Lincoln Chafee on War & Peace

Libertarian presidential challenger; Independent RI Governor; Republican Senator (1999-2007)


Disarmament, non-proliferation where we want to go

Chafee said that bringing an end to war--he specifically mentioned the ongoing conflict in the Middle East--was a core reason for running. "I think the major political party system engineers it so they get a war supporter in there, and that's just what has happened it seems every time," he said. "Disarmament and non-proliferation should be where we want to go."
Source: Warwick Beacon on 2020 presidential hopefuls , Sep 11, 2019

Calls drone strikes "extrajudicial assassinations"

He does think Hillary Clinton is far too hawkish to be president--and indeed, she's more hawkish than our current Democratic president and more hawkish than most of the Democratic Party. She supports the Obama administration's anti-ISIS airstrikes in Iraq and Syria; Chafee opposes them. Her State Department helped develop the legal rationale for the drone war; Chafee calls drone strikes "extrajudicial assassinations."
Source: Vox.com e-zine on 2020 presidential hopefuls , Oct 16, 2015

There was no real evidence of WMDs in Iraq before invasion

CHAFEE: If you're looking ahead, and you're looking at someone who made that poor decision in 2002 to go into Iraq when there was no real evidence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, I know because I did my homework, and, so, that's an indication of how someone will perform in the future. And that's what's important.

Q: He's questioning your judgment.

CLINTON: I recall very well being on a debate stage about 25 times with then Senator Obama, debating this very issue. After the election, he asked me to become Secretary of State. He valued my judgment, and I spent a lot of time with him in the Situation Room.

Source: 2015 CNN Democratic primary debate in Las Vegas , Oct 13, 2015

Iran nuclear deal

WEBB: The third [strategic failing of recent administrations] was the recent deal allowing Iran to move forward and eventually acquire a nuclear weapon.

CHAFEE: I have to answer one thing that Senator Webb said about the Iran deal. He said that because of the Iran deal, Russia came in. That's not true, Senator Webb. I respect your foreign policy chops. But Russia is aligned with Iran and with Assad and the Alawite Shias in Syria. So that Iran deal did not allow Russia to come in.

WEBB: I believe that the signal that we sent to the region when the Iran nuclear deal was concluded was that we are accepting Iran's greater position on this very important balance of power, among our greatest ally Israel, and I think it encouraged the acts that we've seen in the past several weeks.

Source: 2015 CNN Democratic primary debate in Las Vegas , Oct 13, 2015

American credibility suffered because of Iraqi WMD lies

We have to repair American credibility after we told the world that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, which he didn't. So there's an issue of American credibility out there. We have repair work to be done. I think we need someone that has the best in ethical standards as our next president.
Source: 2015 CNN Democratic primary debate in Las Vegas , Oct 13, 2015

We need a new paradigm to stop these Mideast wars

We've got to stop these wars. You have to have a new dynamic, a new paradigm. We just spent a half-billion dollars arming and training soldiers, the rebel soldiers in Syria. They quickly join the other side. We just bombed a hospital. We've had drone strikes that hit civilian weddings. So I would change how we--our approach to the Middle East. We need a new paradigm in the Middle East.
Source: 2015 CNN Democratic primary debate in Las Vegas , Oct 13, 2015

I never believed Saddam had WMDs

What I'm most proud of is my judgment, particularly in the Iraq war vote. There was a lot of political pressure, public pressure. But I did my homework and I did not believe that the evidence was there that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. And we live now with the consequences. I'm running for president to end the wars. I want to be the peacemaker. I am a proven peacemaker.
Source: 2015 CNN Democratic primary debate in Las Vegas , Oct 13, 2015

Neocon advocates for invasions are "delusional"

Chafee ripped Republican Jeb Bush for suggesting that President Obama screwed things up in Iraq. No, said Chafee, the mess was made by Bush's brother, George W. and, Dick Cheney. If Bush thinks differently, "he's just drinking some kind of neocon Kool-Aid." Referring to Obama-bashing Republicans and neoconservative advocates for new invasions and incursions as "delusional," Chafee warned that, "We just cannot have those people come back to make those same kind of mistakes."
Source: The Nation magazine on 2020 presidential hopefuls , Aug 20, 2015

