Joe Biden’s vote in support of the 2003 Iraq War has haunted him for years — and it just did so again in primetime.
In 2002, then-Sen. Biden voted in favor of the invasion that led to over a decade of fighting, thousands dead, and billions spent.
“I do not believe this is a rush to war,” Biden said that October announcing his vote. “I believe it is a march to peace and security.”
That decision has made the presidential frontrunner a constant target from the party’s left wing, especially its younger members. A May Politico/Morning Consult poll showed 42 percent of voters aged 18 to 29 said they were “less likely” to support Biden because of that vote. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, the Iraq War veteran who gained notoriety during the first Democratic debate Wednesday night, said that Biden made the wrong choice.
It’s no surprise, then, that the former vice president fielded a question Thursday night about his initial Iraq War support and why voters should trust his foreign policy instincts now.
Or at least, it shouldn’t have been a surprise — yet he certainly seemed taken by surprise, as his answer amounted to little more than word salad: “I was responsible for getting 150,000 combat troops out of Iraq — my son was one of them,” he said.
Biden then went on to say that he wants US troops out of Afghanistan — even though his administration continued that war — and that the US should work with allies to defeat terrorists around the world.
Okay, let’s unpack this.
First, President Barack Obama gave Biden the Iraq portfolio, with an express mandate to bring all the troops home as soon as was viable. But the US left Iraq not because Biden solved all of Iraq’s ills. It was because Iraq’s then-Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki was fed up with having US troops in his country and effectively forced them out in 2011.
Second, many experts believe that the Obama administration’s withdrawal of US troops helped create a vacuum that led to the creation of ISIS, the terrorist group that took over large parts of Syria and Iraq soon after. Yes, Maliki is the main reason why US troops had to leave, but Biden had long backed the prime minister.
What’s most stunning, though, is just how bad Biden’s answer was to a question he had to know would come up during the debate. Biden has a checkered foreign policy past, and his authorization vote for the Iraq War is its blackest mark.
If that’s all he has to say in response, then Iraq will continue to be an Achilles’ heel of his candidacy.