Bernie Sanders on War & Peace

Democratic primary challenger; Independent VT Senator; previously Representative (VT-At-Large)


Great disasters of our time--Vietnam & Iraq--based on lies

SANDERS [to Joe Biden]: In 2002, when the Congress was debating whether or not we invade Iraq, I said that would be a disaster, Joe and I listened to what Dick Cheney and George Bush had to say. I thought they were lying. Joe saw it differently. Last year, I helped pass a War Powers Act resolution, which said that the war in Yemen was unconstitutional because Congress had not authorized it. We got a majority vote in the Senate & House. Unfortunately, Trump vetoed that and that horrific war continues.

V.P. Joe BIDEN: I said 13 years ago it was a mistake to trust that they weren't going to go to war, to stop what we thought to be Iraq's attempt to get a nuclear weapon.

SANDERS: We have to face as a nation is that the two great foreign policy disasters of our lifetimes were the war in Vietnam and the war in Iraq. Both of those wars were based on lies. And right now, what I fear is we have a president who is lying again and could drag us into a war that is even worse than the war in Iraq.

Source: 7th Democrat primary debate, on eve of Iowa caucus , Jan 14, 2020

Endless war in Iraq cost us trillions and 4,500 troops

SANDERS: The war in Iraq turned out to be the worst foreign policy blunder in the modern history of this country. We lost 4,500 brave troops. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis died. We have spent trillions of dollars on that endless war, money which should go into health care and education and infrastructure in this country. Joe and I listened to what Dick Cheney & George Bush & Rumsfeld had to say. I thought they were lying. I didn't believe them for a moment. Joe saw it differently.

V.P. Joe BIDEN: We should not send anyone anywhere unless the overwhelming vital interests of the United States are at stake. They were not at stake in Iraq. It was a mistaken vote. It was a mistake to trust that they weren't going to go to war. They said they were not going to go to war. They said they were just going to get inspectors in. From that point on, I was in the position of making the case that it was a big, big mistake. And from that point on, I've voted to--I moved to bring those troops home.

Source: 7th Democrat primary debate, on eve of Iowa caucus , Jan 14, 2020

Rethink War on Terror and make deal with Taliban

Q: Would you cut a deal with the Taliban to end the war, even if it means the collapse of the Afghan government?

SANDERS: After spending trillions of dollars on these endless wars, which have resulted in dislocation and mass migrations and pain in that region, it is time to bring our troops home. Unlike Trump, I will not do it through a tweet at 3 o'clock in the morning. I will do it working with the international community. If it's necessary to negotiate with the Taliban, we will do that.

Q: What about other military spending?

SANDERS: One of the big differences between the vice president and myself is he supported the terrible war in Iraq and I helped lead the opposition against it. And not only that, I voted against the very first Gulf War, as well I think we need a foreign policy which understands who our enemies are, that we don't have to spend more money on the military than the next 10 nations combined.

Source: November Democratic primary debate in Atlanta , Nov 20, 2019

Used War Powers Act to get US out of Saudi-Yemen war

Q [to Joe Biden]: You voted for the Iraq war. You have said you regret that vote. Why should voters trust your judgment when it comes to making a decision about war the next time?

V.P. Joe BIDEN: I was responsible for getting 150,000 combat troops out of Iraq. I also think we should not have combat troops in Afghanistan. It's long overdue. It should end.

Sen. Bernie SANDERS: One of the differences that Joe and I have in our record is Joe voted for that war, I helped lead the opposition to that war, which was a total disaster. I helped lead the effort for the first time to utilize the War Powers Act to get the United States out of the Saudi-led intervention in Yemen, which is the most horrific humanitarian disaster on Earth. Let me be very clear. I will do everything I can to prevent a war with Iran, which would be far worse than disastrous war with Iraq.

Source: June Democratic Primary debate (second night in Miami) , Jun 27, 2019

No support of Saudis against Iran; it's a never-ending war

It is the Congress that has war-making authority, not the President. If you're attacked immediately, you have to respond. Nobody believes that we are in that type of emergency situation with Iran right now. The function of a President should be to say to Saudi Arabia, "We're not following your lead; you're going to have to sit down with Iran. The United States does not want to continue to lose men and women and trillions of dollars in never-ending wars in the Middle East. Work it out."
Source: CBS Face the Nation 2019 interview , Jun 23, 2019

Iran not an emergency; no military action without Congress

I will do everything I can to stop a war with Iran. It is the United States Congress, under our Constitution that has war making authority not the President of the United States. If he attacks Iran in my view that would be unconstitutional. There are some times emergency situations. I understand. If you're attacked immediately, you have to respond. Nobody believes that we are in that type of emergency situation with Iran right now.
Source: CBS Face the Nation 2019 interview series , Jun 23, 2019

US shouldn't favor Saudis or Iran; broker diplomatic answer

The function of the president is not simply to side with Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia is a totalitarian, despotic, murderous regime. They are not our friends. They do not share any of our values. Iran also has played a very bad role in that region, supporting terrorist organizations. The role of the United States is to bring Saudi Arabia and Iran together and help work out some kind of diplomatic agreement. I do not want to see perpetual warfare in that region.
Source: CNN State of the Union 2019 interview , Jun 2, 2019

Cut military spending, except F-35 at Vermont air base

Source: Truthout.org, "War and Peace," on 2020 presidential hopefuls , Mar 27, 2019

End Syrian conflict; pull out U.S. troops

Source: PBS News hour on 2020 Presidential hopefuls , Feb 19, 2019

Our Saudi allies give US-made weapons to Al Qaeda in Yemen

As important as it is to respond to what President Trump said [in the State of the Union speech], it is even more important to discuss what Trump refused to talk about --which happens to include some of the most important issues facing our country and the world.

