1998 George Bush, Sr. Statement Regarding Iraq
January 31, 2003, 1:00am

This is a statement from George Bush, Sr. and National Security Advisor
Brent Scowcroft’s co-authored book, A World Transformed, written in 1998
(chapter 19, page 489) that is incredibly relevant right now. Former
President Bush and Scowcroft reflect on why the United States did not
try to remove Saddam Hussein from power at the end of the Gulf War:

“Trying to eliminate Saddam, extending the ground war into an occupation
of Iraq, would have … incurred incalculable human and political costs.
Apprehending him was probably impossible. We had been unable to find
Noriega in Panama, which we knew intimately. We would have been forced
to occupy Baghdad and, in effect, rule Iraq. The coalition would
instantly have collapsed, the Arabs deserting it in anger and other
allies pulling out as well. Under those circumstances, there was no
viable ‘exit strategy’ we could see, violating another of our
principles. Furthermore, we had been self-consciously trying to set a
pattern for handling aggression in the post-Cold War world. Going in
and occupying Iraq, thus unilaterally exceeding the United Nations’
mandate, would have destroyed the precedent of international response to
aggression that we hoped to establish. Had we gone the invasion route,
the United States could conceivably still be an occupying power in a
bitterly hostile land. It would have been a dramatically different and
perhaps barren outcome.”