President Donald Trump’s order to launch dozens of Tomahawk missiles at a single Syrian airfield Thursday evening stands in stark contrast to his repeated assertions throughout the 2016 presidential campaign — and for many previous years — that the United States should avoid engaging in warfare in the Middle East.
Trump described “the approach of fighting Assad and ISIS simultaneously” as “madness and idiocy” in a March 2016 interview with The New York Times.
“They’re fighting each other and yet we’re fighting both of them,” Trump complained.
“I think that our far bigger problem than Assad is ISIS,” Trump declared in the interview, barely over one year ago. “I’ve always felt that. Assad is, you know, I’m not saying Assad is a good man, ’cause he’s not, but our far greater problem is not Assad, it’s ISIS.”
Assad is Bashar al-Assad, the embattled current president of Syria.
Trump approved Thursday night’s massive missile attack in Syria just hours after a deadly chemical attack in Syria’s Idlib province. The Tuesday chemical attack left approximately 72 people dead and possibly hundreds more injured.
Syrian government aircraft from the now-destroyed airfield are reportedly responsible for the chemical weapons attack.
In a November 2016 interview with the Times, Trump complained that Sen. Lindsey Graham had expressed support for military intervention in Syria.
“Give me a break,” Trump said 135 days ago. “I had to listen to Lindsey Graham talk about, you know, attacking Syria and attacking, you know, and it’s like you’re now attacking Russia, you’re attacking Iran, you’re attacking. And what are we getting? We’re getting — and what are we getting?”
Trump went on to describe Syria’s ongoing civil war back in November as “a horrible, horrible thing.” However, he was unwilling to speak further for public consumption. Instead, he went off the record to discuss his views with a small group of high-level New York Times employees.
Sen. Graham and Sen. John McCain jointly praised Trump’s decision to launch Thursday’s missile strike. (RELATED: McCain And Graham Praise Trump’s Decision To Strike Assad)
“Unlike the previous administration, President Trump confronted a pivotal moment in Syria and took action,” the senators declared. Both characterized the strike as “an important message” to both Assad and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“The United States will not stand idly by,” Graham and McCain defiantly proclaimed. “We must learn the lessons of history and ensure that tactical success leads to strategic progress.” (RELATED: US Defense Official Says Syria Strike Is A ‘One-Off’)
Graham and McCain have previously proposed using the U.S. military to overthrow Assad.
Before Trump was president, and long before the 2011 outbreak of the Syrian civil war, he was a very frequent critic of American forays into the Middle East.
In 2008, Trump and enthusiastically supported the impeachment of former President George W. Bush and expressed surprise that then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat, did not attempt to impeach Bush over the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
“I was surprised that she didn’t do more in terms of Bush and going after Bush,” Trump told Wolf Blitzer in a CNN interview in October 2008.
“It just seemed like she was going to really look to impeach Bush and get him out of office, which, personally, I think would have been a wonderful thing,” the currently sitting U.S. president explained.
Trump went on to declare that Pelosi “absolutely” should have impeached Bush “for the war.”
In the same interview, the Republican presidential candidate also gushed about his admiration for Pelosi.
“Well, you know, when she first got in and was named speaker, I met her,” Trump said of the San Francisco liberal. “And I’m very impressed by her. I think she’s a very impressive person. I like her a lot.”
Trump also heaped praise on Saddam Hussein in the interview because Hussein “killed terrorists.”
In September 2007, Trump appeared on CNN to blast George W. Bush as “a horrible president” and “possibly the worst in the history of this country.” That same evening, Trump excoriated former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice as “very sad” and called other Bush cabinet secretaries “amateurs.”
Trump’s view that Bush made a terrible mistake by invading Iraq have not changed.
“I think going into Iraq was one of the great mistakes in the history of our country,” he told The New York Times in November 2016.
In his March 2016 interview with the Times, Trump predicted that Iran is “going to take over Iraq.”
“They’re going to officially take over Iraq in the very near future. And I mean Iraqis were already reporting to Iran, but Iran is going to take over Iraq. They’ve wanted to do it for decades. They’re going to take over Iraq. They’re going to take the oil reserves which are the second biggest in the world.”
A takeover of Iraq by Iran has not occurred.
In the aftermath of the Thursday missile strike in Syria, Trump said the attack was in “the vital national security interest of the United States.”
He also called for other nations to work toward bringing an end to the civil war in Syria.
The president made the below remarks from his Mar-a-Lago estate, where he is currently hosting Chinese President Xi Jinping.