U.S. President George W. Bush said the biggest regret of his presidency was flawed intelligence that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.
Bush told ABC "World News" in an interview scheduled to air on Monday that he was unprepared for war when he took office.
Bush leaves the White House on Jan. 20 with public approval ratings near record lows partly due to the unpopular Iraq war that toppled Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein after the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003. More than 4,200 U.S. troops have died in Iraq.
"The biggest regret of all the presidency has to have been the intelligence failure in Iraq," Bush said. "A lot of people put their reputations on the line and said the weapons of mass destruction is a reason to remove Saddam Hussein."
But he declined to speculate on whether he would have gone to war if the intelligence had said Iraq did not possess weapons of mass destruction.
"That's an interesting question. That is a do-over that I can't do," Bush said, according to excerpts from the recent ABC interview at Camp David.
As he prepares to hand over wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to successor President-elect Barack Obama, Bush said the issue he was most unprepared for when he became president was war.
"I think I was unprepared for war. In other words, I didn't campaign and say, 'Please vote for me, I'll be able to handle an attack,'" Bush said. "I didn't anticipate war."
Pulling U.S. forces out of Iraq before the appropriate time would have compromised his principles, he said.
Want to enjoy 'Zen' reading - with no ads and just the article? Subscribe todaySubscribe now