George W. Bush on Iraq, Afghanistan: ‘I Happen to Think It Was Worth Fighting’

Felicia Patinkin/ABC News

To the 30 percent of veterans who in a recent Pew Research Center poll said that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan weren’t worth fighting, former President George W. Bush has this to say: “I hope history proves them wrong.”

“The only way for there to be peace is for free societies to emerge. And, you know, history takes a while to unfold,” he told ABC News correspondent Bob Woodruff in an exclusive interview yesterday. “I happen to think it was worth fighting. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have put them into combat.”

The veterans with whom he has met have all indicated that they were “proud to serve …,” he told Woodruff during an interview in which the 65-year-old two term president talked about his efforts to aid wounded veterans through the George W. Bush Institute.

See more of Woodruff’s interview with former President George W. Bush later today on World News with Diane Sawyer and tonight on Nightline.

The interview took place ahead of the Bush Institute’s Warrior Open, a golf tournament in suburban Dallas for military service members who were severely injured while serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. The tournament will take place tomorrow and Tuesday.

In the wide-ranging interview, Woodruff asked Bush about a number of issues, including the topics making headlines in the race to select the next GOP presidential candidate. Bush declined to answer.

“I’m not going to opine on the subjects of politics,” he said.

Four organizations that supported the recovery and rehabilitation of 2011 Warrior Open competitors and their families will be honored during the golfing event. The organizations are Hope For The Warriors, Salute Military Golf Association, Semper Fi Fund and Troops First Foundation.

“I love these guys, love the women in service,” Bush said. “And to the extent that I can help them, I will. To the extent that I can herald their courage, I will.”

The Warrior Open is the second of two events of the Bush Center’s Military Service Initiative emphasizing the importance of sports — such as mountain biking and golf –  for rehabilitating many of those seriously injured on the front lines.

According to the Associated Press, more than 1,680 military members have died in Afghanistan since the U.S. began bombing there in October 2001, while more than 4,470 military members have died in Iraq since the war began there in March 2003. Another 46,000 have been wounded in both campaigns.

In the interview, Bush also talked about his parents, former president George H.W. Bush and former first lady Barbara Bush.

Of his father, who’s now 87-years-old, Bush said: “He’s having a little trouble walking, but his spirits are high. And he’s a fun man to be around still.”

“I’ll tell you an interesting fact,” he added. “I’m the only president with both parents alive after the presidency … That’s why I feel blessed.”