Rick Perry weighs in on Iraq question

Sioux Center, Iowa CNN  — 

Rick Perry accused President Barack Obama of “delusional thinking” when he became the latest GOP White House hopeful to weigh in on the Iraq War on Monday.

Perry said knowing what the world knows now – that Iraq’s Saddam Hussein did not possess weapons of mass destruction – he would not have invaded the country as President George W. Bush did. And he blamed Iraq’s current travails, including the recent seizure of Ramadi by ISIS, on President Barack Obama.

“Barack Obama was more interested in making a political statement than he was living in the world of reality,” he told reporters after hosting a town hall in Sioux Center, Iowa. “There’s delusional thinking going on at the White House.”

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Perry was referring to Obama’s campaign promise to end the war in Iraq, which was fulfilled in December 2011 when the last of U.S. combat troops were pulled from the country. The drawdown came amid rocky negotiations with Iraq’s prime minister: The U.S. wanted to keep more military personnel there, but the Iraqi government would not agree to U.S. requests for legal immunity for the remaining forces.

Republicans criticized the decision at the time, and with the growth of ISIS, GOP presidential contenders are again blasting the President for pulling troops out too soon. They say Obama’s decision created a void that’s been filled by extremists.

“He was hellbent on pulling out of Iraq, and we are paying a huge price for it,” Perry said. “The Iraqi people are paying a huge price for it. And Middle East peace is paying a huge price for it.”

Perry also answered the question over whether he would have gone into Iraq last decade – a question that 2016 presidential candidates have faced since Jeb Bush stumbled in answering it last week.

“I can’t answer why people have struggled with it,” he said. “It’s obvious to me that when we talk about Iraq – and the question of the week was ‘knowing what we know now, would you have ordered the invasion? – and the answer is ‘no.’”

“There’s a whole host of questions that come after that,” he added, suggesting that there’s a benefit in hindsight. “That is an exercise that could have been done for ‘Would you have ordered the invasion of Peleliu?’”