Voices From 2002: Senators Who Voted Against War

  • Bob Geiger's picture
    Bob Geiger
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On October 11, 2002, the United States Senate voted 77-23 in favor of Joint Resolution 114 – the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002.

We are, of course, all too familiar with the consequences of that vote and the extent to which many Democrats such as John Kerry and John Edwards are only recently willing to admit to making such a terrible mistake. Others – certainly the vast majority of George W. Bush's henchmen on the Republican side of the aisle – will never come clean and take responsible for the mess they have allowed our president to make of the world. Indeed, as we have seen over the last couple of days, Bush and Cheney are even willing to use that vote as a weapon against those they duped three years ago.

Although we spend a lot of time talking about what – and who – got us into this quagmire, let's take a moment to look at the names and the words of the Senators who defied bullying by Team Bush and had the wisdom and courage to vote "nay" on October 11, 2002.

Here are the brave ones:

  • Daniel Akaka (D-HI)
  • Jeff Bingaman (D-NM)
  • Barbara Boxer (D-CA)
  • Robert Byrd (D-WV)
  • Lincoln Chafee (R-RI)
  • Kent Conrad (D-ND)
  • Jon Corzine (D-NJ)
  • Mark Dayton (D-MN)
  • Richard Durbin (D-IL)
  • Russell Feingold (D-WI)
  • Robert Graham (D-FL)
  • Daniel Inouye (D-HI)
  • James Jeffords (I-VT)
  • Edward Kennedy (D-MA)
  • Patrick Leahy (D-VT)
  • Carl Levin (D-MI)
  • Barbara Mikulski (D-MD)
  • Patty Murray (D-WA)
  • Jack Reed (D-RI)
  • Paul Sarbanes (D-MD)
  • Debbie Stabenow (D-MI)
  • Paul Wellstone (D-MN)
  • Ron Wyden (D-OR)

Now let's give credit where it is due and look back on what some of these Senators had to say on October 11, 2002 or in the days leading up to that vote.

Daniel Akaka (D-HI)

"Great uncertainty surrounds the President's post-war strategy. Remember the day the war ends, Iraq becomes our responsibility, our problem. The United States lacks strategic planning for a post-conflict situation. Retired General George Joulwan recently said that the U.S. needs 'to organize for the peace' and design now a strategy with 'clear goals, milestones, objectives.' Our objectives in Iraq have not yet been made clear: is it our goal to occupy Baghdad and if so, for how long? A rush to battle without a strategy to win the peace is folly.

"I support action by the United Nations in the form of a resolution calling for unconditional and unfettered inspections in Iraq. Only after we exhaust all of our alternative means should we engage in the use of force, and before then, the President must ensure we have a strategy and plans in place for winning the war and building the peace."

Kent Conrad (D-ND)

"Before we ask young men and women to put themselves in harm's way, I must be convinced that we have exhausted every other possibility, pursued every other avenue. For me, and I believe for the people I represent, war must be the last resort. Saddam has not directly threatened his neighbors since the Gulf War. And a recent threat assessment from the Central Intelligence Agency concludes that Iraq is not likely to initiate a chemical or biological attack on the United States.

"Yet the President is contemplating a pre-emptive invasion of Iraq with the goal of ousting Saddam Hussein and installing a new regime. Never before in the history of this nation has the Congress voted to authorize a preemptive attack on a country that has not first attacked us or our allies. In my judgment, an invasion of Iraq at this time would make the United States less secure rather than more secure. It would make a dangerous world even more dangerous."

Mark Dayton (D-MN)

"There appears to be no imminent threat to the United States from Iraq. If there were, the Bush Administration could not have decided last summer to delay this unveiling until September because, in the words of White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card, Jr., 'from a marketing point of view, you don't bring out new products in August.'

"Because Iraq's threat is not immediate, and because U.N. diplomatic efforts are just under way, I believe it is unwise and unnecessary for Congress to vote now on a future use of military force. So why is Congress rushing to judgment at this time? It is for political advantage in the upcoming election, rather than diplomatic or military necessity."

