In a February 13, 2004 Meet the Press interview 11 months after the U.S. invasion of Iraq, Russert confronts President George W. Bush about the fact that Saddam Hussein never had weapons of mass destruction, Bush's original impetus for the invasion.
Excerpt from the full transcript:
Russert: The night you took the country to war, March 17th, you said this: "Intelligence gathered by this and other governments leaves no doubt that the Iraq regime continues to possess and conceal some of the most lethal weapons ever devised."
President Bush: Right.
Russert: That apparently is not the case.
President Bush: Correct.
Russert: How do you respond to critics who say that you brought the nation to war under false pretenses?
President Bush: Yes. First of all, I expected to find the weapons. Sitting behind this desk making a very difficult decision of war and peace, and I based my decision on the best intelligence possible, intelligence that had been gathered over the years, intelligence that not only our analysts thought was valid but analysts from other countries thought were valid.
And I made a decision based upon that intelligence in the context of the war against terror. In other words, we were attacked, and therefore every threat had to be reanalyzed. Every threat had to be looked at. Every potential harm to America had to be judged in the context of this war on terror.
And I made the decision, obviously, to take our case to the international community in the hopes that we could do this achieve a disarmament of Saddam Hussein peacefully. In other words, we looked at the intelligence. And we remembered the fact that he had used weapons, which meant he had had weapons. We knew the fact that he was paying for suicide bombers. We knew the fact he was funding terrorist groups. In other words, he was a dangerous man. And that was the intelligence I was using prior to the run up to this war.