For the Record: Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton on the Iraq Invasion of 2002
October 15, 2015
Bernie Sanders / US House of Representatives & Hillary Clinton / US Senate & Daily Kos
Sanders: "In the brief time I have, let me give five reasons why I am opposed to giving the President a blank check to launch a unilateral invasion and occupation of Iraq and why I will vote against this resolution." Clinton: "I believe the facts that have brought us to this fateful vote are not in doubt.... for all its appeal, a unilateral attack, while it cannot be ruled out, on the present facts is not a good option.... Regime change will, of course, take longer but we must still work for it, nurturing all reasonable forces of opposition."
Flashback to 13 Years Ago:
My Statement Opposing the Iraq War
Bernie Sanders / US House of Representatives
(October 12, 2015) -- Thirteen years ago, on October 9, 2002, I made the following statement on the floor of the House of Representatives:
Mr. Speaker, I thank my friend from New Jersey for yielding me this time.
Mr. Speaker, I do not think any Member of this body disagrees that Saddam Hussein is a tyrant, a murderer, and a man who has started two wars. He is clearly someone who cannot be trusted or believed. The question, Mr. Speaker, is not whether we like Saddam Hussein or not. The question is whether he represents an imminent threat to the American people and whether a unilateral invasion of Iraq will do more harm than good.
Mr. Speaker, the front page of The Washington Post today reported that all relevant US intelligence agencies now say, despite what we have heard from the White House, that "Saddam Hussein is unlikely to initiate a chemical or biological attack against the United States."
Even more importantly, our intelligence agencies say that should Saddam conclude that a US-led attack could no longer be deterred, he might at that point launch a chemical or biological counterattack. In other words, there is more danger of an attack on the United States if we launch a precipitous invasion.
Mr. Speaker, I do not know why the President feels, despite what our intelligence agencies are saying, that it is so important to pass a resolution of this magnitude this week and why it is necessary to go forward without the support of the United Nations and our major allies including those who are fighting side by side with us in the war on terrorism.
But I do feel that as a part of this process, the President is ignoring some of the most pressing economic issues affecting the well-being of ordinary Americans. There has been virtually no public discussion about the stock market's loss of trillions of dollars over the last few years and that millions of Americans have seen the retirement benefits for which they have worked their entire lives disappear.
When are we going to address that issue? This country today has a $340 billion trade deficit, and we have lost 10 percent of our manufacturing jobs in the last 4 years, 2 million decent-paying jobs. The average American worker today is working longer hours for lower wages than 25 years ago. When are we going to address that issue?
Mr. Speaker, poverty in this country is increasing and median family income is declining. Throughout this country family farmers are being driven off of the land; and veterans, the people who put their lives on the line to defend us, are unable to get the health care and other benefits they were promised because of government underfunding. When are we going to tackle these issues and many other important issues that are of such deep concern to Americans?
Mr. Speaker, in the brief time I have, let me give five reasons why I am opposed to giving the President a blank check to launch a unilateral invasion and occupation of Iraq and why I will vote against this resolution.
One, I have not heard any estimates of how many young American men and women might die in such a war or how many tens of thousands of women and children in Iraq might also be killed. As a caring Nation, we should do everything we can to prevent the horrible suffering that a war will cause. War must be the last recourse in international relations, not the first.
Second, I am deeply concerned about the precedent that a unilateral invasion of Iraq could establish in terms of international law and the role of the United Nations. If President Bush believes that the US can go to war at any time against any nation, what moral or legal objection could our government raise if another country chose to do the same thing?
Third, the United States is now involved in a very difficult war against international terrorism as we learned tragically on September 11. We are opposed by Osama bin Laden and religious fanatics who are prepared to engage in a kind of warfare that we have never experienced before.
I agree with Brent Scowcroft, Republican former National Security Advisor for President George Bush, Sr., who stated, "An attack on Iraq at this time would seriously jeopardize, if not destroy, the global counterterrorist campaign we have undertaken."
Fourth, at a time when this country has a $6 trillion national debt and a growing deficit, we should be clear that a war and a long-term American occupation ofIraq could be extremely expensive.
Fifth, I am concerned about the problems of so-called unintended consequences. Who will govern Iraq when Saddam Hussein is removed and what role will the US play in ensuing a civil war that could develop in that country?