How can the President say nothing about Yemen, where the worst humanitarian crisis in the world is currently taking place, brought on by a Saudi-led war that the United States is supporting? Just yesterday, a CNN report detailed how our Saudi and Emirati allies have been giving U.S.-made weapons to Al Qaeda-linked fighters in Yemen, and have also fallen into the hands of Iranian-backed Houthi rebels. This war is a disaster, which is why the Senate passed my resolution last December calling on the president to end our support for it, and why colleagues in both the House and Senate re-introduced that legislation last week. Yet the president did not even mention it.

Source: Progressive response to 2019 State of the Union speech , Feb 5, 2019

Withdraw US support for Saudi-led war in Yemen

Q: You back a resolution for pulling back any kind of U.S. support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen. Do you see, given the scrutiny in the wake of the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi new support for this bill?

SANDERS: I do. When we brought this up in March we ended up with 44 votes--only 5 Republicans. I think we now have a chance to get a majority of the Senate. I think people are looking at the horrific humanitarian disaster now taking place in Yemen. There was a recent report that over the last number of years some 75,000 children have died of starvation. This is a country dealing with cholera, with a terrible level of famine. This war was never authorized by the US Congress in violation of our constitution. And you got the Khashoggi incident which says that we have a Saudi government led by a despotic ruler who killed a political opponent in cold blood. Add that all together. I think the American people & Congress are now saying let us end our support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen.

Source: CBS Face the Nation 2018 interviews of 2020 hopefuls , Nov 25, 2018

1990s Iraq invasion laid groundwork for more wars in region

I had as a young man strongly opposed the disastrous war in Vietnam, one of the worst foreign policy blunders in the history of our country. I had also spoken out against U.S. coups and invasions that overthrew democratically elected governments in Chile, Guatemala, the Congo, Brazil, Iran, and elsewhere.

As a freshman congressman in 1991, I voted against the first Persian Gulf War, [saying], "I fear that one day we will regret that decision and that we are in fact laying the groundwork for more and more wars in that region for years to come.". Not a bad analysis for a freshman congressman.

In 2003, I did everything I could to prevent George W. Bush's invasion of Iraq--a war that Hillary Clinton supported. In one debate, when Hillary Clinton cited Henry Kissinger as a friend and mentor, I suggested that he was a terrible secretary of state, a war criminal, and would play no role in a Sanders administration.

Source: Where We Go From Here, by Bernie Sanders, p.88-9 , Sep 21, 2017

Iraq War discredited vision of benevolent global hegemony

Some in Washington continue to argue that "benevolent global hegemony" should be the goal of our foreign policy, that the US, by virtue of its extraordinary military power, should stand astride the world and reshape it to its liking. I would argue that the events of the past two decades--particularly the disastrous Iraq war and the instability and destruction it has brought to the region--have utterly discredited that vision.

The goal is not for the US to dominate the world. Nor, on the other hand, is our goal to withdraw from the international community and shirk our responsibilities under the banner of "America First." Our goal should be global engagement based on partnership, rather than dominance. This is better for our security, better for global stability, and better for facilitating international cooperation.

Far too often, American intervention and the use of American military power has produced unintended consequences which have caused incalculable harm.

Source: Westminster College speech in Where We Go From Here, p.100-1 , Sep 21, 2017

Protect Iranian nuke deal; without it, Iran is unlimited

For many years, leaders across the world had become increasingly concerned about the possibility of an Iranian nuclear weapon. What the Obama administration and our European allies were able to do was to get an agreement that froze and dismantled large parts of that nuclear program, put it under the most intensive inspections regime in history, and removed the prospect of an Iranian nuclear weapon from the list of global threats.

I call on my colleagues in the Congress, and all Americans: We must protect this deal. President Trump has signaled his intention to walk away from it, regardless of the evidence that it is working. That would be a mistake.

This would potentially free Iran from the limits placed on its nuclear program. If we are genuinely concerned with Iran's behavior in the region, as I am, the worst possible thing we could do is break the nuclear deal. It would make all of these other problems harder.

Source: Westminster College speech in Where We Go From Here, p. 107 , Sep 21, 2017

Why would anyone trust US if we abrogated Iran nuke treaty?

