Joe Biden said in an interview Monday that he “immediately” opposed the Iraq War despite publicly supporting the invasion and longterm troop presence at the time.
Speaking with NPR while campaigning in Iowa, the former vice president addressed criticism of his foreign policy record, including when it comes to Iraq. Biden said that he thinks his “record has been good” and claimed that he only voted in October 2002 to authorize the use of military force in Iraq based on then-President George W. Bush’s assurance that he would not actually go to war.
“[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 recalled. “He got them in and before you know it, we had ‘shock and awe.'”
Biden went on to assert that he “immediately” opposed the war after the U.S. invaded starting in March 2003.
“That moment it started, I came out against the war at that moment,” he said.
He said his mistake was in “trusting the president to keep his word on something like that.”
Biden previously claimed to have opposed the Iraq War from the beginning. At the Democratic debate in July, he said: “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.”
However, Bush spokesperson Freddy Ford told NPR that Biden’s anecdote is an “innocent mistake of memory, [and] this recollection is flat wrong.”
"Immediately, that moment it started, I came out against the war at that moment," Biden told NPR about the Iraq war.
But in multiple public remarks made after the invasion began in 2003, Biden openly supported the effort. https://t.co/1d1F5obOle
— NPR Politics (@nprpolitics) September 3, 2019
It was a long time before Joe Biden opposed the Iraq War
In fact, both before and after Bush sent U.S. troops into Iraq, Biden voiced support for the move.
In June 2002, months before he voted for the Iraq resolution, Biden appeared on CBS’s “Face the Nation” and addressed leaked plans for an intelligence operation to remove Iraq dictator Saddam Hussein.
“If the covert action doesn’t work, we better be prepared to move forward with another action, an overt action,” he said. “And it seems to me that we can’t afford to miss.”
That same month, Biden said in a press conference outside the White House that he told Bush that he understood an invasion would require a prolonged troop presence in the country.
“I don’t know a single informed person who suggests that you can take down Saddam and not be prepared to stay for two, four, five years to give the country a chance to be held together,” he said.
In June 2003, well after the invasion was complete, Biden told said in a CNN interview: “I, for one, thought we should have gone in Iraq.”
At a July Senate hearing, Biden said: “I voted to go into Iraq, and I’d vote to do it again.”
In a speech later that month, Biden acknowledged that “we have always known” that troops would have to stay there in large numbers for a long period of time.”
It was only in 2005 that Biden started saying that his vote to authorize the war was a mistake.
Biden’s campaign did not immediately return a request for comment.
Questions of memory
In the NPR interview, Biden also dismissed last month’s Washington Post report that his telling of an Afghanistan war story has changed over the years and is incorrect in “almost every detail.”
“The details are irrelevant in terms of decision-making,” Biden told NPR.
Although Biden, 76, is the frontrunner in the 2020 Democratic presidential primary, concerns seem to be mounting about his age and mental acuity.
In an op-ed published Monday, Ryan Cooper, the national correspondent for the left-wing newspaper The Week, predicted that such questions would plague Biden throughout a general election showdown with President Donald Trump.
“If Biden is nominated, his possibly-failing brain will be the Hillary Clinton emails story of 2016 all over again,” Cooper said.
- Joe Biden.: Screen grab