In October of 2002, right before off-year elections for Congress, the Senate and the House of Representatives passed an Authorization for the Use of Military Force against Iraq. Not a formal declaration of war as required by The Constitution, the AUMF was used as the legal basis for a massive WMD attack – 2700 Tomahawk missiles and 20,000 precision guided weapons – followed by an invasion by U.S. infantry and armored divisions.
President Bush, Vice-President Cheney and other Republican leaders pushed for war on Iraq, with claims that the Hussein regime provided support for Islamic terrorists, like those who carried out the attack on the World Trade Center. The Bush team also claimed that the Iraqi government possessed “weapons of mass destruction.” Administration spokesmen defined WMD to include atomic weapons, but also chemical and biological weapons. National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice, admitting uncertainty about whether Iraq had a nuclear weapons program, warned that “We don’t want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud.”
The U.S. invasion of Iraq resulted in hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians losing their lives, more being wounded, and the destruction of many neighborhoods and public facilities. More than 4000 American soldiers and contractors lost their lives, and more than 40,000 Americans sustained life-changing injuries. The cost of the war to American taxpayers continues to mount, along with interest on the money borrowed to cover the costs that exceed the tax revenues collected.
In the lead-up to the vote on the AUMF, President Bush along with Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Sen. John McCain and others used the Republican Party to push for a pre-emptive attack on Iraq, a country which had not attacked the United States. When Congress passed the AUMF in October 2002, an overwhelming majority of Republicans voted in favor. Even so, Bush needed votes from Democrats to pass the bill.
At the time of the vote, the U.S. Senate included 50 Democrats, 49 Republicans and 1 Independent. 48 Republican Senators voted for the Authorization for the Use of Military Force; without Democrat votes, it would have failed. Democrats split, with 29 voting yes, and 21 voting against war; 1 Republican and 1 Independent voted no, so the result was 77 yes, 23 no.
Democrats who voted for war with Iraq included Joseph Lieberman, Joe Biden, John Kerry, John Edwards and Sen. Hilary Clinton. If Senate Democrats had voted solidly in opposition to the AUMF, it would have stopped the military intervention in Iraq. Unless, of course, President Bush had authorized intervention with an unconstitutional executive order. By voting “Yes” Senator Clinton, Sen. Kerry, Sen. Biden and other Democrats provided the margin of victory for Ameican’s first pre-emptive war.
Senator Clinton’s vote for the Iraq War does matter. Clinton and other Senate Democrats provided votes needed for Bush to get his authorization for a pre-emptive attack, for a war that we continue to pay for.
Hilary Clinton’s support for the second war in Iraq is in line with Bill Clinton’s support for the first war against Iraq, undertaken in 1991 under leadership of President George H W Bush. Then Governor Bill Clinton was so committed to the Iraq War that he picked Sen. Al Gore for Vice-President specifically because he had voted for the war. After taking office as President, Bill Clinton maintained the policy of bombing Iraq to punish it for violations of the 1991 cease-fire; observors noted that when the media reported on Monica Lewinsky, President Clinton would order a bombing run over Iraq or Yugoslavia to divert people’s attention from his ongoing scandal.
Sen. Gore was so committed to the Iraq War that in 2000, as the nominee for President, he picked Sen. Joe Liebermann as his running mate because he too supported the Iraq War.
A vote for Hilary Clinton for President is a vote to continue the Bush/Clinton policy of military intervention in the Middle East. A vote for Gary Johnson, Libertarian for President, is a vote against international interventionism, and for a foreign policy of peace and free trade.