Republican Senator Chuck Hagel: Bush Wanted to Send Troops Anywhere in the Middle East - I Do Regret That Vote
And the grand plan continues. GQ is out with an interview with Senator Hagel:
"Even before we actually invaded, I had a pretty clear sense of it, that this administration was hell-bent on going to war in Iraq."
"They could go into Greece or anywhere. Is central Asia in the region? I suppose! Sure as hell it was clear they meant the whole Middle East. It was anything. It was literally anything. No boundaries. No restrictions."
"All this stuff was doctored. Absolutely. But that's what we were presented with."
"Do I regret that vote? Yes, I do regret that vote."
On the 2003 Resolution from President Bush asking Congress to authorize the Iraq War:
Q: But there was a decision whether to grant the president that authority or not.
Exactly right. And if you recall, the White House had announced that they didn't need that authority from Congress.
Q: Which they seem to say about a lot of things.
That's right. Mr. [Alberto] Gonzales was the president's counsel at that time, and he wrote a memo to the president saying, "You have all the powers that you need." So I called Andy Card, who was then the chief of staff, and said, "Andy, I don't think you have a shred of ground to stand on, but more to the point, why would a president seriously consider taking a nation to war without Congress being with him?" So a few of us--Joe Biden, Dick Lugar, and I--were invited into discussions with the White House.
Q: It's incredible that you had to ask for that.
It is incredible. That's what I said to Andy Card. Said it to Powell, said it to Rice. Might have even said it to the president. And finally, begrudgingly, they sent over a resolution for Congress to approve. Well, it was astounding. It said they could go anywhere in the region.
Q: It wasn't specific to Iraq?
Oh no. It said the whole region! They could go into Greece or anywhere. Is central Asia in the region? I suppose! Sure as hell it was clear they meant the whole Middle East. It was anything. It was literally anything. No boundaries. No restrictions.
Q: They expected Congress to let them start a war anywhere in the Middle East?
Yes. Yes. Wide open. We had to rewrite it. Joe Biden, Dick Lugar, and I stripped the language that the White House had set up and put our language in it.
Q: But that should also have triggered alarm bells about what they really wanted to do.
Well, it did. And I'm not defending our votes; I'm just giving a little history of how this happened. You have to remember the context of when that resolution was passed. This was about a year after September 11. The country was still truly off balance. So the president comes out talking about the "weapons of mass destruction" that this "madman dictator" Saddam Hussein has, and "our intelligence shows he's got it," and "he's capable of weaponizing," and so on.
On evidence for going to war:
All this stuff was doctored. Absolutely. But that's what we were presented with. And I'm not dismissing our responsibility to look into the thing, because there were senators who said, "I don't believe them" But I was told by the president--we all were--that he would exhaust every diplomatic effort.
Q: You were told that personally?
I remember specifically bringing it up with him. I said, "This has to be like your father did it in 1991. We had every Middle East nation except one with us in 1991. The United Nations was with us."
Q: Did he give you that assurance, that he would do the same thing as his father?
Yep. He said, "That's what we're going to do." But the more I look back on it, the more I think that the administration knew there was some real hard question whether he really had any WMD. In January of 2003, if you recall, the inspectors at the IAEA, who knew more about what Saddam had than anybody, said, "Give us two more months before you go to war, because we don't think there's anything in there." They were the only ones in Iraq. We hadn't been in there. We didn't know what the hell was in there. And the president wouldn't do it! So to answer your question--Do I regret that vote? Yes, I do regret that vote.
Q: And you feel like you were misled?
I asked tough questions of Wolfowitz and Rumsfeld before the war: How are you going to govern? Who's going to govern? Where is the money coming from? What are you going to do with their army? How will you secure their borders? And I was assured every time I was asked, "Senator, don't worry, we've got task forces on that, they've been working, they're coordinated," and so on.
Q: Do you think they knew that was false?
Oh, I eventually was sure they knew. Even before we actually invaded, I had a pretty clear sense of it, that this administration was hell-bent on going to war in Iraq.
Q: Even if it meant deceiving Congress?