In a somewhat unexpected turn of events, last night’s debate in Des Moines opened with an extended segment on the Trump administration’s recent attempt to start another war in the Middle East that saw most Democratic presidential hopefuls trying their hardest to sound like peaceniks. Given the disastrous bipartisan consensus on foreign policy that dominated the politics of the early 2000s, the segment’s tone represented a noted rhetorical shift — even from the infamously hawkish Joe Biden, who has taken to calling his vote to authorize the invasion of Iraq a mistake.
Unfortunately, the former vice president’s take on the events of 2002 and 2003 don’t stop there. With a contemptible assist from former secretary of state John Kerry, Biden has recently taken to rewriting history when it comes to his support for the invasion of Iraq — a pattern he repeated last night when asked by CNN’s Wolf Blitzer about his vote to authorize the invasion:
I said thirteen years ago it was a mistake to give the president the authority to go to war if, in fact, he couldn’t get inspectors into Iraq to stop what — thought to be the attempt to get a nuclear weapon. It was a mistake, and I acknowledged that.
A few moments later, Biden both repeated and added to this framing of the events:
It was a mistake to trust that they weren’t going to go to war. They said they were not going to go to war. They said they were just going to get inspectors in. The world, in fact, voted to send inspectors in and they still went to war. From that point on, I was in the position of making the case that it was a big, big mistake. And from that point on, I’ve voted to — I moved to bring those troops home.
In the former vice president’s new telling of events, he and other Democratic politicians who preferred a multilateral, diplomatic solution were misled by a Bush administration hell-bent on taking America into a war he then promptly set out to oppose.
The facts say something very different. Biden was one of the Iraq invasion’s most zealous boosters — supporting it vocally and publicly throughout 2003 and 2004 — and it was not until a debate with Dick Cheney the following year that he would finally deem his vote to authorize it a “mistake.” In July 2003, some four months into the invasion, Biden could still be heard saying: “It was the right vote then and would be a correct vote today.”
During the debate, no less, the Huffington Post reported on an exchange between then-president George W. Bush and a “leading Democratic senator who later voted to authorize the use of force,” as per a 2005 account written by former Bush press secretary Ari Fleischer:
“I will be with you on condition we level with the American people ― we’ll have to say [in Iraq] awhile.”
“You’re right,” Bush said.
“If you can get it done without staying, we’ll give you the Nobel Peace Prize,” the senator said. “I’ll support you for President,” he added.
That senator’s name was Joe Biden.