WASHINGTON—Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-MT), an Iraq War veteran, candidly told the moderator of a CPAC panel discussion that he would not have gone to war in Iraq.
The panel’s moderator asked Rep. Zinke, a former Navy SEAL Team Six commander, “You fought that war, would you have gone in knowing what we now know?”
“No,” candidly responded Zinke who led a force of over 3,500 Special Operations personnel in Iraq.
“I probably would not have gone, nor would I have left as soon as we did,” also said Zinke, later adding,“We left too soon and now we have to reengage.”
Rep. Zinke supports using U.S. ground forces against the Islamic State (ISIS, ISIL).
Congress’s only Navy SEAL veteran noted that when he served in Iraq, his job was “policy executioner, not policy maker.”
Rep. Zinke, a 23-year veteran, explained that by leaving Iraq too early, the Obama administration “disenfranchised the Sunni tribes that fought alongside the U.S. and empowered an Iraqi government that was “notoriously corrupt, inept, and now is linking with Iran.”
“We have a mess there and this administration left without a status of forces agreement,” added the Congressman from Montana.
Such an agreement would have formally allowed U.S. troops to remain in Iraq and would have protected them from prosecution in Iraqi courts.
President Obama failed to reach a status of forces pact with Iraq before the complete withdrawal of U.S. soldiers at the end of 2011.
U.S. troops entered Iraq in March 2003 under President George W. Bush.
Kathleen Troia “KT” McFarland, a Fox News national security analyst, moderated the CPAC panel, which was entitled “When Should America Go to War?”
Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR), an Iraq and Afghanistan war veteran, responded,“Hillary Clinton, and John Kerry, and Joe Biden made the right decision to support George Bush in the Iraq War” when asked by the moderator if he would have gone to war with Iraq.
Sen. Cotton, who sat alongside Rep. Zinke as a panelist, served in Iraq with the Army’s storied 101st Division and in Afghanistan with a Provincial Reconstruction Team.