Part of the fireworks of the Saturday night GOP debate surrounded the Iraq war and Donald Trump’s claim:
I’m the only one on this stage that said, “Do not go into Iraq. Do not attack Iraq.” Nobody else on this stage said that. And I said it loud and strong. And I was in the private sector. I wasn’t a politician, fortunately.
But I said it, and I said it loud and clear, “You’ll destabilize the Middle East.” That’s exactly what happened.
Now I am not saying that claim is a lie, but it is very strange that even though Donald Trump claims to have said it loud and strong, nobody can find a reference proving Trump opposed the Iraq war before it started.
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Politifact says the earliest Trump objection they could find was the week after the war started:
A week later Trump gave differing takes. At an Academy Awards after-party, Trump said that “the war’s a mess,” according to the Washington Post. He told Fox News that because of the war, “The market’s going to go up like a rocket.”
Trump’s harshest criticism came more than a year into the war, in an August 2004 article in Esquire:
“Look at the war in Iraq and the mess that we’re in. I would never have handled it that way. Does anybody really believe that Iraq is going to be a wonderful democracy where people are going to run down to the voting box and gently put in their ballot and the winner is happily going to step up to lead the country? C’mon. Two minutes after we leave, there’s going to be a revolution, and the meanest, toughest, smartest, most vicious guy will take over. And he’ll have weapons of mass destruction, which Saddam didn’t have.
Kevin Drum of Mother Jones reminds readers of what Donald Trump said during the September 2015 debate at the Reagan Library:
I am the only person on this dais that fought very, very hard against us — and I wasn’t a sitting politician — going into Iraq. Because I said going into Iraq — that was in 2003, you can check it out, check out — I’ll give you 25 different stories. In fact, a delegation was sent to my office to see me because I was so vocal about it. I’m a very militaristic person, but you have to know when to use the military. I’m the only person up here that fought against going into Iraq.
We still haven’t seen any of those 25 clippings, “The Donald” promised.
In October 2015 the Washington Post fact checker gave the Donald’s claim four Pinocchios because they couldn’t find a shred of evidence that Trump opposed the war before the a war.
An extensive BuzzFeed review was unable to find any Trump statements on the Iraq War before the invasion in March 2003, but did find two statements he made the week the after the war started, one calling it “a mess” and one saying it would have a positive impact on the stock market. Huffington Post couldn’t find anything either, and the Associated Press in fact-checking the most recent debate couldn’t find evidence of Trump’s claim either.
There is evidence that Trump wanted the U.S. to invade Iraq at the end of the Clinton presidency. As reported by Andrew Kaczynski in Buzzfeed
In his 2000 book, The America We Deserve Trump noted Iraq was developing weapons of mass destruction and targeted Iraq strikes had little impact on their overall capabilities. The Donald said the best course might be against Iraq to “carry the mission to its conclusion.”
This is what Trump wrote:
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.
So what gives? Is the Donald who spent much of Saturday nights CBS debate calling Ted Cruz and Jeb Bush lying himself? And why won’t he provide those 25 clippings he promised in September?
It’s time some of those TV interviewers to start asking Donald Trump to prove his story.