WASHINGTON – Former President George H.W. Bush rejected criticism Monday of his son by a major religious figure, arguing that the president is giving peace a chance even as the international community faces a defiant Saddam Hussein.
At an awards ceremony for the 41st president held in Stamford, Conn., Bush said President Bush is the only one who is willing to hold Saddam responsible for his unwillingness to respond to U.N. demands that he disarm.
"Iraq and Saddam Hussein have made a mockery of that institution and its resolutions, and if the U.N. is to have any realistic role and value in shaping this world of ours in the 21st century, someone needs to step forward to hold Saddam to account. And the United States, led by our president, is prepared to do just that," Bush said while receiving the Altschul Award from the World Affairs Forum. U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Negroponte presented the award, given annually to those who have increased public awareness about foreign affairs.
He also said he was wrongly blamed for failing to order troops into Baghdad to topple Saddam from power after the dictator's 1990 invasion of neighbor Kuwait. The elder Bush led the United States and allied nations in repelling Saddam from Kuwait 12 years ago.
Bush argued that ousting Saddam would have been a fault of "mission creep," which the allies sought to avoid.
He also took issue with statements made recently by the leader of the Episcopal Church, to which the former president and 2.3 million other Americans belong.
Bishop Frank T. Griswold III, the senior Anglican bishop in the United States, told the Religious News Service earlier this month that he finds the current president's rhetoric about Iraq "reprehensible."
"Quite apart from the bombs we drop, words are weapons, and we have used our language so unwisely, so intemperately, so thoughtlessly that I am not surprised we are hated and loathed everywhere I go," the bishop said, adding, "I'd like to be able to go somewhere in the world and not have to apologize for being from the United States."
Griswold said the world has every right to loathe the United States because "they see us as greedy, self-interested and almost totally unconcerned about poverty, disease and suffering."
Bush, 78, and a former ambassador to the United Nations, addressed the bishop's remarks from a personal and public policy perspective.
"I found these quotes offensive, and knowing the president as I do, I found them uncalled for. And I can tell you they hurt this loving, proud father very much," Bush said, adding that if the president does decide that he must use force, he will not make the decision lightly.
Fox News' James Rosen contributed to this report.