'Their blood is on your hands': Veterans confront Joe Biden over support for Iraq war

Group confronts former vice president for past support 'enabling a war that killed thousands of our brothers and sisters'

Alex Woodward
New York
Thursday 05 March 2020 19:43 GMT
Veteran confronts Biden over Iraq War support

Military veterans confronted Joe Biden over the former vice president's past support for the Iraq War, which the Democratic presidential nominee had voted to support when he was a senator, a move that one anti-war veterans group says should disqualify him from the presidency.

During a campaign event in Oakland, California on 3 March, Michael Thurman asked Mr Biden: "We are just wondering why we should vote for someone who voted for a war and enabled a war that killed thousands of our brothers and sisters [and] countless Iraqi civilians."

Mr Biden - whose son Beau had served with the Army National and was deployed to Iraq in 2008 - interrupted Mr Thurman, saying: "So was my son, was in Iraq, for a year. Not that it matters, right? It matters a lot to me. Let me tell you something."

Beau Biden died in 2015 following a brain cancer diagnosis.

In 2007, Mr Biden said: "I don't want him going. But I tell you what, I don't want my grandson or my granddaughters going back in 15 years, and so how we leave makes a big difference."

Mr Thurman also slammed the former vice president for awarding the Liberty Medal on Veterans Day in 2018 to former president George W Bush, who led the war effort during his two-term presidency.

"You are disqualified, sir," Mr Thurman said as Mr Biden was ushered from the event. "My friends are dead. ... Their blood is on your hands."

Mr Thurman is a member of About Face: Veterans Against the War, formerly known as Iraq Veterans Against the War, which has urged for the immediate withdrawal of US troops in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as occupied areas in the Middle East.

According to a group statement, About Face is composed of active-duty service members and veterans "organising to end a foreign policy of permanent war and the use of military weapons, tactics, and values in communities across the country."

As Mr Biden was ushered through the crowd, he appeared to turn around and respond to Mr Thurman before he was led away from the event.

Mr Thurman then claimed that Donald Trump is "more anti-war" than the former vice president

"We fought in your damn wars," Mr Thurman said. "You sent us to hurt civilians."

In the years after the war began, he has since withdrawn his support, but Mr Biden's record supporting the war in Iraq has come under scrutiny as he seeks the Democratic nomination.

Candidates' views on the Iraq War became a lynchpin issue during the 2008 election, as the war galvanised a generation of Americans who led anti-war efforts and protests or served in the military during that time.

Barack Obama repeatedly challenged then-opponent Hillary Clinton over her Senate vote to authorise the war in 2002. And throughout the 2016 cycle, Donald Trump also used her vote against her.

But beyond voting for the war, in which 4,500 American service members were killed and potentially one million civilians died, Mr Biden - as chair of the Senate's foreign relations committee - wielded enormous influence in a then Democrat-controlled Senate. Before the vote, he said: "I do not believe this is a rush to war ... I believe it is a march to peace and security."

His appointments to Senate hearings on the war effort argued for "regime change" and warned that Iraq leader Saddam Hussein posed a nuclear threat, claims echoed by the war's architects in the Bush administration.

In the 2020 race, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders has highlighted his opposition to the war, including his vote against a joint resolution of use of force in 2002 and the invasion in 2003, though he later backed several Iraq-related spending bills.

"I have not heard any estimates of how many young American men and women might die in such a war, or how many tens of thousands of women and children in Iraq might also be killed," he told Congress in 2002. "As a caring nation, we should do everything we can to prevent the horrible suffering war will cause."

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