Will Senate Admit Iraq War Was a Costly Crime?

March 30th, 2023 - by Joan McCarter / The Daily Kos

George W. Bush lied the US into his illegal war on Iraq.

The Senate Is Finally Ready, Mostly, to Admit
The 20-year-old War on Iraq Was a Mistake
Joan McCarter / The Daily Kos

(March 27, 2023) — Twenty years after the fact, the Senate is facing up to the fact that the US Congress was duped by the lies of the George W. Bush administration into a prolonged, destructive, devastating war in Iraq. Well, some senators, anyway. They will finally vote this week to revoke two authorizations to use military force (AUMF) in Iraq in the Gulf. Those senators who were in Congress at the time are reflecting back to the momentous decision they took to send the nation to war.

“There was not enough information to persuade me that [Iraq] in fact had any connection with what happened on Sept. 11, or that there was justification to attack,” Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) told AP recently. “I really thought about the young men and women that we would be sending into battle,” she said. “I have a son and a daughter — would I vote to send them to war based on this evidence? In the end, the answer for me was no.”

Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) was in the House on Oct. 11, 2002, when they took this vote. He voted for the resolution, and now says that vote was “premised on the biggest lie ever told in American history.” In retrospect, “I regret relying upon” the voices pushing war, he said. “It was a mistake to rely upon the Bush administration for telling the truth.”

We told them so. Repeatedly.

Sen. Chuck Schumer, now Majority Leader, said the destruction of the World Trade Center and the havoc wreaked on New York City made him give the president the benefit of the doubt. He won’t go so far as to say his vote was a mistake, that he was lied to.

“Of course, with the luxury of hindsight, it’s clear that the president bungled the war from start to finish and should not have ever been given that benefit,” Schumer said in a statement. “Now, with the war firmly behind us, we’re one step closer to putting the war powers back where they belong—in the hands of Congress.”

Even GOP Sen. Chuck Grassley (IA) has rethought his vote and is ready to repeal it, though he manages to excuse his mistake. “[A]ll of us that voted for it probably are slow to admit” that the weapons of mass destruction the Bush officials centered their war push on were a fiction. “There was reason to be fearful” of Iraq, Grassley continued, because he just can’t admit to himself that he was lied to by Bush’s team.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who never met a war he didn’t like, was one of the couple dozen votes against bringing this repeal to the floor. He’s blasé about the thousands of American lives sacrificed in this war, much less the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis. “What can you say 20 years later?” he asked rhetorically. “Intelligence was faulty.”

That’s an understatement. But he made sure to add that he recently told Bush that it was the right thing to do. “I told him, ‘Mr. President, Iraq has not retreated from democracy,’” Graham said. “‘It has been imperfect. But if at the end of the day, Saddam Hussein is eliminated and a democracy takes his place that can work with the United States, that is worth it. It turned out to be in America’s interest.’”

One House Republican who fought in Iraq for seven years, and was wounded twice, disagrees. Rep. Cory Mills (R-FL) is ready for it to end. The AUMFs have been “purposely misused for what was not their intended purpose,” he said. “It is also a direct abdication of our roles and responsibilities,” to let these AUMFs continue, Mills said. “I can tell you right now that I’ll be happy” upon repeal.

Colin Powell lied to Congress about Iraq’s nonexistent WMDs.

So far, it looks like there won’t be significant opposition in the House to repealing these two AUMFs — for the 1991 Gulf war (yes, it’s still in effect) and the 2002 Iraq war. What won’t be happening is a repeal of the 2001 AUMF, the one passed just weeks after the 9/11 attack, which has been used dozens of times in the last two decades in military actions all over the globe.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) offered an amendment last week to repeal that one. It only got nine votes.

The bill advanced to the floor on March 16 with strong bipartisan support, 67-28, then spent last week on a handful of GOP amendments, all of which failed. There are a handful more amendments that will be considered Tuesday in the Senate.

Over on the House side, the real action this week will be on an energy bill that’s a big present to the fossil fuel industry — more drilling and fracking and less environment protection. There’s enough GOP infighting over amendments that it’s possible Barely Speaker Kevin McCarthy won’t have the 218 votes to get it done.

Schumer has already said it’s a “nonstarter” in the Senate, “a wish list for Big Oil, gutting important environmental safeguards.” The White House issued a veto threat Monday. “Instead of protecting American consumers, it would pad oil and gas company profits — already at record levels — and undercut our public health and environment,” the statement said. The legislation “would take us backward. Therefore, if presented to the President in its current form, he would veto it.”

Both chambers are scheduled to start their two-week Easter recess on Friday.

•   The one big thing Congress might accomplish soon: Officially ending the Iraq war
•   Senate work kicks in on banks, budget, and war authorizations

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