Former president Gerald Ford disagreed with the US-led war in Iraq, the Washington Post reported on Thursday, citing an embargoed tape recorded interview conducted in 2004 with the late US leader.
Ford, who died on Tuesday at the age of 93, told the Post's Bob Woodward that he "very strongly" disagreed with President George W Bush's justifications for invading Iraq.
"I don't think I would have gone to war," Ford told the Post in an interview conducted just over a year after the US-led invasion that toppled Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.
Ford said that he would have more vigorously pushed for alternatives such as sanctions against the Saddam regime.
Ford was also critical of two of the Iraq war's strongest advocates: Vice President Dick Cheney -- his former White House chief of staff -- and former Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld, who performed the same job during his presidency.
Rumsfeld headed the Pentagon under Bush from 2001 until late 2006, when he was replaced by former CIA chief Robert Gates.
"Rumsfeld and Cheney and the president made a big mistake in justifying going into the war in Iraq.
They put the emphasis on weapons of mass destruction," Ford told the Post.
"And now, I've never publicly said I thought they made a mistake, but I felt very strongly it was an error in how they should justify what they were going to do," he said.
Ford said he also understood "the theory of wanting to free people," referring to Bush's assertion that the United States has a "duty" to free people around the world.
But the former president was skeptical about "whether you can detach that from the obligation number one, of what's in our national interest."
He added: "And I just don't think we should go hellfire damnation around the globe freeing people, unless it is directly related to our own national security."
Audio clips of the four-hour interview which were carried out for a future book project and were for publication after his death, are posted on the Washington Post newspaper website.
The former president's views were expanded in lengthy conversations with the Post in 2005, according to the newspaper.