Richard Durbin (D-IL)

"Historically, we have said it is not enough to say you have a weapon that can hurt us. Think of 50 years of cold war when the Soviet Union had weapons poised and pointed at us. It is not enough that you just have weapons. We will watch to see if you make any effort toward hurting anyone in the United States, any of our citizens or our territory.

"It was a bright-line difference in our foreign policy which we drew and an important difference in our foreign policy. It distinguished us from aggressor nations. It said that we are a defensive nation. We do not strike out at you simply because you have a weapon if you are not menacing or threatening to us. Has September 11, 2001, changed that so dramatically?"

Russell Feingold (D-WI)

"Both in terms of the justifications for an invasion and in terms of the mission and the plan for the invasion, Mr. President, the Administration's arguments just don't add up. They don't add up to a coherent basis for a new major war in the middle of our current challenging fight against the terrorism of al Qaeda and related organizations. Therefore, I cannot support the resolution for the use of force before us.

"I am increasingly troubled by the seemingly shifting justifications for an invasion at this time. My colleagues, I'm not suggesting there has to be only one justification for such a dramatic action. But when the Administration moves back and forth from one argument to another, I think it undercuts the credibility of the case and the belief in its urgency. I believe that this practice of shifting justifications has much to do with the troubling phenomenon of many Americans questioning the Administration's motives in insisting on action at this particular time."

James Jeffords (I-VT)

"I am very disturbed by President Bush's determination that the threat from Iraq is so severe and so immediate that we must rush to a military solution. I do not see it that way. I have been briefed several times by Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, CIA Director Tenet and other top Administration officials. I have discussed this issue with the President. I have heard nothing that convinces me that an immediate preemptive military strike is necessary or that it would further our interests in the long term.

"We must ensure that any action we take against Iraq does not come at the expense of the health and strength of our nation, or the stability of the international order upon which our economic security depends. Just think of what progress we could make on non-proliferation if we were to put one fraction of the cost of a war against Saddam Hussein into efforts to prevent the emergence of the next nuclear, chemical or biological threat. Strong efforts at strengthening international non-proliferation regimes would truly enhance our nation's future security."

Edward Kennedy (D-MA)

"It is wrong for Congress to declare war against Iraq now before we have exhausted the alternatives. And it is wrong to divert our attention now from the greater and more immediate threat of Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda terrorism. We cannot go it alone on Iraq and expect our allies to support us. We cannot go it alone and expect the world to stand with us in the urgent and ongoing war against terrorism and Al Qaeda."

Patrick Leahy (D-VT)

"This resolution, like others before it, does not declare anything. It tells the President: Why don't you decide; we are not going to. This resolution, when you get through the pages of whereas clauses, is nothing more than a blank check. The President can decide when to use military force, how to use it, and for how long. This Vermonter does not sign blank checks.

"We have heard a lot of bellicose rhetoric, but what are the facts? I am not asking for 100 percent proof, but the administration is asking Congress to make a decision to go to war based on conflicting statements, angry assertions, and assumption based on speculation. This is not the way a great nation goes to war."

"The key words in the resolution we are considering today are remarkably similar to the infamous [Gulf of Tonkin] resolution of 38 years ago which so many Senators and so many millions of Americans came to regret. Let us not make that mistake again. Let us not pass a Tonkin Gulf resolution. Let us not set the history of our great country this way. Let us not make the mistake we made once before."

Carl Levin (D-MI)

"The vote we take today may have significant consequences for our children and our grandchildren. I believe our security is enhanced when we seek to enhance the authority and credibility of the United Nations and when, if military force is required, it is done with support of the world community."

Barbara Mikulski (D-MD)

"America cannot face this situation alone. The support and cooperation of allies would enable us to share the risks and costs. We need international legitimacy, international support, and international manpower. I also worry that unilateral action could undermine the war on terrorism. Some special forces have already been withdrawn in the efforts to hunt al Qaeda in Afghanistan. The focus of our top military and civilian leaders could shift away from Bin Laden and al Qaeda."

Jack Reed (D-RI)

"Acting alone will increase the risk to our forces and to our allies in the region. Acting alone will increase the burden that we must bear to restore stability in the region. Acting alone will invite the criticism and animosity of many throughout the world who will mistakenly dismiss our efforts as entirely self-serving. Acting alone could seriously undermine the structure of collective security that the United States has labored for decades to make effective. Acting alone today against the palpable evil of Saddam may set us on a course, charted by the newly announced doctrine of preemption, that will carry us beyond the limits of our power and our wisdom."

