Fallon says Bush doesn't want war with Iran

In an interview, Adm. Fallon denies claims he was forced out of his job because he disagreed with the president over attacking Iran.

Published June 3, 2008 7:25PM (EDT)

Tuesday morning, Adm. William Fallon gave his first interview since retiring early from his post as leader of the U.S. military's Central Command in March. Fallon departed amid rumors and a lengthy Esquire profile that he opposed President Bush's strategy in Iran. As we noted here at the time, Fallon reportedly had clashed with both Bush administration officials and Gen. David Petraeus over America's continued presence in Iraq. Numerous publications wrote that Fallon was concerned over the strain being put on U.S. troops by the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Unlike Petraeus, Fallon reportedly wanted to scale back the number of troops deployed in Iraq.

Fallon's interview today with CNN was remarkable both for what Fallon said and how he said it. At times, he sounded much more like a proponent of Bush's foreign policy than the renegade previous news reports had depicted. For instance, on the topic of what to do in Iraq, he said, "I believe the best course is to retain the high confidence we have in General Dave Petraeus and his team out there. Dave has done a magnificent job in leading our people in that country." He also said, "I don't believe for a second President Bush wants a war with Iran."

However, throughout the interview, Fallon seemed deliberative, appearing to choose his words carefully. Asked whether he was pushed into retirement, Fallon artfully dodged the question, saying, "What was important was not me. It wasn't some discussion about where I was with issues. It was the fact that we have a war in progress. We had a couple of hundred thousand people whose lives were at stake out in Iraq and Afghanistan and we needed to be focused on that and not a discussion on me or what I might have said or thought or someone perceived I said."

Explaining his departure, Fallon said, "The facts are that the situation was one that was very uncomfortable for me and, I'm sure, for the president. One of the most important things in the military is confidence in the chain of command. And the situation that developed was one of uncertainty and a feeling that maybe I was disloyal to the president and that I might be trying to countermand his orders, the policies of the country."

The retired admiral made additional comments that could support the reports about his disagreements with the Bush administration. Though he failed to provide details of his interactions with Bush, when questioned about whether he told the president war with Iran would be a "bad move," Fallon said, "It's probably not appropriate to try to characterize it in that way. Again, don't believe for a second that the president really wants to go to war with Iran. We have a lot of things going on, and there are many other ways to solve problems. I was very open and candid in my advice. I'm not shy. I will tell people, the leaders, what I think and offer my opinions on Iran and other things, and continue to do that."

The full video of the interview is below.

By Vincent Rossmeier

Vincent Rossmeier is an editorial assistant at Salon.

MORE FROM Vincent Rossmeier

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

George W. Bush Iran Middle East War Room