Jeb Bush defends brother's Iraq war decisions

Presidential hopeful says George W. Bush's Iraq record not perfect, but he left it 'secure'

DAVENPORT (Iowa) • Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush has defended some of his brother's Iraq war decisions as president, while also seeking to pivot the conversation towards warmer feelings some Americans had for Mr George W. Bush in the aftermath of the terror attacks of Sept 11, 2001.

Speaking at a national security forum in Davenport, Iowa, on Thursday, Mr Bush acknowledged that his brother's record on prosecuting the war and its aftermath was not perfect, as he tried to balance his own outlook and reconcile the implicit connection he has to some of his brother's unpopular decisions.

"I think people have every right to be critical of decisions that were made," the former Florida governor said. "In 2009, Iraq was fragile, but secure."

The "mission was accomplished" when it came to Iraq's security at the end of his brother's time in the White House, Mr Bush said.

"That is a fact," he said. "You can't rewrite history in that regard."

DEFENDING HIS BROTHER'S LEGACY

I am proud of what he did to create a secure environment for our country.

MR JEB BUSH (above), Republican presidential candidate, on the record of his brother, former president George W. Bush

He also pointed to the decisions he regards as a success. "Taking out Saddam Hussein turned out to be a pretty good deal," Mr Bush said, in a reference to the execution of the Iraqi president.

The event, which attracted a standing-room only crowd of about 250 people at St Ambrose University, was sponsored by a group called Americans for Peace, Prosperity and Security.

His campaign stop in Iowa, which on Feb 1 next year will host the first nominating contest, came two days after his most specific foreign policy speech yet at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in California.

In those remarks, and again in Iowa, Mr Bush outlined how he believes the United States should combat the rise of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) terrorist group, while also criticising the actions of President Barack Obama and his former secretary of state Hillary Clinton in the region after his brother left office.

"We declared success and then chaos occurred afterwards," he said. "There has to be a plan for the long haul."

Asked what he would do about terror suspects held at a prison at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, Mr Bush said it would be best to keep them there. He said he would leave the door open to resuming the use of torture in interrogations, refusing to issue a blanket statement about Mr Obama's executive order banning so-called enhanced interrogation techniques by the Central Intelligence Agency .

"When you are president, your words matter," he said, adding that in general, he is opposed to the use of torture and does not think it is effective.

A few seconds later, he sought to take a more positive look at his brother's record.

"I am proud of what he did to create a secure environment for our country," he said.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 15, 2015, with the headline 'Jeb Bush defends brother's Iraq war decisions'. Print Edition | Subscribe