Associated Press/John Locher
- Former Vice President Joe Biden said in an NPR interview that he opposed the Iraq War shortly after it began in March 2003, but he didn't publicly come out against it until 2005 — two years later.
- Biden has sought to walk back his controversial vote as a US Senator from Delaware to support the war in late 2002, telling NPR, "Immediately, that moment it started, I came out against the war at that moment."
- His comments in the months after the war began contradict his interview.
- In July 2003, Biden — then the ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee — struck an optimistic tone on the war's direction in a CNN interview.
- Biden has been strongly criticized for the vote throughout the 2020 Democratic primary.
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The leading Democratic presidential candidate voted to authorize the use of military force against Iraq in late 2002 as a US Senator from Delaware. He's been strongly criticized for that vote to support the war throughout the Democratic primary.
Biden has walked back his vote and now says he believes it was a mistake. He told NPR, "Immediately, that moment it started, I came out against the war at that moment."
At this past July's Democratic debate, Biden chalked up his decision to "bad judgment." He added: "From the moment 'shock and awe' started, from that moment, I was opposed to the effort, and I was outspoken as much as anyone at all in the Congress and the administration." ("Shock and Awe" was how the Bush administration called the initial wave of airstrikes on the Iraqi capital of Baghdad.)
However, Biden didn't publicly swing against the war until 2005 — two years after it began.
In July 2003, Biden — then the ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee — struck an optimistic tone on the war's direction in a CNN interview.
"There are a lot of successes ... We have town councils set up. There is actual nascent democracy beginning to flourish there. The oil fields didn't get blown up. There is relative peace in the north," Biden said.
NPR also reported that Biden staunchly defended his vote in an appearance at the Brookings Institution on July 31: "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."
Less than a month later, the United Nations headquarters in the country was destroyed in a suicide bombing, which killed the UN's top representative in the country and 22 other UN employees, and further plunged the country into violence.
In the NPR interview, Biden said his vote to back the war was based on a commitment from President George W. Bush that he was only seeking to pressure Iraq into allowing weapons inspectors back into the country to investigate whether it had a nuclear program.
"[Bush] looked me in the eye in the Oval Office. He said he needed the vote to be able to get inspectors into Iraq to determine whether or not Saddam Hussein was engaged in dealing with a nuclear program," Biden told NPR. "He got them in and before you know it, we had 'shock and awe.'"
Bush spokesperson Freddy Ford denied Biden's chain of events, telling NPR, "While I'm sure it's just an innocent mistake of memory, but this recollection is flat wrong."
The Iraq War commenced in March 2003, after Bush cited the Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein's efforts to acquire weapons of mass destruction and his links with Al-Qaeda, arguing it posed a direct threat to the United States. But no weapons were found and no evidence emerged of Iraq's ties to the terror group once led by Osama Bin Laden.
The leading 2020 Democratic presidential candidate defended his long foreign policy record, saying in the NPR interview, "I think my record has been good."