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Bush adviser speaks in Aspen

Steve Benson
Aspen Times Staff Writer

While speaking in Aspen Friday, Karen Hughes, the former counselor to President George W. Bush, said the situation in Iraq is “going to take a longer commitment than we thought.”

Hughes, who served as a counselor to the president for his first 18 months in office, advising him on a wide variety of issues, spoke at a private banquet in the Hotel Jerome patio area.

Hughes had served as Bush’s communications director since 1994, when he ran for governor of Texas. When he first took office, he told members of his staff he wanted Hughes to be present whenever any major decisions were made. She developed the communications and message strategy for the administration and oversaw the offices of press secretary, media affairs, speech writing and communications.

Hughes left the White House in the summer of 2002 and returned to Texas to spend more time with her family. Under a retainer agreement with the Republican National Committee, Hughes continues to advise Bush on communications strategies. She is considered an integral part of the administration’s communications plan in the early stages of the war on terror.

On Friday, Hughes spoke to over a hundred guests at an outdoor luncheon at the Jerome. Despite speaking outdoors and on a microphone, Hughes, getting in the face of a reporter, claimed the event was private, closed to the media and off the record. With her high public profile, the Times felt this article was appropriate.

In addition to her time in the White House, Hughes discussed the volatile global setting and its impact on the Bush administration.

“The world is changing so drastically,” she said. “[This] is an amazing time, a huge moment in history.”

Addressing the war in Iraq, Hughes said the large-scale desertion of Iraqi soldiers in the early stages of the conflict actually prolonged the campaign. The deserters have spread out across the country and blended in with ordinary citizens, but many still want to fight, she said.

“It’s going to take a longer commitment than we thought.”

Hughes said the attacks of Sept. 11 forced the Bush administration to alter their goals both at home and abroad.

Shortly after Sept. 11, she said the president told her “we are at war against terror, and from now on this is the new priority of this administration.” That will soon change, she said, once Bush can devote more time to domestic issues.

Hughes also addressed the current African uranium scandal plaguing the White House and British Prime Minister Tony Blair. She said the issue has been blown out of proportion and needs to be put into perspective.

“That was a very small piece of the argument for going to war,” she said.

“We’ve liberated two countries – Afghanistan and Iraq – from two of the most brutal regimes in the world,” Hughes said.

She also refuted critics’ sentiments that the wars have only fueled terrorist aggression.

“The prevailing view in the administration is that actually we sent a very strong message that will discourage terrorism,” she said.

Countries that once supported terrorism are changing their policies, she added. She also admitted that the war on terror is far from over.

We are never going to win the war on terror as long as children around the world are raised to hate America and everything it stands for, Hughes said.

“We value every life, they value none, not even the innocent. The only way to overcome [that] is by doing good, [to] change the world one life at a time.”

Steve Benson’s e-mail address is sbenson@aspentimes.com


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