Joe Biden Hammered After Falsely Claiming He Opposed Iraq War

President Bush signs a resolution authorizing the use of force against Iraq, Wednesday, Oct. 16, 2002, in the East Room of the White House. Bush summoned dozens of lawmakers to the White House to accept formally Congress' go-ahead for military action against Iraq, hoping that a tableau of a unified …
AP Photo/Ron Edmonds

Former Vice President Joe Biden is being hammered by mainstream media outlets and even former President Obama’s chief strategist David Axelrod after falsely claiming he opposed the Iraq War as a senator.

Axelrod tweeted Thursday evening: “It’s one thing to have a well-earned rep for goofy, harmless gaffes. It’s another if you serially distort your own record. @JoeBiden is in danger of creating a more damaging meme.”

Biden first made the claim that he opposed the Iraq War “immediately” after it began during an NPR interview this week, when asked about his vote to go to war in Iraq and how he handled the withdrawal from the country in 2011.

Biden claimed that then-President George W. Bush promised him he was not going to war in Iraq and needed his vote to get inspectors into the country to determine whether then-dictator Saddam Hussein had an illicit nuclear weapons program.

“He got them in, and before we know it, we had a shock and awe. Immediately, the moment it started, I came out against the war at that moment,” he said.

During the NPR interview Biden also defended his efforts to withdraw all U.S. troops from Iraq in 2011, which is widely credited with allowing the rise of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in the country and a return of U.S. troops several years later.

“When the president and I — President Obama and I won, we sat there and the entire national security team came in and said, well, we have a plan for Iraq. And the president turned and said, no, Joe will handle Iraq. Work with Joe. So from that point on, he gave me the objective of getting American combat troops out of Iraq, which we did. And it was the right decision,” he said.

Glossing over the rise of ISIS, he continued, “And – but we also – I was asked to help put together a coalition of 65 countries to deal with al-Qaida, and I was able to do that.”

His comments were so blatantly false, NPR’s Asma Khalid provided an instant fact-check:

Biden told us that he opposed the war in Iraq from the moment it started, but the reality is murky. His campaign clarifies that he was critical of the Bush administration’s strategy and intelligence failures early on. But Biden stood by his vote authorizing force in Iraq for a while after the war began. In public comments made months after the invasion, he said he would have voted the same way again. Biden publicly said his vote was a mistake as early as 2005, but not immediately when the war began in 2003.

The progressive news site Slate noted that Biden’s “version of events is so twisted that the very next sentence of the NPR story starts debunking the idea that Biden was antiwar.”

The fact-checking website Politifact ruled Biden’s comments as “False.” It said: “Is it true that Biden immediately came out against the war the moment it started? No.” It added:

Biden’s recounting of his position doesn’t match the public comments he made right before and after the war started. During that time, Biden acknowledged frustrations with how the United States was heading into war, but said he supported the president. Biden for years stood by his vote for a resolution that paved the way for the war, even though he also criticized the Bush administration’s strategy — saying the United States went to war too soon, without enough troops, and without enough countries supporting the effort.

As Politifact noted, Biden, in October 2002, voted in favor of authorizing Bush to enforce all relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions by military force if necessary.

During a March 19, 2003, interview with CNN, as U.S. troops headed to Iraq, Biden said, according to Politifact, “I support the president. I support the troops. We should make no distinction…We should have one voice going out to the whole world that we’re together. There’s plenty to criticize this president for. Let’s get this war done.”

Biden also supported the war after it began, saying on March 27, 2003, “God willing, this war will continue to go well… casualties on all sides will be few… and victory will be swift…And working with the international community, we will put Iraq on the path to a pluralistic and democratic society.”

And in July 2003 at a Brookings Institution event, Biden said,

“Nine months ago, I voted with my colleagues to give the president of the United States of America the authority to use force, and I would vote that way again today.” He did, however, criticize the Bush administration, arguing that the U.S. went to war “too soon” and with “too few troops.

But he would again argue in a 2004 op-ed that his vote was justified, but would blame the Bush administration for going to war.

It was not until November 2005 — three years later — that he would say his vote was a mistake.

“It was a mistake,” he said during an NBC News Meet the Press interview. “It was a mistake to assume the president would use the authority we gave him properly. … We gave the president the authority to unite the world to isolate Saddam. And the fact of the matter is, we went too soon. We went without sufficient force. And we went without a plan.”

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