Bernie Sanders on War & Peace

Socialist Jr Senator; previously Representative (VT-At-Large)

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

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

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 presidential campaign website FeelTheBern.org, "Issues" , Sep 5, 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 presidential 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 presidential campaign website FeelTheBern.org, "Issues" , Sep 5, 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

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

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