Donald Trump has made his alleged opposition to the war in Iraq a central theme of his presidential campaign. He claims that it differentiates him from his opponents and speaks to his sagacity when it comes to foreign and military policy.
Early on, we noted that there was no evidence Trump opposed the invasion before it occurred. He began to criticize the war only after it appeared to be going badly. That’s known as Monday morning quarterbacking.
More recently, we pointed to a book Trump wrote in 2000 where he spoke favorably about the possibility of an invasion. In that interview, however, Trump stopped short of saying we should invade.
Now, Andrew Kaczynski of BuzzFeed has unearthed a 2002 statement by Trump in which he said the U.S. should invade Iraq. He made the statement in an interview with Howard Stern:
“Are you for invading Iraq?” Mr. Stern asked in the interview, audio of which was discovered by the website BuzzFeed.
“Yeah, I guess so,” Mr. Trump replied, adding, “I wish the first time it was done correctly,” in reference to the initial Persian Gulf invasion by the first President George Bush.
To be sure, Trump’s support for the invasion is muted. But his claim that he said before the war “we shouldn’t be doing it” is false. In fact, he said we should invade.
Moreover, to the extent that Trump had any reservation about going to war with Iraq it resided in his view that the first Persian Gulf invasion was done incorrectly. By this, he clearly meant that the U.S. should have removed Saddam Hussein at that time. Given the overwhelming success of the first invasion, that’s the only possible complaint one might lodge against how it was carried out.
Yet Trump now claims (in the February 6 New Hampshire debate, for example) that he foresaw the problems — instability and worse — that would result from toppling the Iraqi government. Obviously he did not; otherwise he would not have carped to Howard Stern about the shortcomings of the first invasion, which stopped short of toppling Saddam (an invasion he now praises for not having landed us in a quagmire).
Trump’s claims about Iraq confirm two things about him: (1) he’s dishonest and (2) far from having any insight into world affairs, he’s a slave to conventional wisdom.