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Let's have it out about the AUMF, once and for all

vastleft's picture

Crossposted at Democratic Underground.

Many Democrats who will play key roles in the new administration voted for the AUMF.

In another thread, someone posted this scathing view of the Clintons' history re: Iraq, from Scott Ritter who was outspokenly correct about the lack of justification for the war.

Biden's history of hawkishness on Iraq is described here.

John Kerry, Evan Bayh, and others who voted for the AUMF have been suggested for possible roles in the Obama administration.

Obama, spoke out against the war, but acknowledged that he doesn't know how he would have voted if he were in the shoes of those Senators:

...I’m always careful to say that I was not in the Senate, so perhaps the reason I thought it was such a bad idea was that I didn’t have the benefit of U.S. intelligence. And, for those who did, it might have led to a different set of choices.

Questions that might be illuminating to share thoughts about include...

How did it look to you at the time?

How does it look to you in hindsight (not whether the vote was a good idea, obviously, but whether their rationales were reasonable, forgivable, etc.?)

When all is said and done, what should we think about those who supported it?

What are the best explanations you've heard from these Senators and others for their votes? I recall that John Edwards was just plain contrite about it, but were any of the others?

Why did so many of us know that handing Bush the authorization to start a war would be abused, but these folks who represented us didn't?

Did any of these Senators say "hey, wait a minute, I gave Bush the big stick to enforce inspections, but why is he kicking out inspectors now... especially when they're not finding anything"?

Any and all thoughtful thoughts and links to illuminating source material would be welcome.

No votes yet


Ga6th's picture
Submitted by Ga6th on

who voted for Obama based on his supposed oppostion to the war should just admit that they were duped and move on. It was obvious from his senate votes that he had no problem with Iraq and is now going to continue Bush's policy there.

There's really nothing to discuss beyond that imo.

basement angel's picture
Submitted by basement angel on

There isn''t a single mention in the press that covered the event, and his campaign went so far as to fake footage of him delivering the speech. There were, bizarrely, busted faking it in plain view of the entire world but no one cared.

I simply do not believe that if Obama gave that speech at that rally, that there wouldn't be one single photograph or videotape. I don't think I''ve been to a major rally in the past 10 years where I haven't seen video cameras every where I looked.

Valhalla's picture
Submitted by Valhalla on

they chose to fetishize Obama's one speech while demonizing Hillary for her vote. To me it was the excuse, not the reason. It was an excellent excuse, for all that, since it could be accompanied by plaintive cries to save the lives of our brave soldiers!

During the primaries all I heard about was her AUMF vote, and how she could 'never' be forgiven for it. But when Obama started backing off his promise to get the troops out of Iraq in 16 months? When he picked Biden as VP? When the Democrats (the Democrats!) started banging the drums to ramp up Afghanistan? Crickets.

I haven't heard (in RL or virtual) anyone discuss the war as an important consideration for months, except here and some of the commenters at TC, who have children in the service. Would the proverbial aliens landing even know we were at war, if they ingested the MSM over the past 5 months or so?

amberglow's picture
Submitted by amberglow on

this link is about the new administration but: "...because he's a Democrat, there's more pressure on him to prove his toughness. ...
That is, the only way to be a liberal on foreign policy is to use as your proxies tough-minded hawks like Clinton, and for that matter Emanuel, whom it will be hard to accuse of, say, not taking Israel's security seriously. ..."

-- Hawkish Hints --

Besides the actual Democratic hawks (and there are a lot) there's always a rightwing and media push for Democrats to prove how butch they are by supporting all military things always--or else they're painted as weak and dirty hippies, etc.

Add in all the post-9/11 "terror!!!! terror!!!!" bs, and all the lies about "wmds", and "alerts" at the time, etc, and you have a situation where they wanted to be seen as actively doing something and being tough too--and went along (just as they're all still going along with whatever the administration screams about, whether it's war or wall st bailouts).

vastleft's picture
Submitted by vastleft on


Obama wasn't in the Senate at the time, he said the right things, and there is ample reason to believe he might have voted for it (even he thinks so). He has frequently misrepresented that it was during his Senate Campaign, so that doesn't speak so well to his integrity. And many of his followers have been bizarre hypocrites demonizing Hillary for her vote and giving everyone else a pass. That's all there is to that.

But what of those who did vote for it? Did they fuck up, and why? How did they act during the last stages of the run-up to the war, and should it give us pause about the centrist / right-centrist makeup of Obama's foreign policy team (and his judgment in building it that way)?

And most importantly, did they learn from it? How do we know?

amberglow's picture
Submitted by amberglow on

since none of them have really suffered for it (except Hillary), they obviously haven't learned a thing, i'd say. As long as people were and are still willing to re-elect them--after that vote and all the many others that still harm us so--then they'll never learn, i'd say.

Submitted by jawbone on

seemed logical and made sense--as coming from a NY senator. At that time, emotions were still pretty raw all over the country, sometimes irrationally higher the farther from Ground Zero one went. But being from NY may have had an effect on Hillary's decision. Or she may have simply been playing it politically safe. That I can't know. And I may be rationalizing her behavior to myself.

