As Obama considers Syria strikes, Bush and Carter weigh in
August 30th, 2013
09:36 AM ET
11 months ago

As Obama considers Syria strikes, Bush and Carter weigh in

(CNN) – Two of President Barack Obama's White House predecessors offered their views of his impending decision on Syria Friday as global support for strikes in the country faltered.

Former President George W. Bush, in an interview, said Obama has a "touch choice to make" on potential U.S. military action against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who is accused of using chemical weapons against civilians.

"If he decides to use our military, he'll have the greatest military ever backing him up," Bush said in an appearance on Fox News.

The United States and major allies are currently weighing major military action against Assad, though on Thursday British lawmakers voted against joining a global coalition. U.S. officials said after the vote that taking unilateral action against Syria was a possibility.

That option, former President Jimmy Carter said Friday, would be a grave mistake.

"A punitive military response without a U.N. Security Council mandate or broad support from NATO and the Arab League would be illegal under international law and unlikely to alter the course of the war," he wrote in a statement. "It will only harden existing positions and postpone a sorely needed political process to put an end to the catastrophic violence."

Carter, in his post-presidency, has engaged in global diplomacy in North Korea and the Middle East, and was a vocal critic of the Iraq War.

In his statement, Carter said the use of chemical weapons in Syria was a "a grave breach of international law" but that any U.S. action in the country should wait for ongoing investigations by United Nations inspectors to conclude.

"All should seek to leverage the consensus among the entire international community, including Russia and Iran, condemning the use of chemical weapons in Syria and bringing under U.N. oversight the country's stockpile of such weapons," he wrote.

Bush, in the Friday interview, was less forthcoming in his views on Syria. A Republican, he led the United States into two wars during his presidency: in Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq in 2003. Many say those wars, particularly in Iraq, have contributed to nationwide war fatigue. A poll released Friday showed half of Americans oppose potential U.S. military action in Syria, though support increased when possible action was limited to cruise missile strikes.

On Wednesday, Bush's Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said Obama had yet to fully justify any military action in Syria. Rumsfeld led the Pentagon during the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq.

"There really hasn't been any indication from the administration as to what our national interest is with respect to this particular situation," he said. "When you think about what's really important in that region – it's Iran's nuclear program and the relationship between Iran and Syria, the Assad regime, with respect to terrorists that go around killing innocent men, women and children, including Americans."

Bush said Friday he was "not a fan" of Assad.

"He's an ally of Iran, he's made mischief," he said, declining to speculate any further about the decisions currently looming over the White House.

Bush, who earlier this month underwent a procedure to have a stent placed in his heart, appeared healthy during the interview and said he was feeling "pretty good." He was interviewed at the Dallas National Gold Club, where he was helping launch a gold tournament that raises money for veterans.

"I wish I was a teenager so I could be out on my mountain bike today," he said. "But I'm slowly recovering."


Filed under: George W. Bush • Jimmy Carter • President Obama • Syria
soundoff (97 Responses)
  1. Mauricio Garcia

    typo: "a touch choice to make"

    August 30, 2013 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  2. okie

    Fair is Fair

    @ okie –

    Please read Tom's original post... all Tom wanted was a political "win" for Obama. My reply was simply asking Tom if he felt that "dumping" the problem on congress was showing leadership. It was not intedned as a slight towards Obama in the least.
    -------------------------------------------------
    Thanks for the courteous response. I don't see it as dumping. I see it as something that must seriously be discussed. We have our own house in a terrible mees. I blame both sides even though i tend to lean to the left. I am saddened by the internal conflict in syria, but we had to go through our own civil war, and what emerged from the tragedy is now the the greatest nation on earth imho. I personally feel we need to wait until the UN makes a determination and mover forward with the guidance of our allies in the region. Who knows best what ramifications better than the neighbors, who have to deal w/ the after math. Refugees scattering to the winds does pose an international security issue imho.

    August 30, 2013 01:01 pm at 1:01 pm |
  3. Anthony

    Yes, I realize that Bush lost a lot of credibility for the U.S. when he invaded Iraq on trumped-up evidence. What one should remember is that when Bush lost credibility, his successors also lose credibility. The U.S. does not regain its credibility simply because it has a new president. If Obama backs down, he will lose credibility not only for himself, but for all of his successors.

    August 30, 2013 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  4. Rudy NYC

    Anthony wrote:

    ... ... There is an article from Wall Street Journal today, which normally does not support Obama on anything. The article explains that Russia has ruled out direct military intervention from the start, because it does not want to get into a war with the U.S. The article is too long, and I suspect that CNN will not publish a long excerpt.

    Unlike Assad, Putin knows that he does not want to get into a war with the United States. The United States still has credibility with Russia. Let us keep it that way.
    ------------------------–
    If you believe that about Putin, then you don't understand how much Russia has invested in Syria. I'm convinced that the Russians will respond to almost any military action by the U.S. Did that article discuss the two warships, one of which is an aircraft carrier, that the Russians have moved into the area? Why would a country that categorically does not wish to get involved do those things? Isn't Putin the same guy who promised not to invade Georgia?