Iraq: There was "no evidence" of WMDs, it was a hoax

"I went to the CIA, sir, before I took my vote on the Iraq War. Listen to this: I asked them to show me all the evidence you have--'I have to vote on this in three weeks.' And all the analysts laid out what they had for evidence and it wasn't anything. I was there for more than an hour. There just was no evidence of weapons of mass destruction. It was all a hoax. That's the facts. That's the truth."
Source: The Nation magazine on 2020 presidential hopefuls , Aug 20, 2015

Iraq war was on hawks' wish list; feared another Vietnam

Chafee outlined the "primary three" reasons for his decision to vote against the war. The first was his fear that it would be for the next generation what Vietnam had been for his. Second, "I had learned in the nine months of the Bush-Cheney administration prior to September 11 not to trust their word." Third, the war in Iraq had long been on the "hawks'" wish list, and a visit to the CIA convinced him "there was no intelligence" that made the case for intervention.
Source: Daily Beast e-zine on 2020 presidential hopefuls , Jun 25, 2015

Averse to foreign entanglements, including Iraq

Aversion to Foreign Entanglements: Only 23 of 100 Senators saw the folly of allowing Bush/Cheney to invade Iraq. I am very proud to be one of the 23.

The tragedies of the Iraq War are manifold; lost and injured lives, hundreds of billions of squandered tax dollars, the difficulty of providing just and proper care for our brave veterans, but maybe the most tragic, the loss of American credibility. I commit to the repair needed to all the harm done. Our credibility will be restored when we respect our world partners and truly listen when they speak. In a world of nuclear weapons, the United States must make international decisions with brains and not biceps.

Source: 2016 presidential campaign website Chafee2016.com , Jun 4, 2015

Until Iraq War, there was lasting peace ahead of us

Q: You said explicitly that you're challenging Hillary Clinton primarily because of her vote for the Iraq war. Do you really think there's still enough anger left--this was a long time ago--to propel your candidacy based on that?

CHAFEE: Well, I enjoyed working with Sen. Clinton. We overlapped for six years and we served on the environment and public works committee together. But that vote for the Iraq war, that was a moment in time where the Vietnam era had ended, the Berlin wall come down. There was lasting peace ahead of us if we made good decisions particularly after September 11th when people were angry and they were scared. And that was just a moment in time where the premise for going into Iraq was so false that there were weapons of mass destruction--she didn't do her homework and we live with the ramifications today. And so you may say that's 12 years ago, but if you show lack of judgment, lack of doing your homework then, what can we expect in the future?

Source: CNN SOTU 2015 interviews of 2016 presidential hopefuls , Apr 12, 2015

Only Republican vote against Iraq War

I had cast the only Republican vote against the war in Iraq.

Like every American, I looked at the facts and reached my own conclusion on whether Pres. Bush and V.P. Cheney knew, before they ordered our troops into Iraq, that Saddam had no weapons of mass destruction. Behind the scenes, I think, key figures in the administration had a variety of reasons for wanting to topple the dictator. But none were willing to suggest to the American people that their sons and daughters should fight and die for any of these reasons. Instead, the White House marketed the war on chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons and the threat of "the smoking gun that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud."

Source: Against the Tide, by Sen. Lincoln Chafee, p.164&203 , Apr 1, 2008

Deny future Bin Ladens recruitment propaganda tools

In September 2001 those of us who wanted to know what drove bin Laden's rage against us were looked upon with suspicion. Bin Laden had talked extensively about 3 grievances:
  1. American military bases the holy sites of Mecca and Medina, in his native Saudi Arabia;
  2. the plight of the Palestinians under Israeli occupation in Gaza and the West Bank;
  3. and the misery of the Iraqi people living under UN sanctions.
As I read the materials my staff gathered, I felt we had to define two missions ahead: to pursue bin Laden with every ounce of vigor and bring him to justice, and to deny future bin Ladens the propaganda tools that had recruited the 19 men who brought down our airliners in New York, Virginia, and Pennsylvania.
Source: Against the Tide, by Sen. Lincoln Chafee, p. 69-70 , Apr 1, 2008

2002: War authorization just ratchets up the hatred

In October of 2002, how could any Republican senator vote to send his country over the precipice again based on party loyalty? How could any Democratic senator follow suit out of political cowardice? When the president declared that Saddam was an imminent threat to America from 7,000 miles away, veteran lawmakers in both parties failed to fight back. They let the administration go unchallenged when it sent up witnesses who did their best to get us into the war the president wanted.

