Ahead of the opening of the George W. Bush Presidential Center later this week on the campus of Southern Methodist University in Dallas, the controversial former president says that the library and museum dedicated to his two terms in office will be a place "to lay out facts" but not—as USA Today phrased it—a place that will seek to "explain" or "defend" his policies.
"There's no need to defend myself," Bush said in a phone interview with the newspaper. "I did what I did and ultimately history will judge."
Though the costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that initiated under Bush still linger for millions of people, the former president describes how he is enjoying his new painting hobby and his life outside the "limelight". Recent estimates of the financial cost of the two wars are now between $4 and $6 trillion.
"My life is obviously much simpler than it was in the past, but in many ways the simplicity creates contentment." –George W. Bush
"My life is obviously much simpler than it was in the past, but in many ways the simplicity creates contentment," he said to USA Today in an interview that asked no tough questions about the significant loss of innocent life in Iraq, which many experts on human rights and international law agree was an illegal war of aggression against a sovereign state.
According to the Costs of War project at the Watson Institute for International Studies at Brown University, at least 134,000 innocent Iraqis lost their lives as a direct result of the US-led war that began in March of 2003. For numerous reasons, the groups says, this number could well "double" before a complete count is reached.
As the tenth anniversary of the Iraq invasion was marked last month, a group of policy experts, anti-war activists and historians—including Phyllis Bennis of the Institute for Policy Studies and Leslie Cagan of United for Peace and Justice—wrote:
The US war against Iraq was illegal and illegitimate. It violated the UN Charter, the Geneva Conventions and a whole host of international laws and treaties. It violated US laws and our Constitution with impunity. And it was all based on lies: about non-existent links between Iraq and al-Qaeda, about never-were ties between Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden, about Iraq’s invisible weapons of mass destruction and about Baghdad’s supposed nuclear program, with derivative lies about uranium yellowcake from Niger and aluminum rods from China. There were lies about US troops being welcomed in the streets with sweets and flowers, and lies about thousands of jubilant Iraqis spontaneously tearing down the statue of a hated dictator.
And then there was the lie that the US could send hundreds of thousands of soldiers and billions of dollars worth of weapons across the world to wage war on the cheap. We didn’t have to raise taxes to pay the almost one trillion dollars the Iraq war has cost so far, we could go shopping instead.
Asked to reflect on 9/11, neither Bush nor the questioner made any indication that his response might also speak to the way in which many reflect on his own time in office.
“It's apparent that time is quickly dimming our memories,” Bush said. “Evil exists still in the form of people who murder innocent people to advance a point of view.”