The Republican reversal on the Iraq war, 12 years later: OK, it was a mistake

It’s perhaps fitting that a member of the Bush family has achieved in a few days something that seemed unattainable for years: getting Republicans to declare that the 2003 invasion of Iraq was, after all, a big mistake.

WASHINGTON — It’s perhaps fitting that a member of the Bush family has achieved in a few days something that seemed unattainable for years: getting Republicans to declare that the 2003 invasion of Iraq was, after all, a big mistake.

Republican presidential candidates have been lining up to call it an error.

Ted Cruz, Scott Walker, Marco Rubio, George Pataki, Rick Santorum, Rand Paul, radio host Laura Ingraham — every one took a position that would have been anathema within the party a few years ago.

It was all triggered by an apparent flub by Jeb Bush.

The presidential hopeful, ex-Florida governor and brother of the president who attacked Iraq was asked on Fox News last week whether he would have invaded, knowing what he knows today.

Yes, he replied.

He tried to correct the record a day later. He said he’d misinterpreted the question and had based his answer on how he felt in 2003 — when the U.S. government said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and an invasion would be quick and easy. By week’s end, he settled on a final answer: no.

He was pounded with criticism in the meantime — largely from his own side.

Ingraham, a popular conservative radio host, said: “You can’t still think that going into Iraq, now, as a sane human being, was the right thing to do. If you do, there has to be something wrong with you.”

Other presidential aspirants had no problem answering the Iraq question.

“Of course not,” Cruz, the conservative favourite from Texas, told CNN.

“I mean, the entire predicate for the war against Iraq was the intelligence that showed they had weapons of mass destruction and that there was a real risk they might use them….

“We now know that intelligence was false.”

Like most Republicans, Sen. Marco Rubio tried to avoid blaming George W. Bush. He said in an interview that Bush made the right decision — based on intelligence he had at the time. But Rubio added: had everyone known the intelligence was wrong, neither Bush nor Congress would have authorized the war.

Bush admitted in his post-presidential memoir in 2010, “Decision Points,” that he’d sent American troops into combat based in large part on bad intelligence.

“That was a massive blow to our credibility — my credibility — that would shake the confidence of the American people,” said the ex-president. “I had a sickening feeling every time I thought about it. I still do.”

Sen. Rand Paul stood out from the pack.

An intervention-wary libertarian, Paul said he not only regrets the war today, but did so even back then. That puts him to the left of Democratic rival Hillary Rodham Clinton on the issue and in tune with another Democrat whose view was once considered outside the mainstream — Barack Obama.

Republicans now argue the Iraq war on new grounds.

They blame Obama and Clinton for retreating in 2011, leaving an unstable country riven by cultural hatreds and ripe for a takeover by Islamist rebels.

Polling shows a drastic evolution in American public opinion. In 2003, Gallup found 91 per cent of Republicans supported the invasion. Asked whether the war was a mistake, 72 per cent of overall respondents disagreed. By June 2014, only 39 per cent disagreed it was a mistake.

Matthew Dowd, George W. Bush’s chief strategist in 2004, described his own shifting views. He wrote about driving to the airport at the time with his son, a soldier, and then to the Bush campaign headquarters.

“I had just put my son in the hands of the army and was about to help re-elect the person who would ultimately send him into harm’s way,” said Dowd, now a political commentator at ABC.

“I have come to the place where I believe the decision to go into Iraq was a huge mistake. Should have I asked more questions in the midst of all that? Yes.”

Just Posted

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney arrives at the 2021 budget in Edmonton, Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021.
Kenney distances himself from caucus vote to turf dissidents with ‘personal agendas’

EDMONTON — Alberta Premier Jason Kenney is distancing himself from a decision… Continue reading

Rental units in Red Deer continued to be some of the most affordable in Canada, according to the National Rent Report from Rental.ca. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young)
Red Deer rent up year over year, still among lowest in Canada

Rent in Red Deer is up nearly six per cent but is… Continue reading

Rebels logo.
Red Deer Rebels trade last year’s first overall selection in U.S. Prospects Draft

The Red Deer Rebels have traded their first overall selection from the… Continue reading

Bo’s Bar and Grill owner Brennen Wowk said the hospitality industry is looking for more clarity from the province around what conditions must be met to allow for restaurants reopening. (Advocate file photo)
Frustated restaurant owners want to know government’s reopening plan

Restaurant owners feel they are in lockdown limbo

A used protective face mask is seen discarded on the ground in Vancouver, B.C. in May 2020. (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Medical exception letters required for Albertans who don’t wear masks in public areas

EDMONTON — Alberta has moved to close loopholes people might use as… Continue reading

Team Canada’s head coach Troy Ryan talks with players before the start of the of the Rivalry Series at the Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre in Victoria, B.C., on Monday, February 3, 2020. Ryan of Spryfield, N.S., has been named head coach of Canada’s women’s hockey team for the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Troy Ryan to coach Canadian women’s hockey team in 2022 Winter Olympics

Ryan was Canada’s assistant coach from 2016 to 2019

FILE- In this April 19, 2021, file photo, people wearing masks as a precaution against the coronavirus wait to test for COVID-19 at a hospital in Hyderabad, India. Misinformation about the coronavirus is surging in India as the death toll from COVID-19 rises. Fueled by anguish, distrust and political polarization, the claims are further compounding India’s crisis. (AP Photo/Mahesh Kumar A, File)
Misinformation surges amid India’s COVID-19 calamity

Distrust of Western vaccines and health care also driving misinformation

FILE - In this Friday March 6, 2020, file photo, Britain’s Prince Harry visits the Silverstone Circuit, in Towcester, England. In an episode of the “Armchair Expert” podcast broadcast Thursday, May 13, 2021, Prince Harry compared his royal experience to being on “The Truman Show” and “living in a zoo.” (Peter Nicholls/Pool Photo via AP, File)
Prince Harry thought about quitting royal life in his 20s

Feared his family would have to deal with the same spotlight that was on his late mother

Opinion
Mental health: Gossiping, backbiting and forming factions is unhealthy

We all know of dysfunctional organizations, which can be as troublesome as… Continue reading

Family practice physician Christina Tuomi, D.O., (right) gets Homer's first dose of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine from Emergency Department nurse Steve Hughes (left) on Thursday, Dec. 17, 2020 at South Peninsula Hospital in Homer, Alaska. Tuomi has been the hospital's medical lead throughout the pandemic. (Photo courtesy Derotha Ferraro/South Peninsula Hospital)
Alberta physicians: Vaccines are our path forward

As the AMA representatives for Alberta’s family physicians, we were immensely relieved… Continue reading

Vancouver Canucks' Nils Hoglander, right, is checked by Calgary Flames goalie Jacob Markstrom during third-period NHL hockey action in Calgary, Thursday, May 13, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Lindholm, Tkachuk lead Calgary Flames in 4-1 win over Vancouver Canucks

Lindholm, Tkachuk lead Calgary Flames in 4-1 win over Vancouver Canucks

Most Read