20 years after the Iraq War, some senators still think it’s worth it
The Senate will mark the 20th anniversary of the US invasion of Iraq this week by voting to rescind the longstanding authorization for military force that green-lighted war, a bipartisan effort to end a badly misguided conflict for which America is still paying today.
Nineteen Republican senators voted with Democrats to move ahead with repealing it Thursday, a largely symbolic move that advocates say is intended to reassert Congress’ authority to declare war. However, it did not touch the broad 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) that has been granted by every presidential administration since 9/11. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks were used to wage war around the world.
There is broad agreement in Congress and among the audience That bad intelligence led to President George W. Bush’s decision to begin air strikes on Iraq on March 19, 2003, which resulted in thousands of American deaths, hundreds of thousands of Iraqi lives, and trillions of US dollars wasted.
But there are still some Republican senators who argue that good things came out of the war and that the whole project was worth it in the end. However, this view was not shared by the newcomers of the Republican Party in Congress, reflecting a change of party under former President Donald Trump who is increasingly suspicious of US involvement abroad, including in Ukraine.
The original vote to authorize the war was 77-23, after a months-long campaign by the Bush administration to publicize its decision to invade Iraq, which was Made in the days after the 9/11 attacks. Administration officials used false and erroneous intelligence to claim that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, including biological, chemical, and possibly nuclear weapons, ready.
Vice President Dick Cheney said in August 2002: “Simply put, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction. There is no doubt that he is amassing them to use against our friends, against our allies, and against us.”
In the days before Congress passed the resolution authorizing the war, Bush himself raised the specter of nuclear annihilation and falsely implied that Iraq was linked to the 9/11 attacks by discussing the supposed connections between Saddam Hussein’s government and al Qaeda. Iraq played no role in the 9/11 attack. UN weapons inspectors were unable to find any evidence of WMD programs prior to the invasion. Subsequently, the United States found no usable biological, chemical, or nuclear weapons, nor any ongoing program to develop them.
But these are lies and insinuations He convinced much of the American public. On the eve of the congressional vote, 79% of the public said they believed Saddam Hussein was close to, or already had, nuclear weapons. While 66% believed that Iraq “helped the terrorists in the September 11 attacks.” Overall, 62% supported the invasion.
Despite, or perhaps because of, this popular support, the Bush administration deeply politicized Congressional approval of the resolution. They made sure to push it in the final weeks of the 2002 midterm elections in order to force Democrats into a public stance before Election Day while running ads targeting them as weak against terrorism or even potential traitors.
Most Senate Democrats voted in favor of the resolution, which was introduced jointly by Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (DS.D.) and Minority Leader Trent Lott (Republic of Miss). The bombing of Iraq was a bipartisan project that involved George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton, after all, from the 1991 Gulf War to Bill Clinton’s 1998 strikes. Many also feared they were on the wrong side of voting on the war, They were also about the 1991 Gulf War resolution.
HuffPost interviewed more than a dozen US senators — some of whom were in Congress on October. 11, 2002, when the authorization to use force against Iraq was voted on. Read their views on the war and its justification below:
senator. Mike Rounds (RS.D.)
Was the invasion the right decision?
With all the information we had, yeah. I was a completely new ruler, I had not even taken the oath yet, but I was elected. And I remember [Health and Human Services Secretary] Tommy Thompson came at that point and visited us and told us about their concerns and about the biological weapons they think exist [Saddam’s] hands. At that point, it wasn’t about whether we were going to lose lives, it was about the extent or magnitude of the loss of life. It was a very lively time. Based on the information we had at the time, I thought it was the right decision…. Those biological weapons were never found, but if they had been found, it would have been a clearly justified war.
To this day, there are unanswered questions about intelligence assessments. I think we need to judge members’ votes and the decisions the administration makes to commit forces based on what intelligence told them at the time, not what we know now.
senator. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.)
