Politics

Did Mitt Romney do a flip-flop on Iraq war?

Did Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney flip-flop on the war in Iraq?

After Romney gave an interview to MSNBC’s Chuck Todd yesterday, Byron York of the Washington Examiner accused Romney of changing his position on the Iraq war. York’s colleague at the Examiner Conn Carroll retorted that Romney has been consistent.

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So what did Romney actually say?

At a presidential debate during his last presidential run, in January 2008, Romney was asked whether the Iraq war was a good idea, given the high cost in “blood and treasure”? By then, it was known that there were no weapons of mass destruction. Romney responded, “It was the right decision to go into Iraq. I supported it at the time; I support it now.”

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That answer was more definitive than the answer he gave on Sunday in an interview with Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday. Wallace asked Romney whether, in hindsight, the United States should have invaded Iraq. Romney did not directly answer the question. “At the time, we didn’t have the knowledge that we have now,” Romney said. “The intelligence in our nation and other nations was that this tyrant had weapons of mass destruction. And in the light of that belief, we took action which was appropriate at the time.”

Following up yesterday on MSNBC, Todd asked Romney if he believes the war would have gone differently had the United States known there were no weapons of mass destruction.

Romney responded, “If we knew at the time of our entry into Iraq that there were no weapons of mass destruction…obviously, we would not have gone in.”

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Romney said President George W. Bush went to war based on intelligence that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, and Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein was prepared to use them. “Had he known that that was not the case, the UN would not have put forward resolutions authorizing this type of action, the president would not have been pursuing that course,” Romney said. “Knowing what we know now, they did not have weapons of mass destruction, there would have been no effort on the part of our president or others to take military action.”

(Romney misspoke on the United Nations, which never authorized the war.)

So Romney has said that he believes the decision to invade Iraq was correct. He believes now that President Bush would not have invaded had he had different information. With the benefit of hindsight, Romney said in 2008 that he still supported the decision to go into Iraq. He has not clearly answered the question of whether he still believes that today.

Shira Schoenberg can be reached at sschoenberg@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @shiraschoenberg.
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