WASHINGTON — Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush acknowledged on Wednesday that “there were mistakes made in Iraq” under his brother’s watch — but he’s hired a number of the same policy advisers that shaped that very policy, and were complicit some of those very mistakes.
During a question-and-answer session following his speech to the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, Bush said, “There were mistakes made in Iraq, for sure,” under President George W. Bush’s watch.
He said intelligence about Saddam Hussein’s possession of weapons of mass destruction “turned out not to be accurate,” and also that the U.S. failed to “create an environment of security” in the country after Saddam was toppled.
The critique of his brother’s policy came unprompted, as Bush works to carve out his own identity — independent of his brother and father — in preparation for a potential presidential run.
But he could undermine that effort with the roll out of a list of 21 diplomatic and national security policy advisers for his nascent campaign, many of whom were familiar faces from his father’s and brother’s presidencies.
A few had key roles in crafting and executing those Iraq “mistakes” he sought to distance himself from.
Stephen Hadley, then-President George W. Bush’s deputy national security adviser, was listed as a member of Jeb’s national security team. According to a 2005 New York Times report, Hadley “took responsibility” for including the incorrect idea that the Iraq invasion was needed to find the WMDs in Bush’s State of the Union in 2002.
Paul Wolfowitz, George W. Bush’s deputy secretary of defense and a key architect of the Iraq War, testified in 2002 at a congressional hearing that Iraqis would “welcome us as liberators.” He’s also on board with Jeb’s policy team.
“These are Arabs, 23 million of the most educated people in the Arab world, who are going to welcome us as liberators. And when the message gets out to the whole Arab world, it’s going to be a powerful counter to Osama bin Laden … It will be a great step forward,” he said during the hearing.
And Jeb Bush is being advised by Meghan O’Sullivan, who was portrayed in a 2006 New York Times profile as a close adviser to the President but too close to the problems going on in Iraq to have a clear-headed view of them. Larry Diamond, a U.S. official who worked alongside her in Iraq, said she would be inextricably linked to the outcome of the Iraq War.
“The reality is that if Iraq implodes, she’ll probably go nowhere,” Diamond said. “Because she will have been associated in an integral way with one of the biggest failures in the history of American foreign policy.”
A Bush spokeswoman did not respond to a request for comment on the new hires, and how their experience with him would diverge from their experience with his brother.
But the staff ties could underscore a broader problem Bush is likely to continue to encounter as he gears up for a probable run, and searches for ways to frame himself as a candidate both independent from his family’s legacy, and offering a new vision for the future.
According to The Washington Post, all but four of his announced foreign policy advisers also served under his elder brother; two of the remaining four advised his father. And one of the other two worked for President Ronald Reagan.