To: President Barack Obama
From: Former President George W. Bush
Message: "We're ba-a-a-ack!!!!!"
I've been quiet these last six years. But your belated decision to "destroy" ISIS prompted me to write. You repeatedly scorched my presidency, said that I so botched up things, so destroyed American foreign policy that all you had to do was not be George W. Bush. "Don't do stupid stuff" was your West-Wing mantra.
What a difference six years of Presidential Daily Briefings on national security threats can make.
I re-read your 2002 speech, the one where you called the Iraq war "dumb." The striking thing, in retrospect, is that you never challenged the assumption behind the Intel that assumed Saddam Hussein possessed stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons. In fact, you conceded the point. No, you saw no national security interests in that part of the world and even implied I waged the war to turn attention away from my failures as President.
As the Iraq war became more and more unpopular, you used its unpopularity as "proof" of the Iraq war's wrong-headedness. But look at the polls on the Afghanistan war, the one that you called the "right" war. Americans, too, no longer support it ?- and a plurality considers it to be wrong-headed! Do you also believe that we should not have gone to war in Afghanistan, the place where terrorists planned the attacks that killed 3,000 Americans? What, then, do you make of the Afghanistan war's unpopularity?
The answer is that the commander in chief must explain, on a consistent basis, the rationale for war -- provided he believes it. Until recently, you operated on the assumption that the "war on terror" was an exaggerated response to 9/11. When Sen. John Kerry, now Secretary of State, ran against me for the presidency in 2004, he said, "We have to get back to the place we were, where terrorists are not the focus of our lives, but they're a nuisance." Great. Now tell the enemy.
Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, D-Tex., recently said she opposed "unilateral (air)strikes." She explained the beheading of two Americans does not justify airstrikes: "We were on their ground. It was not in the U.S. I do think we need to protect Americans wherever they are. But Americans also need to be careful where they are." You once felt the same way -- that provocative American action provoked a provocative reaction. In other words, "it's Bush's fault."
Now people like Rep. Johnson, whom you helped to whip into an angry, emotional frenzy against me -- the "trigger-happy, war-mongering" president -- are your problem.
About your decision to pull out of Iraq, your own former CIA head and then-Defense secretary, Leon Panetta, recently told "60 Minutes": "I really thought that it was important for us to maintain a presence in Iraq. The decision was that we ought to at least try to maintain 8,000 to 10,000 U.S. troops there, plus keeping some of our intelligence personnel in place, to be able to continue the momentum in the right direction."
Your then-chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Michael Mullen, recommended keeping 16,000 troops in Iraq: "In light of the risks noted above and the opportunities that might emerge," Mullen wrote in a classified letter to your national security adviser, "that is my best military advice to the president." Then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton pushed hard for leaving a stay-behind force in Iraq -- although she now rewrites her history, blaming the Iraqis and/or me for your complete pullout.
Some final thoughts.
You told the Palestinians that "nobody is suffering more than the Palestinian people," emboldening those who do not want peace. Hamas and Israel fought a bloody war, only recently entering into a fragile ceasefire.
You truly thought that the war in Iraq was a complete and total disaster, waged for no legitimate reason whatsoever, a total pullout from which would have no adverse consequences.
When, after 9/11, I said Iran, North Korea and Iraq were the "axis of evil," Madeleine Albright called it "a big mistake to lump those three countries together" and said "the international community thinks that we have lost our minds."
I see now you guys were serious when Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., called me a "loser" and a "liar," when the late Sen. Ted Kennedy said, "Before the war, week after week after week after week, we were told lie after lie after lie after lie," and when Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., said that I was "dangerously incompetent."
Well, I see you no longer use the term "overseas contingency operation." Welcome, Mr. President, to the war on terror.