FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Blood Traces: Bernie’s Iraq War Hypocrisy

Bernie Sanders has been tagging Hillary Clinton for her 2002 vote in support of George W. Bush’s war against Saddam Hussein. Here Sanders is closely following Obama’s 2008 playbook, where Obama used the Iraq war vote to repeatedly knock Clinton off balance.

But Sanders’s shots at Clinton haven’t inflicted much damage this time around, largely because there’s so little breathing space between the two candidates on foreign policy. Both Clinton and Sanders are seasoned interventionists, often advancing their hawkish policies under the ragged banner of “humanitarianism.” (See: Queen of Chaos by Diana Johnstone.)

Sanders supported Bill Clinton’s war on Serbia, voted for the 2001 Authorization Unilateral Military Force Against Terrorists (AUMF), which pretty much allowed Bush to wage war wherever he wanted, backed Obama’s Libyan debacle and supports an expanded US role in the Syrian Civil War.

More problematic for the Senator in Birkenstocks is the little-known fact that Bernie Sanders himself voted twice in support of regime change in Iraq. In 1998 Sanders voted in favor of the Iraq Liberation Act of 1998, which said: “It should be the policy of the United States to support efforts to remove the regime headed by Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq and to promote the emergence of a democratic government to replace that regime.”

Later that same year, Sanders also backed a resolution that stated: “Congress reaffirms that it should be the policy of the United States to support efforts to remove the regime headed by Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq and to promote the emergence of a democratic  government to replace that regime.” These measures gave congressional backing for the CIA’s covert plan to overthrow the Hussein regime in Baghdad, as well as the tightening of an economic sanctions regime that may have killed as many as 500,000 Iraqi children. The resolution also gave the green light to Operation Desert Fox, a four-day long bombing campaign striking 100 targets throughout Iraq. The operation featured more than 300 bombing sorties and 350 ground-launched Tomahawk cruise missiles, several targeting Saddam Hussein himself.

Even Hillary belatedly admitted that her Iraq war vote was a mistake. Bernie, however, has never apologized for his two votes endorsing the overthrow of Saddam. On the rare occasions when Sanders has been confronted about these votes, he has casually dismissed them as being “almost unanimous.”  I went back and checked the record. In fact, many members of the progressive caucus in the House, as well as a few libertarian anti-war Members of Congress, vote against the Iraq regime change measures. Here’s a list of the “no” votes on the Iraq Liberation Act of 1998:

Abercrombie
Bartlett
Brown (CA)
Carson
Chenoweth
Clay
Conyers
Davis (IL)
Doggett
Everett
Ewing
Ford
Furse
Hastings (FL)
Hilliard
Hostettler
Jackson (IL)
Jefferson
LaHood
Lee
Lewis (GA)
McKinney
Miller (CA)
Mink
Paul
Payne
Pombo
Rivers
Rush
Sabo
Serrano
Skaggs
Skelton
Stark
Towns
Vento
Walsh
Waters

So what changed? Only the party in power. In 1998, Bill Clinton was president, pursuing his own effort to takedown Saddam’s government. In Clinton’s State of the Union address of that year he laid the political groundwork for Bush’s war:

“Saddam Hussein has spent the better part of this decade, and much of his nation’s wealth, not on providing for the Iraqi people, but on developing nuclear, chemical and biological weapons and the missiles to deliver them. The United Nations weapons inspectors have done a truly remarkable job, finding and destroying more of Iraq’s arsenal than was destroyed during the entire gulf war. Now, Saddam Hussein wants to stop them from completing their mission. I know I speak for everyone in this chamber, Republicans and Democrats, when I say to Saddam Hussein, “You cannot defy the will of the world”, and when I say to him, “You have used weapons of mass destruction before; we are determined to deny you the capacity to use them again.””

Recall that over the 8 years of Clinton Time, Iraq was bombed an average of once every four days.

Even though Sanders markets himself as an “independent socialist,” in fact, he has rarely dissented against the Democratic Party orthodoxy, especially when it comes to military intervention. That should permanently settle the notion of whether Bernie is a real Democrat. With the blood of 500,000 Iraqi children on his hands, surely Sanders has already won the “Humanitarian Warrior Seal of Approval,” which leaves us with only one haunting question: Was it worth it, Senator Sanders?

