Former Bush Aide Says Iraq War 'Not Necessary'


"Not necessary": Scott McClellan Wathiq Khuzaie/Getty Images hide caption

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Tony Judt talks about America and the meaning of war.

In a book coming out on Monday, former White House press secretary Scott McClellan says that President Bush misled the nation to war in Iraq and that the president wanted to create for himself a "legacy of greatness." For the record, the White House calls McClellan "disgruntled."

McClellan certainly sounds displeased, at any rate. He writes:

"No one, including me, can know with absolute certainty how the war will be viewed decades from now when we can more fully understand its impact. . . . What I do know is that war should only be waged when necessary, and the Iraq war was not necessary."

McClellan's argument reminds me of a conversation I had recently with someone from the other end of the political spectrum. Writer Tony Judt describes himself as a Socialist Democrat, the kind of political thinker you might find in Scandinavia. Judt has been a vocal critic of the Bush Administration and the war in Iraq, but he's no pacifist. He considers war a valid branch of foreign policy, but only as a last resort.

Judt stopped by a few weeks ago to talk about his new book, Reappraisals: Reflections on the Forgotten Twentieth Century. Among his central ideas is that American policymakers reach for war too quickly, because we have forgotten what war really means.



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Absolute B.S., both on the part of the media and this front man who was more than willing to lie and spin the truth, just as Perino does now. Only NOW does he come to "realize" what he did, when he has a way to profit from his acquiescence to this circus.

I wish I could understand why we (and the media) are so willing to let people like McClellan and George Tenant lie to our faces knowingly and purposefully when it suits them, then accept their stories as shocking when it serves them some gain. Give me stories about people who resigned before the war started because they held some shred of moral character, not this clown.

Sent by Leigh Cutler | 9:01 AM | 5-29-2008

I am no fan Bush, or McClellan for that matter, but I believe it is the press secretary's job to accurately represent the president's position at all times. If this involves lying, so be it. If you don't like the job quit. It does not serve the country to have the White House staff disagreeing in public.

I also believe it is the President's job to lie sometimes. He or she will always have more information than we do, and they need to set a policy based on that information. There is just no way to do this and stick to the truth at all times. There is also no compelling reason to state all sides of an argument. The president is supposed to unite the country on a single course of action. You don't do this by being fair and balanced. Let the press and the opposition party truth-squad the president. That's their job. Or at least it was until 9/11.

A president's legacy will be judged in part based on what he/she lied about and for what reasons. I believe Bush will be judged a knee-walking turkey for the Iraq war and many other reasons. On the other hand Churchill is a considered a hero by most and he lied about a great many things during the war including the bombing of Coventry. A president and a press secretary who didn't lie would be hopelessly ineffective. It's sad, but true.

Sent by Dave Wiley | 10:21 AM | 5-29-2008

I find 3 things difficult to believe:

1) That anyone in this country actually believes the Bush administration didn't lie and deceive this country into a terrible war. McClellan merely confirms what anyone with half a brain already knew.

2) That anyone believes the job of press secretary is anything other than saying exactly what the president tells him or her to say. If you have a problem with half truths or lies, don't take the job.

3) That anyone believes Scott McClellan, or anyone else for that matter, could have questioned or challenged the policies of this administration and not been hung out to dry...or just hung. For Rove or any of these idiots to say, "Well, I don't remember Scott ever raising these points when he was the Press Secretary" is just ridiculous.

I'm sure McClellan was willing to swallow all the B.S. because it kept him in Washington. If you're a politico, this is like playing in the Super Bowl, right? What I'm curious about is why exactly did he leave. Did he finally get a conscience or was he just thrown out with the trash? In either case, I refuse to support his hypocrisy by buying his book.

And, by the way, if he really had a spine, he wouldn't have knuckled under today when he backtracked and said "It's not a deliberate effort on the president's part or any of his advisers..." Come on Scott! You know that's just a lie too! When does it stop?

Sent by Steve Benasso | 10:39 AM | 5-29-2008

Somehow, I get the distinct impression that we all play along in a continuous game of denial, much like the fable where the Emperor has no clothes. We all see the obvious, yet we sit there and pretend we aren't witnessing the same thing.

Such is the case with this administration. Time and time and time again, we see a President whose decisions appear to be made with little (if any) regard for those around him, and seem to be motivated for reasons beyond common sense. It's as though the truth...even simply telling the now considered optional, and should be used only when politically suitable, or perhaps as a means to promote an agenda...or sell a book.

I don't necessarily blame Scott McClellan for waiting to speak up until now. It's common knowledge that those who work within this current administration are sworn to uphold the beliefs of the President, no matter their position or beliefs, and that any deviation from that is grounds for immediate termination. Agree with everything that the President says, and you're in the Whitehouse. Disagree...and it's the doghouse, even if what you offer is the truth.

For some time now, we have asked ourselves, "what ever happened to the Press?" What happened to an organization of professionals that used to question the decisions of our leaders? What happened to good, old-fashioned reporting that dug up the truth and insisted on public scrutiny and comment? Perhaps we wouldn't be in the position we are had the Press pushed a little harder for information prior to our going into this senseless war, and the media not been so willing to roll over and accept everything it was told, fearing the charge of "unpatriotic".

I wonder if we will, after all that has happened (and is happening), learn from this stupid blunder, and not make the same mistakes once again. Maybe the next administration to move into the Whitehouse will look outside its walls for a little input, and guys like Scott McClellan will have permission to disagree without fear of retribution.

Sent by Richard - Denver, CO | 1:20 PM | 5-29-2008

McClellan was merely a puppet for Bush's administration, a mouth-piece for the White House, not a policy-maker. It was not his position to ask questions and give his opinions. He had doubts about decisions that were made but kept doing his job. I find it refreshing to see a man who has learned something from his experience and is willing to admit to mistakes.

McClellan has confirmed that Bush has been a puppet as well, making decisions based on the influence of others. Karl Rove once stated in an interview,that he chose to court Bush for the Republican candidacy before 2000, because he was highly suggestible and would do whatever the party wanted. He thought that he was complimenting Bush with this statement. It's time to focus on the puppeteers as well as the puppets.

Sent by Rike Haj | 3:08 PM | 5-29-2008

I note that the White House was prompt in issuing the standard denial: adopting a tone of being "puzzled", some patronizing "disappointment", a suggestion that the whistle-blower is merely a disgruntled employee.

There have been a number of these already in the past two administrations, and there will be more in the media and in the corporate sphere where the untruth becomes not only morally repugnant but too much overhead to bear productively.

Organizations of all kinds begin to founder when they are run on misinformation and denial to this extent.

Maybe this will change, and when we see the pejorative code word "disgruntled employee" we will see through it and understand that this was more likely a person who had a commitment to truth, than a mere complainer or malcontent.

The whistle-blower or disgruntled employee is going to turn out to be the one demonstrating some character in the face of pressure to abandon ethics and standards.

Sent by Robert | 10:07 PM | 5-29-2008

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