Debbie Stabenow (D-MI)

"If we do this right, Mr. President, we will truly make the world safer for our families. If we choose the wrong approach, I am deeply concerned that we will start down a road that could ultimately create a more unstable and dangerous world for our children and our grandchildren. There is no doubt that we can defeat Saddam Hussein in battle. The test of our strength is not in our ability to marshal our military forces, but our willingness to adhere to that which has made us great.

"We are a strong and powerful nation, made that way by our willingness to go the extra mile in the name of liberty and peace. The time is now for us to work together in the name of the American people and get it right."

Ron Wyden (D-OR)

"I am not convinced that Saddam Hussein currently poses a clear and present threat to the domestic security of our nation. While my service on the Senate Intelligence Committee has left me convinced of Iraq's support of terrorism, suspicious of its ties to al Qaeda, I have seen no evidence, acts, or involvement in the planning or execution of the vicious attacks of 9/11."

Please take a moment to call or write these Senators and thank them for what they tried to do.


OK they voted against the war what about the Patriot Act?

  • mac3's picture
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I expect my representatives to do what is right for us. Going to war over a lie was not a good thing and they knew it. They knew Bush planned it from the time he ran for President. They spread the lie about who did 911 too to justify the war. Yes most of them did. It was treason and crimes against humanity. But only foreign dictators are targets by our government who do this to their people.

Who voted against the Patriot Acts..Kucinich, Feingold,etc.? To vote for it was treason.

That number who did the right thing only a few in the House and the Senate.

One issue at a time. The

One issue at a time. The topic of this node is who did, or did not, vote for the war against Iraq. Bob is correct -- these people deserve our gratitude for standing up for their convictions.

Hawkish Democrat

  • Jim's picture
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-Nearly HALF of our Democratic Senators were indeed forthright! I thank them, Lincoln Chafee, and Jeffords, for their stance.

-Other Democrats changed their minds and OPENED THEIR MOUTHS:

Hawkish Democrat Calls for Immediate Iraq Pullout
Murtha, a Vietnam Veteran, Voted for War


WASHINGTON (Nov. 17) -- An influential House Democrat who voted for the Iraq war called Thursday for the immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq, another sign of growing unease in Congress about the conflict.


-MANY other Democrats put political breaks on the entire Iraq venture even with misleading cheerleading by Republicans and a “We are going to kill you if you do not defend America" cry by a vast majority of the Nation.

Perhaps you can now speak to what the Republican Party did?

To what extent was the "Left” more effective compared to the above Democrats?

Senators Vow To Block Patriot Act

Was this quick enough for you…;-)


(CBS/AP) Half a dozen senators worried about civil liberties – three Democrats and three Republicans – said Thursday they will try to block the measure to renew the Patriot Act, CBS News correspondent Bob Fuss reports.

The most controversial parts of the law that vastly expanded FBI powers after 9/11 expire at the end of the year unless renewed. An agreement on a measure to do that between the House and Senate doesn't include some minimal new protections these senators want, including having a judge review broad secret warrants when the FBI seeks information from libraries, hospitals and banks.

"If further changes are not made, we will work to stop this bill from becoming law," GOP Sens. Larry Craig, John Sununu and Lisa Murkowski and Democratic Sens. Dick Durbin, Russ Feingold and Ken Salazar said in a letter to the Senate Judiciary and Intelligence committees.

This came a day after House-Senate negotiators crafted a tentative compromise to make most provisions of the existing law permanent, and set new seven-year sunsets for rules on wiretapping, obtaining business records under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) and new standards for monitoring "lone wolf" terrorists who may be operating independent of a foreign agent or power.

The fact that bush is blaming democrats

  • stdyofman's picture
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in congress for supporting the war back in 2002 is dirty and dispicable. I think that it is honorable for these same democrats to come forward and admit they made a mistake. Imo, everyone has moments of lapsed judgement or makes a bad decision, but it takes gumption and guts to admit that one was wrong and own up to a mistake and work towards correcting the mistake.

