ROCK RAPIDS, Iowa — Former Gov. Rick Perry on Monday weighed in on the latest issue to animate the GOP’s 2016 presidential field, volunteering that he would not have invaded Iraq knowing what he does now.
Perry raised the issue while discussing the news that the Islamic State group had seized control of the key Iraqi city of Ramadi, which a U.S.-led coalition has been working to defend. He called the development an “extraordinary negative headline” given how many U.S. lives were lost in the region during the Iraq War.
“You know, this whole issue of — this question that gets asked, ‘If you — with what you know today, would you have ordered the invasion of Iraq?’” Perry told a breakfast audience here. "I think if you look what’s happened today, and the answer is no. I mean, with that hindsight, no, I would not have done that.”
Yet Perry said the more important question to ask is why Ramadi fell to the Islamic State group. He suggested President Obama should have listened more to those warning him the region would erupt in instability if U.S. forces pulled out too fast.
“You know what happens when law and order, when structure, is not in place,” Perry said, addressing a law enforcement official in the room. "Chaos will fill that, and that’s exactly what we’ve seen in that region.”
The question Perry broached has become a flashpoint in presidential politics since former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush struggled to answer it last week. Bush, whose brother George ordered the invasion in 2003, ultimately said he would not have made the decision knowing what he knows now.
The question was also the subject of a testy interview with U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., this weekend on Fox News Sunday. But at a lunchtime stop in Sioux Center, Perry declined to criticize his potential foes for getting tangled up in the issue.
“I can’t answer why people have struggled with it,” he told reporters, reiterating his belief that no is the “obvious” answer to the question.
Perry then pointed back to his remarks on Ramadi, attributing its fall to Obama being “hellbent on pulling out of Iraq” to make good on his campaign promise to do so.