Screen Shot 2016-02-19 at 10.18.51 AM
More articles by:

Jeffrey St. Clair is editor of CounterPunch. His most recent books are Bernie and the Sandernistas: Field Notes From a Failed Revolution and The Big Heat: Earth on the Brink (with Joshua Frank) He can be reached at: sitka@comcast.net or on Twitter  @JSCCounterPunch

August 03, 2020
Linda Pentz Gunter
The Resistible Rise of Nuclear Gangsters…and Their Downfall
John G. Russell
The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters
Cal Winslow
Their Heroes and Ours: California’s Health Care Crisis
David Barber
Renouncing White Privilege: A Left Critique of Robin DiAngelo’s “White Fragility”
Linda G. Ford
Free Joy Powell! America’s Political Prisoner for Fighting Police Brutality
Prabir Purkayastha
Trump’s Withdrawal From WHO: a Cover-Up for His Abject Failure on COVID-19
Dean Baker
The Plunge in Consumption of Services Leads to a Record 32.9 Percent Drop in GDP
Ramzy Baroud
Human Rights Defenders: Palestinian Eyewitness Testimony of the Execution of Abdul Fattah al-Sharif by Israeli Soldier, Elor Azaria
Karen J. Greenberg
Accountability is Gone in America
Cesar Chelala
A Wrong Message for the Pandemic
Jonah Raskin
Chesa Boudin: Reformer in the San Francisco DA’s Office
George Wuerthner
Forest Plan Failure in the Montana Rockies
Ralph Nader
Speaker Nancy Pelosi Writes to Me!
Laura Flanders
Take on the Tech Mob Now or Perish
CounterPunch News Service
Conservationists Intervene to Oppose New Dam Project Near the Grand Canyon
Weekend Edition
July 31, 2020
Friday - Sunday
Bette Lee
Tear Gas and Thugs at the BLM Protests in Portland
Rob Urie
Russiagate, Nazis, and the CIA
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Demon Seed
T.J. Coles
The Space Wars Have Begun
Andrew Levine
Insurgents and Iconoclasts Needed (But for Now Lay Low)
Paul Street
“Time to Say the F-Word”: Why Now?
Matthew Scully
The Triple Antagonist of the Police, Policing, and Policy
Richard D. Wolff
The Consequences of Inequality Can Be Fatal
Richard C. Gross
Feds Give In, Maybe
Erik Molvar
Inside Trump’s Attack on America’s Environmental Charter
W. T. Whitney
“We Charge Genocide:” Forerunner at UN of Black Lives Matter
Brett Wilkins
The Bologna Massacre, the ‘Strategy of Tension’ and Operation Gladio
Nick Pemberton
Does The Left Stand With Uighurs?
Cesar Chelala
Donald Trump’s Misguided Attacks on WHO
Barbara G. Ellis
A Portland ‘Sit-Down’ Can Rock Trump’s Boat
Nancy J. Altman
On Medicare and Medicaid’s 55th Birthday, Let’s Expand Benefits—Not Cut Them
John O'Kane
Systemic Racism And Progressive Reconstruction
Binoy Kampmark
Julian Assange’s Political Indictment: Old Wine in Older Bottles
Ramzy Baroud
List of Targets Leaked: Israel Fears the Worst in ICC Investigation of War Crimes
Marshall Auerback
Every Step the EU Takes Toward Financial Unity Sows New Seeds of Its Potential Collapse
Bob Fitrakis - Harvey Wasserman
Fascist Ohio’s Bribed $60 Million Nuke Reactor Meltdown
Walden Bello
Could the Duterte Regime be COVID-19’s Next Victim?
Jonathan H. Martin
Bernie Groups Break Free of Dems: New Party Rising?
Ron Jacobs
Hunting with the Father
Michael Welton
What Does It Mean To Tolerate Others?
Eve Ottenberg
Climate Change is Genocide
Serge Halimi
The Twenty Years War
Kathy Kelly
Yemen: a Torrent of Suffering in a Time of Siege
Myles Hoenig
American Exceptionalism
Robert P. Alvarez
I Was Tear Gassed in Portland … and Not Only by the Feds
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail