Speaking at a rally in North Carolina on Tuesday, Donald Trump went on a bizarre tangent about Iraq being “crooked as hell.” He illustrated this with a story in which he appeared to accuse American soldiers of embezzling reconstruction money: “How about bringing baskets of money, millions and millions of dollars, and handing it out,” Trump yelled. “I want to know who were the soldiers that had that job, ’cause I think they’re living well right now, whoever they may be.”
While it’s true that there was corruption in Iraq (described by James Risen in his 214 book Pay Any Price, among other places) it still seems like a bizarre thing for Trump to bring up, completely unbidden. The context was his defense of the idea that the United States should have plundered Iraq’s oil. So perhaps he was trying to justify his own illegal policy recommendation with the argument that there were already other forms of corruption. Trump had made a very similar statement last September.
Whatever the logic of Trump’s statement, it’s very unusual for a presidential candidate to malign war vets, particularly for acts that took place under the presidency of his own party (since this alleged corruption was in the George W. Bush era). But Trump continues to break all the rules.
Update: The Trump camp says that Trump was referring to Iraqi soldiers, not American ones.