WASHINGTON — President Bush said Tuesday he was disappointed in "flawed intelligence" before the Iraq war and was concerned that if a Democrat wins the presidency in November and withdrew troops prematurely it could "eventually lead to another attack on the United States."
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In an interview with Politico magazine and the Internet portal Yahoo, Bush also said he gave up golf in 2003 out of respect for U.S. soldiers killed in the war, which has now lasted more than five years.
"I didn't want some mom whose son may have recently died to see the commander in chief playing golf," he said. "I feel I owe it to the families to be in solidarity as best as I can with them. And I think playing golf during a war just sends the wrong signal."
Bush said he made his decision after the August 2003 bombing of the United Nations headquarters in Baghdad.
A question submitted from the online audience asked Bush whether he felt he had been misled about Iraq as he made the decision to go to war.
"`Misled' is a strong word," he said. "Not only our intelligence community, but intelligence communities all across the world shared the same assessment. And so I was disappointed to see how flawed our intelligence was."
"Do I think somebody lied to me? No, I don't. I think it was just, you know, they analyzed the situation and came up with the wrong conclusion," he added.
Concern about leaving the unfinished Iraq war
He acknowledged concerns about leaving the unfinished Iraq war to a Democratic successor. Both Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton have said they will bring troops home if elected.
Bush said his "doomsday scenario of course is that extremists throughout the Middle East would be emboldened, which would eventually lead to another attack on the United States."
Also in the interview to an online audience, Bush:
- Said more is known about global warming than when he first took office in 2001. Asked if it was real, Bush said, "Yes, it is real, sure is." Still, he defended his opposition to the Kyoto treaty on climate change. "I could have supported a lousy treaty and everybody would have went, `Oh, man, what a wonderful-sounding fellow he is. But it just wouldn't have worked."
- Criticized the Democratic-led Congress, claiming it had dragged its feet on trade, on renewing surveillance powers and failing to respond appropriately to the housing crisis. "And so I would call them stalled. I would call them, so far, good at verbiage and not so good at results."
- Said his Christian faith increased while in office, saying he sought to understand his weaknesses, better himself "and get closer to the Lord."
- Criticized former President Carter for advocating what he called a "blame-Israel-for-every-problem" mentality to the Middle East.
- Said he sympathized with the two candidates in the long-running Democratic primary race. "I feel like this primary has been a long, hard campaign. I remember what it was like in 2000, and I was exhausted. And my primary ended pretty quickly, compared to this one. And so I — both those candidates have got to be just worn out. They haven't had time to get their feet on the ground or rest."
- Said he was not concerned about an ugly conversation about race if Obama wins the Democratic nomination. "I think most Americans are open-minded people, and they're going to pick the president who can keep America safe and keep taxes low. And so I think — my own judgment is, is that race will only enter in if it's provoked by the press."
- Said he would return to using e-mail after he leaves office, saying he gave it up to avoid leaks. He said he looks forward to "e-mailing to my buddies. I can remember as governor I stayed in touch with all kinds of people around the country, firing off e-mails at all times of the day to stay in touch with my pals."
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