Everyone at the time believed, based on the intelligence provided, that there were weapons of mass destruction. This was the justification for the war. I got rid of a terrible dictator. It clearly left behind a struggling Iraq. But I think the real question is, if we had known that there were no weapons of mass destruction, would there have been a war with Iraq? The answer is probably not. but me Don’t believe the people who argued the war song about it. I wasn’t here, but my memories are based on the information they had before, they honestly believed it was there. It wasn’t as if Saddam Hussein was being transparent and doing everything he could to prove that he didn’t. It was non-compliant with all kinds of UN and international requirements. I certainly think it had an impact on our politics. I think the use of force in the future might be more skeptical and more cautious given that experience. But I imagine there are a lot of people in Iraq who are happy that Saddam Hussein is not in charge anymore.
senator. Tom Tellis (RN.C.)
I feel like a lot of good things came out of that war, and there’s still a lot of bad in terms of how destabilizing it was, how destabilizing Iran was there, so we certainly didn’t achieve our goals. The circumstances that led to the management’s decision to go were the ones that preceded me, so I’m not going to the quarterback on Monday morning.
senator. Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.)
In hindsight, training the next day, no, it wasn’t the right thing to do, we all know that. Many people were killed, we lost a lot of money and we stayed there for a long time. It seems we can’t get in and out. We should have come to terms with the oil they had there. I spent a lot of money, and I lost a lot of friends there, too.
senator. John Cornyn (Texas)
senator. Mitt Romney (Utah)
I think the benefit of hindsight is that we were wrong because we went in expecting that we could create a liberal democracy in Iraq, and I feel the same way about Afghanistan. I think we’ve learned that people have to fight for their freedom and that we can’t give it to them on a plate covered in blood.
senator. JFK (R-La.)
senator. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa)
[The U.S. invaded Iraq to] Get rid of the bad guy. I’m glad we did.
[Repealing the Iraq war authorization] It is a good symbol of ending that war. I am disappointed that we cannot end the Afghan war, which has also been going on for 15 years. [Paul is referring to his support for repealing the 2001 AUMF that continues to authorize military force in Afghanistan.]
senator. Lindsey Graham (Republika Srpska)
It appears that the information that was used to enter Iraq was wrong. But here’s what I have to say: It’s an ineffective nascent democracy. This is better than Saddam. The world is better off after Saddam was killed, and with all the struggles with democracy in Iraq, it is better for us that democracy advances in Iraq. We still have soldiers there, and from the big picture, I think the world is always better off when democracies replace dictatorships.
I think the effort to argue after 20 years of hindsight that we were justified in going to Iraq is preposterous. IIt is considered one of the most disastrous non-coercive foreign policy mistakes in our country’s history Or frankly any other.
It was the beginning of putting these kinds of misfortunes on our credit card. What we gained from that, it sounds like you’re risking a lot and not gaining a lot. Because so much treasure and life was lost there… You obviously lose a lot of lives just by getting stuck on the ground, you spend a lot of money doing it.
He did whatever it seemed [it’s] Perhaps it will be difficult to measure net profit. when you do that There must be something you can easily say, hey, we’re better off for it. This may be difficult.
I really appreciate the service of the men and women who have come forward. It has been 20 years since I went to Iraq and Kuwait. So I greatly appreciate their service and I just hope we see stability in that area. The threat from Iran is very real, and Iraq is an important part of that.
senator. Suzanne Collins (R-Maine)
I remember the secretary [Colin] Powell called me the night before the vote and helped persuade me to support the Authorization for Use of Military Force. He was not alone in believing that there were weapons of mass destruction, but that was clearly greatly exaggerated.
Do you regret voting for war?
What I remember is that the management cheated us at that time. George W. Bush and I were governors together during that time. I think what happened there was damage and tragic later.
The war was one of the greatest foreign policy mistakes of a congressional administration in our history. I was Virginia’s lieutenant when they were discussing the war, and I remember why they forced it before the midterm elections… The administration decided, ‘Well, we can do this and boost our chances in the midterm elections. I just had this gut feeling that there had to be a better way to make decisions.
Republicans I know say that has resulted in Iran being much stronger than it would otherwise be. Saddam was a bad man, but Saddam served as a check against Iran, and the vacuum it created in Iraq emboldened Iran and also led, as vacuums do, to the growth of groups like ISIS. I think most people do If it was a secret vote now, if they could go back and make Saddam there and Iran less powerful and ISIS was never born, you would probably have a 100-0 vote on that.