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Wednesday, August 16, 2017

The only topic that preoccupies Bernie Sanders more than income inequality is his vote against authorization of war in Iraq, which he mentions at every debate and whenever anyone questions his foreign policy credentials. Fair enough: Sanders turned out to be right on that vote and Hillary Clinton has admitted that she was wrong to trust George W. Bush.

But the socialist Vermont senator is under fresh scrutiny today on the (further) left, where his support for intervention in Bosnia and Afghanistan has raised sharp questions. In Counter-Punch, the online magazine founded by the late Alexander Cockburn, his longtime collaborator Jeffrey St. Clair complains that even on Iraq, Sanders is a “hypocrite” who was never as consistently anti-intervention as advertised:

In 1998 Sanders voted in favor of the Iraq Liberation Act of 1998, which said: “It should be the policy of the United States to support efforts to remove the regime headed by Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq and to promote the emergence of a democratic government to replace that regime.”

Later that same year, Sanders also backed a resolution that stated: “Congress reaffirms that it should be the policy of the United States to support efforts to remove the regime headed by Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq and to promote the emergence of a democratic  government to replace that regime.”

According to St. Clair, Sanders has dismissed those votes as “almost unanimous,” but that implies an absurdly elastic definition of the term. Looking up the actual vote, St. Clair found that 38 members of varying ideology and party affiliation voted no. To him, this means Sanders should be held responsible for the bombing campaign that followed, as well as the deaths of 500,000 Iraqi children who allegedly perished as a result of US sanctions (which seems to absolve the late dictator of any culpability for the sanctions regime, but never mind).

Certainly it is fair to ask Sanders — who strives to distance himself from his rival on foreign and security policy – why he cast those fateful votes to support Bill Clinton’s Iraq policy in 1998.

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