- Former Vice President Joe Biden called for an end to “forever wars” in a speech on foreign policy in New York City on Thursday, but did not acknowledge his own role in starting such conflicts.
- Biden voted in favor of the Iraq War as a senator, but didn’t mention that in his speech.
- Biden’s votes for the Iraq war and the Afghanistan invasion are likely to haunt him with an American electorate that has largely turned against these wars.
- The former vice president also called for an end for US support to the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen, but did not mention that this support began under the Obama administration while he was vice president.
- Biden’s speech was a profound rebuke of President Donald Trump’s foreign policy, but did little in the way of analyzing the vice president’s own shortcomings in his record on global affairs. This could hurt him on the campaign trail.
NEW YORK CITY – The first big round of applause during Joe Biden’s lengthy foreign policy speech in Manhattan on Thursday came when he called for an end to US support for the Saudi-led coalition in the Yemen conflict.
But Biden left out the fact that US support for the Saudis in that war, which has fostered the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, began while he was vice president. Indeed, nearly as soon as the conflict began, the Obama administration announced its support for its “regional partners” against the Iran-backed Houthi rebels.
Former President Barack Obama would later express concerns about civilian casualties, and toward the end of his tenure barred the sale of precision-guided munitions, or smart bombs, to the Saudis. But the war was well underway by that point, and President Donald Trump ultimately reversed that move.
Since the war began in 2015, over 90,000 people have been killed, according to the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED).
With that said, Trump has taken an exceptionally defiant stance in terms of maintaining support for the Saudis, pushing against bipartisan calls for the US to rethink its relationship with the kingdom following the brutal killing of Jamal Khashoggi. Biden mentioned this in his speech on Thursday.
The former vice president in his address said, “It’s long past time we end the forever wars.” In the process, however, he ignored his role in launching them in both his capacity as a senator and the vice president.
Biden voted in favor of the Iraq War as well as the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force that led to the invasion of Afghanistan. These votes are likely to haunt Biden with an American electorate that has largely turned against these wars – especially the Iraq vote, which the former vice president was pressured on in the first 2020 debate in late June.
Nearly two decades later, the US military is still active in both countries.
Biden in 2005 said the Iraq War was a “mistake,” but mainly placed responsibility for the disastrous aftermath of the invasion on former President George W. Bush.
The former vice president is currently the 2020 Democratic frontrunner and is running against members of Congress who fought in the wars he approved.
Ahead of the speech, Washington state Gov. Jay Inslee, who’s also running for president, called out Biden for his vote in favor of the Iraq War.
“I think the vice president owes an explanation to the American people about why he made that horrendous mistake,” Inslee said.
Echoing this view, Matt Duss, foreign policy adviser to Sen. Bernie Sanders, after Biden’s speech tweeted, “Did Biden really get through that entire speech without mentioning the Iraq war? Did that just happen?” Sanders, who was a member of the House of Representatives when the Iraq War began, voted against it.
The US invasion of Iraq in 2003 was preemptive and based on faulty intelligence – it was also unilateral and regarded as illegal by much of the international community. This didn’t seem to faze Biden at the time.
“I will vote for the Lieberman-Warner amendment to authorize the use of military force against Iraq,” Biden said in October 2002 as he argued in favor of the Iraq War. “I do not believe this is a rush to war. I believe it is a march to peace and security.”
Roughly 16 years later with over 5,000 US troops still in harm’s way in Iraq, Biden took a much different tone:
“I will never hesitate to protect the American people including when necessary the use of force… but the use of force should be a last resort, not a first,” Biden said, espousing a view he apparently did not hold when he gave a thumbs up to a war that helped destabilize a region and contributed to the rise of the Islamic State group.