All eyes on the lookout for Bush as Obama marks the end of the war in Iraq

President Obama is set to mark the end of combat operations in Iraq in a big way, but there has been little mention of what role, if any, the man who started the war will play this week.

President George W. Bush has stayed largely behind the scenes since leaving office, but his recent emergence, Democratic campaign efforts and the end of the war have occasioned thoughts of the Bush administration.

ADVERTISEMENT
White House aides would not say if Bush would have any role in Tuesday's events or Obama's remarks.

Obama is scheduled to travel to Fort Bliss, Texas, on Tuesday before addressing the nation from the Oval Office on Tuesday night, as the ceremonial transition takes place.

Bush, who has really surfaced only to aid former President Clinton in raising relief funds for Haiti, surprised returning U.S. troops at the Dallas-Fort Worth Airport in mid-August. And reports surfaced last week that Bush is preparing to promote his memoirs, which are due out one week after November's midterm elections.

And just recently, the White House announced that former first lady Laura Bush will join first lady Michelle Obama at a Sept. 11 event in Shanksville, Pa.

But as his controversial war nears an end of sorts, it remains unclear how Bush will mark the occasion.

It is difficult to imagine Obama congratulating his predecessor for the end of the war.

After all, Obama's meteoric rise to the Oval Office was sparked by an anti-war address he gave as an Illinois state senator in Chicago in 2002.

"I don't oppose all wars," Obama said in that speech. "What I am opposed to is a dumb war. What I am opposed to is a rash war. What I am opposed to is the cynical attempt by Richard Perle and Paul Wolfowitz and other armchair, weekend warriors in this administration to shove their own ideological agendas down our throats, irrespective of the costs in lives lost and in hardships borne."

At the time, Obama warned that "even a successful war against Iraq will require a U.S. occupation of undetermined length, at undetermined cost, with undetermined consequences."

Eight years later, Obama is still warning that tough days lie ahead in Iraq as fewer than 50,000 U.S. troops remain in the country in a support capacity and there have been recent high-profile acts of violence in the country.

Because of that and a nation suffering through an economic crisis and ready to move on, Larry Berman, a political science professor at the University of California, Davis, said he doesn't expect Obama to mention Bush, still a bogeyman to liberals, during his Oval Office address.

"I think that President Obama will use the occasion to acknowledge the sacrifices made by our troops," Berman said. "I don’t expect the president to revisit faulty intelligence, WMDs and the false premises used to justify the war. Nor do I expect him to revisit 'Mission Accomplished.' "

The White House has made clear that the focus of Obama's remarks and the days leading up to them will focus on the president's gratitude to the troops and their families, the changing mission in Iraq and the ongoing war in Afghanistan.

Obama has continuously faulted the Bush administration for leaving Obama and his team with a broken economy, but he has not been as vocal in criticizing Bush and the Iraq war as he once was.

Already the White House has pushed to keep the focus on the troops who served in Iraq and not the surge, green-lighted by Bush, that most credit for allowing this transition point — a surge that Obama voted against as a member of the Senate.