President Trump has signaled his intention to walk away from the [multinational Iranian nuclear deal negotiated by Obama]. Not only would this potentially free Iran from the limits placed on its nuclear program, it would irreparably harm America's ability to negotiate future nonproliferation agreements. Why would any country in the world sign such an agreement with the US if they knew that a reckless president and an irresponsible Congress might simply discard that agreement a few years later?
Source: Westminster College speech in Where We Go From Here, p. 107 , Sep 21, 2017

1990: Tried to stop Bush's driving Saddam out of Kuwait

President George H. W.; Bush was determined to send in our military to drive the Iraqi army out of Kuwait, which Saddam Hussein had invaded in August 1990. Almost all Republicans supported the war effort, as did a number of Democrats. I didn't. I had campaigned against going to war, and did everything I could to stop it.

I feared not only the immediate impact of the war, in terms of the death and destruction it would bring, but what it portended for the future. Would war, and more and more wars, be the norm in solving international conflicts in the future? The entire world was united against a small country with a weak army. Surely, I reasoned, there must be a way other than war to achieve our goals and get Iraq out of Kuwait.

Source: Our Revolution, by Bernie Sanders, p. 41-2 , Nov 15, 2016

Iraq War: worst foreign policy blunder in modern history

I was considered to be "vulnerable" on foreign policy. Hillary Clinton had been secretary of state for four years under President Obama. She had traveled the world, been involved in a number of important foreign policy decisions, and knew many heads of state personally. Therefore, according to the pundits, she was the "expert" on foreign policy. I was, presumably, the novice, and ill-prepared in that area.

Needless to say, that wasn't my view. Clinton, as a former secretary of state, had more hands-on experience in foreign policy than I did, that did not necessarily make her better qualified in that area. In foreign policy, judgment mattered, and on the most important foreign policy issues of our time, my judgment had been better than Hillary Clinton's.

I not only voted against the war in Iraq, I helped lead the opposition to what turned out to be the worst foreign policy blunder in American modern history. Hillary Clinton, as a U.S. senator from New York, had voted for the war.

Source: Our Revolution, by Bernie Sanders, p.165-6 , Nov 15, 2016

Economic sanctions could have driven Saddam out of Kuwait

While it was obvious that Clinton, as a former secretary of state, had more hands-on experience in foreign policy than I did, that did not necessarily make her better qualified in that area. In foreign policy, judgment mattered, and on the most important foreign policy issues of our time, my judgment had been better than Hillary Clinton's.

Against a great deal of political pressure, I had voted against the first Gulf War. I was worried about the precedent that it was setting in using military force and believed that economic sanctions could have driven Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait. I believed that war was unnecessary.

Yes, I was willing to concede that Hillary Clinton had more foreign policy experience than I did. No, I did not believe that her record made her better prepared than me to conduct U.S. foreign and military policy.

Source: Our Revolution, by Bernie Sanders, p.165-6 , Nov 15, 2016

End perpetual warfare in the quagmire of the Middle East

I'm running for president because I want a new foreign policy; one that takes on Isis, one that destroys ISIS, but one that does not get us involved in perpetual warfare in the quagmire of the Middle East but rather works around a major coalition of wealthy and powerful nations supporting Muslim troops on the ground. That's the kind of coalition we need and that's the kind of coalition I will put together.
Source: 2015 ABC/WMUR Democratic primary debate in N.H. , Dec 19, 2015

Diplomacy and coalition-building before unilateral action

Q: You were asked about when you would authorize the use of force. You went on to say, "I do not support the U.S. getting involved in unilateral action." So there are no circumstances where you would authorize unilateral action?

SANDERS: Well, I'm not going to get into hypotheticals, but I would say that Bush's decision to get us into a war in Iraq unilaterally was one of the worst foreign policy blunders in the history of the US. I think sensible foreign policy and military policies suggest that it cannot be the US alone which solves all of the world's [problems].

Q: In all circumstances?

SANDERS: I didn't say in all circumstances. But I think that there's a lesson to be learned from Iraq and Afghanistan, then what a great military power like the United States is about is trying to use diplomacy before war and working with other countries rather than doing it alone. At the end of the day, a military coalition is what will succeed, not the US doing it alone.

Source: ABC This Week 2015 interview by Martha Raddatz , Oct 18, 2015

Keep U.S. troops on the ground in Afghanistan

Q: President Obama announced this week that he would keep almost 10,000 troops in Afghanistan through next year; more than 5,000 after that. You heard Ben Carson say he supports that decision, so does Hillary Clinton. Do you?

SANDERS: Well, yeah, I won't give you the exact number. Clearly, we do not want to see the Taliban gain more power and I think we need a certain nucleus of American troops present in Afghanistan to try to provide the training and support the Afghan Army needs.

Source: ABC This Week 2015 interview by Martha Raddatz , Oct 18, 2015

Syria is a quagmire within a quagmire; don't get involved

Q: What to do in Syria?

CLINTON: I applaud the administration because they are engaged in talks right now with the Russians to make it clear that they've got to be part of the solution to try to end that bloody conflict. And, to provide safe zones so that people are not going to have to be flooding out of Syria at the rate they are.