    August 30, 2013 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  5. Jeff Brown in Jersey

    This is part of the fallout from Bush's disastrous decision to lie us into the war in Iraq. Even if going into Syria is the right thing to do, the American public is too sick and tired of war. Most Americans realize that we need to rebuild our infrastructure, work on the debt and take care of ourselves, something the previous administration cared nothing about.

    August 30, 2013 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  6. Jeff

    Jimmy Carter says no so pretty much we know now that bombing is probably a good idea.

    August 30, 2013 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  7. Oldflyer

    CNN tries to link Bush and Iraq with Obama and Syria. There is no linkage. Bush had Congressional approval and UN resolutions to support his actions.

    Bush struck a Presidential tone in the interview. He does not second-guess Obama nor does criticize the silly rhetoric that got Obama into this situation. That should have been be heading of the story. "Bush gives Presidential response; refuses to take cheap shots at President Obama. Jimmy Carter true to form."

    By the way, Rudy,NYC makes an idiotic statement that has no basis in fact.

    August 30, 2013 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  8. Domingo

    The Neo-Progressives at it again. The Democrats have been in favor of every single vote to go to war since 1940 and in the case of Kosovo and Libya Democrat presidents Clinton and Obama simply ruled by presidential decree. In the case of Vietnam Democrat president Lyndon Johnson lied about the Gulf of Tonkin incident which led to the Gulf of Tonkin resolution which led to a greatly expanded war and over 50,000 deaths. LBJ lied, people died.
    At least George W Bush, going on all reputable national and international intelligence that claimed Iraqi had WMD's, received congressional approval to go to war. And he organized a coalition of 38 countries. Can anyone claim that Obama could organize a coalition amongst nations to pop popcorn let alone go to war?

    It would not surprise me to discover that the poison Gas used in Syria was from that cache that Saddam smuggled out of Iraqi at the time of the invasion.

    Obama follows in the tradition of war mongering liberal progressive democrats and he is not fit to lead this country or be president.

    August 30, 2013 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  9. Fair is Fair

    sonny chapman

    Fair: One might call this the initial skirmish of the U.S.(& hopefully a few others) v. Iran.
    -------–
    Sonny – a U.S. war with Iran would be a disaster of herculean proportions. No oiffense, I pray you're wrong.

    August 30, 2013 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  10. Rudy NYC

    "And you know the reason for the red line, how? I have never seen that anywhere! "
    --------------------–
    I know that because I pay attention to the real world. McCain, Graham, and the Tea Party drones had been calling for sending arms into Syria, training the rebels, no-fly zones, etc, almost from the very start of the civil war in Syria. They hounded for a explanation as to why we weren't already in there.....so Pres. Obama gave them one just to shut 'em up.

    August 30, 2013 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
  11. Pete in New York

    It's simple. Obama + Kerry = Bush + Colin Powell.

    same exact shameless exxagerations. They didn't even bother to make up new ones. Why the rush? Why NOT wait for the UN inspectors to finish? why not ask the UN inspectors WHO did it? Aren't half the rebels pretty much Al Quaeda? Doesn't that bother anyone? i mean come on guys. How dumb do you think we are.

    Pretty much Obama has now buried the Democratic party's chances for winning the next election.

    August 30, 2013 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  12. A True Conservative

    Well put Domingo – but don't expect any of the neo-progressives to agree with you. Facts don't matter to them. Only Feelings....nothing more than feelings.....This is their chance to show the world how Bush should have responded to things 10 yeas ago. Go ahead, show the world how Bush should have responded. Somehow, I think it will be exactly as Bush did respond.

    August 30, 2013 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  13. just saying

    Jeff Brown in Jersey
    This is part of the fallout from Bush's disastrous decision to lie us into the war in Iraq.
    --

    are you serious??? iraq happened over 10 years ago. syria is on fire because obama's clueless encouragement of the arab spring which set the entire middle east on fire. we lost allies and several countries went into open revolt. this mess is all of obama's. it is just amazing the level of lies the left will resort to to protect this totally incompetent president.

    August 30, 2013 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  14. Steveo

    Rudy NYC

    "And you know the reason for the red line, how? I have never seen that anywhere! "
    ------––
    I know that because I pay attention to the real world. McCain, Graham, and the Tea Party drones had been calling for sending arms into Syria, training the rebels, no-fly zones, etc, almost from the very start of the civil war in Syria. They hounded for a explanation as to why we weren't already in there.....so Pres. Obama gave them one just to shut 'em up.
    ----------

    If I am not mistaken, didn't THE PRESIDENT agree to send arms to the rebels? Sorry but that "red line" did nothing but back him into a corner! What you call "knowing" is but speculation!

    August 30, 2013 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  15. Fair is Fair

    Rudy NYC

    "Who drew the "red line"?"

    President Obama drew the red line to keep the right wing and war mongering crittics at bay.
    --------
    Are you stating that the President of the United States made military threats to a soverign nation to placate his political opponents? If not, you should clear that up... if so, you need your head examined.

    August 30, 2013 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  16. Larry in Houston

    @ Pete in N.Y. you said : ""Pretty much Obama has now buried the Democratic party's chances for winning the next election"""

    I was going to say that, But I guess you have already said it.

