Richard Armitage was the 13th United States Deputy Secretary of State, serving from 2001 to 2005. He served in the U.S. Navy during the Vietnam War and then after the fall of Saigon moved to Washington D.C. to work as a consultant for the United States Department of Defense, which sent him to Tehran and Bangkok.
Throughout the late 70s and early 80s, Armitage worked as an aide and foreign policy advisor to politicians including Senator Bob Dole and President-elect Ronald Reagan. When Reagan was elected, Armitage was appointed to the Department of Defense. In the 1990s, Armitage worked in the private sector before being confirmed as Deputy Secretary of State with the election of George W. Bush in 2001. He left the post in 2005.
Armitage was educated at the United States Naval Academy. He is an avid bodybuilder, and speaks many languages, including Vietnamese.
Question: Knowing what you know now, what would you have done differently?
Armitage: Well I think had we all known that there was not WMD, I think that there had been certainly less – at least on my part – a rush to war. I do not wanna mislead you, however. I do think, and did think that the proposition of removing Saddam Hussein was an imminently sensible one. I had some questions about the timing. I would have preferred to wait until Afghanistan was more consolidated; but the notion of removing something . . . someone who had invaded his neighbors twice in the past, and had used WMD on his own people, who was shooting at our aircraft and British aircraft every single day was an imminently sensible one. So that proposition was not one that found disfavor with me.
Question: How did public opinion affect the decision to go to war?
Armitage: Well I think initially public opinion was very favorable towards the war. And I think it was because of the fear that remained after 9/11. I think for a long time after 9/11, even in some parts of the country now, we were exporting our anger and our fear rather than the more normal exports that the United States has of hope, and optimism, and enthusiasm, and opportunity. And I think that led to sort of almost an ebullience as we moved to war with Iraq. Certainly the fact that the U.S. Congress and the U.S. press had been, in my view, cowed by the events of 9/11 and were not proceeding in an oversight way, it made it a lot easier for the administration to go to war.