Bush 'not telling truth' in 'Decision Points' memoir, says German ex-chancellor

George W. Bush's 'Decision Points' memoir is attracting global scrutiny. Former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder disputes that he initially offered support for the invasion of Iraq.

George Burns/Harpo Productions Inc./AP
Talk-show host Oprah Winfrey interviews former President George W. Bush during taping of 'The Oprah Winfrey Show' at Harpo Studios in Chicago. The show will air nationally on Nov. 9.

Among the many global reactions to George W. Bush's memoir "Decision Points," the former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder has now said that the 43rd United States president "is not telling the truth."

In the memoir, released Nov. 9, Mr. Bush writes that Mr. Schroeder in 2002 committed to supporting the US invasion of Iraq, only to renege later that year, a claim that the former German chancellor fiercely denied in an interview with German magazine Der Spiegel.

George W. Bush’s appearances this week on NBC, Oprah, and Jay Leno underscore how his memoir "Decision Points" is geared toward an American audience. But the former president is also attracting international attention, with media worldwide focusing on aspects of the book specific to their regions.

Ukraine’s The Kyiv Post, for example, highlights how Russian leader Valdimir Putin, after he met Mr. Bush's Scottish terrier Barney, introduced the American president to his “big black Labrador.” Bush writes that, "With a twinkle in his eye, Vladimir said, 'Bigger, stronger, faster than Barney.' "

While Russian media did not appear to be covering the interaction, Bush's reflections – on relations with Israel, decisions to start two wars, and interactions with world leaders such as Schroeder – are all sparking discussion in much of the international press.

'Not telling the truth'

According to Bush's memoir, Schroeder in 2002 told him: "What is true of Afghanistan is true of Iraq. Nations that sponsor terror must face consequences. If you make it fast and make it decisive, I will be with you."

Bush continues: "I took that as a statement of support. But when the German election arrived later that year, Schroeder had a different take. He denounced the possibility of force against Iraq." Operation Iraqi Freedom was launched in March 2003 despite opposition from Germany and others.

But Schroeder on Tuesday told Der Spiegel that he said no such thing. "The former American president is not telling the truth," he said, explaining that he told Bush that he would only support the invasion of Iraq if a connection was established between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda.

"This connection, however, as it became clear during 2002, was false and constructed," Schroeder told Der Spiegel.

Comparisons to Tony Blair

While Bush's memoir has resurfaced his testy relations with Schroeder, they've also revealed his fonder memories with former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who supported the invasion of Iraq. "Decision Points" reveals how the two men initially bonded over the comedy film "Meet the Parents," about the zany interactions between a father and future son-in-law.

The Guardian calls it "horribly perfect ... Blair must have felt every bit the prospective son-in-law on trial in the Bush household, looking to make an advantageous marriage with American power.

The Guardian also notes that Bush’s memoir comes nearly two months after the release of Mr. Blair’s memoir, “A Journey,” which was also published by Random House. The Guardian uniquely compares their cover art:

“The cover of Bush's memoir shows the 43rd president – who has, according to the publisher, spent almost every day writing the book since leaving the Oval Office – in motion, hand in pocket, gazing thoughtfully into the middle distance – possibly as he makes one of those 14 all-important decisions. Blair's jacket takes a close-up approach, with the relaxed air of the former prime minister's open-necked shirt at odds with his fixed almost-grin.”

Still another article in the Guardian quotes British officials denying Bush's claims that waterboarding saved British lives. Meanwhile, Britain's right-leaning Telegraph newspaper calls the memoir "a timely reminder of how rapidly political fortunes can alter." Bush left office with a 25 percent approval rating.

Reaction in Israel and Middle East

Israeli media, meanwhile, were buzzing with Bush’s revelation that in 2007 he refused then-Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s request to bomb a suspected nuclear facility in Syria. Instead, Israel launched a preemptive strike, which Bush says he did not “green light. … [Mr. Olmert] had done what he believed was necessary to protect Israel.”

According to The Jerusalem Post, Bush felt the Israeli strike on Syria vindicated the country after its 2006 war against Hezbollah. An analysis in Haaretz concluded that “Bush's book should thus be read as a lesson for the future: The Americans cannot appear to be doing Israel's bidding. Precise intelligence is necessary. And whatever can be done secretly is better than what explodes thunderously.”

The reviews in Lebanese newspaper The Daily Star and Qatar newspaper The Gulf Times also focus on the Israeli strike on Syria. Syrian media, which are tightly controlled by the government, lacked any mention of the attack. The state-run Press TV of Syria ally Iran offered one article that quotes The Jerusalem Post on the attack, and another article lamenting that Bush is unlikely to be tried for war crimes in Iraq.

Sami Moubayed, the editor-in-chief of Syria’s pro-government Forward Magazine, writes in the Gulf News that “Decision Points” reveals the lack of remorse of “this controversial leader, loathed throughout the Arab and Muslim world.”

“Certainly nobody else managed to singlehandedly damage America's image in all four corners of the globe.… All 'Decision Points' really tells us is that Bush apparently had no moral problem with prisoners being tortured, in either Guantánamo or Abu Ghraib,” Mr. Moubayed writes.

On Kanye West and Dick Cheney

French newspaper Le Monde focuses on Bush’s decision to allow waterboarding, while Australian newspaper The Sydney Morning Herald highlights how Bush considered dropping Vice President Dick Cheney in 2004. Its headline: “Bush toyed with dumping 'Darth Vader' from ticket.”

Still others seemed particularly drawn to Bush's reaction after rapper Kanye West said “George Bush doesn't care about black people.” In his memoir, Bush calls the moment “an all-time low" in his presidency.

“An all-time low?" says an op-ed in Jamaican newspaper The Gleaner. "I would have thought that the lowest point in Bush's presidency was when that Iraqi journalist tossed those size-10 shoes at him in December 2008. The sitting-duck president had to duck really low to avoid those weapons of mass destruction. Yet, the president is all riled up over Kanye's puerility.”

[Editor's Note: This article was updated after publication to include the former German chancellor's comments.]

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