    August 30, 2013 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  17. Rudy NYC

    "If I am not mistaken, didn't THE PRESIDENT agree to send arms to the rebels? Sorry but that "red line" did nothing but back him into a corner! What you call "knowing" is but speculation!"
    --------------
    You are mistaken and habitually misinformed. When did Pres. Obama agree to arm the rebels He didn't. It hasn't happened. And, it won't ever happen at the rate at which the situation is dissolving You have Pres. Obama mixed up with Pres. McCain or somebody.

    What you deny as "knowing" are actually facts, which are easily verified. In fact, you type " arm syrian rebels " in that SEARCH box in the top right corner of the page and continue denying the facts for yourself.

    August 30, 2013 02:19 pm at 2:19 pm |
  18. Pete

    The nay sayers here can't compare a warmongering fool in Bushs,Cheney to the intelligence of Pres.Obama ,ain't even close...Those two fed Colin Powell lies and congress,UN took it all from the general hook,line and sinker that got approval for both wars..Remember too the Vietnam war and Gulf of Tonkin incident was LBJs fault but lives were lost well before that incident took place as our soldiers were there as intervensionalists at Frances,UNs request sent there by Pres.Eisenhower ,remember that in the early 50s..Those sarin gas bombs were probibly sold to Assad from the Kadafi,Hussein regimes both getting theirs from Rumsfield with the blessing from Reagan or did anyone here remember Texas Charlie Wilson selling arms to afghan rebels also at Reagans request and the CIA being caught doing Reagans dirty work in the Iran Contra affair but nobody was censured or had any trials either because he was the republicans true idol or was it idiot of his time ,he didn't remember did you!!

    August 30, 2013 02:22 pm at 2:22 pm |
  19. Boats

    Only 9% of the public backs any form of military action! That includes folks on the left, right, & in the middle. McCain spoke the other night about having a clear goal for any attack. In the business world it's referred to as a "Plan of Action". Obama clearly has no plan for anything. I sure hope he thinks this through before he orders an attack!

    August 30, 2013 02:23 pm at 2:23 pm |
  20. fooled once, never again

    Fair is Fair
    -
    Rudy NYC
    -
    "Who drew the "red line"?"

    President Obama drew the red line to keep the right wing and war mongering crittics at bay.
    --–
    Are you stating that the President of the United States made military threats to a soverign nation to placate his political opponents? If not, you should clear that up... if so, you need your head examined.
    --

    Fair, don't you get it yet? NOTHING Obama does or says is wrong or his fault. It is ALWAYS somebody else's doing. Well, except when things go right, then it was all his doing. God, is this getting old after 5 years....

    August 30, 2013 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
  21. Rudy NYC

    Fair is Fair wrote:

    Are you stating that the President of the United States made military threats to a soverign nation to placate his political opponents? If not, you should clear that up... if so, you need your head examined.
    ---------------–
    It worked, didn't it? The usual crowd of neo-con war mongers were screaming for intervention of some kind. Heck, McCain even made one of his famous secret visits there. After the first suspected chemical attack a few months, they got noisy again.

    And, the president placated them by approving THE IDEA of sending arms to the rebels, which the US has yet to actually do.

    August 30, 2013 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
  22. Steveo

    @Rudy
    Rudy NYC

    "If I am not mistaken, didn't THE PRESIDENT agree to send arms to the rebels? Sorry but that "red line" did nothing but back him into a corner! What you call "knowing" is but speculation!"
    ----–
    You are mistaken and habitually misinformed. When did Pres. Obama agree to arm the rebels He didn't. It hasn't happened. And, it won't ever happen at the rate at which the situation is dissolving You have Pres. Obama mixed up with Pres. McCain or somebody.
    ---------
    Well, well there Rudy. I googled "plan to arm Syrian Rebels". The following is the FIRST item to appear.

    Obama to move forward with plan to arm Syrian rebels – CNN.com
    http://www.cnn.com/2013/07/23/politics/us-syrian-rebels

    Keep making things up!

    August 30, 2013 02:45 pm at 2:45 pm |
  23. MP9000

    Welcome to the real world people. You do nothing and Iran interprets it as weakness and the risk of a nuclear-armed middle east increases. You attack and you're a war monger. Nobody WANTS war; it's a question of which way leads to a greater peace. Obama's going to strike Syria, no question. And you tools will jump in line and blame Bush for it. It must be nice to never ever be wrong about anything.

    August 30, 2013 03:00 pm at 3:00 pm |
  24. kirk

    Domingo, Cheney started a new Intel dept.just to get a report of weapons, he put in much effort to deceive. He also had natural gas deregulated so his company could start tracking, watch gasland.he pretty much did whatever the he'll he wanted, all for the Almighty dollar.great guy

    August 30, 2013 03:09 pm at 3:09 pm |
  25. just saying

    hell hath frozen over.... i find myself in total agreement with jimmy carter.

    simply put, syria is on fire and we have no compelling national interest in putting it out. attempting to do so will only spread the fire to the entire region. the only prudent course is to let the fire burn out where it is.

    August 30, 2013 03:13 pm at 3:13 pm |
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