Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioGOP senators introduce bill targeting Palestinian 'martyr payments' House to vote on Uyghur bill amid diplomatic boycott of Beijing Olympics This week: Congress poised to go into December overtime MORE, a 2016 contender, would not have authorized invading Iraq had he known that the country harbored no weapons of mass destruction.
And neither would former President George W. Bush, who ordered the war, the Florida Republican insisted on Wednesday.
“Not only would I have not been in favor of it, President Bush would not have been in favor of it, and he said so,” Rubio said in a conversation at the Council on Foreign Relations.
“President Bush has said that he regrets that the intelligence was faulty,” he added. “I don’t think the Congress would have voted in favor of authorization if they had know that.”
The remarks come on the heels of a conservative backlash to Jeb Bush, the former GOP governor of Florida and Rubio’s likely opponent in the race for the Republican presidential nomination.
Earlier this week, Bush said that he would have gone into Iraq, given the chance to do it all over again, and insisted that former Secretary of State Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonRepublican Ohio Senate candidate slams JD Vance over previous Trump comments Budowsky: Why GOP donors flock to Manchin and Sinema Countering the ongoing Republican delusion MORE would have made the same call. After quick criticism from key figures on the right, Bush walked back the comments, and said on Tuesday that it was impossible to answer the question. On Wednesday, Bush said such hypothetical questions were a "disservice" to troops who died in the war.
In going against Bush’s remarks on Wednesday, Rubio lined up alongside presidential aspirants including Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzGOP senators introduce bill targeting Palestinian 'martyr payments' Bob Dole: heroic, prickly and effective Democrats see Christmas goal slipping away MORE (R-Texas) and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R), who have said that the war would not have been worth fighting, knowing what we know now.
While insisting that he would not have gone into Iraq, Rubio nonetheless said it was important to examine the “context” under which the nation went to war against Saddam Hussein’s regime in 2003.
“It is a country that had actively in the past... had invaded a neighboring country of Kuwait, it was a country that had an open dispute going on with international bodies with inspections,” he said.
When asked in March whether or not the invasion of Iraq was a mistake, Rubio said he didn’t “believe it was.”
“The world is a better place because Saddam Hussein does not run Iraq,” he said in a Fox News interview. “We forget that Iraq, at the time of the invasion, was an open defiance of numerous United Nations Security Council resolutions that the United Nations refused to enforce.”
“Hindsight is always 20/20, but we don't know what the world would look like if Saddam Hussein were still there,” he added. “But I doubt it would look better... It would be just as bad but for different reasons.”
This story was updated at 7:20 p.m.