Why Did Bernie Sanders Vote to Fund the Iraq War?

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.

Bill Sanders’ Vote
H.R. 1559: Emergency Wartime Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2003 Nay
H.R. 3289: Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act for Defense and for the Reconstruction of Iraq and Afghanistan, 2004 Nay
H.R. 1268: Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act for Defense, the Global War on Terror, and Tsunami Relief, 2005 Nay
H.R. 4939: Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act for Defense, the Global War on Terror, and Hurricane Recovery, 2006 Yea
H.R. 5631: Department of Defense Appropriations Act, 2007 Yea
H.R. 2642: Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2008 Yea
H.R. 4986: National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008 Nay
H.R. 5658: National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2009 Nay
H.R. 2647: National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2010 Nay
H.R. 6523: National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2011 Consent*

*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.



45 responses to “Why Did Bernie Sanders Vote to Fund the Iraq War?

  1. Because while our troops were there they were in dire need of all supplies. We were sending toilet paper, hand wipes, bed sheets and other supplies not provided by our power puppet corporate run government. Bernie was not a puppet he was trying to insure the survival of our kids. Victims of corporate greed.

    Liked by 2 people

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  4. Reblogged this on LIBERTY ROAD MEDIA and commented:
    Last night on Facebook, I was asked this question: if Sanders is so against the bloated military budget, why does he keep voting in favor of it? My knee-jerk answer was essentially, “nuance,” i.e., defense spending gets tied to other things. I did a little research, and then answered a little more coherently:
    ” Consider HR 2642. It contained an expansion of GI Bill benefits that he co-sonsored. But it was attached to Iraq War funding, so he voted yea. I should point that the HR 2642 I’m talking about above was from 2008, and is but one example of this aparent contradiction between Sanders’ rhetoric and voting record. I think that he’s actually quite consistent between record and rhetoric when viewed in the milieu of the tit-for-tat, compromise world of Congress.A good analysis that confirms my first impression above can be found here…” with a link to this excellent article…

    Liked by 2 people

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  6. PW: Thank you very much for all information here! we all need to be inform and get the facts out and loud! thanks again. We need please to continuing we to spread the word plain and simple! I just wish more young people and adults get interested in to read and get inform about what’s happening! I am just a single mother that trying to teach my kids to get involve and inform! I am all for BERNIE a man of Integrity with a pure soul!

    Liked by 2 people

  7. “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.”

    Nothing says consistent logic like saying two complete opposites are equally correct. You are a master of rationality.

    Wait, did I say rationality? I meant doublespeak. My bad.

    Despite your weak attempt to justify Sanders blatant hypocrisy, he still voted Yes to fund the wars. You can spin it however you wish, it’s still spin. Michael J. Fox would be proud (or would you be more like Charlie Sheen)?

    He voted to fund the occupations, he endorsed and defended the same candidates who are more than happy to cater to the Military Industrial Complex. He added to the problem.

    If you are going to support him, at least be honest about his hypocrisy. Stop trying to fake reality. Get over your personal bias, and face the truth.

    PS. You forgot to mention a few pro-war bills Sanders voted yes on.


    • So Sanders should’ve voted against funding for veterans’ programs in these bills? Then you’d be whining about his ‘hypocrisy’ on veterans’ issues instead of on the war issue.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Why did Sanders fund the Iraq War???

    Could it be because soldiers die when you send them to a battle zone without food, and armor, and helmets, and flack jackets, and fuel, and ammunition, and……


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  10. Well that explains that, good job. Now explain why he’s sinking money into the eternal boondoggle known as the F-35. You made a pretty good case why he “had” to fund war, now explain to me why he’s consistently voting to fund a fighter jet that’s never ready and can’t ever beat a 40 year old F-14 in a dogfight. Is it because Bernie is as much a shill to military industrial complex as it turned out Obama was? Until he stops support for weapons programs like these I will assume that Lockheed Martin has him by the junk as much as any other politician.


    • Bernie Sanders didn’t ‘have’ to vote for war funding. He could have voted no consistently and decided a symbolic nay vote was more important than helping actual veterans.


      • Same rhetoric as every one else. I get it, he wanted a piece of this epic money hole for his constituents, it’s not uncommon in the political field. But if he gets his way than soon every American is going to be his constituent. Is he going to resign that the military industrial complex is an unstoppable force and it’s “going to happen” at that point as he just claimed he did in this case?


      • You can’t vote against funding the F-35 without voting against money for the V.A. so I guess you would have preferred he vote against funding the V.A. just to make a point about the F-35?


      • Yes I would vote against it out of principle. If it’s going to pass anyways than let every one else make a fool of them selves, if you are a swing vote, introduce an alternate bill regarding V.A not attached to the gag fighter and let other politicians make fools of them selves if the oppose it. Any way it seems to me that Bernie may not use the military as aggressively as the last 2 presidents, but he seems just as complacent in giving weapons and military contractors of all sorts money, and is unsustainable at this point let alone if he’s able to implement any of his massive social programs.


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  14. Where did you get your information about why Sander’s voted yea for war funding? Did this come from the senator himself, or is this just speculation? Staunch Bernie supporter here, I just want to make sure I am distributing accurate information about Bernie. I actually speculated that he has to vote yes to fund the wars or the troops will be left out to dry, which makes sense. Repatriating the troops costs money itself. Defunding the troops while still in enemy territory sounds disastrous to me.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Statements his office put out concerning H.R. 5631: Department of Defense Appropriations Act, 2007 and H.R. 2642: Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2008 (they are archived over at VoteSmart.org). I couldn’t find a statement for H.R. 4939 (109th): Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act for Defense, the Global War on Terror, and Hurricane Recovery, 2006 but that passed the House 351-67 with most Democrats voting for it and the only conceivable explanation I could come up with was the fact that Katrina funding was rolled into the bill. Voting against Katrina disaster relief funds I think would be very pretty hard to justify.


  15. Well this is true about EVERY bill voted on at ANY time in Congress. It’s ALWAYS nuanced. There’s aways give and take and compromise. And, of course, true for both Bernie and Hillary’s voting record. Why only absolve Bernie? Bernie is the one that continually calls for people to stand their ground and remain uncompromising and purely extreme left. Well, that’s not how government works. It is OF the people and represents ALL the people (even super Right heads of awful corporations). It makes sense that so many politicians (and their votes) are a little more center, in order to leave as few people out as possible.


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  17. The mere fact that Sanders voting in favor of funding the war in Iraq & Afghanistan shows he is another war-mongering NeoCon. Ron Paul voted against the war funding and got the majority vote from the veterans at the time during his presidential bid. Obviously you show support for the troops by not leaving them in harms way. Bernie could have sponsored his own separate bill for funding the VA so the counter arguments don’t have any merit. Besides, US troops were only sent to Afghanistan to guard the opium fields so the CIA could send their handlers to collect harvest & ship it out across the globe.


    Add to the fact that a lot of the US war funds Bernie sent there ended up in the hands of the Afghan insurgents


    I’d love to here from Bernie supports on this subject b/c it only scratches the surface when it comes to the shady business of US interventionism abroad


    • Ron Paul voted against expanding education benefits for returning GIs and against providing housing assistance to very low-income veterans, earning himself a dismal 41% rating from the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, so fuck him!

      Liked by 1 person

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