SANDERS: Well, let's understand that when we talk about Syria, you're talking about a quagmire in a quagmire. You're talking about groups of people trying to overthrow Assad, other groups of people fighting ISIS. You're talking about people who are fighting ISIS using their guns to overthrow Assad, and vice versa. I will do everything that I can to make sure that the U.S. does not get involved in another quagmire like we did in Iraq, the worst foreign policy blunder in the history of this country. We should be putting together a coalition of Arab countries who should be leading the effort. We should be supportive, but I do not support American ground troops in Syria.

Source: 2015 CNN Democratic primary debate in Las Vegas , Oct 13, 2015

Support force only when we are threatened & have coalition

When President Clinton said, "let's stop ethnic cleansing in Kosovo," I voted for that. I voted to make sure that Osama bin Laden was held accountable in Afghanistan. When our country is threatened, or when our allies are threatened, I believe that we need coalitions to come together to address the major crises of this country. I do not support the United States getting involved in unilateral action.
Source: 2015 CNN Democratic primary debate in Las Vegas , Oct 13, 2015

Iraq war destabilized Mideast; stay out of Mideast quagmire

Q: Did Bernie support the invasion of Iraq like most other politicians at the time?

A: No. In 2002, as a congressman, Bernie spoke extensively about the dangers of going to war in Iraq, and warned about the destabilizing impact that a war would cause and how it might lead to a counter-insurgency like we've seen, first with al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) and now ISIS: He voted against the resolution that gave President George W. Bush permission to invade Iraq.

Q: How has the Iraq war impacted Bernie's position on dealing with ISIS?

A: In February 2015, in response to a war powers resolution--a formal request by President Barack Obama to authorize a military campaign against ISIS--Bernie said, "I voted against the war in Iraq because I feared very much the destabilizing impact it would have on the region. Today, I very much fear U.S. involvement in an expanding and never-ending quagmire in that region of the world."

Source: 2016 grassroots campaign website FeelTheBern.org, "Issues" , Sep 5, 2015

Iran nuke deal is victory for diplomacy over saber-rattling

Keeping the Iranian nuclear program in check with international observers is greatly preferable to the lack of oversight that has been the status quo. Without a nuclear deal, Iran can continue to rapidly develop its nuclear program.

Bernie views a nuclear-armed Iran as a threat and, therefore, supports the recent nuclear deal that will reduce Iran's nuclear capabilities. While the agreement needs to be looked over with careful scrutiny, Bernie has hailed the Iran nuclear deal as a victory "for diplomacy over saber-rattling."

Bernie stands with the majority of Americans in supporting diplomacy as the best method to reach a solution to Iran's nuclear threat. He sees military action as the least favorable approach, noting it's "imperative that we do everything we can to reach a diplomatic solution and avoid never-ending war in the Middle East." Even when dealing with hostile nations, diplomatic relations are important: at the height of the Cold War, the US signed treaties with the USSR.

Source: 2016 grassroots campaign website FeelTheBern.org, "Issues" , Sep 5, 2015

1983 war against Nicaragua was illegal and immoral

Many Burlingtonians, including myself, supported the Sandinista government in Nicaragua. President Reagan did not. We disagreed with him. We expressed our displeasure.

Somewhere in the Reagan archives, or wherever these things are kept, is a letter from the mayor of Burlington on this subject. There are also official proclamations from the Burlington Board of Alderman, made after long and emotional public hearings. "Stop the war against the people of Nicaragua! Use our tax dollars to feed the hungry and house the homeless. Stop killing the innocent people of Nicaragua."

This was an issue that many of us in the progressive movement felt very strongly about. Not only was the war against Nicaragua illegal and immoral, it was an outrageous waste of taxpayer money. As a mayor, I wanted more federal funds for affordable housing and economic development. I did not want to see taxpayer dollars going to the CIA for an appalling war.

Source: Outsider in the House, by Bernie Sanders, p. 67 , Jun 17, 1997

1990: Opposed authorizing all-out war in Kuwait with Iraq

On Aug. 2, 1990, Saddam Hussein, a former ally who was well supplied with American equipment, invaded Kuwait. On Aug. 9, US troops sent by Pres. Bush began arriving in Saudi Arabia to prevent further Iraqi aggression. Now, in early January Bush was seeking congressional authority for an all-out war with Iraq. I was opposed to giving him that authority.

From the very beginning of the Persian Gulf crisis, I was of the belief that the US could push Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait without having to resort to war. Diplomacy, economic boycott, isolation, financial leverage: we had many means for reversing the invasion. I was not only opposed to the war because of the potential destruction and loss of life, but also because I believe it IS possible for the major countries of this planet, and a virtually united world community, to resolve crises without carnage. If this matter could not be solved without massive bombing & killing thousands of people, then what crisis could ever be solved peacefully?

