The Assassination Attempt Against George H.W. Bush

American presidents have managed to escape dozens of assassination attempts over the course of American history, but only one known attempt came after leaving the Oval Office. President George H.W. Bush was the target of just one known assassination plot, but it didn't come until three months after the end of his single term.

On April 13, 1993, the day before George H.W. Bush was scheduled to visit Kuwait to honor his victory in the Persian Gulf War against Iraq, Kuwaiti authorities foiled a car-bomb plot to assassinate him. More than a dozen suspects, most of them Iraqi nationals, were arrested. The next day their massive car bomb was discovered in Kuwait City.

An investigation revealed multiple Iraqi plots to assassinate George H.W. Bush

The Kuwaiti Ministry of Defense said the conspirators had three different plans to assassinate George H.W. Bush while he was in Kuwait, according to The Independent. One was to explode remote-control car bombs as he arrived in the country at Kuwait International Airport. A second location for a car bombing was near the theater at Kuwait University, where he was to receive an honorary doctorate. A third option was a suicide attack by strapping explosives to a bomber and detonating the bomb while he was near Bush.

Through suspect interviews and a thorough examination of the mechanics of the bomb, the FBI determined the plot had been directed by the Iraqi Intelligence Service, and a Kuwaiti court later convicted all but one of the defendants.

The official U.S. response came from newly elected President Bill Clinton. Citing "compelling evidence" of the direct involvement of Iraqi intelligence in the assassination attempt, Clinton ordered a retaliatory attack against their headquarters in Baghdad on June 26, 1993. Twenty-three Tomahawk missiles were fired off the USS Peterson in the Red Sea and the USS Chancellorsville in the Persian Gulf. The shelling destroyed the building and killed several civilians, according to Iraqi accounts cited by

"It was an elaborate plan devised by the Iraqi government and directed against a former president of the United States because of actions he took as president," Clinton said in a televised address, according to The Washington Post. "As such, the Iraqi attack against President Bush was an attack against our country and against all Americans."

But did Saddam Hussein and the Iraqi Intelligence Service order an attack?

A classified U.S. intelligence analysis says Kuwait may have "cooked the books" on an alleged plot to assassinate George H.W. Bush while he was in Kuwait, according to a Boston Globe report [via The New Yorker]. The document, which was dated May 13 and produced by the CIA's Counter Terrorism Center, indicates that the Kuwaiti government may have decided to manipulate the discovery of an unrelated Iraqi plot to remind the Clinton administration of Saddam Hussein's continuing threat to Kuwait.

The Clinton administration later claimed that subsequent investigations left little doubt of the Iraqi plot to assassinate George H.W. Bush and the CIA changed its tune, noting that the agency was "highly confident that the Iraqi government, at the highest levels, directed its intelligence service to assassinate former President Bush," The Washington Post reported.