What Trump said about Iraq, pre-invasion

Donald Trump continues to insist that prior to the invasion of Iraq, he said we “should not go into Iraq.” Last year, the tycoon said he could provide 25 articles demonstrating that he took that position. However, he has not provided one, and apparently nobody else has unearthed any either.

This isn’t to say that Trump failed to opine on the question of whether to invade Iraq. Andrew Kaczynski of BuzzFeed points to a discussion of the issue in Trump’s 2000 book The America We Deserve. Here is what Trump said:

Consider Iraq. After each pounding from U.S. warplanes, Iraq has dusted itself off and gone right back to work developing a nuclear arsenal. Six years of tough talk and U.S. fireworks in Baghdad have done little to slow Iraq’s crash program to become a nuclear power. They’ve got missiles capable of flying nine hundred kilometers—more than enough to reach Tel Aviv. They’ve got enriched uranium. All they need is the material for nuclear fission to complete the job, and, according to the Rumsfeld report, we don’t even know for sure if they’ve laid their hands on that yet.

That’s what our last aerial assault on Iraq in 1999 was about. Saddam Hussein wouldn’t let UN weapons inspectors examine certain sites where that material might be stored. The result when our bombing was over? We still don’t know what Iraq is up to or whether it has the material to build nuclear weapons.

I’m no warmonger. But the fact is, if we decide a strike against Iraq is necessary, it is madness not to carry the mission to its conclusion. When we don’t, we have the worst of all worlds: Iraq remains a threat, and now has more incentive than ever to attack us.

In this passage, Trump doesn’t advocate invading Iraq. But he does say that an all-out war with Iraq is preferable to air strikes. And he is clear that if we did nothing — the other alternative — Iraq would have clear path to becoming a nuclear power (if they weren’t already on the brink of becoming one).

Moreover, Trump apparently said nothing about the specific risks of an invasion he now claims drove his (alleged) opposition, e.g., a civil war in Iraq. If he knew enough to anticipate this prospect, which is doubtful, the risk wasn’t sufficient to persuade him that we should limit any attempt to deal with the threat posed by Saddam Hussein to air strikes.

It isn’t news that Trump makes fraudulent claims to advance his interests. But his claim of prescience with regard to Iraq, is, to my knowledge, the only evidence he has proffered to establish foreign policy expertise. In addition, it is the launching point for his slander of President George W. Bush.

Accordingly, the falsity of Trump’s claim about Iraq takes on special significance.

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