TEMPE, Arizona (REUTERS) - Republican Jeb Bush reversed field on Thursday after a week of criticism and said that based on information known now, he would not have launched the Iraq war carried out by his brother, former President George W. Bush.
Bush, who is expected to run for the Republican nomination, had told Fox News in an interview broadcast this week that “I would have” authorised the invasion that his brother carried out in 2003.
Without prompting, Bush addressed the issue on Thursday at a town hall event in Tempe.
“Knowing what we know now, I would have not engaged, I would have not gone into Iraq,” the former Florida governor said.
Bush’s comment earlier in the week saying he would have invaded had fed a narrative pushed by Democrats that he is little different from his brother, who left office in early 2009 with his popularity weakened by the Iraq war and a faltering US economy. Jeb Bush later said he misinterpreted the question.
In Arizona, where he also will speak to the Republican National Committee, Bush said he had been reluctant to speak his mind about the invasion because as governor, he had called the relatives of military personnel who had been killed in Iraq.
“It’s very hard for me to say that their lives were lost in vain,” he said. “In fact, they weren’t. We have the greatest military on the face of the earth.”
Jeb Bush has repeatedly said he would be “my own man” if elected president, but he has struggled to deal with questions involving George W. Bush’s war legacy.
“I don’t go out of my way to disagree with my brother,” Bush told reporters after his remarks in Tempe. “I am loyal to him.”
“I don’t think it’s necessary to go through every place where I disagree with him.”
Bush’s comments on Thursday put in line with the position of other Republican candidates and potential candidates.
“We now know the intelligence was wrong,” said candidate Carly Fiorina in an exchange with reporters on Wednesday.
“Based on the fact that the intelligence was wrong, it was the wrong call to go in.”
She spoke on the fringes of the spring meeting of the Republican National Committee in nearby Scottsdale, where Bush will speak on Thursday night.
The Iraq war was waged based on allegations that then-Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction. No such weapons were found.