The Iraq war has another casualty.
Senator Marco Rubio of Florida struggled on Sunday to give clear answers about whether it was a mistake for the United States to go to war against Iraq in 2003, becoming the latest Republican presidential candidate to trip on the wisdom of the military invasion.
Under a barrage of questions from Chris Wallace of Fox News, Mr. Rubio repeatedly said “it was not a mistake” for President George W. Bush to order the invasion based on the intelligence he had at the time. But Mr. Rubio grew defensive as Mr. Wallace pressed him to say flatly whether he now believed the war was a mistake. Mr. Rubio chose instead to criticize the questions themselves, saying that in “the real world” presidents have to make decisions based on evidence presented to them at the time.
“It’s not a mistake — I still say it was not a mistake because the president was presented with intelligence that said Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, it was governed by a man who had committed atrocities in the past with weapons of mass destruction,” Mr. Rubio said on “Fox News Sunday.”
A moment later, as Mr. Wallace tried to pin him down on his view, Mr. Rubio began to reply, “Based on what we know now, I think everyone agrees — — ” but Mr. Wallace cut him off before he finished the thought.
“So was it a mistake now?” Mr. Wallace asked.
“I don’t understand the question you’re asking,” Mr. Rubio said.
At one point Mr. Rubio, in discussing the importance of hindsight on the Iraq war, raised a recent boxing fight to make a point. “Based on what we know, a lot of things — based on what we know now, I wouldn’t have thought Manny Pacquiao was going to beat, uh, in that fight a couple weeks ago — — ” Mr. Rubio said before Mr. Wallace interrupted.
The back-and-forth resulted in a three-minute video clip that Republican opponents could use against Mr. Rubio in the future, given that he came across as a politician used to debating fine points and nuances in the United States Senate — a problem that then-Senator John Kerry faced in his presidential run in 2004 — rather than as a seasoned leader used to giving clear statements. Mr. Rubio’s readiness for the presidency has been questioned among some Republican voters, given than he is a 43-year-old first-term senator, and moments like the boxing reference seemed discordant on a subject like the Iraq war.
I love it that it’s Fox News — supposedly the safe haven for the Republicans and the warmongers — that is trapping the candidates with this question.
Note to all once and future candidates: The answer is simple. It was a mistake to go into Iraq in the first place even knowing what we knew then. The outcome was foreseeable, the response from the hardliners such as al-Qaeda was predictable, and the birth of ISIS was inevitable even if our troops had stayed in Iraq after the combat mission had ended. A lot of people were saying it then and sadly were proven right.