Nonprofit, nonpartisan journalism. Supported by readers.


Trump is lying about what he said before the Iraq War

REUTERS/Tami Chappell
Never, through the end of 2003, did Donald Trump say that he opposed the war.

Donald Trump is lying, lying, lying about his prescience on the Iraq War.

You’ve probably seen by now various pieces taking issue with his claim that he opposed the Iraq War in advance and warned that it would destabilize the Mideast. But it’s worse than I previously thought, which is why I went for “lying, lying, lying” in the lede.

The excellent, my favorite of the fact-checking outfits, published on Friday the most complete catalogue to date of Trump’s nine relevant public statements through the end of 2003.

They show that, contrary to his recent lying boasts, he did not oppose the war in advance. In the first of the statements, radio shock-jock Howard Stern asked Trump whether he favored going to war in Iraq. Trump replied: “Yeah, I guess so.”

FactCheck found only one more instance, before the war started, when Trump discussed the possibility of the war, on Fox Business News Channel, in which he said “either you attack or you don’t attack,” but he was bothered by the degree of public discussion. It includes this:

“Well, he [President Bush] has either got to do something or not do something, perhaps, because perhaps shouldn’t be doing it yet and perhaps we should be waiting for the United Nations, you know. He’s under a lot of pressure. He’s — I think he’s doing a very good job. But, of course, if you look at the polls, a lot of people are getting a little tired. I think the Iraqi situation is a problem. And I think the economy is a much bigger problem as far as the president is concerned.”

Those are the two statements he made before the war, which he now claims amount to clearly opposing the war and forecasting that a U.S. invasion would destabilize the Mideast.

So that’s “lying” No. 1.

After the war started

In the months that followed, Trump said some things that sound critical of the war. So, until I read FactCheck’s complete catalogue, I had believed that Trump was lying only about opposing the war in advance.

But no, even after the war began and began going badly, Trump did not declare the war to be a mistake, nor did he warn that the war would destabilize the Mideast. Never, through the end of 2003, did Trump say that he opposed the war. At times he complained about how the war was going, he complained that some of the money being spent on the war could be better spent on other things, he alluded, in semi-coherent asides, that there are people who wonder whether the war was a good thing. But he never said anything remotely close to: “This war is a mistake. We should never have gone into Iraq. It’s going to destabilize the whole region.” Not even close.

Click through to the FactCheck article if you want to check that assertion. But here’s one example:

Just after the U.S. troops found and captured Saddam Hussein, and the stock market went up the next day, Trump was back on Fox Business News Channel being interviewed by Neil Cavuto. A portion of the exchange went like this:

Cavuto: What if this had happened today, Donald, in the middle of the trading day? What would the reaction have been then?

Trump: Oh, I think it probably would have been even more positive. But ultimately, over the next year, two years, 10 years and 20 years, this is just a great thing for the free world.

Cavuto: What if we got ahead of ourselves, though? What if, for example, the concerns of continued attacks in Iraq do not abate, that that’s still a factor with us and maybe drags on for some time?

Trump: Well, look, you have a lot of questions and a lot of people questioning the whole concept of going in, in the first place, Neil. But we are in, we went in, you had to find him. If he was alive, you had to find him. And you know, they fulfilled the pledge of finding Saddam Hussein.

So, compared to Trump’s claim that he strongly and clearly opposed the war (even after it started), that’s my backup for lying No. 2.

And lying No. 3 captures the whole sweep of the nine interviews referenced above. Trump’s claim that the reason no one can find any evidence of his claimed opposition to the war is that he was just a businessman at the time and people didn’t pay attention to what he said about the war.

But somehow or other, nine interviews of Trump talking about the war made it into the public record, and none of them back up his claim that, as he put it in one of the Republican debates:

“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.’”

Lying, lying, lying.

Comments (29)

  1. Submitted by joe smith on 02/22/2016 - 09:32 am.

    I almost spit out my coffee

    laughing at the headlines of Mr. Blacks piece. I have yet to see a headline here at Minnpost on Hillary lying, with the actual word lying in it. In exit polling Hillary was beaten by Bernie on the honesty issue at the absolutely startling number of 88% to 12%. I understand this is a liberal site but some form of “fair and balanced” has to be involved in the features or even the liberals will have a hard time believing what is written.

    • Submitted by Jim Million on 02/22/2016 - 12:01 pm.

      Consider this:

      MinnPost management and many donors likely back HRC, given their traditional liberal backgrounds.
      Some columnists, Eric Black for sure, seem very much in the Sanders box. He is a Bernie Backer, I’m sure.

