"My position was: You need to have boots on the ground"

Q: During your presidency, you decided together with Tony Blair that action must be taken in Iraq. The reason was that Saddam Hussein’s regime did not comply with Security Council resolutions. Can you explain your rationale?

“As we analyzed threats around the world, the biggest threat to our homeland at the time was, and probably still is, the use of chemical or biological weapons or dirty bombs provided by somebody to the network that had just struck us. So we started analyzing and asking ourselves who. Every intelligence agency in the world said this guy had chemical weapons. He was a bad enemy of the U.S. and so I went to the U.N. — not easy for a West Texas boy to do — and got a resolution passed unanimously, that said ‘disclose, disarm or face serious consequences.’

“And I meant it. These weren’t just idle words. It is the third leg of the Bush Doctrine — we have to take threats seriously before they fully materialize. As you know from the book I tried diplomacy, but he defied the resolutions. A lot of people forget that the drumbeat in the United States was significant. ‘When are you going to move?’ There was great impatience to my decision-making.

“Well-known politicians today gave speeches on the floor of the Senate demanding action. Secretaries of state of the recent administration said ‘you got to get him.’ But nobody commits troops except for the president. And once those troops are committed, terrible things can happen to American families. And so I was deliberate in my judgment and thought we may be able to solve this out in the open, in order to determine whether our fears were justified.

“But this was a man who said ‘no inspections.’ He used chemical weapons, the world thought he had chemical weapons, he refused to let inspectors in and we gave him a chance.”