Speaking to a Fox News audience this weekend, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney dodged a question about whether, knowing what we know now about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction (WMD) programs in the early 2000s, the U.S. would have invaded in 2003, setting off a costly war that just drew to a close. “At that time, we didn’t have the knowledge that we have now,” said the former Massachusetts governor. “And in the light of that — that belief [that Iraq's programs were active], we took action which was appropriate at the time.”
Today on MSNBC, the presidential hopeful ditched the dodge. Asked by Chuck Todd, he answered that “of course” the U.S. would not have invaded Iraq had intelligence reports indicated that, as we later learned, there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq:
ROMNEY: Well, if we knew at the time of our entry into Iraq that there were no weapons of mass destruction — if somehow we had been given that information, why, obviously we would not have gone in.
TODD: You don’t think we would have gone in?
ROMNEY: Well, of course not. The president went in based upon intelligence that they had weapons of mass destruction. Had he known that that was not the case, the U.N. would not have put forward resolutions authorizing this type of action. The president would not have been pursuing that course.
But we did not know that. … [K]nowing 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.
Compared with his dodge this weekend, Romney here presents a fair accounting of what his position would have been if there were no WMDs in Iraq. (Romney, as ThinkProgress noted on Sunday, supported the push for war at the time.) While some Iraq war supporters — including some in the Bush administration — have made apologia for the botched (or cooked, depending on how you look at it) intelligence in the run up to the war, others have been more honest in their assessments. Take Paul Wolfowitz, a top Bush Defense Department official and Iraq hawk, who said this year: “We did not go to war in Iraq or Afghanistan to promote democracy, but rather to remove regimes that were dangerous to us and to the world.” Romney’s assessment rightfully recognizes the dynamic that was at work during the run-up to the war.