Yesterday on Meet the Press, Sen. Trent Lott (R-MS) said that President Bush started lobbying for an invasion of Iraq long before significant diplomatic efforts began:
SEN. LOTT: Well, beginning in August that year and into the fall–in fact, beginning not too long after 9/11–as we had leadership meetings at breakfast with the president, he would go around the world and talk about what was going on, where the threats were, where the dangers were, and even in private discussions, it was clear to me that he thought Iraq was a destabilizing force, was a danger and a growing danger, and that we were going to have to deal with that problem.
DAVID GREGORY: He has described going to war in Iraq as the last resort that was a war of necessity. Are you suggesting here that, in fact, before much of the diplomacy had begun, that the president thought or believed in his mind that war was an inevitability?
SEN. LOTT: …I–but the short answer to your question–I think that he felt like we were going to have to deal with the problem before some of the diplomatic efforts occurred, and I don’t mean that critically. But it was my impression.
As David Gregory notes, this runs completely counter to how President Bush describes the decision to invade Iraq:
“I want to share something with you. Committing troops into harm’s way is — in harm’s way is the most difficult decision a President can make. That decision must always be last resort. That decision must be done when our vital interests are at stake, but after we’ve tried everything else.” [President Bush, 8/5/04]
“The use of force has been — and remains — our last resort.” [President Bush, 5/1/03]
“But a President must always be willing to use troops…as a last resort… I was hopeful diplomacy would work in Iraq… So we use diplomacy every chance we get — believe me.” [President Bush, 10/1/04]
“As a last resort, we have turned to our military.” [President Bush, 4/16/03]
“As a matter of fact, military action is the very last resort for us… this nation is very reluctant to use military force. We try to enforce doctrine peacefully, or through alliances or multinational forums. And we will continue to do so.” [President Bush, 10/28/03]
President Bush keeps saying this because he knows Americans expect him to pursue all other options before U.S. troops are put at risk. If Sen. Lott says is right, President Bush failed to meet that basic expectation.
UPDATE: Watch it on Crooks and Liars.