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McCain: I'd Have Been 'Reluctant' To Start Iraq War If I Won In 2000

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AP Photo / Rogelio V. Solis

“You’ll find this surprising, but I think I would’ve been more reluctant to commit American troops,” McCain told CNN’s Jake Tapper and National Journal's Ron Fournier at an event Thursday in Washington.

That does sound like a change of position in light of McCain's vote to authorize the use of force in Iraq and his vocal support of the 2007 troop surge. McCain also criticized the Obama administration last month for not leaving behind a residual force in 2011 that could have deterred Islamist militants who were taking over key Iraqi cities.

“I think I would have (voted the same way), but I think I would have challenged the evidence with greater scrutiny,” McCain explained, as quoted by CNN. “I think that with my background with the military and knowledge of national security with these issues that I hope that I would have been able to see through the evidence that was presented at the time.”

The Arizona Republican added that he trusted the credibility of former Secretary of State Colin Powell at the time, although he now says evidence presented by the George W. Bush administration to justify invading Iraq was "flimsy."

“But it’s obvious now, in retrospect, that Saddam Hussein – although he had used weapons of mass destruction – did not have the inventory that we seem to have evidence of," he said, as quoted by CNN. "Which now looking back on it, with the benefit of hindsight, (the evidence) was very flimsy.”