News & Politics

Bernie Sanders Predicted Invading Iraq Would Cause 'More Wars for Years to Come' -- in 1991 (Watch)

It turns out the Vermont senator's words from 24 years ago were prophetic.

Above all else, the job of the President of the United States of America is to keep our country safe and manage our relationships with the rest of the world. That's why foreign policy credentials and judgement are an important factor for voters as we prepare to elect the next commander in chief.

So far, the majority of the discussion in the Democratic Party primary has been about domestic issues such as immigration and income inequality. But with chaos continuing in Iraq and many other hotspots as a result of a domino effect of U.S. military actions, it's interesting to look at a prescient speech against military action given by Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT)

On Jan. 16, 1991, the Persian Gulf War began, as the United States and its allies began one of the largest bombing campaigns in U.S. history, aimed at settling a militia dispute between Kuwait and Iraq. At the time, the press was almost universalin its support for the war, and Congress offered little opposition to President George H.W. Bush's request to violently settle the issue, despite pleas from many for a diplomatic solution using sanctions and international mediation.Yet one day into the bombing campaign, Sanders stood aloneon the House floor to issue a warning against the cheers for war. 

In his speech, he warned that while the United States would be able to crush the vastly inferior Iraqi army, the destruction and bitterness the war would cause would “lay the groundwork for more and more wars for years to come.” He denounced our attentiveness to war and our inattentiveness to basic human needs, such as child starvation abroad and homelessness at home:

"We should make no mistake about it, today is a tragic day for humanity, for the people of Iraq, for the people of the United States, and for the United Nations as an institution. It is also a tragic day for the future of our planet and for the children, 30,000 of whom in the Third World will starve to death today as we spend billions to wage this war – and 25 percent of whom in our own country live in poverty in our country because we apparently lack the funds to provide them with a minimal standard of living. ...

"Despite the fact that we are now aligned with such Middle Eastern dictatorships such as Syria, a terrorist dictatorship, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, feudalistic dictatorships, and Egypt, a one-party state that receives seven billion dollars in debt forgiveness to wage this war with us, I believe that in the long run, the action unleashed last night will go strongly against our interests in the Middle East. Clearly the United States and allies will win this war, but the death and destruction caused, will in my opinion, not be forgotten by the poor people of the Third World and the people of the Middle East in particular. ...

"I fear that one day we will regret that decision and that we are in fact laying the ground work for more and more wars for years to come."


The senator's warnings were prescient. The Persian Gulf War seems never to have ended, as the United States continued to bomb Iraq continually through 2003, as well as enacting a sanctions regime so harsh it led to the deaths of over half a million Iraqi children. In 2003, the United States and its allies invaded Iraq, enacting a harsh occupation and then igniting a civil war. That civil war, alongside the violence in Syria, gave birth to ISIS, which is currently ripping the country apart.

Many of the other allied countries Sanders condemned in his address – Syria and Egypt – went through their own repression-inspired tumultuous revolutions, and Saudi Arabia is largely blamed for financing the rise of Wahabbi-inspired terrorism. 

Watch his speech:

Zaid Jilani is an AlterNet staff writer. Follow @zaidjilani on Twitter.

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