Trump scoring points over Jeb Bush’s stands on Iraq

Friday 28/08/2015
Jousting. Republican US presidential candidates Donald Trump (L) and Jeb Bush at the first presidential debate, in August 6, 2015 in Cleveland, Ohio.

Washington - Businessman Donald Trump, seeing former Florida governor Jeb Bush as his main rival for the Republican Par­ty nomination for president, has seized on the Iraq war of 2003 as one way to weaken his opponent and this strategy is succeeding.
Bush is the favourite of the Re­publican establishment and has raised the most money ($120 mil­lion) of the Republican candidates but Trump continues to outpoll him.
The problem for Bush is how to show he is his “own man” while not disowning the legacy of his brother, George W. Bush, in the process. He has had trouble answering a ques­tion on whether he would have at­tacked Iraq in 2003, giving at least three different answers to the ques­tion.
During the August 6th Republi­can presidential debate, he seemed to have settled the question by an­swering, “Knowing what we know now, with faulty intelligence, and not having security be the first pri­ority when — when we invaded, it was a mistake.”
Yet, in a foreign policy speech at the Reagan Library in California on August 11th, Jeb Bush appeared to express the sentiment that, at a certain point, the Iraq war was won. He stated: “Yet in a long ex­perience that includes failures of intelligence and military setbacks, one moment stands out in memory as the turning point we had all been waiting for. And that was the surge of military and diplomatic opera­tions that turned events towards victory. It was a success, brilliant, heroic and costly.”
In a speech in New Hampshire on August 14th, Trump hit back hard at Bush’s qualified support for the Iraq war. Trump said Bush “thought the Iraq war was a good thing” and made fun of his chang­ing positions. Trump reminded his audience that he had opposed the war from the beginning and “I was right”.
The war, Trump said, cost the United States “$2 trillion” and “thousands of lives of great young people” and the United States got “nothing” from it. Trump added that he was not a fan of Saddam Hussein but Saddam “ran the place and didn’t have [weapons of mass destruction]”.
Now “we have ISIS [the Islamic State], which is far more brutal than Saddam Hussein” and “Iran is taking over Iraq”. Moreover, he claimed, ISIS “has the oil” along with thousands of pieces of expen­sive US military equipment aban­doned by the new Iraqi army.
Trump reminded the audience that former president George W. Bush said the “war is over” — prob­ably a reference to his “Mission Ac­complished” speech — and “two days later it [the war] was a disas­ter”.
Trump clearly wants to link Jeb Bush to the failures of his brother and the negative feelings many Americans have toward profes­sional politicians. In the midst of his criticism of the Iraq war, Trump threw in the line that “we have stu­pid leadership”.
Trump’s bombastic language irks the Republican establishment but Trump is successfully tapping into a sentiment — not just with Demo­crats and independents but also among a significant segment of Republicans – that the Iraq war of 2003 was a very costly misadven­ture that destabilised the Middle East.
In his August 14th speech, Trump not only implied that having an­other Bush as president would be bad for the country but that he (Trump) would only use force in a smart way. Trump was applauded when he said the United States “shouldn’t have gone in” to Iraq, and, in reference to military force, said, “You have to know when to use it.”
Jeb Bush has dismissed Trump as having no coherent policies. He claims that, unlike Trump, he has outlined a strategy to deal with the threat from ISIS. But the shadow of his brother’s decision to invade Iraq has made many Republican voters skittish about supporting him.
And Bush remains heavily de­pendent on his family’s connec­tions for campaign donations, while billionaire Trump can eas­ily finance his own campaign. The Washington Post reported on Au­gust 21st that Bush was planning a major campaign donor retreat in late October that would include his parents and his brother.
Polls in New Hampshire (which hosts the first primary elections) indicate that, among Republicans, Trump leads with 18%, followed by Bush with 13% and Ohio Governor John Kasich is third with 12%.
Given Trump’s pounding of Bush on the Iraq war, it is not a coinci­dence that Kasich said in a recent interview: “I would have never committed ourselves to Iraq.” In fact, at the time Kasich strongly supported the war.