Source: Outsider in the House, by Bernie Sanders, p.110-1 , Jun 17, 1997

1991: instead of Persian Gulf War, spend on America

On January 18, 1991, I spoke on the House floor: "A major war in the Persian Gulf, costing us thousands of lives and tens of billions of dollars, could well be a disaster for the people of our country--especially the working people, the poor people, the elderly, and the children. I predict that this Congress will soon be asked for more money for guided missiles, but there will be no more money available to house the homeless. I predict that this Congress will soon be asked for more money for tanks, but there will be no money or effort available to develop a national health care system, guaranteeing health care for all of our people--as virtually all of the industrialized world has. I predict that in order to pay for this war, there will be more cutbacks in Medicare for the elderly, and even an effort to cut back on Social Security payments."
Source: Outsider in the House, by Bernie Sanders, p.113 , Jun 17, 1997

Bernie Sanders on Terrorism

More terrorists after spending trillions on War on Terror

We have spent $5 trillion on the war on terror. And there are probably more terrorists out there now than before it began. The Congress passed--and I will not vote for--a $715 billion military budget, more than the 10 next countries combined. What we need is a foreign policy that focuses on diplomacy, ending conflicts by people sitting at a table, not by killing each other. I will go to the United Nations and not denigrate it, but bring countries together and solve those problems peacefully.
Source: July Democratic Primary debate (first night in Detroit) , Jul 30, 2019

Iraq war led to ISIS creation, as I predicted would happen

Q: Is President Obama right to escalate the number of U.S. troops fighting ISIS now?

CLINTON: We have to support Arab & Kurdish fighters. It is important to keep the Iraqi army on a path where they can take back territory. They're doing the fighting. We're doing the support and enabling. I want to continue, and that's what the president is doing.

SANDERS: Let me agree with much of what the secretary said, but where we differ is on the war in Iraq, which created barbaric organizations like ISIS. Not only did I vote against that war, I helped lead the opposition. It gives me no pleasure to tell you that much of what I feared would happen the day after Saddam Hussein was overthrown, in fact, did happen. I think our task is to make certain that our young men and women in the military do not get sucked into never-ending, perpetual warfare within the quagmire of Syria and Iraq. It must be Muslim troops on the ground that destroy ISIS, with the support of a coalition of major powers.

Source: MSNBC Democratic primary debate in New Hampshire , Feb 4, 2016

Qatar is wealthy; needs to get skin in game against ISIS

Sen. Sanders asserted about fighting ISIS, "You have incredibly wealthy countries in that region, countries like Qatar. Qatar happens to be the largest -- wealthiest country per capita in the world. They have got to start putting in some skin in the game and not just ask the United States to do it." Is that true? That Qatar is the wealthiest country in the world, in terms of individual income?

We checked and indeed it's true. Comparing three different rating systems--the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank, and the CIA--all three agree that Qatar has the highest per capita income in the world. Those three rating agencies don't agree on the exact income levels for other countries, but the United States is rated, respectively, the 9th, 10th, and 12th wealthiest country in the world.

Our rating: Yes, Sanders is correct that the U.S. is funding the defense expenses of a country wealthier than the U.S.

Source: OnTheIssues FactCheck on 2016 NBC Democratic debate , Jan 17, 2016

Work with Russia & Iran to get rid of Assad in Syria

Secy. CLINTON: Assad has waged one of the bloodiest, most terrible attacks on his own people--250,000-plus dead, millions fleeing. One criticism I've had of Sen. Sanders is his suggestion that Iranian troops be used to try to end the war in Syria.

SANDERS: I think we do have an honest disagreement: in the incredible quagmire of Syria, where it's hard to know who's fighting who and if you give arms to this guy, it may end up in ISIS' hand the next day. And we all know--the secretary is absolutely right--Assad is a butcher of his own people, a man using chemical weapons against his own people. But I think in terms of our priorities in the region, our first priority must be the destruction of ISIS. Our second priority must be getting rid of Assad, through some political settlement, working with Iran, working with Russia. But the immediate task is to bring all interests together who want to destroy ISIS, including Russia, including Iran, including our Muslim allies to make that the major priority.

Source: 2016 NBC Democratic debate , Jan 17, 2016

Tell Qatar and Saudi Arabia that they must fight ISIS

There must be an international coalition, including Russia, a well-coordinated effort. This is a war for the soul of Islam. The troops on the ground should not be American troops. They should be Muslim troops. I believe that countries like Saudi Arabia and Qatar have got to step up to the plate, have got to contribute the money that we need, and the troops that we need, to destroy ISIS with American support.
Source: 2015 ABC/WMUR Democratic primary debate in N.H. , Dec 19, 2015

Invasion of Iraq led to ISIS; Hillary voted to invade

Q: Was ISIS underestimated? In 2014, the president referred to ISIS as the "J.V."

CLINTON: ISIS has developed [since 2014]. There are many other reasons why it has, but I don't think that the US has the bulk of the responsibility. I really put that on Assad and on the Iraqis and on the region itself.

SANDERS: She said the bulk of the responsibility is not ours. Well, in fact, I would argue that the disastrous invasion of Iraq, something that I strongly opposed, has unraveled the region completely and led to the rise of al-Qaeda and to ISIS.

Q: You're saying Secretary Clinton, who was then Senator Clinton, voted for the Iraq war. And are you making a direct link between her vote for that or and what's happening now for ISIS?

SANDERS: I don't think any sensible person would disagree that the invasion of Iraq led to the massive level of instability we are seeing right now. I think that was one of the worst foreign policy blunders in the more than history of the United States.

