As Obama considers Syria strikes, Bush and Carter weigh in
August 30th, 2013
09:36 AM ET
12 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. Steveo

    @Rudy NYC

    And, the president placated them by approving THE IDEA of sending arms to the rebels, which the US has yet to actually do.
    --------–
    No you don't! You're NOT getting away with that. Earlier I said I said the president agreed to arm th Sryains rebels and you said:

    "You are mistaken and habitually misinformed. When did Pres. Obama agree to arm the rebels He didn't".

    Really? Now your saying "the president placated them by approving THE IDEA of sending arms to the rebels, which the US has yet to actually do".

    Dude, you're tap dancing harder than Gene Kelly, Gregory Hines, and Sammy Davis Jr put together!

    August 30, 2013 03:16 pm at 3:16 pm |
  2. Rudy NYC

    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!
    ------------------
    Now go back and actually read the articles, and not just the headlines. He agreed in principle to the idea of arming the rebels, but the US has yet to actually do it. In other words, all he did was threaten to do it. Please try to keep up.

    August 30, 2013 03:27 pm at 3:27 pm |
  3. russ in nc

    Cut out the middle man. Let's invade Iran.

    August 30, 2013 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  4. RAL

    Clinton, Kerry, & Obama = The 3 Stooges of US Foreign Policy

    August 30, 2013 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  5. just saying

    Rudy NYC
    --
    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!
    ------
    Now go back and actually read the articles, and not just the headlines. He agreed in principle to the idea of arming the rebels, but the US has yet to actually do it. In other words, all he did was threaten to do it. Please try to keep up.
    --

    which is what we have been saying all along. you can't believe a word out of obama's mouth. so now obama believes in the concept of firing cruise missiles or the concept of taking other military action? let's face it, this is why nobody trusts obama anymore. the guy is a snake and his supporters are all snakes. word games when lives are at stake. yes, some leader. heck, he's even a pathetic leader from behind.

    August 30, 2013 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |
  6. Dave Robins

    So according to John Kerry the French are now your closest allies.Where were they when you were invading Iraq? How many French soldiers have died in Afghanistan.Hundreds of British soldiers have.What a way to treat your real oldest ally.Don't be surprised when you start running out of friends in this world when you can't value the best ones you had! The UK is frankly fed up with all these foreign wars and British soldiers coming home in coffins.We see no point in getting involved in another war especially in a dangerous place like the Middle East.Neither should the USA.it is not our war!!

    August 30, 2013 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
  7. Thomas

    Jimmy Carter
    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.

    I agree 100%

    August 30, 2013 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  8. Steveo

    @Rudy NYC
    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!
    ------
    Now go back and actually read the articles, and not just the headlines. He agreed in principle to the idea of arming the rebels, but the US has yet to actually do it. In other words, all he did was threaten to do it. Please try to keep up.
    -----------
    Keep dancing!

    August 30, 2013 05:11 pm at 5:11 pm |
  9. Tony

    MP9000, we blame Bush only for the things he did. Democrats (or if you prefer, liberals) are not oppose to all wars, only stupid or unjustified wars.

    August 30, 2013 05:38 pm at 5:38 pm |
  10. not so fast

    I know if I was the leader of another country I would not be lining up to get my country's men, women and resources involved in Obama's face saving gesture.

    August 30, 2013 06:17 pm at 6:17 pm |
  11. Raffy

    Enough is enough. Pundits are saying that the use of chemical weapons is a violation of international law. What about the use of napalm, agent orange, agent blue, depleted uranium, white phosporous and other deadly chemicals used in Korea and Vietnam by the U.S. The effects these weapons are still being felt today. Is there no other way for the most wealthy and powerful nation to deal with other nations but lies, deception, murder, assasination, and genocide. Are we the most brutal neo-imperialist in the planet at the moment. We can be better than that.

    August 30, 2013 07:45 pm at 7:45 pm |
  12. shishi

    Iam American from Syrian origins and am all for the US striking all his weapons and air force , he has done enough and yes it is time . When you see how many small children dies and how they are dying it just can't wait. every minute he stays longer in power the blood shed will continue. What am hoping for is if the US take out his air force and his weapons may be the free army will have a break to collect themselves and move and end his control . May be he will be in less advantage for a period of time that either the free army win , or he gets forced to sit down for negotiations on how to surrender power . i just want this blood shed and destruction to end :(

    August 30, 2013 07:46 pm at 7:46 pm |
  13. Pete

    @tony,liberals aren't the advocates of war,you know it ,republicans are.But the facts speak for themselves in republicans were the draft dodging hypocrites that had only about 30% from both branches ever been militarily involved in wars from ,conflicts and our democrates the ones that are diplomatic wanting peace above all else had over a 70% military involvement and they've seen what war brings in death ,destruction that republicans only ran from...It's fact and Micheal Moore proved it as well with these facts that these so called sanctumonious republicans always seem to deny that they ran when America needed them most to serve their country!!Hey ask Bush how his daddy with political connections got him in the Air National Guard reserves that never left Texas,nice and such a war hawk as well!!

