In 2002, Joe Biden was the chair of the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee and presided over hearings on a potential war against Iraq. He refused to call dissenting witnesses, including the two former heads of the United Nations’ Iraq program, who had resigned from their posts in protest of the economic and military campaigns against Iraq and publicly stated that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction. Biden sought to portray himself as an objective arbiter presiding over a study group on whether to go to war with Iraq, though the hearings often weaved between discussing various military options, including regime change, rather than questioning whether war was necessary or wise.
Biden voted in favor of a 2002 resolution that gave President George W. Bush the authority to use military force against Iraq. He argued at the time that the vote would, by expressing toughness, actually preclude a war from taking place. “I do not believe this is a rush to war. I believe it is a march to peace and security,” Biden said at the time. “I believe that failure to overwhelmingly support this resolution is likely to enhance the prospects that war will occur.”
Months after the war began, Biden continued to defend the invasion and his vote. “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,” Biden said in July 2003. “It was a right vote then, and it’d be a correct vote today.” Later in 2003, as invasion morphed into occupation, Biden began to express reservations, arguing that NATO should assume jurisdiction over the occupation. In November 2003, Biden told CNN, “We have to change the complexion of this force structure [in Iraq] so we don’t become an Algeria figure like the French did, liberate and then occupy. We don’t want to be the occupiers.”
Biden would soon claim that his 2002 Senate vote in favor of the war was based on a private commitment from Bush that he wouldn’t use it as a pretext to invade the country. Since then, Biden has repeatedly and falsely claimed that he opposed the invasion as soon as it began.