Thanks to all the senators above who had the forsight and guts to stand up to the administration. for the ones who voted yes and have since changed thier minds I say, dont let these guys get you down you are doing an honorable thing by admitting your mistake.

Bob and Bill Harding are right

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    Paul Revere
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Bob and Bill Harding are right, we should appreciate these guys' stand against the war.. and I do...

But yet, mac3 also has a point. It may be off topic... but it is pertinent.

Ok, the past's the past; let's not dwell... OK let's say that's OK...

What about future, what about today? There's a bit of grandstanding against a wounded animal... a bit of sniping and hitting back... and that's fine...

You guys want to rehabilitate yourselves?

Simple: we'll overlook your votes on war or on shredding of Bill of Rights (so-called patriot act) if you show no mercy and no quarters for these nazis who may yet succeed at destroying our Republic. Show spine and smarts at parliamentary maneuvers. In short, kill the beast... by any and all means; find a way.

We all make mistakes, we all screw up at some point in parts of our lives (professional, personal, etc...), that's human nature. I can forgive...

Show me you're worthy of my forgiveness..

Do your job. Fight for us, for me, for your sacred Oath to the US Constitution.

Great advice. What is the

Great advice. What is the "Independent" view on how to accomplish "killing the beast?" Or, is this just another attempt to bash Democrats from the outside looking in?

I didn't say, "let's not dwell..." The Patriot Act is just an extension of the illegal war on Iraq, and a Democratic-controlled Congress is the first step in getting it repealed.

Focus on the solution, and not the problem.

Focus on the solution not the probem?

  • mac3's picture
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Isn't this what the Republicans say after a disaster or theft? Let us move on it's old news? Lies that lead us to war and treason to steal our democracy?

The "solution" is to hold anyone accountable who violates the Constitution or the law. That includes Democrats. If we don't do it this Fascist government will get even worse. They will continue their criminal government and tyranny without punishment.

The X-Governor of Illinois is on trail for his licence for sale bribe sceme. People came from all over the country to get a license. They couldn't speak the language or even drive. There were many deaths on the highways of America because of it.

X-Senator Graham (T-R) testified at this trial yesterday. Graham (who was Ryan's campaign manager) called Ryan a prostitute. Ryan said, Graham and his wife wendy should look to themselves regarding Enron.

Senator Graham didn't run for office again in 2002. His wife resigned from the Enron board to defect any charges. They were both involved in Texas banking scandals and Enron fraud but walked away scot free. Enron was a huge scandal that still has not been fully investigated. The crooks made to pay.

There are a lot of thugs walking free in America since Bush came to power. He is making new ones everyday. the Republicans and many Democrats don't seem to care.

The Congress came to a "compromise" on extending the Patriot Acts. How can there be a compromise to taking away our democracy and freedoms? They are traitors. "Bin Bush" gets his way again.

Think they care about re-election when they fix the voting machines and numbers? Think they care what we think? It's all a "dog and pony show" in DC.

Yes..there are some good Congress people left but they are few and far between. All of them step with soft shoes around the important issues. They seem to take turns yelling but in the end...Bin Bush gets his way.

mac3, you seem to have some

mac3, you seem to have some sort of an "other-left" axe to grind, whereas the purpose of this blog is to bring Democrats (not Greens, Other-lefts, Independents, etc.) together. If you are not a member of the Democratic Party, please consider joining (or re-joining), and become a part of the solution. Standing on the outside and throwing rocks is neither progressive, nor helpful.

If you want to bash sitting Democrats, please find another venue because your constant negativity and whining is growing thin.

And yes, the constructive way to bring Democrats together is to focus on solutions. We ALL know what the problems are, and your rehashing them in every post does nothing to fix them.

"What Republicans say" is

  • Jim's picture
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"What Republicans say" is what you are saying.

The War

  • philbq's picture
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Now hawk Rep. John Murtha has called for withdrawal, but Nancy Pelosi refuses to call for withdrawal. I think the Demos need a new leader in the House.

Thanks for the Greenie

Thanks for the Greenie advice, but if you want to bash sitting Democrats on this blog, you need to be a Democrat. Feel free, however, to bash the Greens in Congress all you want.