WASHINGTON, Jan 13 (Reuters) - President George W. Bush acknowledged on Saturday that some of his administration’s decisions during the Iraq war had contributed to instability there but he still believed he was right to topple Saddam Hussein.
Insisting it was crucial to U.S. interests to get the sectarian violence in Iraq under control, Bush told CBS in an interview that the strife there was a destabilizing force in the Middle East that "could lead to attacks here in America."
Pressed on whether actions by his administration had created further instability in Iraq, Bush said, "Well, no question, decisions have made things unstable."
But he added, "My decision to remove Saddam Hussein was the correct decision in my judgment."
Bush gave the interview to Scott Pelley of CBS’s "60 Minutes" news program, which will air on Sunday, after announcing a plan to send 21,500 additional U.S. troops to Iraq’s most violent areas.
In the speech announcing his revised Iraq strategy, Bush acknowledged mistakes, saying he should have increased troop levels earlier.
"I think history is going to look back and see a lot of ways we could have done things better. No question about it," Bush told "60 Minutes."
Bush launched the invasion of Iraq in March 2003 promising to rid the country of weapons of mass destruction, but none were found. He said in the CBS interview that had Saddam been allowed to remain in power, the Iraqi leader would have been competing with Iran to acquire a nuclear weapon.
CBS said that Bush had said he watched parts of the Internet video of Saddam Hussein’s hanging but not all of it because he did not want to watch Saddam fall through the trap door.
The government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has been heavily criticized for the manner in which the Dec. 30 execution was handled, which many said was done in haste and inappropriately carried out on the first day of a religious holiday.
The taunting of Saddam by Shi‘ite officials while he was on the gallows angered many Sunni Arabs in Iraq. The execution was illicitly video-recorded and put on the Internet.
"I thought it was discouraging," Bush said of the video. "It’s important that that chapter of Iraqi history be closed. [But] They could have handled it a lot better."