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Fact Checking Donald Trump’s Claim About Opposing the Iraq War 
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Fact Checking Donald Trump’s Claim About Opposing the Iraq War 

He expressed support for an invasion in 2002.

Former President Donald Trump speaks at the 2024 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland on February 24, 2024. (Photo by Celal Günes/Anadolu/Getty Images)

Former President Donald Trump told jokes, discussed policy, and did a brief impression of President Joe Biden Saturday during his rambling 87-minute speech at the 2024 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). He also claimed that he opposed the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003. 

“Remember I used to say a long time ago, ‘Don’t go into Iraq. Don’t do it!’” Trump said to the crowd. “But I was only a civilian, so I didn’t get that much press.”

Though Trump did routinely criticize the Iraq war in 2003 and 2004, he did not openly oppose U.S. involvement in the country before the invasion and even offered muted support in one interview. 

The only known instance of Trump directly addressing the question of his support for a potential invasion of Iraq occurred in a September 2002 interview with Howard Stern. In the interview—which Buzzfeed wrote about in February 2016 as Trump campaigned for the GOP nomination—Trump responded “Yeah, I guess so,” when asked by Stern whether he supported a possible invasion. “I wish the first time it was done correctly,” he added. 

Trump did make critical comments after the war began, most notably in an August 2004 interview with Esquire in which he criticized the Bush administration’s handling of the war in Iraq. “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 county? C’mon,” Trump said at the time. “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.” The Washington Post reported in 2015 that it was unable to find any records of Trump opposing the war prior to its onset.

The closest the future president came to an immediate condemnation of the war came in a March 24, 2003, post-Oscars roundup in the Washington Post, five days after the invasion began.

Donald Trump, with Amazonian beauty Melania Knauss at his side, pronounces on the war and the stock market: “If they keep fighting it the way they did today, they’re going to have a real problem.”

Looking as pensive as a “Nightline” talking head, the Donald concludes, “The war’s a mess,” before sweeping off into the crowd.

Trump has claimed that he opposed the invasion regularly since he announced his first campaign for the presidency in 2015. In August 2015, Trump told CNN that he had said “don’t go into Iraq” in 2003, and in the September 16, 2015, Republican primary debate, Trump claimed that he was “the only person up here that fought against going into Iraq.”

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Alex Demas is a fact checker at The Dispatch and is based in Washington, D.C. Prior to joining the company in 2023, he worked in England as a financial journalist and earned his MA in Political Economy at King's College London. When not heroically combating misinformation online, Alex can be found mixing cocktails, watching his beloved soccer team Aston Villa lose a match, or attempting to pet stray cats.