Source: 2015 CBS Democratic primary debate in Iowa , Nov 14, 2015

Form Muslim-led coalition to defeat ISIS

Q: You opposed Obama's new decision to put Special Operations boots on the ground in Syria. But the threat seems to be expanding, not receding. How would you counter it?

SANDERS: What the president is trying to do is to thread a very difficult needle. He's trying to defeat ISIS. He's trying to get rid of this horrendous dictator, Assad. But at the same time, he doesn't want our troops stuck on the ground. And I agree with that. But I am maybe a little bit more conservative on this than he is. I worry that once we get sucked into this, once some of our troops get killed and once maybe a plane gets shot down, that we send more in and more in. But I will say this. ISIS must be defeated primarily by the Muslim nations in that region. America can't do it all. And we need an international coalition. Russia should be part of it--U.K., France, the entire world--supporting Muslim troops on the ground, fighting for the soul of Islam and defeating this terrible ISIS organization.

Source: ABC This Week 2015 interview by Martha Raddatz , Nov 8, 2015

Stop ISIS, but only with an international & Arab coalition

According to a February 2015 Gallup poll, Americans consider the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant--abbreviated as ISIS or ISIL?--and the international terrorism they support to be the greatest threat to the United States' vital interests. These are the main planks of Bernie's position on ISIS:
Source: 2016 grassroots campaign website FeelTheBern.org, "Issues" , Sep 5, 2015

Middle Eastern countries must contribute to fight ISIS

The US cannot defeat this evil alone. In the Middle East, Saudi Arabia has the third largest military budget in the entire world. They're going to have to get in and take on ISIS as well as other countries in that region. The US should be supportive; we should be working with other countries. But we cannot always be the only country involved in these wars.
Source: ABC This Week 2015 interviews of 2016 presidential hopefuls , Aug 30, 2015

Get Saudis & regional powers involved with fighting ISIS

Q: You have warned that you think ISIS is dangerous & needs to be stopped.

SANDERS: ISIS is a brutal, awful, dangerous army and they have got to be defeated. But this is not just an American problem. This is an international crisis. This is a regional crisis. And I think the people of America are getting sick and tired of the world and the region, Saudi Arabia and the other countries saying "hey, we don't have to do anything about it. The American taxpayer, the American soldiers will do all the work for us." Most people don't know is that Saudi Arabia is the 4th largest defense spender in the world, more than the U.K., more than France. They have an army which is probably seven times larger than ISIS. They have a major air force.

Q: Sure. But they have shown no sign at all that they want to go in and neither have the Jordanians.

SANDERS: The question that we have got to ask is why are the nations in the region not more actively involved? Why don't they see this as a crisis situation?

Source: CNN SOTU 2014 interview series: 2016 presidential hopefuls , Oct 12, 2014

Arm the Peshmerga against ISIS, as international effort

Q: The role so far that the US is playing against ISIS, is that just about right?

SANDERS: No. It has to be an international effort.

Q: Would you support arming the Peshmerga, the Kurdish forces?

SANDERS: Yes. I think we should arm them--even that's a difficult issue to make sure that the people that we arm today don't turn against us tomorrow. But I think providing arms for those people who we can trust and providing air support is in fact something we should be doing.

Q: Would it be confined to the Peshmerga? I know that you voted against arming and training Syrian rebels. So is there a difference to you between the Peshmerga and the Syrian rebels?

SANDERS: We have been at war for 12 years. We have spent trillions of dollars. We have 500,000 young men and women who have come up--come home with PTSD and TBI. What I do not want and I fear very much is the US getting sucked into a quagmire and being involved in perpetual warfare year after year after year. That is my fear.

Source: CNN SOTU 2014 interview series: 2016 presidential hopefuls , Oct 12, 2014

Bernie Sanders on Voting Record

Passed bipartisan War Powers Act to stop Yemen war

SANDERS: When Congress was debating whether or not we go into a war in Iraq, I said that would be a disaster. I helped pass a War Powers Act resolution, working with a conservative Republican, Mike Lee of Utah, which said that the war in Yemen, led by Saudi Arabia, was unconstitutional because Congress had not authorized it. We got a majority vote in the Senate. We got a majority vote in the House. Unfortunately, Bush vetoed that and that horrific war continues.

V.P. Joe BIDEN: I said 13 years ago it was a mistake to give the president the authority to go to war if, in fact, he couldn't get inspectors into Iraq to stop what--thought to be the attempt to get a nuclear weapon. It was a mistake, and I acknowledged that. But the man who also argued against that war, Barack Obama, picked me to be his vice president. And once we were elected, he asked me to end that war.

Source: 7th Democrat primary debate, on eve of Iowa caucus , Jan 14, 2020

I was wrong on my vote for Afghan War; remove all troops

Q: You often point to your vote against the war in Iraq is evidence of your judgment on foreign policy. But you did vote for the war in Afghanistan and as recently as 2015 you said you supported a continued U. S. troop presence there. Was that support a mistake?

