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Donald Trump Is Still Flip-Flopping On Toppling Saddam Hussein

Trump for years said President George H.W. Bush should have "finished the job" by invading Baghdad. He told the New York Times over the weekend Bush did the "right thing."

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In an apparent shift in opinion, Donald Trump told the New York Times over the weekend that he believes President George H.W. Bush made the right decision to not invade Baghdad and depose Saddam Hussein at the end of the First Gulf War.

For years, Trump has said Bush should have "finished the job," writing in his 2000 book The America We Deserve: "He wasn't afraid to use American power when he figured out that Saddam Hussein posed a direct threat to American interests in the East. I only wish, however, that he had spent three more days and properly finished the job."

In a long interview with the New York Times on his foreign policy, Trump revealed that he now believes Bush "did the right thing."

"Well he did the right thing, he did the right thing," Trump said, when discussing the Gulf War. "He went in, he knocked the hell out of Iraq and then he let it go, O.K.? He didn't go in. Now I don't know was that Schwarzkopf, was that, was that...or maybe it was him, but he didn't go in, he didn't get into the quicksand, right? He didn't get into the quicksand and I mean, history will show that he was right."

Trump cited Hussein's taunting of Bush in 1992 following the war to show he overplayed his hand.

"And he was taunting to them, he was saying, and even I used to say 'Wow' because I knew that we could've gone further," he said. "We went in for a short period of time and just knocked the hell out of them and then went back, sort of gave them a lesson, but we didn't destroy the country, we didn't destroy the grid, we didn't, you know, there was something left. There was a lot left. And instead of just sort of saying he got lucky and to himself, just going about, he was taunting the Bushes. And Junior said, 'Well I'm not going to take it' and he went in."

Trump's position on how to deal with Hussein has shifted over the past two decades. He has claimed this past year that he was vocally opposed to the Iraq War before the invasion, a claim contradicted by his own words. For years, Trump said Hussein was developing weapons of mass destruction were a threat and that Bush 41 should have finished the job.

BuzzFeed News previously reported three times Trump advocated for toppling Hussein.

"Yeah, I guess so," Trump said on Howard Stern when asked if he supported invading Iraq. "I wish the first time it was done correctly."

"He didn't finish the war," Trump said in 1999 in Fox News Sunday. "I wish he'd finished the war."

"We can learn something here from George Bush and see how good a president he was," Trump wrote in his 2000 book The America We Deserve. "He wasn't afraid to use American power when he figured out that Saddam Hussein posed a direct threat to American interests in the East. I only wish, however, that he had spent three more days and properly finished the job. It is this kind of will and determination to use our strength strategically that America needs again in dealing with the North Koreans."

Here's the NYT transcript:

SANGER: So you know Mr. Trump, from listening and enjoying these two conversations we've had today which have been extremely interesting, I've been trying to sort of fit where your worldview and your philosophy here, your doctrine fits in with sort of the previous Republican mainlines of inquiry. And so if you think back to George H. W. Bush, the most recent President Bush's father, he was an internationalist who was in the realist school, he wanted to sort of change the foreign policy of other nations but you didn't see him messing inside those countries and then you had a group of people around —

TRUMP: Well he did the right thing, David, he did the right thing. He went in, he knocked the hell out of Iraq and then he let it go, O.K.? He didn't go in. Now I don't know was that Schwarzkopf, was that, was that —

SANGER: It was George W. Bush himself.

TRUMP: Or maybe it was him, but he didn't go in, he didn't get into the quicksand, right? He didn't get into the quicksand and I mean, history will show that he was right. And with that Saddam Hussein overplayed his card more than any human being I think I've ever seen. Instead of saying "Wow, I got lucky" that they didn't come in and take this all away from me. He should've just relaxed a little bit, O.K.? And instead he taunted Bush Sr. He taunted him. And Bush Jr. loves his father and didn't like what was happening, but I remember very vividly how Saddam Hussein was taunting, absolutely taunting, saying we have beaten the Americans, you know, meaning they didn't come in so he would tell everybody he beat them. Do you remember that, right?

SANGER: I do indeed.

TRUMP: And he was taunting to them, he was saying, and even I used to say "Wow" because I knew that we could've gone further. We went in for a short period of time and just knocked the hell out of them and then went back, sort of gave them a lesson, but we didn't destroy the country, we didn't destroy the grid, we didn't, you know, there was something left. There was a lot left. And instead of just sort of saying he got lucky and to himself, just going about, he was taunting the Bushes. And Junior said, "Well I'm not going to take it" and he went in. And you know, look that was —

Andrew Kaczynski is a political reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.

Contact Andrew Kaczynski at andrew.kaczynski@buzzfeed.com.

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