Michael Arria’s widely read but rarely analyzed Alternet article “Bernie Sanders’ Troubling History of Supporting US Military Violence Abroad” mentions in passing:
“While it’s true he voted against the Iraq War, he also voted in favor of authorizing funds for that war and the one in Afghanistan.”
Arria’s statement is correct but also distorts Sanders’ stance on funding the Iraq war by omission. His voting record on the bills that funded the Iraq war show that he voted against them more often than he voted for them. Additionally, his ‘yea’ votes show that there were other considerations at play.
*Passed in the Senate by unanimous consent rather than a yea-or-nay vote.
The Bush administration, backed by a Republican-controlled House and Senate, made a nasty habit of funding its disastrous occupation of Iraq on an emergency basis in order to minimize Congressional scrutiny, circumvent legal limits on the federal government’s debt ceiling, and understate the true cost of the war. The first time Sanders voted ‘yea’ to an Iraq war spending bill came in 2006 when the bill included funding for Hurricane Katrina relief efforts. The second time he voted ‘yea’ was when an amendment he inserted into the bill giving a $1 million grant to the Vermont Department of Veterans Affairs (the VA) to help returning veterans cope with their health care and mental health needs upon returning home. The third time he voted ‘yea’ was when the legislation incorporated a massive expansion of G.I. Bill benefits that Sanders co-sponsored and the Bush administration opposed guaranteeing full scholarships to veterans, including activated National Guard troops and reservists, with three years of service attending any public, in-state university and expanded benefits for students at private colleges and for graduate schools. The last time he voted ‘yea’ was when he gave his consent, along with the entire U.S. Senate, to fund the Iraq war’s end as President Barack Obama removed all U.S. troops from the country.
So is it correct to say that Sanders voted in favor of authorizing funds for the Iraq war? Yes it is.
But it is equally correct to say the exact opposite: Sanders voted against authorizing funds for the Iraq war.
The point here is this: whenever you come across an article that makes some visceral, outrageous claim about something Bernie Sanders allegedly did or said, don’t jump to any hard and fast conclusions for or against him without first studying what he did and why. Then and only then can a sound political judgment be made.
Perhaps the most important metric for assessing whether these votes were right or wrong is to figure out how many living, breathing veterans would he have helped by voting against war funding bills that contained pro-veteran amendments? The answer is zero. And so while peace activists are lining up to condemn his campaign, veterans are lining up to join it.