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'It was not a mistake,' Marco Rubio says of Iraq war


Marco Rubio got a little tangled Sunday when he was asked on television if the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq was a mistake.

No, he insisted -- even though he said last week that, in retrospect, he wouldn't have authorized the war knowing that Iraq didn't have weapons of mass destruction.

Rubio said his answers are consistent because the first question refers to what former President George W. Bush did with the information he had at the time and the other with what he would have done with the benefit of hindsight.

That answer didn't seem to sit well with Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace, who asked if the conflict was a mistake, period, without giving it any qualifiers.

Here's a transcript of the exchange:

WALLACE: Senator, isn't that a flip?

Six weeks ago, it made sense to invade Iraq in 2003. Now you say it was a mistake.

RUBIO: No, they're two different questions. It was not a mistake. The president, based on -- this is the way the real world works. The president, based on the information that was provided to him --

WALLACE: But she was saying based on the information --


RUBIO: No, no, but, look, there's two different --

WALLACE: She was saying based on the -- what we know now.

RUBIO: Well, based on what we know now, a lot of things -- based on what we know now, I wouldn't have, you know, thought Manny Pacquiao was going to beat in -- in that fight a couple of weeks ago.


WALLACE: -- you got asked the same question and you said since.

RUBIO: No, that was not the same -- no, that was not the same question. The question was whether it was a mistake. And my answer was 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 --

WALLACE: But, what she asked you was, was it a mistake to go to war with Iraq?

RUBIO: It was not a mistake given the fact that what the president knew at the time.

WALLACE: No, she didn't say that. She just said, was it a mistake?

RUBIO: Well, that's not the same question. The question I was asked is, what you know now? Well, based on what we know now, I think everyone agrees that we still --

WALLACE: Was it a mistake -- was it a mistake to go to war with Iraq?

RUBIO: It's two different -- it wasn't -- I --

WALLACE: I'm asking you to --

RUBIO: Yes, I understand, but that's not the same question.

WALLACE: But I'm asking -- but that's the question I'm asking you, was it a mistake to go to war?

RUBIO: It was not a mistake for the president to decide to go into Iraq, because at the time, he was told --

WALLACE: I'm not asking you that. I'm asking you --

RUBIO: In hindsight.


RUBIO: Well, the world is a better place because Saddam Hussein is not there.

WALLACE: So, was it a mistake or not?

RUBIO: But I wouldn't characterize it -- but I don't understand the question you're asking, because the president --

WALLACE: I'm asking you, knowing -- as we sit here in 2015 --

RUBIO: No, but that's not the way presidents -- a president cannot make decision on what someone might know in the future.

WALLACE: I understand. But that's what I'm asking you. Was it a mistake?

RUBIO: It was not a mistake for the president to go into Iraq based on the information he was provided as president.

Today, we know of their -- if we -- if the president had known that there were no weapons of mass destruction at the time, you still would have had to deal with Saddam Hussein. But the process would have been different. I doubt very seriously that the president would have gotten, for example, congressional approval to move forward with an invasion had they known there were no weapons of mass destruction.

That doesn't mean he made the wrong decision, because at the time he was presented with intelligence --

WALLACE: I understand that, but --

RUBIO: -- that said there are weapons of mass destruction. He wasn't dealing with a Nobel Peace Prize winner. He was dealing with Saddam Hussein. And he made the right decision based on the information he had at that time.

We've learned subsequently that that information was wrong and my answer was -- well, if at the time it would have been apparent that the intelligence was wrong, I don't think George Bush would have moved forward on the invasion and he certainly wouldn't have had Congressional approval.

But presidents don't have the benefit of hindsight. You have to make difficult decisions based on the information that's before you at that moment.