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Bush Sr. Warned in 1996 that War on Iraq Would Enflame Entire Arab World

by JASON LEOPOLD

Former President George Bush predicted in 1996 that if the United States were to engage in another war with Iraq, one aimed at overthrowing Saddam Hussein, the “entire Arab world would turn against us” and the U.S. would alienate its allies in the international community.

“To occupy Iraq would instantly shatter our coalition, turning the whole Arab world against us, and make a broken tyrant into a latter-day Arab hero,” Bush said in an interview with the BBC marking the five-year anniversary of the Gulf War.

Moreover, Vice President Dick Cheney said at an energy conference six years ago that hundreds of thousands of United States soldiers and Iraqi civilians would die if a war in Iraq were ever fought on the streets of Baghdad.

“To have brought the (Gulf) war into the populous Iraqi capital of Baghdad where Hussein is based would have involved a different type of military operation than in the desert, and would have put large numbers of Iraqi civilians and hundreds of thousands of our troops at risk of being killed,” he said.

Cheney, the former chairman and chief executive of oil conglomerate Halliburton Co. and former defense secretary under the first President Bush, was referring to the 1991 Gulf War when the U.S. liberated Kuwait. Cheney also said in 1997 that if the U.S. were to engage in another war with Iraq and try to remove Saddam Hussein from power the international coalition “would come apart,” a situation currently in the making as U.S. relations with France, Germany and Russia are becoming increasingly strained because our allies will not back a U.S. led coalition to attack Iraq.

Despite the dire warnings Bush Sr. and Cheney made six years ago, the current Bush Administration appears to be on course to launch a full-scale war with Iraq, one that appears to be more about finding Saddam Hussein and assassinating the Iraqi President than destroying any weapons of mass destruction that may or may no be hidden somewhere in the country.

Until that goal is achieved, the U.S. and the rest of the world will never be safe or at peace; statements made repeatedly by Republican hawks since the end of the first Gulf War.

“Unless we can take out Saddam Hussein, we are going to have to live with Saddam Hussein (for a long time),” said James Schlesinger, former defense secretary under presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford, at a conference in 1998. Schlesinger noted however that the countries of the region “don’t want us to attack Iraq.”

“We keep getting waved off,” he said.

If the U.S. decides to attack Iraq this time around urban warfare appears to be inevitable, according to news reports that quoted senior defense officials.

Cheney said in 1997 that President Bush was not willing to sacrifice U.S. soldiers’ lives by allowing combat to spread to Baghdad in an effort to locate Saddam Hussein, a situation which the current Bush Administration seems willing to do now.

“From the standpoint of the president, the question was how many additional (U.S.) lives is Saddam Hussein worth? And his answer was, `Not very many,’ ” Cheney said.

Cheney said six years ago that capturing the Iraqi president would be very difficult and would likely involve a large number of civilian casualties.

“The only way to make certain you could get him was to go occupy all of Iraq and start sorting through Iraqis until you find Saddam Hussein,” Cheney said in 1997.

If the U.S. does invade Iraq, the Bush Administration said the war won’t last more than two months and will not involve a large number of U.S. or civilian casualties.

But Secretary of State Colin Powell warned President Bush last year that if the U.S. starts a war in Iraq without the support of a majority of our allies in the international community, which is the case now, it would be “much more complicated and bloody” than the first Gulf War.

JASON LEOPOLD can be reached at: jasonleopold@hotmail.com

 

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JASON LEOPOLD is the former Los Angeles bureau chief of Dow Jones Newswires where he spent two years covering the energy crisis and the Enron bankruptcy. He just finished writing a book about the crisis, due out in December through Rowman & Littlefield. He can be reached at: jasonleopold@hotmail.com

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