Bernie Sanders: Well, only one person, my good friend Barbara Lee [U.S. Rep, D-CA-13] was right on that issue. She was the only person in the House to vote against the war in Afghanistan. She was right; I was wrong. So was everybody else in the House. But to answer your question, I don't think you do what Trump does and make foreign policy decisions based on a tweet at 3AM in the morning, or desert your long-time allies like the Kurds. I think you work with the international community, you remove all troops over a period of time, a short period of time, within one year.

Source: Newshour/Politico/PBS December Democratic primary debate , Dec 19, 2019

I never made the huge mistake of voting for Iraq AUMF

Q [to VP Joe BIDEN]: Obama turned to you to bring the troops home from Iraq. There was a major drawdown, but you then had to send thousands of troops back in to fight ISIS. Was it wrong to pull out of Iraq that quickly?


BIDEN: No, it wasn't wrong to pull out. I should have never voted to give Bush the authority to go in and do what he said he was going to do in the AUMF [Authorization for the Use of Military Force in Iraq]. The big mistake that was made, which we predicted, was that you would not have a circumstance where the Shia and the Kurds would work together to keep ISIS from moving in.

SANDERS: The truth is, the big mistake, the huge mistake, and one of the big differences between you and me, I never believed what Cheney and Bush said about Iraq...

BIDEN: You're right.

SANDERS: I voted against the war in Iraq, and helped lead the opposition. And it's sad to say--I kind of had the feeling that there would be massive destabilization in that area if we went into that war.

Source: September Democratic Primary debate in Houston , Sep 12, 2019

I voted against 1st Gulf War, which led to 2nd Gulf War

I voted against the first Gulf War, which set the stage, I believe, for the second Iraq war. What I believe is the US cannot be thought of as the policeman of the world, that when there's an international crisis all over the world, in France and in the U.K., hey, just call up the American military and the American taxpayers, they're going to send the troops, and if they have to be in the Middle East for 20 or 30 years no problem.
Source: 2015 ABC/WMUR Democratic primary debate in N.H. , Dec 19, 2015

Voted for Afghan War, to capture Osama bin Laden

Q: You have said that you're not opposed to military action under certain circumstances. And in fact, the one time you voted for military action, I believe, in your career, had to do with Kosovo, which was a humanitarian crisis. Are we at that point, that Syria is such a humanitarian crisis that actually it does justify some military action to stabilize that country?

SANDERS: No. I voted also for the war in Afghanistan, because I believed that Osama bin Laden needed to be captured, needed to be brought to trial.

Q: Yes, sir, I apologize for that, yes, you did.

SANDERS: But I am very concerned about a lot of the war talk that I'm hearing from my Republican colleagues, who apparently have forgotten the cost of war and the errors made in Afghanistan and Iraq. And what I believe, very much, is that the most powerful military on Earth, the United States of America, that our government should do everything that we can to resolve international conflict in a way that does not require war.

Source: Meet the Press 2015 interviews of 2016 presidential hopefuls , Sep 13, 2015

Voted YES on redeploying non-essential US troops out of Iraq in 9 months.

Vote to transition the missions of US Forces in Iraq to a more limited set of missions as specified by the President on September 13, 2007: S.AMDT.3875 amends S.AMDT.3874 and underlying bill H.R.2764:

Proponents support voting YES because:

Sen. LEVIN: "The amendment requires redeployment be completed within 9 months. At that point, funding for the war would be ended, with four narrow exceptions:"

  1. Security for US Government personnel and infrastructure
  2. Training Iraqi security forces
  3. Equipment to US service men and women to ensure their safety
Targeted operations against members of al-Qaida.

Opponents recommend voting NO because:

Sen. McCAIN: "This year, after nearly 4 years of mismanaged war, our military has made significant gains under the so-called surge. Overall violence in Iraq has fallen to its lowest level since [2003]. Improvised explosive device blasts now occur at a rate lower than at any point since September 2004.

"Al-Qaida's leadership knows which side is winning in Iraq. It may not be known in some parts of America and in this body, but al-Qaida knows. We are succeeding under the new strategy.

"Given these realities, some proponents of precipitous withdrawal from Iraq have shifted their focus. While conceding, finally, that there have been dramatic security gains, they have begun seizing on the lackluster performance of the Iraqi Government to insist that we should abandon the successful strategy and withdraw U.S. forces. This would be a terrible mistake."

Reference: Safe Redeployment Of US Troops From Iraq Amendment; Bill S.AMDT.3875 to H.R.2764 ; vote number 2007-437 on Dec 18, 2007

Voted NO on designating Iran's Revolutionary Guards as terrorists.

Vote on a "Sense of the Senate" amendment, S.Amdt. 3017, to H.R. 1585 (National Defense Authorization Act), that finds:

Proponents support voting YES because:

Sen. LIEBERMAN: Some of our colleagues thought the Sense of the Senate may have opened the door to some kind of military action against Iran [so we removed some text]. That is not our intention. In fact, our intention is to increase the economic pressure on Iran and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps so that we will never have to consider the use of the military to stop them from what they are doing to kill our soldiers.

