Bush regrets intelligence failure ... sort of

WASHINGTON - US President George W. Bush has expressed a few regrets as his eight tumultuous years at the White House draw to a close, but Vice President Dick Cheney, not so much.

WASHINGTON - US President George W. Bush has expressed a few regrets as his eight tumultuous years at the White House draw to a close, but Vice President Dick Cheney, not so much.

On December 1 Bush said his "biggest regret" was the massive US "intelligence failure" on Saddam Hussein's purported weapons of mass destruction, the core of the public case for the March 2003 invasion of Iraq.

Bush stopped well short of saying he should not have gone to war, and ducked a question on whether he would have taken a different route had he known that the late dictator had not possessed such arsenals.

"That is a do-over that I can't do. It's hard for me to speculate," said Bush, who just one week earlier had declared that Saddam's ouster was "the right decision then - and it is the right decision today".

Mild as they were, the regrets drew the attention of a US public unaccustomed to hearing admissions of error from Bush.

What about Cheney? Any regrets?

"Oh, not a lot at this stage," said Cheney, reputed to be the architect of some of the administration's most controversial policies, from the Iraq war to interrogation tactics widely seen as torture and an unprecedented spy programme.

"I'll have a chance to reflect on that after I get out of here," he told ABC News. "Given the circumstances we've had to deal with, I think we've done pretty well."

Cheney is even less popular with the US public than Bush, who hands the keys to the White House to successor Barack Obama on January 20, but he remains a rallying figure for many die-hard administration supporters.

At a time when the White House is trying to put Bush's eight years in the best possible light, Cheney stands uncompromising. Arguably the most powerful vice-president in US history, Cheney has embraced his caricature as Star Wars villain Darth Vader - a nickname bestowed by Hillary Clinton.

In a recent series of interviews, Cheney forcefully defended what the Bush administration counts as its most ringing success: The lack of terrorist attacks on the US since the September 11 2001, strikes.

As for history's verdict, Cheney said the administration would be cast "in a favourable light when it's time to write the history of this era". - Sapa-AFP

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