Will moderate governments in the region who have large Islamic fundamentalist populations be overthrown and replaced by extremists? Will the bloody conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Authority be exacerbated? And these are just a few of the questions that remain unanswered.
If a unilateral American invasion of Iraq is not the best approach, what should we do? In my view, the US must work with the United Nations to make certain within clearly defined timelines that the UN inspectors are allowed to do their jobs.
These inspectors should undertake an unfettered search for Iraqi weapons of mass destruction and destroy them when found, pursuant to past UN resolutions. If Iraq resists inspection and elimination of stockpiled weapons, we should stand ready to assist the UN in forcing compliance.
Hillary Clinton's Floor Speech to Invade Iraq
Hon. Hillary Rodham Clinton / US Senate
Here is the entire Floor Speech of Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton on S.J. Res. 45, A Resolution to Authorize the Use of United States Armed Forces Against Iraq, dated October 10, 2002, along with a bit of commentary.
Today we are asked whether to give the President of the United States authority to use force in Iraq should diplomatic efforts fail to dismantle Saddam Hussein's chemical and biological weapons and his nuclear program.
I am honored to represent nearly 19 million New Yorkers, a thoughtful democracy of voices and opinions who make themselves heard on the great issues of our day especially this one. Many have contacted my office about this resolution, both in support of and in opposition to it, and I am grateful to all who have expressed an opinion.
I also greatly respect the differing opinions within this body. The debate they engender will aid our search for a wise, effective policy. Therefore, on no account should dissent be discouraged or disparaged. It is central to our freedom and to our progress, for on more than one occasion, history has proven our great dissenters to be right.
Now, I believe the facts that have brought us to this fateful vote are not in doubt. Saddam Hussein is a tyrant who has tortured and killed his own people, even his own family members, to maintain his iron grip on power. He used chemical weapons on Iraqi Kurds and on Iranians, killing over 20 thousand people.
Unfortunately, during the 1980's, while he engaged in such horrific activity, he enjoyed the support of the American government, because he had oil and was seen as a counterweight to the Ayatollah Khomeini in Iran.
In 1991, Saddam Hussein invaded and occupied Kuwait, losing the support of the United States. The first President Bush assembled a global coalition, including many Arab states, and threw Saddam out after forty-three days of bombing and a hundred hours of ground operations. The US-led coalition then withdrew, leaving the Kurds and the Shiites, who had risen against Saddam Hussein at our urging, to Saddam's revenge.
As a condition for ending the conflict, the United Nations imposed a number of requirements on Iraq, among them disarmament of all weapons of mass destruction, stocks used to make such weapons, and laboratories necessary to do the work. Saddam Hussein agreed, and an inspection system was set up to ensure compliance.
And though he repeatedly lied, delayed, and obstructed the inspections work, the inspectors found and destroyed far more weapons of mass destruction capability than were destroyed in the Gulf War, including thousands of chemical weapons, large volumes of chemical and biological stocks, a number of missiles and warheads, a major lab equipped to produce anthrax and other bio-weapons, as well as substantial nuclear facilities.
In 1998, Saddam Hussein pressured the United Nations to lift the sanctions by threatening to stop all cooperation with the inspectors. In an attempt to resolve the situation, the UN, unwisely in my view, agreed to put limits on inspections of designated "sovereign sites" including the so-called presidential palaces, which in reality were huge compounds well suited to hold weapons labs, stocks, and records which Saddam Hussein was required by UN resolution to turn over.
When Saddam blocked the inspection process, the inspectors left. As a result, President Clinton, with the British and others, ordered an intensive four-day air assault, Operation Desert Fox, on known and suspected weapons of mass destruction sites and other military targets.
In 1998, the United States also changed its underlying policy toward Iraq from containment to regime change and began to examine options to effect such a change, including support for Iraqi opposition leaders within the country and abroad.
In the four years since the inspectors left, intelligence reports show that Saddam Hussein has worked to rebuild his chemical and biological weapons stock, his missile delivery capability, and his nuclear program. He has also given aid, comfort, and sanctuary to terrorists, including Al Qaeda members, though there is apparently no evidence of his involvement in the terrible events of September 11, 2001.
