The Corner

Politics & Policy

Trump’s Iraq Chicanery

I’m surprised that there hasn’t been more discussion about the fact that Donald Trump has been lying since the start of the campaign about his position on the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

Specifically, Trump has claimed, again and again and again, that he was against the Iraq war. Just as significant, he has represented that his rationale was the belief that the military invasion and ouster of Saddam Hussein would “destabilize the region,” shifting the balance of power to Iran. The intimation (no, the outright claim – subtle intimation is not The Donald’s style) is that he, uniquely among candidates for the GOP presidential nomination and in contrast to Hillary Clinton on the Democratic side, understood the dynamics of Middle Eastern geopolitics; thus, the Trump argument goes, he is best suited to be commander-in-chief.

It has long been apparent that this is all Trumpian bunk: Despite scouring the record, no one has found a paper or audio trail of Trump expressing opposition to the war. Trump has countered that this was because he was not a politician at the time. But that’s silly: He was a celebrity who notoriously commented on public questions – abortion, socialized medicine, eminent domain, the merits of confiscatory taxation to address runaway debt, etc. It does not take more than ten seconds of exposure to the Trump ego to know that, had he vigorously opposed the invasion of Iraq, he would not only have been widely quoted on it; he would have been unable to resist ever louder “I told you so” snarks as Iraq descended deeper into sectarian strife after 2003.

And now, finally, we have undeniable audio of Trump not opposing the Iraq war – indeed, of Trump supporting it, although somewhat tepidly. On the first anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, as Buzz Feed reports, Howard Stern asked Trump if he was in favor of invading Iraq. Trump replied, “Yeah I guess so.”

Not enough attention has been paid to Trump’s succinct but telling elaboration on this answer: “I wish the first time it was done correctly.” Obviously, this is a reference to the first Gulf War in 1991. Trump’s position was that not only should we invade Iraq in 2002, but also that we should have invaded Iraq eleven years earlier.

Back then, remember, our troops had ejected Saddam’s forces from Kuwait and had them in full retreat and surrender mode. Many argued that we should “finish the job” – i.e., proceed to invade Iraq and depose the regime. But the Bush 41 administration concluded that this would destabilize the region, to the benefit of Iran. President George H.W. Bush elected not to do it.

Trump has spent the entire campaign pretending to have been prescient about the disastrous fallout of an Iraq invasion. The reality is that he was not only on board with the risk of destabilizing the region in 2002; he asserted that the big mistake was actually the failure to invade and risk destabilizing the region in 1991.

In this, as in so much else, he is a fraud.

(Disclosure: I support Ted Cruz.)

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