In July, 2004, Bob Woodward interviewed former president Gerald Ford about George Bush's pretext for invading Iraq. Ford wasn't impressed with Bush, Cheney or Rumsfeld according to this interview published in today's Washington Post:
"In a four-hour conversation at his house in Beaver Creek, Colo., Ford "very strongly" disagreed with the current president's justifications for invading Iraq and said he would have pushed alternatives, such as sanctions, much more vigorously. In the tape-recorded interview, Ford was critical not only of Bush but also of Vice President Cheney -- Ford's White House chief of staff -- and then-Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, who served as Ford's chief of staff and then his Pentagon chief.
"'Rumsfeld and Cheney and the president made a big mistake in justifying going into the war in Iraq. They put the emphasis on weapons of mass destruction,' Ford said. 'And now, I've never publicly said I thought they made a mistake, but I felt very strongly it was an error in how they should justify what they were going to do.'
"In a conversation that veered between the current realities of a war in the Middle East and the old complexities of the war in Vietnam whose bitter end he presided over as president, Ford took issue with the notion of the United States entering a conflict in service of the idea of spreading democracy.
"'Well, I can understand the theory of wanting to free people,' Ford said, referring to Bush's assertion that the United States has a "duty to free people." But the former president said he was skeptical 'whether you can detach that from the obligation number one, of what's in our national interest.'
"He added: 'And I just don't think we should go hellfire damnation around the globe freeing people, unless it is directly related to our own national security.'"
And on the topic of Dick Cheney, Ford offered this assessment:
"He was an excellent chief of staff. First class," Ford said. "But I think Cheney has become much more pugnacious" as vice president. He said he agreed with former secretary of state Colin L. Powell's assertion that Cheney developed a "fever" about the threat of terrorism and Iraq. "I think that's probably true."
"Describing his own preferred policy toward Saddam Hussein's Iraq, Ford said he would not have gone to war, based on the publicly available information at the time, and would have worked harder to find an alternative. "I don't think, if I had been president, on the basis of the facts as I saw them publicly," he said, "I don't think I would have ordered the Iraq war. I would have maximized our effort through sanctions, through restrictions, whatever, to find another answer."