It is clear, however, that if left unchecked, Saddam Hussein will continue to increase his capacity to wage biological and chemical warfare, and will keep trying to develop nuclear weapons. Should he succeed in that endeavor, he could alter the political and security landscape of the Middle East, which as we know all too well affects American security.
Now this much is undisputed. The open questions are: what should we do about it? How, when, and with whom?
Some people favor attacking Saddam Hussein now, with any allies we can muster, in the belief that one more round of weapons inspections would not produce the required disarmament, and that deposing Saddam would be a positive good for the Iraqi people and would create the possibility of a secular democratic state in the Middle East, one which could perhaps move the entire region toward democratic reform.
This view has appeal to some, because it would assure disarmament; because it would right old wrongs after our abandonment of the Shiites and Kurds in 1991, and our support for Saddam Hussein in the 1980's when he was using chemical weapons and terrorizing his people; and because it would give the Iraqi people a chance to build a future in freedom.
However, this course is fraught with danger. We and our NATO allies did not depose Mr. Milosevic, who was responsible for more than a quarter of a million people being killed in the 1990s. Instead, by stopping his aggression in Bosnia and Kosovo, and keeping on the tough sanctions, we created the conditions in which his own people threw him out and led to his being in the dock being tried for war crimes as we speak.
If we were to attack Iraq now, alone or with few allies, it would set a precedent that could come back to haunt us. In recent days, Russia has talked of an invasion of Georgia to attack Chechen rebels. India has mentioned the possibility of a pre-emptive strike on Pakistan. And what if China were to perceive a threat from Taiwan?
So Mr. President, for all its appeal, a unilateral attack, while it cannot be ruled out, on the present facts is not a good option.
Others argue that we should work through the United Nations and should only resort to force if and when the United Nations Security Council approves it. This too has great appeal for different reasons.
The UN deserves our support. Whenever possible we should work through it and strengthen it, for it enables the world to share the risks and burdens of global security and when it acts, it confers a legitimacy that increases the likelihood of long-term success. The UN can help lead the world into a new era of global cooperation and the United States should support that goal.
But there are problems with this approach as well. The United Nations is an organization that is still growing and maturing. It often lacks the cohesion to enforce its own mandates. And when Security Council members use the veto, on occasion, for reasons of narrow-minded interests, it cannot act. In Kosovo, the Russians did not approve NATO military action because of political, ethnic, and religious ties to the Serbs.
The United States therefore could not obtain a Security Council resolution in favor of the action necessary to stop the dislocation and ethnic cleansing of more than a million Kosovar Albanians. However, most of the world was with us because there was a genuine emergency with thousands dead and a million driven from their homes. As soon as the American-led conflict was over, Russia joined the peacekeeping effort that is still underway.
In the case of Iraq, recent comments indicate that one or two Security Council members might never approve force against Saddam Hussein until he has actually used chemical, biological, or God forbid, nuclear weapons.
So, Mr. President, the question is how do we do our best to both defuse the real threat that Saddam Hussein poses to his people, to the region, including Israel, to the United States, to the world, and at the same time, work to maximize our international support and strengthen the United Nations?
While there is no perfect approach to this thorny dilemma, and while people of good faith and high intelligence can reach diametrically opposed conclusions, I believe the best course is to go to the UN for a strong resolution that scraps the 1998 restrictions on inspections and calls for complete, unlimited inspections with cooperation expected and demanded from Iraq.
I know that the Administration wants more, including an explicit authorization to use force, but we may not be able to secure that now, perhaps even later. But if we get a clear requirement for unfettered inspections, I believe the authority to use force to enforce that mandate is inherent in the original 1991 UN resolution, as President Clinton recognized when he launched Operation Desert Fox in 1998.
If we get the resolution that President Bush seeks, and if Saddam complies, disarmament can proceed and the threat can be eliminated. Regime change will, of course, take longer but we must still work for it, nurturing all reasonable forces of opposition.
If we get the resolution and Saddam does not comply, then we can attack him with far more support and legitimacy than we would have otherwise.
If we try and fail to get a resolution that simply, but forcefully, calls for Saddam's compliance with unlimited inspections, those who oppose even that will be in an indefensible position. And, we will still have more support and legitimacy than if we insist now on a resolution that includes authorizing military action and other requirements giving some nations superficially legitimate reasons to oppose any Security Council action. They will say we never wanted a resolution at all and that we only support the United Nations when it does exactly what we want.
