If Donald Trump had been president 13 years ago, he insists now, the United States would never have invaded Iraq. But if he had launched the war—and mind you, he would not have, even though he supported it at the time—the U.S. would have lost a lot less blood and won a lot more treasure.
“We should have kept the oil,” Trump said during the middle of a 48-minute speech on radical Islam and national security that he delivered Monday afternoon in Youngstown, Ohio.
This might seem like a minor aside coming from Trump, a provocative little I-told-you-so from a man who loves to tell you so. The fateful Iraq decision happened so long ago now: Why would the Republican nominee want to muddle a key distinction between himself and Hillary Clinton that, at least according to his revisionist history, works in his favor? But Trump’s point about the oil was an important one—so much so that he repeated it three more times. “I was saying this constantly and consistently to whoever would listen. I said: Keep the oil, keep the oil, keep the oil,” Trump recalled. “Don’t let someone else get it.”
Had the U.S. controlled Iraqi petroleum reserves, Trump argued, the Islamic State would not have been able to seize them years later and sell them to fund its terror operations and expansion in the region. Moreover, he said, the U.S. could have used the proceeds from selling oil to care for wounded troops; if the military had been managing the oil fields it seized in Iraq, it could have prevented the destabilization of the region and the rise of ISIS that followed the troop withdrawal on President Obama’s watch, he went on.“In the old days, when we won a war, to the victor belonged the spoils,” Trump said. “Instead, all we got from Iraq—and our adventures in the Middle East—was death, destruction and tremendous financial loss.”