iraqi lawmakers to thank for endorsing an agreement between the Maliki government and the outgoing Bush administration that puts pressure on President Obama to remove all U.S. military personnel from Iraq by a date certain. The Obama White House has said that they will abide by that agreement. “The path we’re on here, the path is not towards any sort of a Korea model,” a senior administration official told the New York Times. “The path is towards reducing, in a fairly substantial way, U.S. forces in 2010 and then down to what’s currently anticipated, down to zero, by the end of 2011.”
    A good part of my point is that if, *IF*,  President Obama keeps to that course, we can be confident that the war will eventually come to an end—just not nearly as quickly as the vast majority of Americans had wished.
    However, the longer those 50,000 troops stay there, the more likely there will be some incident that will necessary a longer stay (e.g., Iran countering perceived U.S. influence, another attack on the U.S.) or we’ll have a Beirut type of disaster where we’ll just leave and be seen as running away and abandoning Iraq.
    Finally, Ron, I support this organization,
    Wounded Warrior Project
    and I’m sick about still having to do it, sick of watching young men and women come home with shattered bodies, minds, and the lives of all about them in ruins. And FOR WHAT!!!!
    I had nephew in Iraq. He came back, but he changed, and not for the better. Tell me FOR WHAT! Ron.

  14. 14
    Fritz says:

    Ron, if Bush’s policy of permanent occupation of Iraq with 100K troops is “continuing the war”, then Obama’s policy of permanent occupation of Iraq with 50K troops is absolutely not “ending the war”.

  15. 15
    Christoher Skyi says:

    Fritz:

    “Ironically, we have Iraqi lawmakers to thank for endorsing an agreement between the Maliki government and the outgoing Bush administration that puts pressure on President Obama to remove all U.S. military personnel from Iraq by a date certain. The Obama White House has said that they will abide by that agreement.”

    If the administration can abide by this agreement, and if it really will be 2011 (too long for my tastes), then the “war” is effectively over.  However, like a “check in the mail,” I’ll need to see this before I believe it, and Obama’s actions so far have not raised my confidence.

  16. 16
    Christoher Skyi says:

    Sorry — If the administration can abide by this agreement, and if it really will be 2011 (too long for my tastes), then the “war” WILL BE effectively over. However, like a “check in the mail,” I’ll need to see this before I believe it, and Obama’s actions so far have not raised my confidence.

    Moreover, I think it’s a mistake to kid glove this the way I think Ron has — everyone, esp. the left, needs to keep reminding Obama about his promise and keep the pressure on to get out ASAP. 

    The Iraqis want us out ASAP, most American’s want us out ASAP. There’s no vital national security reason to be there, what’s Obama waiting for?  A guarantee nothing bad will happen after we leave?  There’s no guareetee, and we can easily be waiting around forever if we’re waiting for “conditions to be right.”

  17. 17
    Ron Chusid says:

    Fritz,

    If not both for public opposition and the Constitutional limitations, if Bush could remain in office and do as he chooses I bet he would be leaving far more than twice as many people in Iraq than Obama.

    With regards to what he said to win the nomination, such a residual force is consistent with his campaign statements. He never left it as simply “ending the war” without any qualifications.

  18. 18
    Ron Chusid says:

    Christopher,

    I’m sorry if I misunderstood your position from both your comment here and other comments. I thought you were taking the position (which I do hear from time to time) that there is not much of a difference between Bush and Obama.  The post was written with bot your comment and comments from others in mind, and was written before your clarification in the subsequent comment.

    Arguing that Obama should be getting out quicker, or that he shouldn’t leave a residual force, are definitely valid arguments to make. I just object when people claim either than Obama is now doing different from what he said when running or that he is not much better than Bush.

  19. 19
    Fritz says:

    Ron, I absolutely believe Obama (or Gore for that matter) would not have invaded Iraq.  So in that sense “much better than Bush”, certainly.

    As far as “much better than Bush” wrt Iraq only and at this point — well, it is unclear to me that 50K troops is better than 120K troops.  It might actually be worse.

  20. 20
    Christoher Skyi says:

    “I’m sorry if I misunderstood your position from both your comment here and other comments.”

    No worries Ron. Iraq has long been a sore spot with me. 

    That Obama has greatly improved things on the foreign policy front is w/out question.  It’s also true that the constraints of the “hard material world” will force Obama (or anyone) to modify their plans — but, we’ve got to leave, no ifs, ands, or buts.

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