This Week in History: Smoke rises from the Trade Ministry in Baghdad on March 20, 2003 after it was hit by a missile during the US-led forces attack, marking the start of the invasion of Iraq. In the beginning, it all looked simple: topple Saddam Hussein, destroy his purported weapons of mass destruction and lay the foundation for a pro-Western government in the heart of the Arab world. In the end though nearly 4,500 Americans and an estimated 121,000 Iraqi civilian were killed during the US-led war on Iraq.
Photo by Jerome Delay/AP

Before and after a war is not ‘the same thing’

One of Donald Trump’s favorite lies is his assertion that he opposed the war in Iraq before the March 2003 invasion. The evidence to support the claim simply doesn’t exist: the only public comments Trump made in advance of the war was on Howard Stern’s radio show in September 2002, when the host asked, “Are you for invading Iraq?” Trump replied, “Yeah, I guess so.”

But the Republican presidential hopeful continues to tout his imaginary foresight anyway, in speech after speech, interview after interview, often without challenge. Trump avoided the major Sunday shows yesterday, but he called into Fox News’ “Media Buzz” program where host Howard Kurtz broached the subject and recommended more truthful talking points.
KURTZ: Why not say, “I was a private businessman. I had no responsibility to take a public position before the war and I criticized the invasion after it began?”

TRUMP: Well, I fought with Sean Hannity over it and the Neil Cavuto statement is pretty close to being like, “Don’t go in and don’t make the mistake of going in.” I said, I think, the economy is, you know, has to come first. And also if you look shortly thereafter, one of the major people on television actually say, “You know, whether Trump was for it or not before the war, the fact is he was totally against it in the Esquire interview,” which took place pretty quickly after the war started and that’s the same thing.
This is actually closer to something resembling an answer, but it’s still completely wrong.

Trump did speak to Fox’s Neil Cavuto in January 2003, a couple of months before the invasion, but he didn’t express any opposition to the war. Instead, Trump simply sounded impatient: “[Americans] are getting a little bit tired of hearing, ‘We’re going in, we’re not going in,’ you know, whatever happened to the days of the Douglas MacArthur? He would go and attack. He wouldn’t talk.”

Trump now wants these comments to be seen as a warning of a “mistake” in Iraq. That’s obviously untrue.

And what about the Esquire interview? That came out in August 2004.

Notice again what Trump said over the weekend: criticizing the war a year and a half after it began is, in his mind, “the same thing” as opposing the war before it began.

Except, that’s bonkers. Trump’s whole point is that he has preternatural prognostication skills that far exceed the abilities of those silly politicians in Washington. As proof, he’s pointing to his accurate August 2004 prediction about what would happen in March 2003.

In related news, I can tell you who’ll win the next Super Bowl a mere 15 months after the game is played – at which point I’ll expect you to marvel at my astounding insights.

Donald Trump and Iraq

Before and after a war is not 'the same thing'