During a town hall meeting in Muskogee, Oklahoma this past weekend, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) admitted that it was “a mistake” for the United States to invade Iraq in 2003. “I will tell you personally that I think it was probably a mistake going to Iraq,” Coburn told the crowd.
The senator “made it clear” during the town hall meeting that “he did not believe the U.S. could withdraw” from Iraq, but it is unclear when he decided the war was “a mistake” in the first place. Though Coburn was not a member of Congress when the war was authorized in 2002, he made it clear during his 2004 Senate run that he supported the choice to go to war:
QUESTION: Was the war in Iraq a mistake?
COBURN: Absolutely not. I do not believe that the Iraq war was a distraction in the war on terror, as John Kerry and my opponent have argued. [Tulsa World, 10/18/2004]
Coburn declined to comment further to the Tulsa World and his office has yet to respond to calls from ThinkProgress. Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) — “a staunch defender of the war” — did respond, however, telling Tulsa World that he “cannot believe” Coburn’s comments:
“No, no, he couldn’t have said that,” Inhofe said Wednesday when asked to comment.
A veteran member of the Senate Armed Services Committee who has made a number of trips to Iraq since the U.S.-led invasion, Inhofe is a staunch defender of the war.
“I cannot believe he said that,” Inhofe said, adding a few minutes later that he disagreed with Coburn.
Inhofe shouldn’t act so surprised. With his change of heart, Coburn joins the 60 percent of Americans who believe that Bush’s Iraq gambit was a mistake.
UPDATE: ThinkProgress asked Sen. Coburn’s communications director, John Hart, “how the senator came to hold that view.” Here’s his response:
The only question that matters about Iraq now is: When do we leave? Do we leave prematurely, surrender to Al Qaeda and perhaps trigger genocide? Or do we complete the mission that is now clearly working? The debate about whether we should have gone into Iraq is interesting historically but not relevant to the here and now. We are there. We have obviously made mistakes based on faulty intelligence. However, history — and the decisions of our next president — will render the final verdict on Iraq.