First the Washington Post and Bob Woodward's carefully worded column;
Ford Disagreed With Bush About Invading Iraq
By Bob Woodward
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, December 28, 2006; A01
Former president Gerald R. Ford said in an embargoed interview in July 2004 that the Iraq war was not justified. "I don't think I would have gone to war," he said a little more than a year after President Bush launched the invasion advocated and carried out by prominent veterans of Ford's own administration.
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."
The Ford interview -- and a subsequent lengthy conversation in 2005 -- took place for a future book project, though he said his comments could be published at any time after his death. In the sessions, Ford fondly recalled his close working relationship with key Bush advisers Cheney and Rumsfeld while expressing concern about the policies they pursued in more recent years.
But then there is this from the New York Daily News;
Last lunch with a legend
Speaks candidly about the WMDs and war in Iraq
BY THOMAS M. DeFRANK
DAILY NEWS WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF
Thomas DeFrank, the Washington bureau chief for the Daily News, is seen in this 1996 photo talking to Gerald Ford. The men struck up a friendship that lasted three decades. Below, the two chat on Air Force One.
Daily News Washington Bureau Chief Thomas M. DeFrank interviewed Gerald Ford more than three dozen times during the late President's retirement years. He saw Ford in November at his California home and spent more than two hours with him May 11 for this, his final interview.
Ford was a few weeks shy of his 93rd birthday as we chatted for about 45 minutes. He'd been visited by President Bush three weeks earlier and said he'd told Bush he supported the war in Iraq but that the 43rd President had erred by staking the invasion on weapons of mass destruction.
"Saddam Hussein was an evil person and there was justification to get rid of him," he observed, "but we shouldn't have put the basis on weapons of mass destruction. That was a bad mistake. Where does [Bush] get his advice?"
Now of course the WaPo article leaves you with the impression that Ford was against invading Iraq after reading the headline. It's not until reading the article do you get a sense that he really had a problem with the justification used, but Woodward didn't come right out and say that. The NY Daily News article leaves know doubt that is what he meant.