I can read her words from her speech about her vote at the time and they do still make sense to me. Were I in her place, would it have been possible to vote No?? The Congress Critters were being given some heavy duty propaganda lies by BushCo.

One question--I'm not aware of Biden ever rethinking his stands on the invasion? Has he, and I missed it? (He wasn't always the highest on my read about list.)

Hillary did say she would not have done what Bush did. Period. But, now, if she's working for Obama...?

Still, it's Brennan who worries me the most. What does that say about Obama's thinking? Yikes.

basement angel's picture
Submitted by basement angel on

The election was two weeks away and Dems were going to lose the Senate - we already knew that. If the AUMF failed, it would simply return in January with the Senate under Republican control. I think she voted for the only action that had any possibility of stopping the war. If the Pubs wrote the bill in January, there would be no demands for UN involvement. So maybe, just maybe, if it passed in October, Blix would have a shot at disarming Hussein before Bush invaded. Maybe. At least, it kept a door open.

And Hans Blix was lobbying for the bill. He was quite confident that with a threat of force at hand, he could force unfettered inspections and disarm the guy once and for all. He was, of course, correct about that. As the vote drew near, Hussein gave Blix pretty much everything he wanted. Bush invaded anyway.

It's a good vote but one that is almost impossible to explain without sounding like you're making excuses.

admin's picture
Submitted by admin on

was entirely manufactured. That's easy to see in retrospect, since if principle or policy was involved, we'd have heard about at the time of Powell's endorsement, to give but one example. Or Biden's selection.

amberglow's picture
Submitted by amberglow on


"... What do we do?

The answer he gives is: “My suggestion is that we should, and what I have attempted to do, and I will not speak for Dick Lugar, who is a close friend and whom – which will shock you all, we agree on almost everyone of these major issues – is to weigh in on a side of an incredibly divided administration.” The explanation that follows seems pretty incoherent to me, but Biden’s basic take is that the administration is deeply divided between a reasonable Powell faction and a crazy faction. ..."

badger's picture
Submitted by badger on

It isn't one I believe in myself, but I can see some of the AUMF voters feeling that way.,

At the time, Bush was at or near 90% approval ratings, the GOP made Iraq a big issue in the 2002 election, and maybe it was even possible to be so naive as to believe that Bush just wanted the AUMF for leverage. That's a political calculation, and we're talking here about politicians who want to live to fight another day (and even, to some extent, reflecting the wishes of the electorate - a lot of people supported going to war),

Except in the aftermath, when Bush had a 25% approval rating, anti-war sentiment was palpable in the 2006 election, and the results of the AUMF were known, the Dems who voted for the AUMF (and Obama) acted as if it were still 2002, even after they had a (slim) majority in Congress. It's hard for me to swallow political calculation as a justification for thousands of American and hundreds of thousands of Iraqi lives lost, but it's impossible to tolerate when keeping the war going is the wrong side of the political calculation.

amberglow's picture
Submitted by amberglow on

and i think they also believed that it would be quick and easy -- that's what they were told, at least-- and they certainly weren't listening to all us protestors or any anti-war people at all.

they've never been profiles in courage at the best of times -- and they weren't then -- or now.

Damon's picture
Submitted by Damon on

A few thoughts that have been flying around my head since the beginning of the war:

- On Obama, his war stance is one of the most contrived positions I've ever seen. As has been mentioned by many, he was not in the Senate and not running for Senate at the time he came out against it. As an Illinois state senator from Chicago, it would have been amazing if he hadn't vocally came out against it. I'll try and find numbers, but if I remember correctly, support for the war was nearly split evenly at the eve of the war, and the opposition was obviously much higher in urban areas like Chicago, at the time. So, there was absolutely nothing risky or heroic about his stance given his political station, at the time. He makes it sound as if he were a sage in a lost world on this war issue, and he was anything but. He was just one of many politicians of urban areas that had the safety and advantage to be against the war. I was also against the war from the beginning and what he said turned out to be largely correct, but I don't hold myself up as a hero.

- Those legislators that did vote against the war don't get any pass from me. Some were simply scared, while others were for it because they'd thought it'd be a cake walk, while still others (but definitely a smaller group) honestly believed that Iraq was planning to harm its neighbors. None of these was a legitimate excuse for war, IMO, though. My stance was that even assuming that Sadaam had WMD, so did a lot of other more unstable and dangerous countries, and that it hardly made sense to launch a full-scale against Iraq of all of the places a war could have been contrived for.

But, ultimately, the blame goes to the men that contrived the war. The ultimate blame goes on the deceiver, not the deceived. The Congress did not write up this war. They should have been a helluva better check against the Imperial president, but ultimately it was the personal motives of the president that rammed this war through.

Suzie's picture
Submitted by Suzie on

would itemize all the reasons people thought Obama was superior to Hillary, including the AUMF vote, so that we could now see how none of that matters anymore. In other words, people were played. She's abominable because she voted for AUMF? She has little foreign experience; she just had teas overseas? She will do or say anything? Hey, but she's not such a monster that she can't be Secretary of State.

Suzie's picture
Submitted by Suzie on

I'll bookmark this. Btw, it's my first time commenting after months of reading. It's very exciting.