Biden's Iraq War Vote Receives Fresh Criticism From Opponents Amid Heightened Tension in Region

Democratic hopefuls vying to unseat President Donald Trump in next year's election are aiming squarely at Joe Biden's vote for the Iraq War as a senator, re-exposing a vulnerability for the former vice president that contenders hope will stick with voters.

The renewed rebukes come amid heightened tension in the Middle East, where over the weekend U.S. forces conducted airstrikes in retaliation for an Iranian-backed militia attack in Iraq that killed an American contractor and wounded several soldiers.

Rhetoric from U.S., Iraqi and Iranian officials has also escalated. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned that the administration "will not stand" for actions by foreign countries that put Americans at risk. Meanwhile, Iraq warned there will be "dangerous consequences" for the U.S. airstrikes in Iraq and Syria, and Iran has accused the U.S. of committing "terrorism" while denying involvement in the attacks on American forces.

The conflicts and potential escalation for further violence places America's continued involvement in Iraq in the spotlight, lending Biden's Democratic contenders the ability to revisit old talking points and seize on his past support for intervention there.

"He supported the worst foreign policy decision made by the United States in my lifetime, which was the decision to invade Iraq," presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg told Iowa Public Television on Sunday, according to the Associated Press.

Opponents target Joe Biden Iraq War vote
Former Vice President Joe Biden waits to be introduced during a campaign stop at the Hotel Ottumwa on December 21 in Ottumwa, Iowa. Photo by Scott Olson/Getty

The 37-year-old mayor of South Bend, Indiana, used the opportunity to re-litigate his case for why someone with vast amounts of foreign policy experience is not necessarily more equipped to handle international affairs.

"This is an example of why years in Washington is not always the same thing as judgment," Buttigieg said.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), the 78-year-old self-described democratic socialist pursuing his second bid for president, told the Los Angeles Times last week that "Trump will eat [Biden's] lunch" over his vote to authorize the Iraq War, among other things. A member of the House at the time, Sanders voted against the war.

"Tell him to come and I'll give him some dessert at the White House," Biden responded on the campaign trial. Biden's campaign did not provide Newsweek with a comment on the record.

Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee at the time, Biden voted to authorize the Iraq War but has claimed in interviews and debates this year that from "the moment" it began, he opposed the conflict. However, Biden's comments at the time suggest otherwise.

It was not until November 2005, according to The Washington Post, that Biden acknowledged his decision to back the Iraq War "was a mistake." The case for the war was built upon claims by the George W. Bush administration that the country possessed weapons of mass destruction, which turned out to be untrue.

Biden continues to lead the 2020 Democratic pack by more than 9 points, followed by Sanders, Senator Elizabeth Warren, Buttigieg and former New York Mayor and billionaire Michael Bloomberg, according to a RealClear Politics average of recent major polls.