      Most of the (anti) HRC rhetoric comes from Black’s group, and from a few others who understand her manipulative sham of “liberalism.” [that would be me, for one]

      The main reason I comment mostly in Eric’s threads, simply, is that I most admire the purity of philosophy and honesty in his followers/commenters.

      It is lapse in honesty that I generally challenge, certainly not philosophical purity.

      This is the only local page where I see Bernie Sanders given his true due. Someone must call out the Corporate Blues, especially here in Minnesota, where the DFL is now a very significant branch office of DNC corporate operations.

      [e.g. Amy Klobuchar on short list for Supreme Court?] (“Klobuchar” isn’t in the MinnPost dictionary, either.)

  2. Submitted by Dimitri Drekonja on 02/22/2016 - 09:56 am.

    Well, someone has to point out the facts, but it appears that a big chunk of the R primary electorate really doesn’t care. He’ll make us great, he’ll make Mexico/China/Everyone pay, and life will be great. is not a site I suspect any of his supporters visit…

  3. Submitted by Bill Schletzer on 02/22/2016 - 10:03 am.

    It should have been obvious to all that the war was a bad idea

    I’m just a guy in Minnesota who got his news from the paper and from TV back then. During the buildup before the invasion I thought it was obvious that they were cooking up excuses and there was no real direct threat. There was a protest march down Hennepin avenue that January or February (I think) that I participated in. It was probably the first protest I participated in since the Cambodia invasion in 1970. If I knew it, Clinton, Trump, Bush and all those other liars should have known. Bush should be in jail. There was a lot of butt covering and craven acquiescing going on during that time. I have always thought that the reason we didn’t get Osama when we had him trapped in Tora Bora or whatever that place was called is because that would have removed one big excuse for going to war in Iraq and Bush seemed to hate Saddam more than Osama.

    As much as I dislike Trump, he is one of the few political figures that will now come straight out and say it was wrong, certainly the only major Republican.

    • Submitted by Brian Simon on 02/22/2016 - 04:57 pm.

      Plenty are critics now

      There is certainly no lack of critics from the left, though some have had to change their tune, including then-active senators considering a future run for POTUS. In addition to Clinton were Kerry, Biden, Edwards & others. They all fell into the “have to look tough” trap. Another overlooked critic from the right is Sen Paul, of course. Indeed, there are few others from that side of the spectrum.

    • Submitted by Bill Willy on 02/22/2016 - 07:07 pm.

      Tora Bora

      This link leads to a pretty good account (interesting read) of what went on:

      Rough nutshell:

      The post-9/11 CIA-led operation in Afghanistan began in early October, 2001. By the end of November the Taliban had been decimated (CIA operatives, Afghan warlord intelligence, Special Ops soldiers on horseback calling in air strikes) and al-Qaeda and Osama bin-Laden had been sent running into the mountains where they were tracked down to their “last stand/escape hatch hideout” in Tora Bora where they were trapped, being hammered by CIA operative-directed U.S. air power (“Between December 4th and December 7th alone, U.S. bombers dropped 700,000 pounds of ordinance on the mountains”). bin-Laden and al-Queda were within an inch of being completely defeated within 90 days of the attack on the World Trade Center. The entire operation was carried out with no more than 50 CIA people and Special Operations being directly involved at any one time (“boots on the ground”), at an estimated cost of $50 million.

      The “war on terror” could have been over by the beginning of 2002. But, for “inexplicable reasons,” even though 2,000 U.S. soldiers were stationed within 100 miles of Tora Bora, the decision was made to not send 800 troops (the CIA and military requested repeatedly) to finish the job of destroying the enemy at the heart of — and the reason FOR — that “war on terror.” As a result, the battle of Tora Bora ended on December 17th, 2001, Osama bin-Laden, his top people and remaining fighters escaped into Pakistan and the U.S. started the process of getting bogged down in Afghanistan.

      15 months later Iraq was invaded even though Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11 or “the war on terror.”

      And now, going on the 15th anniversary of the start of the whole mess:

      Thousands of young Americans (and private contract workers) have been killed, injured, disabled for life, and 500,000 Iraqi men, women and children have died because of the last Republican administration’s decision to invade their country.

      Light years beyond the $50 million cost of the initial 2001 Afghanistan operation, or the $50 billion Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz said the invasion of Iraq would cost (and would be paid for with Iraq oil proceeds), we have spent SIX TRILLION DOLLARS ($6,000 billion, or $6,000,000 million) on the biggest, most bloated dead horse in U.S. history and every household in America will be paying $75,000 in additional taxes to pay for it.

      It would have cost taxpayers $2.4 trillion less to rebuild the entire U.S. infrastructure.