I believe international support and legitimacy are crucial. After shots are fired and bombs are dropped, not all consequences are predictable. While the military outcome is not in doubt, should we put troops on the ground, there is still the matter of Saddam Hussein's biological and chemical weapons. Today he has maximum incentive not to use them or give them away.
If he did either, the world would demand his immediate removal. Once the battle is joined, however, with the outcome certain, he will have maximum incentive to use weapons of mass destruction and to give what he can't use to terrorists who can torment us with them long after he is gone. We cannot be paralyzed by this possibility, but we would be foolish to ignore it. And according to recent reports, the CIA agrees with this analysis.
A world united in sharing the risk at least would make this occurrence less likely and more bearable and would be far more likely to share with us the considerable burden of rebuilding a secure and peaceful post-Saddam Iraq.
President Bush's speech in Cincinnati and the changes in policy that have come forth since the Administration began broaching this issue some weeks ago have made my vote easier.
Even though the resolution before the Senate is not as strong as I would like in requiring the diplomatic route first and placing highest priority on a simple, clear requirement for unlimited inspections, I will take the President at his word that he will try hard to pass a UN resolution and will seek to avoid war, if at all possible.
Because bipartisan support for this resolution makes success in the United Nations more likely, and therefore, war less likely, and because a good faith effort by the United States, even if it fails, will bring more allies and legitimacy to our cause, I have concluded, after careful and serious consideration, that a vote for the resolution best serves the security of our nation.
If we were to defeat this resolution or pass it with only a few Democrats, I am concerned that those who want to pretend this problem will go way with delay will oppose any UN resolution calling for unrestricted inspections.
This is a very difficult vote. This is probably the hardest decision I have ever had to make -- any vote that may lead to war should be hard -- but I cast it with conviction.
And perhaps my decision is influenced by my eight years of experience on the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue in the White House watching my husband deal with serious challenges to our nation. I want this President, or any future President, to be in the strongest possible position to lead our country in the United Nations or in war.
Secondly, I want to insure that Saddam Hussein makes no mistake about our national unity and for our support for the President's efforts to wage America's war against terrorists and weapons of mass destruction. And thirdly, I want the men and women in our Armed Forces to know that if they should be called upon to act against Iraq, our country will stand resolutely behind them.
My vote is not, however, a vote for any new doctrine of pre-emption, or for uni-lateralism, or for the arrogance of American power or purpose -- all of which carry grave dangers for our nation, for the rule of international law and for the peace and security of people throughout the world.
Over eleven years have passed since the UN called on Saddam Hussein to rid himself of weapons of mass destruction as a condition of returning to the world community. Time and time again he has frustrated and denied these conditions.
This matter cannot be left hanging forever with consequences we would all live to regret. War can yet be avoided, but our responsibility to global security and to the integrity of United Nations resolutions protecting it cannot. I urge the President to spare no effort to secure a clear, unambiguous demand by the United Nations for unlimited inspections.
And finally, on another personal note, I come to this decision from the perspective of a Senator from New York who has seen all too closely the consequences of last year's terrible attacks on our nation. In balancing the risks of action versus inaction, I think New Yorkers who have gone through the fires of hell may be more attuned to the risk of not acting. I know that I am.
So it is with conviction that I support this resolution as being in the best interests of our nation. A vote for it is not a vote to rush to war; it is a vote that puts awesome responsibility in the hands of our President and we say to him -- use these powers wisely and as a last resort. And it is a vote that says clearly to Saddam Hussein -- this is your last chance -- disarm or be disarmed.
Thank you, Mr. President.
The Daily Kos (October 13, 2015)
1. Why, according to Clinton, would she believe that "the facts" were "not in doubt?" There was a great deal of skepticism about administrative claims, but it was a matter of acknowledging these doubts and allowing them to get an adequate hearing.
2. When Clinton referred here to a change in policy from "containment" to "regime change," she failed, miserably, to either discuss the consequences of moving away from containment, as well as the political motives by neoconservatives behind this call. Instead, she seemed to be implying a kind of glossed over naive idealism to the US foreign policies.
