Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Report: Ford Said Iraq War Not Justified

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Former President Gerald R. Ford said in an embargoed interview in July 2004 that the Iraq war was not justified, the Washington Post reported Wednesday night.

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, the Post's Bob Woodward wrote. The story initially was posted on the newspaper's Internet site.

''I don't think I would have gone to war,'' Ford told Woodward a little more than a year after President Bush launched the invasion.

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 secretary of defense.

''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.''

Woodward wrote that the interview took place for a future book project, though the former president said his comments could be published at any time after his death.

In another interview released after his death, Ford told CBS News in 1984 that he initially was against using the phrase ''long national nightmare'' in his first speech as president following Richard Nixon's resignation, concerned that it was too harsh.

Ford said he reconsidered and sought his wife's advice. ''After thinking about it and talking to Betty about it, we decided to leave it in and, boy, in retrospect, I'm awfully glad we did,'' he said.


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