Opponents recommend voting NO because:

Sen. BIDEN. I will oppose the Kyl-Lieberman amendment for one simple reason: this administration cannot be trusted. I am very concerned about the evidence that suggests that Iran is engaged in destabilizing activities inside Iraq. Arguably, if we had a different President who abided by the meaning and intent of laws we pass, I might support this amendment. I fear, however, that this President might use the designation of Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist entity as a pretext to use force against Iran as he sees fit. [The same was done with the Senate resolution on Iraq in 2002]. Given this President's actions and misuse of authority, I cannot support the amendment.

Reference: Sense of the Senate on Iran; Bill S.Amdt. 3017 to H.R. 1585 ; vote number 2007-349 on Sep 26, 2007

Voted YES on redeploying US troops out of Iraq by March 2008.

Begins the phased redeployment of US forces from Iraq within 120 days of enactment of this joint resolution with the goal of redeploying by March 31, 2008, all US combat forces from Iraq, except for a limited number essential for protecting US and coalition personnel and infrastructure, training and equipping Iraqi forces, and conducting targeted counter-terrorism operations. Such redeployment shall be implemented as part of a diplomatic, political, and economic strategy that includes sustained engagement with Iraq's neighbors and the international community in order to bring stability to Iraq.

Proponents recommend voting YES because:

Our troops are caught in the midst of a civil war. The administration has begun to escalate this war with 21,000 more troops. This idea is not a new one. During this war, four previous surges have all failed. It is time for a different direction. It is time for a drawdown of our troops.

Opponents recommend voting NO because:

This resolution calls for imposing an artificial timeline to withdraw our troops from Iraq, regardless of the conditions on the ground or the consequences of defeat; a defeat that will surely be added to what is unfortunately a growing list of American humiliations. This legislation would hobble American commanders in the field and substantially endanger America's strategic objective of a unified federal democratic Iraq that can govern, defend, and sustain itself and be an ally in the war against Islamic fascism. The unintended consequence of this resolution is to bring to reality Osama bin Laden's vision for Iraq; that after 4 years of fighting in Iraq the US Congress loses its will to fight. If we leave Iraq before the job is done, as surely as night follows day, the terrorists will follow us home. Osama bin Laden has openly said: America does not have the stomach to stay in the fight. He is a fanatic. He is an Islamic fascist. He is determined to destroy us and our way of life.

Reference: US Policy in Iraq Resolution; Bill S.J.Res.9 ; vote number 2007-075 on Mar 15, 2007

Voted NO on declaring Iraq part of War on Terror with no exit date.

Reference: Resolution on Prevailing in the Global War on Terror; Bill HRES 861 ; vote number 2006-288 on Jun 12, 2006

Voted NO on approving removal of Saddam & valiant service of US troops.

States that the House of Representatives:
  1. affirms that the United States and the world have been made safer with the removal of Saddam Hussein and his regime from power in Iraq;
  2. commends the Iraqi people for their courage in the face of unspeakable oppression and brutality inflicted on them by Saddam Hussein's regime;
  3. commends the Iraqi people on the adoption of Iraq's interim constitution; and
  4. commends the members of the U.S. Armed Forces and Coalition forces for liberating Iraq and expresses its gratitude for their valiant service.
Reference: War in Iraq Anniversary resolution; Bill H Res 557 ; vote number 2004-64 on Mar 17, 2004

Voted NO on authorizing military force in Iraq.

Authorization for the Use of Military Force Against Iraq: Passage of the joint resolution that would authorize President Bush to use the US military as he deems necessary and appropriate to defend U.S. national security against Iraq and enforce UN Security Council resolutions regarding Iraq. It would be required that the president report to Congress, no later than 48 hours after using force, his determination that diplomatic options or other peaceful means would not guarantee US national security against Iraq or allow enforcement of UN resolutions and that using force is consistent with anti-terrorism efforts. The resolution would also give specific statutory authorization under the War Powers Resolution. Every 60 days the president would also be required to report to Congress on actions related to the resolution.
Reference: Bill sponsored by Hastert,R-IL; Bill HJRes114 ; vote number 2002-455 on Oct 10, 2002

Voted YES on disallowing the invasion of Kosovo.

Vote on an amendment to the "Kosovo and Southwest Asia Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act" which would prohibit the use of funds for any invasion of Yugoslavia with U.S. ground forces except in time of war.
Reference: Amendment introduced by Istook, R-OK; Bill HR 1664 ; vote number 1999-119 on May 6, 1999

Condemns anti-Muslim bigotry in name of anti-terrorism.

Sanders co-sponsored the Resolution on bigotry against Sikh Americans:

Title: Condemning bigotry and violence against Sikh Americans in the wake of terrorist attacks against the United States on September 11, 2001.

Summary: Declares that, in the quest to identify, locate, and bring to justice the perpetrators and sponsors of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, the civil rights and liberties of all Americans, including Sikh-Americans, should be protected.

Source: House Resolution Sponsorship 01-HR255 on Oct 4, 2001

Require Congress' approval before military action in Iran.

Sanders co-sponsored requiring Congress' approval before military action in Iran