Trump: 'I Really Don't Even Know What I Mean, Because That Was a Long Time Ago'

By Susan Jones | February 22, 2016 | 5:27am EST
Republican Donald Trump smiles during a South Carolina Republican primary night event, Saturday, Feb. 20, 2016 in Spartanburg, S.C. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

( - In an interview with shock jock Howard Stern on Sept. 11, 2002 -- six months before President George W. Bush launched his war to topple Saddam Hussein -- Donald Trump was asked if he supported invading Iraq.

"Yeah, I guess so," Trump replied. "You know, I wish it was -- I wish the first time it was done correctly," Trump said.

On Sunday, NBC's Chuck Todd asked Trump about the second part of the quote -- about the war being "done correctly" the first time.

"Well, what I mean by that is it almost shouldn't have been done and, you know, I really don't even know what I mean, because that was a long time ago and who knows what was in my head?

"I think that it wasn't done correctly. In retrospect, it shouldn't have been done at all. It was sort of, you know, it was just done. It was just -- we dropped bombs. Now, if you look back, actually, that was probably the correct way of doing it, not going in and not upsetting, giving them a lesson or not.

"I mean I think (President Bush) Senior actually did a pretty good job of what he was doing. He went in, he taught them a lesson. What happened is, he was taunted, because Saddam Hussein was saying we drove back the Americans, the ugly Americans were driven back, the power of Iraq, the power.

"Well, we didn't -- weren't driven back, he just decided not -- General (Norman) Schwarzkopf and others said maybe let's not go in, I'm not sure, although I think Schwarzkopf actually maybe wanted to go in. I think he made -- maybe did the right thing."

(The first Gulf War in 1991 was mainly an air campaign, triggered by Iraq's invasion of Kuwait.)

Trump continued: "I can say this, if you look at my conversation with Howard, who was a friend of mine. He's actually a very good person...a good guy, different from what you see on the radio, OK. I won't say it. But if you look at my conversation, I was a very -- that was probably the first time -- don't forget, I was in business. I was a businessman.

"I was a real estate man and a businessman. That was the first time I think that question was ever even asked of me. That was long before the war took place. That was, you know, many, many months before the war took place.

"And you could see by my answer, I wasn't exactly thrilled."

Trump said George W. Bush's ground war in Iraq eleven years after the first one "was a disaster."

"It was probably the worst thing -- if you look at the Middle East now, it all started because of that horrible decision to go into Iraq.

"And you know what we end up with? Nothing. We spent $2 trillion, we have thousands and thousands of lives killed and just thousands, carnage, and we have wounded warriors, who I love, all over the place, right.

"And we have nothing. And Iran is now taking over Iraq. They've been trying to for many, many decades...and now they're finally taking over Iraq. As we sit here, they're taking over Iraq...We get nothing."

'I wasn't a politician'

Trump was asked a similar question on CBS's "Face the Nation" on Sunday.  Host John Dickerson told Trump that his opposition to the first Iraq war was more "muddled" than Trump has been making it seem:

"Well, John, you have to understand, first of all, I wasn't a politician. I had no -- no -- even thought of being a politician. So, nobody even talked to me about the war. Nobody said, should we do the war, should we not? It's not like now, where every day you're being asked questions about things.

"And I spoke with Howard Stern, who is a friend of mine, on his show. And this was many, many months before (the war started), and he was talking about it. I said, yes, I don't know. I was thinking about it. But I didn't even think about it."

Trump repeated that he opposed going to war with Iraq. "And I was against it very early. And we shouldn't have been in there. And I think it is probably perhaps the worst mistake we have ever made. First of all, they didn't knock down the World Trade Center, OK? It wasn't Iraq. It was other people.

"Without mentioning names, it was other people. Some day, they ought to open the report and find out. But it was other people that knocked down the World Trade Center.
So, it's no reason to go into a big -- now. But it was a horrible mistake that unfortunately we should never have done it.

"We have lost trillions of dollars, thousands of lives, wounded warriors, who I love, all over the place. And here is the other part. Iran is taking over Iraq. They have wanted it for decades and decades and decades. They're taking it over.

"As you sit there and as I sit here, they are going in. They're taking over, and they just walk in and they can do whatever they want. They have essentially already taken it over."

MRC Store