  4. Submitted by Jim Million on 02/22/2016 - 10:20 am.

    So What?!

    Nobody who reads you is surprised. How about a new theme, Eric?

  5. Submitted by Jon Kingstad on 02/22/2016 - 10:22 am.

    Exhibit A

    I never usually watch any TV for news let alone the Sunday morning lineup of “news programming.” But this weekend visiting a friend who likes these shows I just happened to catch both the Fox News Chris Wallace show and CBS Face the Nation interviews with Trump. Neither of these networks’ interviewers mentioned this easily accessible fact check even though Trump dared them to disprove his claim on this point. To me, this is Exhibit A for the worthlessness of TV “news programming.”

  6. Submitted by Dennis Tester on 02/22/2016 - 10:36 am.

    It doesn’t matter

    what Trump said or didn’t say about the war. His supporters will not be swayed.

    One thing he did say at the time which I agreed with then, and still do now, is that he said we should have paid for the war by confiscating Iraq’a oil. Many republicans would agree with that sentiment, so he should just change his story (again) to include that. He would gain even more supporters.

    Most of the conservatives I know gave George Bush low approval ratings on the war because we believe he should have gone in, removed Saddam, confiscated their oil and come home. Period. And it’s because there is so much disagreement on the Right on what should have happened, no critic (on the right at least) is going to have to pay any price for criticizing Bush.

    • Submitted by Dennis Wagner on 02/22/2016 - 06:53 pm.

      DT We agree

      These folks could get hit with a 4×4 of truth falling from a 10 story building. And you are correct, it wouldn’t make the slightest bit of difference. How did Churchill put it: “Men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing ever happened.”

    • Submitted by Neal Rovick on 02/23/2016 - 07:55 am.

      …gone in, removed Saddam, confiscated their oil and come home…

      Two comments:

      You have an interesting grasp of the petroleum industry. How much time and many tankers would we need to “confiscate their oil and come home” ?

      Second, what justification could be given for “confiscate their oil” ? Was it Saddam’s personal treasure, or was it the only viable industry with which to jump-start a broken economy ?

  7. Submitted by Charles Holtman on 02/22/2016 - 11:19 am.

    Yes, Trump is lying.

    But what’s your point?

  8. Submitted by Tom Christensen on 02/22/2016 - 11:31 am.

    It’s okay for the GOP to lie.

    The facts are just unimportant to them. The GOP makes it up as they go along. Fox News has led the way for them. Fox gets away with it so why not do it?

    • Submitted by Jim Million on 02/22/2016 - 12:04 pm.


      Democrats don’t lie? MSNBC tells only “truth”?

      Facts are very important here.

      • Submitted by Tom Christensen on 02/22/2016 - 01:17 pm.

        The GOP just can’t admit

        what a lie it was to get us into the Iraq war and what damage it has done to our country. It like it never happened as far as the GOP is concerned. It is part of the reason for JEB’s early departure as he tried to live down his brother’s decisions. The GOP just found out what the war lie cost them, their party. The GOP might as well rename the party right now because the Republican Party as anyone knew it is done for. Hillary voted for the war but admitted it was a mistake.

  9. Submitted by Roy Everson on 02/22/2016 - 12:17 pm.

    The GOP’s no-fly zone

    It’s interesting to compare the political after effects of two huge foreign blunders — Vietnam and Iraq — on their respective parties. The Democrats suffered from Vietnam through the end of the Cold War for having it out in public between Hawks and Doves. Doves won out and the party paid a big price.

    Republicans swept the effects of Iraq under the rug except for candidates Hagel and Ron Paul. Nary a sign of G.W. Bush at recent GOP Conventions. There’s been very little self- reflection over the political damage to their party. Now it’s all blown up in their faces: a front runner winning a primary in a vet-heavy state where he’d just accused G.W. of lying the country into war. Trump views being anti-Iraq war as so vital to his aims he’s willing to lie about it.

  10. Submitted by Bill Schletzer on 02/22/2016 - 12:44 pm.

    I wonder….

    Which is worse, lying that you were against the war (Trump) or voting for the war (Clinton)

  11. Submitted by Greg Kapphahn on 02/22/2016 - 01:23 pm.

    Somehow I Suspect at Least a Few of our Commentors, Here,

    Would have felt VERY differently about the invasion of Iraq if Minneapolis had been attacked,…

    the Northwest Tower and IDS center than had gone down,…

    and their own loved ones or people they knew personally had died in the attack.

    I didn’t support the invasion of Iraq, either, but I also understand how overcome with anguishing grief the US was in the aftermath of the attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon,…

    especially those who lived in that immediate area.

