The new question of choice to ask the 2016 Republican contenders is whether, given “what we know now,” the United States should have launched Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003. Asking various candidates has produced various answers, some of which are in entirely different corners of the debate.

A notable difference of opinion is between Chris Christie, who believes the invasion was not justified, and Jeb Bush, who offered some tepid support given what the intelligence was saying at the time. Report from CNN:

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie attempted to draw a bright line between himself and Jeb Bush on the Iraq War in a CNN interview on Tuesday, definitively stating that given the absence of weapons of mass destruction he wouldn’t have authorized the war.

“I think President (George W.) Bush made the best decision he could at the time, given that his intelligence community was telling him that there was (weapons of mass destruction) and that there were other threats right there in Iraq,” he told CNN’s Jake Tapper on “The Lead.”

“But I don’t think you can honestly say that if we knew then that there was no (weapons of mass destruction), that the country should have gone to war,” he said.

The comments were a direct response to Bush’s support for the Iraq War during a Fox News interview. Though Bush was asked by host Megyn Kelly whether, “knowing what we know now,” he would’ve authorized the war in Iraq, he responded affirmatively to a slightly different scenario.

“I would have (authorized the invasion), and so would have Hillary Clinton, just to remind everybody. And so would almost everybody that was confronted with the intelligence they got,” Bush said in the interview. [Emphasis added]

The remarks drew widespread criticism from Bush’s left and right flanks, and caused a close ally, GOP strategist Ana Navarro, to backtrack on the comments, saying Bush told her he had “misheard” Kelly’s question.

Senator Ted Cruz also came out, agreeing more with Christie, that he would not have authorized the invasion. Report on Cruz from Business Insider:

Unlike former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R), Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) offered a clear position on whether the US’ 2003 invasion of Iraq was retrospectively a good idea.

“Of course not,” Cruz told Fox News’ Megyn Kelly on Tuesday.

Cruz said because the evidence used to justify the war — that Iraq was in possession of weapons of mass destruction — turned out to be false, there was “no way we would have gone to war with Iraq” in hindsight.

Bush and Cruz are likely rivals in the 2016 presidential race.

“The entire predicate of the war against Iraq was the intelligence that showed they had weapons of mass destruction and that there was a real risk that they might use them,” Cruz said. “Now I would note there was a bipartisan consensus of both Republicans and Democrats looking at that intelligence [who] concluded it was a real threat. We now know that intelligence was false.”

The politically “safe” answer is to say we shouldn’t have launched the invasion. Hindsight is easy when you’re not faced with the decisions at the time, which I think is the point Jeb was trying to make. I think the real question is whether you would have launched the invasion in 2003, given what the evidence was at the time.


  1. I’m surprised we didn’t get a firestorm over this topic. It is amazing to me that most of the candidates are saying the Iraq war was a mistake. Didn’t expect that.

      • I wonder if the candidates colluded to shut down the topic. The media would have had a field day if the candidates had argued the point.

        Otherwise, Lindsay Graham, for one, would have said the others were wimps (ironic. . .), because he wants us to invade and occupy the whole world.

        • In retrospect, everything looks different and it is easy to fault the Cheney-Bush war. At the time, nearly every American was gungho for going to war because no one had time to decipher or question whether Saddam had weapons of mass destruction or to question if he was actually responsible. Dick Cheney said it was so. Ron Paul, Lincoln
          Chafee and Bernie Sanders won no applause for voting No. Still in Washington, Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, Rick Santorumm, John McCain, Paul Ryan, Lindsay Graham, all voted Yes and now want to forget their choice. Well, maybe not Graham, he is a gladiator.

          A bit of my sympathy went to Jeb Bush in this situation. Bush2 is his brother, irregardless of what he did, and I think Jeb was caught at a loss as how to reply. I
          fault Jeb in a lot of his ways but not this one.

          • While it is true that we were still in shock from 9/11, and had a heapin’ helpin’ of paranoia and xenophobia. it is not true that the public wanted that war. By a solid majority, the public wanted to let the inspectors finish the 5% of inspection that was left, and Saddam had agreed not to stand in their way.

            Once the war started, of course, the country got behind it, partly to support our troops, but also, because, well, waht was the alternative?

            The paranoia was so bad that MSNBC (of all people) fired Phil Donahue, their only host with any ratings–because he had the audacity to question the rush to war. But, again, I was proud of the public for wanting to wait.

            The thing that surprises me about this discussion is that the candidates just want the issue to die. They don’t want to ever be confronted by it, so they’ll say anything.

            I expected some moron to claim that Saddam had anything to do with 9/11 (Saddam and Osama were mortal enemies). I expected someone to bring up the idiotic claim that Saddam shipped all his weapons to his enemies in Syria. I expected someone to bring up the lie that the weapons were still in the country (there are unexploded mines, but those were from the war with Iran).

            There have been lots of hair-brained excuses given for the Iraq war, but the candidates just really don’t want to talk about a war the public overwhelmingly regrets.

            The real reason for the war was that Saddam was the only Arab leader who rewarded ($10,000) the families of bombers who died attacking Israel. And Cheney knew that W really wanted to finish the job his dad started, so he was easy to get onboard.

            The irony is that the candidates are all saying the war was a mistake, YET claim (wrongly) that we’re better off with Saddam gone. What sense does that make?

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