Former Secretary of State John Kerry defended Democratic presidential contender Joe Biden after the campaign of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) attacked the former vice president over his support for the Iraq War.
Sanders, 78, has regularly attacked Biden, 77, over his support as a senator for invading Iraq in 2003.
Kerry, who served in the Obama administration with Biden, defended Biden while campaigning in Iowa on Friday.
“I think he knows full well, as a lot of other people do, that there was a difference in people who felt they needed to give a president the leverage to be able to get Saddam Hussein back to the table, without having to go to war, and that that vote was unfortunately structured in a way that it was sort of either-or,” Kerry said.
The statement prompted David Sirota, a former journalist who is now Sanderss speechwriter, to attack Biden in a series of posts on Twitter. Biden, he said at one point, “isnt getting away with rewriting history about how he helped lead America into the Iraq War.”
Jeff Weaver, a senior campaign adviser to Sanders, later said in a statement that Biden voted for war.
“It is appalling that after 18 years Joe Biden still refuses to admit he was dead wrong on the Iraq War, the worst foreign policy blunder in modern American history,” Weaver said.
Kerry, during an appearance on CBSs “Face the Nation” on Sunday, again defended Biden.
“I think that Bernie, regrettably, is distorting Joes record,” Kerry said. Biden “was listening to a president who made a pledge that he was going to do diplomacy; that he was going to exhaust diplomacy, build a coalition. And, ultimately, we learned, as Joe did and I did, that the intelligence was distorted. So Joe spoke out and criticized. Joe was against what they were doing,” Kerry said.
“The vote was not a vote, specifically, to go to war. It was a vote for the president to have leverage with respect to getting Saddam Hussein back to the negotiating table, back to the inspections, excuse me. And I think we were let down and Joe has said many times that it was a mistake, obviously, to trust the words of the administration who didnt follow through on what they said they were going to do.”
Biden, a U.S. senator at the time, voted in 2002 in favor of a resolution that authorized Bush to use military force against Iraq. Speaking to lawmakers before the vote, Biden said that “failure to overwhelmingly support” the resolution was “likely to enhance the prospects that war will occur.”
The point of the resolution was to make Iraq destroy weapons of mass destruction it held, Biden said. He also said that Bush would make a case to the American people if he did decide to go to war. The United States invaded Iraq the next year and never found weapons of mass destruction.
Biden told CNN on March 19, 2003, a day before Iraq was invaded: “I support the president. I support the troops. We should make no distinction. We should have one voice going out to the whole world that were together. Theres plenty to criticize this president for. Lets get this war done.”
“When that first tank crosses that line, we should be on the floor of the United States Senate and every capital in the world hear one voice from both parties, saying we support the troops. We support the president. And this is the single most important thing we do, and show it by our actions,” he said.
Months after the invasion, he said he would have voted for the resolution again. He also said he felt “we went to war too soon.” He later said, for the first time in a 2005 interview, that the vote was “a mistake.”