    I do NOT understand how anyone can expect that Hillary Rodham Clinton,…

    as a Senator from New York,…

    could possibly have represented her constituents while voting against the Iraq invasion.

    She would have been right to do so, but the political backlash would have brought her career as a Senator to an end.

    Those of us who have forgotten the anguished, vengeful mood of the country at that time,…

    a mood which caused even the Mainstream Media (who are all headquartered where the attacks happened, after all) to unquestioningly beat the drums for war;…

    those of us who were nowhere near where the attacks took place,…

    need to buy a clue or two about what was going on,…

    before we look down or noses from our nice, safe, comfortable, Midwestern (for then-Senator Obama) or far Northeastern (for Senator Sanders) mountaintops and,…

    with perfect 20-20 hindsight,…

    judge harshly those who in a very predictable, but VERY human way,…

    made bad decisions in the midst of a very challenging situation,…

    decisions it would have cost them a GREAT DEAL to make any other way.

    • Submitted by Rachel Kahler on 02/22/2016 - 03:06 pm.

      No. Just no.

      People in the tall towers in Minneapolis were very afraid after 9/11. Every time a plane went by, once planes were allowed back in the sky, they flinched. I’m certain that many of them believed in the war on Iraq. But the fact of the matter is that Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11, whether it was in New York or in Minneapolis. A good representative of the people should be willing to sacrifice their position in government to do the right thing by the people they represent. That is, I’m not going to give Hillary a bye for voting for the war because she represented the state most directly impacted by 9/11. It’s irrelevant because it was wrong then and it’s still wrong.

      • Submitted by Greg Kapphahn on 02/22/2016 - 05:24 pm.

        If You Expect ANY Politician

        to give up representing their constituents,…

        especially at a time of such great distress,…

        and/or to vote against something which was going to happen no matter what her vote,…

        when that vote would result in great personal and political blow back,…

        and criticize those who represent you for being human enough to come to the conclusion that they can do far more good in staying in office,…

        than not,…

        then you will be sorely disappointed in every politician who ever wins your vote.

        We humans and those who represent us do not come in PERFECT.

        For better and for worse, we only come in HUMAN.

        If you believe you’re seeing perfection in some candidate or other,…

        you’re missing something.

        • Submitted by Charles Holtman on 02/22/2016 - 07:00 pm.

          Is your statement normative or descriptive?

          If normative, I’m very surprised, given the strong ethical foundation that drives most of your commentary.

          At the moment Mr Bush initiated his war, those who cared to inquire knew that the rationales were lies. They knew that the 9-11 perpetrators had no discernible connection with Saddam, and they as good as knew, from leaked Western intelligence and non-establishment media, that all of the elements of Mr. Powell’s UN show ‘n tell were false. Millions around the world marched against the war on that February day, not because they were inveterate pacifists, but because they chose to step outside the bubble of the establishment discourse and had looked at the facts and the evidence. The U.S. public was opposed to the war by a measurable degree. One week before he pulled the trigger, Mr Bush, in desperation, careened out the “bringing democracy to Iraq” rationale because the WMD rationale had shown itself to be threadbare and the entire fiction was about to collapse.

          Anyone who chooses to assume the power of a Senator is held to a pretty high standard of critical inquiry in examining the rationale to rain death and destruction on an entire foreign nation. That some portion of one’s constituency may be ignorant or driven to delusion by grief is not a rationale to murder hundreds of thousands, waste trillions in social wealth and send a region of the world into turmoil. Even less, my Lord, is it a sufficient rationale that this constituency might vote you out of office if you do otherwise. Take a stand or resign from office. It’s not that hard and folks who have the wherewithal to become Senators aren’t going to be out of work.

          If your statement is descriptive, okay then. Most of our Senators are precisely that craven. But not all. And not all of our presidential candidates.

    • Submitted by Dennis Wagner on 02/22/2016 - 07:00 pm.

      Sorry don’t think so:

      Was actually in Japan on 911. But nice try. (It was as clear than as it is now, 9/11 was not an Iraqi plot and the WMD was a figment of someones imagination.

  12. Submitted by Connie Sullivan on 02/22/2016 - 02:31 pm.

    Hey! Earth to all you commenters who are confusing the 9/11 attacks and its confused anguish with anything having to do with Iraq! That was the Big Lie, by George W. Bush and especially Dick Cheney: that somehow, Saddam Hussein had something to do with attacking America.

