Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson told The Hill on Wednesday that it was a mistake for the U.S. to invade Iraq, arguing that the nation should have found a different way to remove Saddam Hussein from power.
“I’ve said definitively that I was never in favor of going into Iraq,” Carson told The Hill in a phone interview, noting that he has previously addressed the matter in some of his books. “And since we did go in, the big problem is that we didn’t secure victory there, and that’s a huge problem.”
When pressed on how the U.S. should have toppled Hussein without sending troops into the country, Carson said that “there are a lot of ways to get rid of people.”
Nearly the entirety of the GOP presidential field has weighed in on the issue since former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush spent several days last week seeking to clarify his position on the matter.
In an interview on Fox News, Bush initially said that knowing what he knows now, he still would have sent troops into Iraq.
The statement sparked a backlash on the right, with some conservative pundits blasting Bush for defending the unpopular war. Bush’s brother, former President George W. Bush, has admitted that the intelligence he received at the time was flawed.
Bush spent several days trying to clean up his answer without fully walking it back, but ultimately acknowledged that he wouldn’t have invaded Iraq if he knew then that the intelligence about weapons of mass destruction was wrong.
Carson on Wednesday also weighed in on the debate in Congress over whether to reauthorize the Patriot Act, calling the National Security Agency’s (NSA) bulk collection of metadata with U.S. phone calls a violation of the Fourth Amendment.
“I think some aspects of the Patriot Act are wise, so you don’t want to throw the baby out with the bathwater, but certainly in terms of the Fourth Amendment, the unwarranted mining of data from citizens is a violation,” Carson said. “I totally oppose that. Our authorities can get a warrant any time they want. If they need it in the middle of the night they can get it, no problem.”
Key parts of the Patriot Act will expire at the end of the month, and Republicans in Congress are split on whether the law should be reauthorized.
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), another GOP presidential hopeful, is currently on the floor of the Senate filibustering against reauthorization. Paul has similarly called the NSA spying “a direct violation of the Fourth Amendment."
Some GOP contenders, like Bush and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, have offered full-throated defense of the practice, arguing it’s a necessary tool to prevent terrorist attacks.