WASHINGTON (CBS DC) — Former President George W. Bush said that America has learned its “lesson” that Iraqis are not yet capable of providing their own security and said the current military strikes against ISIS show Iraq still needs U.S. support.
Speaking on a wide-range of topics with Fox News, Bush commented on his own prediction in 2007 that a full withdrawal of troops from Iraq would not be good for either the U.S. or the Iraqi people in their attempt to foster a democracy.
“The Iraqi people obviously are going to have to make the decision as to whether or not they want to live in peace,” the former president said. “They’re not ready to do it on their own, and that’s the lesson we’ve learned recently.”
When asked if the Iraqi people had blown their opportunity to build a new country Bush said, “It’s not over.”
Before leaving office in 2007, Bush warned against withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq, citing that a withdrawal would be “dangerous” and would be “risking mass killings on a horrific scale, it would mean we allow the terrorists to establish a safe haven in Iraq to replace the one they lost in Afghanistan.”
Asked how he was able to make that prediction, Bush said “I know the nature of the enemy.”
“Anybody who kills 3,000 innocents and beheads people because of their religion or because of their point of view is dangerous,” Bush said. “Americans have got to understand that the lesson of 9/11 is still important today as it was right after 9/11, and that is the human condition elsewhere matters to our national security.”
He said that democracy “takes time” and that Americans should see that fostering a democracy is a long-term strategy.
Bush noted that he agreed with Obama’s military advisers’ that the U.S. should have kept a residual force behind in Iraq after the 2011 withdrawal – but he declined to criticize the efforts of President Obama.
“A president has to make the choices that he thinks are important, I’m not going to second-guess our president. I understand how tough the job is, and to have a former president bloviating and second-guessing is I don’t think good for the presidency or for the country. He and his team will make the best-informed decisions they can make.”
Bush also commented on his friendship with former President Bill Clinton, saying that he “likes to talking to” the only other Baby Boomer president.
Bush also noted that his brother, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, “wants to be president” and has the understanding of “what it’s like to be president” given that his father and his brother have both held the country’s highest public office.