    He didn’t. Actually George W. obsessively wanted to “finish” something his father had not in the Gulf War (G.H.W. Bush decided not to invade Iraq, just chasing Saddam back from Kuwait) in one of the world’s great Oedipal stories. And Cheney, who “missed” Vietnam, just wanted war, fought by other people, of course. Both of them lied, even to their own Secretary of State, Colin Powell, about Saddam having “weapons of mass destruction.” Lots of people reluctantly bought that fake story, and voted to invade. Hillary Clinton voted for it, and now admits–again and again, for the record–that she made a mistake. She doesn’t lie about it.

    About Trump being a liar on this: I’m sorry, and I despise the man’s gutter language and politics, his gutter mentality. But I don’t agree that he was either for or against the Iraq invasion from the quotes Eric Black provides from the fact checkers. He blurred it. He hemmed and hawed and mumbled and said nothing while intimating that he was first on this side, then on that side. If you want “slippery,” take Donald Trump. He usually includes two or three contradictory positions on an issue in one sentence.

    Trust him? I don’t think any sane person ever would.

  13. Submitted by Brian Simon on 02/22/2016 - 04:31 pm.

    Maybe it’s just me

    I find it amusing that conservatives haven’t yet questioned Trump’a claim to be a republican. Sure, he’s running for their nomination, but just what, exactly, has he proposed that fits party orthodoxy? He’s a big bag of unknown unknowns but nobody’s calling him on it. Nobody’s defending him from the observation that he’s a liar either. So who can be sure what he’d do if he were actually elected?

    • Submitted by Matt Haas on 02/22/2016 - 09:57 pm.

      They can’t

      Trump is the bed the GOP, the Libertarians, and the TP have made for themselves. They thought they could control the beast they created, yank back on the leash when it became time to appear civilized to the “non believers” and win general elections. They haven’t a viable alternative that can appease the toxic miasma of religious fervor, prejudicial hatred, and unmitigated greed that they’ve assembled as their “base”, and now must hold on for dear life to whatever power they can wring out of the situation. I assume they think that they’ll still have a check on their attack dog, by using the legislature to curtail his more venal proposals, I wonder why they think it’ll be more effective this time? Better to send the lot of them packing, in my opinion at least.

  14. Submitted by Mark Jordan on 02/23/2016 - 02:17 pm.

    All the truth and nothing but the truth:

    “I do not believe that we made the right decision going into Iraq, but, you know, hopefully, we’ll be getting out,” Trump said on “Larry King Live” in November 2004.

    “But I am not a big fan of the war in Iraq, and I’ve let a lot of people know about it, and perhaps that’s being proven to be correct.” Mr. Trump said on Bill O’Reilly -2004.

  15. Submitted by Bill Willy on 02/23/2016 - 02:29 pm.

    But is he lying now?

    When it comes to the question of U.S. involvement in “foreign wars,” Trump, Cruz and Rubio have been crystal clear about their position:

    Trump . . . “Bomb The S*** Out Of Them, Send In Exxon To Rebuild”

    Cruz (the Christian) . . . “We will utterly destroy ISIS. We will carpet bomb them into oblivion. I don’t know if sand can glow in the dark, but we’re going to find out.”

    Rubio . . . “Stop the flow of refugees into the U.S.; remove military budget cuts imposed under sequestration; make the U.S. armed forces mission ‘total destruction of ISIL’ including ground troops; maintain support for a no-fly zone in Syria.”

    G. W. Bush (2003) . . . “Bring ’em on”

    As to covering the cost of fulfilling those Commander-In-Chief promises, all three candidates have some version of the same plan: Lower personal income tax rates for top earners (25% or lower, depending on the candidate, as opposed to the current rate of 39.6% or higher — see: Clinton and Sanders); lower or complete elimination of capital gains tax for investors; lower or complete elimination of corporate income taxes.

    Whether or not Bush lied about the reasons for going to war in Iraq, how long the U.S. would be involved or how much it would cost taxpayers ($6 Trillion so far) and whether or not Trump lied about what he said prior to the invasion, it’s clear that none of the Republican candidates feel any need to lie about what they would do if they were elected. Apparently they think Americans are so used to, so desensitized to, America’s endless involvement in (and mindless credit card spending on) war that it’s no longer necessary to lie about it.

    (National credit card spending that benefits bond investors and the defense and financial services industries, by the way, but that’s a different topic — maybe.)

    But just in case anyone in the media ever asks them about those things, when it comes to “evaluating their responses,” it may be worth pointing out that all three of their positions on war and “tax reform” (and policy in general) are identical to those of George Bush Jr’s.

    Essentially, a vote for any of the three Republican front runners is a vote for a carbon copy of what we saw and experienced (and most Americans will be paying for for a long time to come) from 2000 to 2008.

    Unless they’re all lying about what they would do if elected, of course.

Leave a Reply