    August 30, 2013 10:37 pm at 10:37 pm |
  14. GI Joe

    Making mischief - sounds like someone in the 2nd grade with a pea shooter.

    Typical Bush Jr. mentality. Glad he's gone.

    Never again any Bush. Prescott is being primed in TX where the really bad politicians start.

    August 31, 2013 09:12 am at 9:12 am |
  15. Larry J

    The only President that could pull off an attack is gone, Ronald Reagan, the world was afraid of this man, he was a decisive leader, maybe Bush but the liberal socialist and communist attack Bush no matter how right he is. Obama its a no brainer, your a Muslim if you attack you'll do something studpid tomorrow cause you don't know who for sure is your muslim brothers

    August 31, 2013 10:43 am at 10:43 am |
  16. Tony

    Pete, Republicans call all their opponents liberals. I was just trying to humor them. As I said, Democrats are not against all wars, only stupid or unjustified one. No one is against the war in Afghanistan, because Taliban attacked us. We should have focused on Afghanistan. Bush went wrong when he decided to invade Iraq.

    August 31, 2013 11:37 am at 11:37 am |
  17. C.S.

    Opposers to the war probably don't care what my opinion is as a Democrat . I think the U.S. has a moral obligation to act as police of the world or we might face World War III earlier than expected such as North Korea and Iran seeking long range weapons and if they reach the U.S. than what will the selfish opposers think or will we all any have time to think.. What about the innocent children being masacred by the number does anybody care. Why do U.S. citizens join the army when we all know the consequences, you risk your life doing this job. Playing police of the world is telling others, "there is a limit to destruction and it is slowing the process of ending it all". Bush made the wrong decision, he should have went after Iran for trying to build to destroy Americans. I wonder what is on Jimmy Carters and other opposers minds. This all seems to me as a fact.

    August 31, 2013 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  18. Brent

    I am ashamed to be an American today! We have a leader who can not lead his own people! Now he has shown that he is so INEPT that he does not have the intelligence or conscience to do the right thing for humans in the world that are being massacred! First he warns Syria to hide everything before he strikes, and now tries to escape screwing that up by pushing the responsibility to others! He WILL go down as the most inept, destructive and pathetic president in history.
    And unfortunately, I actually voted for him once. May God have mercy on what is left of his soul!!!

    August 31, 2013 05:35 pm at 5:35 pm |
  19. geo

    I do appreciate reading the varous opinions but I wish that the liberal sympathizers will learn to spell. It hurts my head..... oh yea.. Obama is an idiot... Chicago breeds them.The reason that our ambassador to Libia was killed by terrorist factions is because Obama was smuggling arms to the rebels in Syria through Turkey.

    August 31, 2013 09:06 pm at 9:06 pm |
  20. andi lee

    Where is the reporting of Prince Bandar's involvement with supplying the chemicals to the rebels? Or for his involement behind 9/11, which have been sealed? Why did the U.N. say they would only confirm the 'the use of' and NOT WHO supplied it? Why did the Doctors say "Do not question the vitims into WHO supplied the chemicals"? These are questions I demand an answer to, and I demanded it from both, my Rep. and my Congressman of my state. Enough bloodshed already.

    August 31, 2013 10:12 pm at 10:12 pm |
  21. NameLindaHardge

    If Syria is with Iran then what are the consequences? Maybe they are going to attack Israel together along with other unstable Muslim nations, then what? These nations are new terrorist regimes just beginning to unite.

    September 1, 2013 12:12 am at 12:12 am |
  22. LackingATrustworthyPresident

    Originally posted by Brent:

    "I am ashamed to be an American today! We have a leader who can not lead his own people! Now he has shown that he is so INEPT that he does not have the intelligence or conscience to do the right thing for humans in the world that are being massacred! First he warns Syria to hide everything before he strikes, and now tries to escape screwing that up by pushing the responsibility to others!"

    This is extremely accurate. Obama dug a pit that we can't get out of, if we intend on saving the innocent Syrians being killed. He TOLD the world that he was thinking of attacking and invading. WHAT KIND OF STRATEGY IS THAT!? Telling your opponent your plans gives him plenty of time to do something about it. What do you think is happening to the core of Assad's military right now? It's definitely not staying where we know it is!

    September 1, 2013 07:30 pm at 7:30 pm |
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