Biden Should Stop Misleading People about His Past Stance on the Iraq War

Former vice president Joe Biden during the Democratic primary debate at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, Calif., December 19, 2019. (Mike Blake/Reuters)
We have to hold him accountable.

During a campaign stop in Iowa on Saturday, presidential candidate Joe Biden said that he had disagreed with President George W. Bush on the Iraq War from the very beginning — a claim that is demonstrably false.

“The president then went ahead with ‘shock and awe,’ and right after that — and from the very moment he did that, right after that — I opposed what he was doing, and spoke to him,” he said, answering a question from a voter in Iowa.

The truth is, Biden actually has a history of speaking out in favor of the war. In 2002, he voted to allow Bush to use military force in Iraq — and, during a debate on the issue, he even outright admitted that he realized that this resolution could lead to a war involving multiple countries.

“There is also a chance Saddam will once again miscalculate, that he will misjudge our resolve, and in that event we must be prepared to use force with others if we can, and alone if we must,” Biden said at the time. “The American people must be prepared. They must be prepared for the possible consequences of military action.”

During a speech in February 2003, he said:

I supported the resolution to go to war. I am not opposed to war to remove weapons of mass destruction from Iraq. I am not opposed to war to remove Saddam from those weapons if it comes to that.

Then, on March 17 — three days before the war began — Biden put out a press release encouraging people who might be “concerned” about the war to “unite behind our men and women in uniform:”

There’s a lot of us who voted for giving the president the authority to take down Saddam Hussein if he didn’t disarm, and there are those who believe, at the end of the day, even though it wasn’t handled all that well, we still have to take him down.

(Note: This shouldn’t have actually shocked anyone. After all, back in 1998, Biden is on record saying that Saddam Hussein had to be taken “down.”)

Despite all of this history, as CNN also notes, Biden’s comments on Saturday are not the first time that he has attempted to give voters the impression that he was consistently, vehemently opposed to the Iraq War effort. For example: In September, Biden told NPR:

Immediately, the moment it started, I came out against the war, at that moment.

Now, back in September, a campaign adviser reportedly acknowledged that Biden’s comments on NPR hadn’t been true — explaining that the former vice president simply “misspoke.” Biden made a similar acknowledgment in New Hampshire, telling voters there that what he had said then amounted to a “misrepresentation”:

The misrepresentation was how quickly I said I was immediately against the war. I was against the war internally and trying to put together coalitions to try to change the way in which the war was conducted. 

As for the most recent comments? Well, this time Biden’s team is standing behind them — arguing that, by using more-vague language (saying only “what [Bush] was doing,” rather than referring to the war explicitly), Biden had actually been totally honest.

“The Vice President was referring to how he immediately opposed the specific way we went to war — without giving diplomacy and the weapons inspectors a chance to succeed, based on hyped intelligence, without sufficient allies and without a plan for the day after — and the manner in which the war was being carried out,” Biden campaign spokesman Andrew Bates said in an email to CNN.

“He has taken responsibility for his vote for 15 years, calling it out as a mistake in 2005,” the email continued. “And that mistake, together with the entirety of his long and distinguished record in national security and foreign policy, has informed his views ever since.”

Personally, I find this response to be not only a cop-out but a sign that Biden has been consistently and repeatedly aiming to dupe voters about his foreign-policy past.

Sure — it’s absolutely true that Biden has, in the past, also made comments criticizing Bush for his approach to diplomacy, conduct, and intelligence operations related to the Iraq War. The thing is, though, if Biden were truly being as transparent on Saturday as his campaign has been insisting that he was, then he would have been sure to clarify what he meant. If he weren’t intending to mislead them, he would have at least acknowledged that he had a history of comments supporting the war.

But he didn’t do that — and to me, the only plausible explanation is that he was intentionally aiming to misinform.

People often give Biden a pass for inaccurate and misleading statements — writing them off as nothing more than Crazy Uncle Joe being Crazy Uncle Joe. This clear attempt to brand himself as some kind of anti-war hero, however, is anything but that. To me, it represents a carefully calculated political strategy, one that’s aimed at convincing voters that Biden has been a different kind of politician than his record actually shows.

Think about it: In the revised version on Saturday, Biden hardly painted a more factual picture than he did in September. Anyone listening to those comments in a vacuum certainly would assume that Biden was saying he’d opposed the war from the very start. He changed his comments, sure, but he didn’t change them to more accurately reflect his past position. Rather, he changed them only to give himself a possible technical defense against accusations of lying, while still painting the same deceptive one.

Put more plainly?

“Crazy Joe” may be quite craftier than we give him credit for, as he seems to be deliberately, insidiously attempting to delude voters. If you’re someone who’s been paying constant attention to the news for the past few decades, you might wonder how he thinks he could possibly get away with such a thing. It becomes easier to imagine, though, when you consider that not everyone pays all that much attention — and that the youngest batch of voters who will be heading to the polls in November were still in their mothers’ wombs (where news sources are limited) while Biden voted in favor of allowing military action.

We mustn’t allow Biden to do this. We have to hold him accountable and demand that he speaks about his foreign-policy past in ways — and only in ways — that paint a truly authentic, complete picture of his record. He can say that he now believes that the war was a mistake, sure. Hell, he can even say that he didn’t approve of every single way that Bush handled every single aspect of it. When he says these things, though, he must also acknowledge some of the facts about his Iraq War legacy that he’s been neglecting to mention. An omission of those, after all, only serves to paint a misleading picture.

In other words?

It’s lying.


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