As the sun sets on his rather turbulent years in the White House, US President George W. Bush is aiming at erasing his image of being a bellicose and sabre-rattling bully.
On his last tour to Europe as US President, Bush — who once had only one line for opponents: “You are either with us or against us” — conceded that his “gun-slinging” rhetoric made the world believe he was a “guy really anxious for war”.
Bush said he now wished he had used a different tone on the global stage.
In an exclusive interview to The Times, London, the US President expressed regret at divisions in the international community created by the war in Iraq.
“I think that in retrospect I could have used a different tone, a different rhetoric,” he said.
Bush admitted that his use of phrases such as “bring them on” and “dead or alive” had “indicated to people that he was not a man of peace”.
Referring to heavy casualties in Iraq, Bush said he found it very painful “to put youngsters on the way of harm”.
“I try to meet with as many of the families as I can. And I have an obligation to comfort and console as best as I possibly can. I also have an obligation to make sure that those lives were not lost in vain,” he added.
Bush told the Times he wanted to “leave behind a series of structures that makes it easier for the next president” to tackle issues such as Iran’s nuclear programme and establishing a Palestinian state.
On Iran, Bush said: “They can either face isolation, or they can have better relations with all of us.”
Bush also showed concern about the Democratic nominee Barack Obama saying “he (Barack Obama) might open cracks in the West’s united front towards Tehran’s nuclear ambitions”.
Bush, who was in Berlin on Wednesday for talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel about building pressure on Iran to give up its uranium enrichment programme, is due to fly on to Rome, Paris and London to seek further support for the effort.
He was also supportive of British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, whom he is scheduled to meet on Sunday, and who is facing tough times at home with support for his Labour Party and for his leadership fading fast. “He can sort it out,” Bush added.