As I’ve already noted, former President George W. Bush is apparently settling some scores in his new memoir. In Europe, his passages about former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder are attracting a good deal of attention.
According to press reports, Bush says Schroder was for the Iraq war before it was against it. Because of his own electoral problems, Bush implies, Schroeder flip-flopped.
The former president writes that when he said he was considering the use of force in Iraq, Schroder said, “‘What is true of Afghanistan is true of Iraq. Nations that sponsor terror must face consequences. If you make it fast and make it decisive, I will be with you.'”
Mr. Bush writes that he “took that as a statement of support. But when the German election arrived later that year, Schroder had a different take. He denounced the possibility of force against Iraq.”
…Mr. Bush writes in “Decision Points” that though he continued to work with the German leader on some issues, “as someone who valued personal diplomacy, I put a high premium on trust. Once that trust was violated, it was hard to have a constructive relationship again.”
Unlike Bush’s former domestic ally Mitch McConnell, who has remained mum about Bush’s similar accusations, Schroeder says Bush is lying:
Schroder said Tuesday that former President George W. Bush “is not telling the truth” in his new memoir “Decision Points,” according to the German magazine Der Spiegel.
…Schroder says Mr. Bush’s description of the exchange is false. He said in that meeting and in others he told Mr. Bush that Germany would stand by the United States if Iraq is shown “to have provided protection and hospitality to al-Qaida fighters.” He added, however, that it became clear in 2002 that the alleged connection between Iraq and al-Qaida “was false and constructed.”
Obviously, one of these former leaders has the facts wrong.
Throughout Europe, if press reports are accurate, most people side with Schroeder.
Bush skeptics certainly have history on their side. The most hawkish supporters of the Iraq-war simply did not countenance conditional support — and have often accused political opponents of simple and hypocritical “flip flops” when something more complicated was at work. I’ve pointed this out before in regard to the “pro-war” votes in the Congress and UN Security Council in fall 2002. Lots of people labeled “war supporters” were simply trying to give the U.S. enough leverage to force Iraq to yield to weapons inspections and assure disarmament.
In this case, Schroeder’s support was contingent upon the evidence of a link between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda:
“Schroeder’s support (for the invasion of Iraq) was conditional on evidence being found of terrorists being harbored in Iraq, so when there was no evidence delivered, he withdrew his support,” LSE professor [Dr. Henning] Meyer told Deutsche Welle. “Bush is attempting to polish his own picture of this situation with the Germans by saying that the breakdown in relations was not his fault and that it was Schroeder who turned opinion against him.”
As RFE/RL reviewer Christian Caryl notes, Bush’s memoir “passes over in silence…how his administration’s repeated declarations of a link between Al-Qaeda and Hussein’s regime warped the work of the intelligence agencies, who had been told all too clearly what their masters wanted to hear.”