Biden falsely claiming he turned against Iraq War 'the moment' invasion was launched
Joe Biden has given a false account of when he turned against the Iraq War and cited details of a conversation with George W. Bush in 2003 that the former president’s aides and his current spokesman dismiss as wholly untrue.
Biden, the 2020 front-runner, said in the second Democratic presidential debate: “From the moment ‘shock and awe’ started, I was opposed to the effort and outspoken as much as anyone at all in the Congress and administration.”
He amplified the claim this week, adding vivid detail about what he claims Bush told him beforehand.
“He looked me in the eye in the Oval Office,” he told NPR this week, referring to 2002, when he was Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman. “He said he needed the vote to be able to get inspectors into Iraq to determine whether or not Saddam Hussein was engaged in dealing with a nuclear program. He got them in and before you know it, we had ‘shock and awe.’ Immediately, that moment it started, I came out against the war at that moment.”
A spokesman for Bush says Biden’s memory of his White House meetings was “flat wrong.”
But Biden continued to publicly back military action in Iraq for many months after the March 2003, U.S.-led invasion. In a July 2003 Senate floor speech, Biden, by ranking member on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, stood squarely behind the invasion.
“I personally think this job is doable, or I wouldn’t have voted for us going into Iraq in the first place. I think it is doable,” Biden . “And I voted to go into Iraq and I’d vote to do it again.”
Douglas Feith, who was Bush’s undersecretary of defense policy and a key play in war planning, told the Washington Examiner it was clear from mid-2002 that Saddam Hussein’s rejection of weapons inspectors would have to be backed up with U.S.-led military force.
“It’s not credible to me that Bush would have made a commitment along those lines to then-senator Joe Biden,” Feith told the Washington Examiner. “He would not have said this to Biden. That wasn’t the policy of the administration. In cabinet meetings, principal meetings and other meetings I attended, the administration’s policy was clear.”
When asked if the former president would have lied to Biden in order to gain bipartisan support for the Iraq War, Feith gave a resounding: “No.”
Biden was one of the 77 senators who voted in favor of the war — including 29 Democrats. But he was also one of the most enthusiastic backers of the war in Congress.
Right before the war’s start in March 2003, Biden called for the United States to “ let loose the dogs of war.” He said: “I support the president. Diplomacy over avoiding war is dead,” Biden said. “I do not see any alternative. It is not as if we can back away now.”
On the day of the Iraq invasion, March 19, Biden said on CNN that “We voted to give [Bush] the authority to wage that war.” He added, “Now we should step back and support him.”
In the months following the invasion, Biden remained committed to the war. Even in September, almost six months after the invasion, Biden said on CNN that he had no regrets over his decision. Instead, Biden argued that the Bush administration’s tactics following Hussein’s fall was where potential disagreements arose.
“I’m having second thoughts only about the degree of confidence I placed in the administration to know what to do after Saddam was taken down,” he said, before adding that he had “no doubt” if Hussein remained in power, he “would gain access to a tactical nuclear weapon.”
The following year, in April 2004, Biden pushed for an increase of troops to the country, in order to “get things under control.”
“I think yes we need more troops now to get things under control so we will have less of a requirement for troops later,” Biden told Charlie Rose on PBS.
Biden defended his position until November 2005, when, in a Meet the Press appearance, he stated that the war was a “mistake,” and that the Senate gave Bush too much authority to Bush.