Former Secretary of State Colin Powell on Sunday said that the Bush Administration made "terrible strategic mistakes" during the Iraq War, though he defended the decision to invade.
"My own personal belief was, after taking Baghdad, we made terrible strategic mistakes," he said, pointing in particular to the disbanding of the Iraqi army. "I think the execution of the operation was flawed, badly flawed."
Public perception has indeed turned against a war that was once seen as a necessary response to the emergence of the terrorist threat in the Middle East, but became a decade-long quagmire that cost hundreds of thousands of American lives. Backlash against the war increased after it was revealed that the decision to invade was based on faulty intelligence on the existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.
The war has become a flashpoint in the 2016 presidential contest, with every contender criticizing the move and those in office at the time distancing themselves from their votes in support of it. It became a particular challenge for former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who faced added pressure to disavow the invasion because it was spearheaded by his brother, former President George W. Bush.
But Powell defended the decision to invade Iraq against that criticism, asserting it was based on a unified — if faulty — evaluation from the intelligence community.
"If we had known the intelligence was wrong, we would not have gone into Iraq. But the intelligence community, all 16 agencies, assured us that it was right," he said on NBC's "Meet the Press."
Powell noted that, at the time, public and political opinion was unified in support of the invasion, and that nearly every member of Congress voted in support of invading. He said "we tried to avoid it" before going forward with the war.