Donald Trump says he has the temperament to be president, and his position against the Iraq War proves it.
"The War in Iraq — I was the one that said, ‘Don’t go, don’t do it, you’re going to destabilize the Middle East,’ " the Republican front runner said at the Feb. 6, 2016, New Hampshire GOP debate.
Several media outlets have cast doubt on Trump’s claim that he spoke out against the Iraq War, pointing out that he didn’t appear to take any public position on the war until after the March 2003 invasion. Because Trump keeps making this kind of claim, we decided to put it on PolitiFact’s Truth-O-Meter.
We searched newspaper articles and television transcripts from 2002 and 2003, during the debate leading up to the Iraq War. We didn’t find any examples of Trump unequivocally denouncing the war until a year after the war began.
We only found one instance where Trump discussed the war before it started. On Jan. 28, 2003, just under three months before the invasion, Fox News’ Neil Cavuto asked Trump whether President George W. Bush should be more focused on Iraq or the economy.
Speaking of Iraq, Trump said, "Well, he 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. 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."
Trump seems to be skeptical of the mission in Iraq here, and he said the economy should be a higher priority. But he did not say anything that resembles his claim: that Bush should not proceed because a war would "destabilize the Middle East."
The United States invaded Iraq on March 19, 2003.
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.
"What was the purpose of this whole thing? Hundreds and hundreds of young people killed. And what about the people coming back with no arms and legs? Not to mention the other side. All those Iraqi kids who've been blown to pieces. And it turns out that all of the reasons for the war were blatantly wrong. All this for nothing!"
He told CNN’s Larry King in November 2004, "I do not believe that we made the right decision going into Iraq, but, you know, hopefully, we'll be getting out."
Clearly Trump opposed the Iraq War in its early years. There’s no evidence, though, that he advocated against the war in the first place.
Regarding the Iraq War, "I was the one that said, ‘Don’t go, don’t do it, you’re going to destabilize the Middle East.’ "
Maybe Trump felt this way privately, but he made no publicly reported comments in the lead up to the Iraq War that reflect this sentiment. We could only find one example of Trump commenting on the Iraq War before the invasion, and he seemed apprehensive but not vehemently opposed to the operation. He only started publicly denouncing the war after it started.
Trump makes it sound like he stood on a railroad to try to stop the Iraq War train in its tracks. In reality, by the time he got around to forcefully criticizing the war, that train had already left the station. We rate his statement Mostly False.