Former President George Bush speaks after receiving the Altschul Award from The World Affairs Forum, Monday Jan. 27, 2003, in Stamford, Conn. The award is given annually for increasing public awareness about foreign affairs. (AP Photo/Douglas Healey)
Former President Bush defends his and son's Iraqi policies
January 27, 2003
STAMFORD, Conn. -- Former President George Bush, accepting an award Monday night for his contributions to world affairs, defended his decision 12 years ago to not remove Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq, an issue now facing his son, the current president.
John D. Negroponte, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, presented Bush with the World Affairs Forum's sixth annual Altschul Award, at a ceremony in Stamford.
"Iraq is back to business as usual," Negroponte said. "Time is running out for Iraq to peacefully disarm."
Bush said the world faces "trying times" with economic instability in Latin America and unpredictability in the Middle East.
Bush reminded the audience of 450 of a joke he often told after leaving office in 1993: "Life's not fair. I'm unemployed and Saddam Hussein still has his job."
"It's not funny anymore, especially when you consider the depth of his brutality and aggression against his own people," the former president said.
Bush said he halted Operation Desert Storm short of removing Saddam from power because he said he completed his objectives.
"Our assignment was to end the aggression. We tried to do it peacefully. We tried to do it diplomatically. And then we had to fight the mother of all battles. We fought it in the most sanitary way we could, being sure not to target civilians," he said.
To do more militarily would have risked support from the U.S.-led international coalition, Bush said.
"I believe we would have lost faith with our allies," he said.
Bush said President Bush faces tough decisions, but did not say if he now supports removing Saddam.
"Our son faces a tough call," he said.
The former president said he is wounded when critics call his son a warmonger.
"They've hurt this loving, proud father very much," Bush said. "I would tell you from the bottom of my heart that the president is giving peace a chance."