While several of his 2008 rivals spent the sixth anniversary of 9/11 in congressional panels debating the future of U.S. involvement in Iraq, Texas Rep. Ron Paul, Republican presidential candidate, declared at a policy forum that the United States has "dug a hole for [itself]" in Iraq.
Paul described Iraq as a "preemptive war" saying it was a "planned invasion and occupation" of a "country that was no threat to us whatsoever."
Part of the reasoning behind invading Iraq, Paul said, was "to have another excuse to keep the military industrial complex going."
What might seem like bold rhetoric from the fiery Texas Republican on the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks was actually nothing new for Paul: His assertions at the Johns Hopkins University discussion were consistent with his presidential platform and congressional career, both of which draw heavily from libertarian and constitutionalist ideals.
Of the Petraeus report and the congressional hearings, Paul told ABC News, "I think it's a lot of politicking" and "grandstanding of both parties."
Paul said the general's testimony, which will be used by President Bush to outline the future strategy in Iraq, missed its mark by not addressing what he deems "the real issues in Iraq" -- policy and financing.
"If we as Republicans want to change things, we have to deal with the authority the president was given -- we have to remove that -- and we have to remove the financing, which we could do," Paul said. "But this tinkering around with how many soldiers are there and whether there's progress or not -- I think it's kind of missing the whole point."
Though considerably lesser known among the Republican presidential hopefuls, Paul's swell of grass-roots and Web-savvy supporters, strict anti-abortion rights philosophy and challenges to party dogma surrounding the war fuel fire and debate in the conservative spectrum.
Paul's remarks on the 9/11 attacks during a May debate in South Carolina were revisited during Tuesday's event. The congressman made national headlines when he linked the 9/11 attacks to previous U.S. involvement in the Middle East.
"They attack us because we've been over there. We've been bombing Iraq for 10 years," Paul said during the debate hosted by Fox News and the South Carolina GOP.
Paul suggested at the time that "we listen to the people who attacked us and the reason they did it."
Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani pounced on Paul's comments, calling them "extraordinary" and demanded a retraction.
Paul shot back, "If we think that we can do what we want around the world and not incite hatred, then we have a problem."
On Tuesday, the sixth anniversary of the terrorist attacks, Paul was asked to clarify who was to blame for 9/11. Paul said "bad policy is a major participant in it" but added the "ultimate moral responsibility falls on the people who committed the ultimate crime."
Throughout his remarks, Paul reiterated his support of "nonintevention over moral superiority" but argued that he was far from an isolationist, drawing on the founding fathers and Constitution for support in his belief that the United States should embrace opportunities for free trade but should "stay out of internal affairs [of other countries], stay out of entangling alliances."
ABC News' Nancy Flores contributed to this report.