3. For Clinton to say the following: "intelligence reports show that Saddam Hussein has worked to rebuild his chemical and biological weapons stock, his missile delivery capability, and his nuclear program. He has also given aid, comfort, and sanctuary to terrorists, including Al Qaeda members, though there is apparently no evidence of his involvement in the terrible events of September 11, 2001." suggests that Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld were puppet masters standing behind her just as they were for Colin Powell and others who supported this rush to war. The passage that followed this one even escalated the fear mongering, just like Bush.
4. The speech -- while it is couched as wanting to offer a more "moderate" and compromised approach in contrast to the administration's outright hawkishness -- nontheless also conveys the neocons' skepticism about the UN and their absolutism when it comes to the intertwining of the interests of the US and the state of Israel. It also doesn't bother to hold the claims of former Clinton administration member, George Tenet, to any degree of skeptical questioning.
5. Nice use, too, of the milking of the tragedy of 911 as an attempt at political capital. ("I come to this decision from the perspective of a Senator from New York who has seen all too closely the consequences of last year's terrible attacks on our nation. In balancing the risks of action versus inaction, I think New Yorkers who have gone through the fires of hell may be more attuned to the risk of not acting. I know that I am.")
6. Finally, let me simply repeat, and bold the following, because it shows how Hillary and other spineless Democrats were snookered by Bush: "I will take the President at his word that he will try hard to pass a UN resolution and will seek to avoid war, if at all possible." Say what, Hillary?
That she then later went on and voted -- in spite of the consequences of te Iraq vote and revelations of Bush's outright misuse of intelligence to concoct a rationalization for this invasion -- for a war on Iran disqualifies her from her party's nomination for presidency and tells me that she is a craven, calculating, neocon supporter; I desparately want a different direction for this country.
UPDATE: Thanks to Play Jurist for pointing out that Hillary voted against the alternative to SJ Res 45, namely Carl Levin's Amendment on Iraq
Levin himself explained the differences in the following way:
And that's why I am introducing this alternative resolution. The resolution that was agreed between the White House and the House leadership fails to address the two main problems with the original White House discussion draft.
Those problems are:
* The White House compromise still specifically authorizes at this time the use of force on a unilateral, "go it alone" basis, that is -- without UN Security Council authorization; and
* It authorizes the use of force beyond dealing with Iraq's weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery.
My resolution is consistent with how I think Americans want us to proceed. It emphasizes the importance of dealing with Iraq on a multilateral basis, and withholds judgment at this time on the question of whether the United States should "go it alone" unilaterally against Iraq, should the United Nations fail to act.
What my alternative resolution does is as follows:
1. It urges the UN Security Council to adopt promptly a resolution that:
* Demands unconditional access for UN inspectors so that Iraq's weapons of mass destruction and prohibited ballistic missiles may be destroyed; and
* Within the same UN resolution, authorizes the use of necessary and appropriate force by UN member states to enforce such resolution in the event Iraq refuses to comply.
2. It also specifically authorizes the use of United States Armed Forces pursuant to that UN Security Council resolution if Iraq fails to comply with its terms, provided the President informs the Congress of his determination that the United States has used appropriate diplomatic and other peaceful means to obtain compliance by Iraq with such UN resolution.
3. My resolution affirms that, under international law and the UN Charter, the United States has at all times the inherent right to use military force in self-defense, affirming the fact that there is no UN veto over US military action.
4. My resolution affirms that Congress will not adjourn sine die so that Congress can return to session to consider promptly proposals relative to Iraq if, in the judgment of the President, the UN Security Council does not adopt the resolution mentioned earlier.
5. Finally, my resolution provides that the President report to Congress every 60 days on the status of efforts to have the UN Security Council adopt such a resolution and, if such a resolution is adopted, to obtain compliance by Iraq with the resolution.
And yet Hillary sided with the administration over this.
UPDATE II: Quite a bit of the commentary here is on what Barack Obama would or would not have done had he been in the Senate in 2002 and on John Edwards' also voting for SR 45. However, it seems to me that Obama has clearly been opposed to the war from the start, and his commentary now is on what to do about getting us out. And Edwards gets credit from me for now admitting that his vote was a mistake.
In sharp contrast, Hillary is sticking to her guns and refusing to admit that her 2002 vote was a mistake, even though the claims in her speech (and in the White House's spin) have long since been refuted. There is much that can be found on the Web that discusses Hillary's stubborn refusal to admit to this major error.
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.