Is Bush's Iraq Stance Rooted in Revenge?

ByABC News
March 18, 2003, 12:46 PM

March 18 -- Just one month after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and only five days after the war in Afghanistan had begun President Bush signaled his determination to confront Saddam Hussein next.

"There's no question that the leader of Iraq is an evil man. After all, he gassed his own people. We know he's been developing weapons of mass destruction. And so we're watching him very carefully. We're watching him carefully," Bush said in an Oct. 11, 2001, address.

But the administration had its eye on Iraq long before 9/11.

Even in his inaugural address, Bush though he did not mention Iraq by name sounded the themes that underlie his policy today. "We will confront weapons of mass destruction, so that a new century is spared new horrors. The enemies of liberty and our country should make no mistake: America remains engaged in the world by history and by choice, shaping a balance of power that favors freedom."

Those words reflected a tough, hawkish line on Iraq that has dominated administration debates from the beginning.

Bush has stocked his administration with senior officials who have for years supported the United States toppling Saddam, including Vice President Dick Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, and others.

These officials have expressed their views in no uncertain terms. "Saddam Hussein is a liar. He lies every single day," Rumsfeld said.

A Personal Vendetta?

Some Americans have wondered whether the president's determination to take on Saddam is a personal obsession one born in the aftermath of the Gulf War his father launched, when Saddam was left in power.

And last fall, in Texas, this president seemed to confirm the personal nature of this conflict.

"There's no doubt his hatred is mainly directed at us," Bush said. "There's no doubt he can't stand us. After all, this is a guy that tried to kill my dad at one time."

But while opponents of Bush say he's simply out for revenge, others say it's not that simple.