On October 9, roughly 36 hours before the vote, I went to the Senate floor to say that the war authorization would serve those who believe in "ratcheting up the hatred."

In the end, even a majority of Senate Democrats voted for war. Only 23 senators voted to check a reckless president. I was the lone Republican among them.

Source: Against the Tide, by Sen. Lincoln Chafee, p. 91-92 , Apr 1, 2008

Support a timetable if diplomacy does not work

Q: You have both spoken out against any timetables for the withdrawal of American troops. How would you bring this fight to a successful conclusion?

CHAFEE: That’s the biggest issue facing this country, what we do in the Middle East and particularly in Iraq. We have to work with those countries around Iraq. There’re six countries that share a border with Iraq. And they all have a vested interest. A couple of them our adversary, Syria and Iran, we need their help in stabilizing what’s happening in Iraq. If we can’t work with those countries, I would support a timetable.

LAFFEY: The plan is this?we told people of the world that we would make Iraq a stable place. By stable, we really mean it’s a place that’s no threat to itself. No threat to the neighboring countries and no threat to the US. That means taking troops in Iraq, Iraqi troops and taking them to Europe to train them and bring them back. We have to train those troops so that we can get them to stand up so eventually we can stand down.

Source: 2006 R.I. Republican Senate Primary debate on WPRI , Aug 24, 2006

Only Republican to vote against Iraq war?but keep Rumsfeld

Q: What about Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld?

LAFFEY: I have called for the resignation of Rumsfeld. We took the worst case scenario to go to war but then we use one of the rosiest cases to win the war. I come from the business world and we have to hold people accountable so my opponent has complained about the war and called Rumsfeld arrogant but wants to keep him around. I think he should leave. I think we should re-energize that.

CHAFEE: Laffey criticized me for not calling for Rumsfeld’s resignation as he has, and by saying that job is not going well in Iraq and Rumsfeld should step down, that maybe that vindicates my vote against the war in Iraq. The only Republican to vote against the war in Iraq. Laffey is very critical of me when I cast that vote as we traveled around the state at joint appearances. Very, very critical of Chafee’s vote against the war. I suppose now you might say that was a good vote.

Source: 2006 R.I. Republican Senate Primary debate (x-ref Laffey) , Aug 24, 2006

Pressure Israel firmly, even when it looks like non-support

Chafee, chairman of the Senate subcommittee that oversees the Middle East, is among a handful of senators who often dissent from measures calling for support of Israel and sanctions against its enemies. Supporters call Chafee a courageous voice of independence from the pro-Israel lobby who is willing to prod Israel to take difficult actions needed for peace.

They praise Chafee for having warned that a U.S. failure to press Israel firmly enough toward peace would risk the election of Hamas -- a party advocating Israel’s destruction -- to lead the Palestinian Authority. Hamas won the Palestinian legislative elections in January.

Critics say Chafee’s record puts him outside the mainstream of strong U.S. support for Israel. The senator replied last week that his “dogged” support of the peace process is in Israel’s long-term best interests.

Source: John E. Mulligan, Providence Journal, “Differ on Mideast” , Apr 17, 2006

Iraq war wasn't about WMDs, but changing Middle East

According to Senator Lincoln Chafee, the only Republican to oppose the war, "I never believed that the Iraq war was about weapons of mass destruction. It was this grand vision of changing the Middle East."
Source: Counterpunch magazine on 2020 presidential hopefuls , Oct 29, 2005

Voted NO on redeploying troops out of Iraq by July 2007.

Voting YEA on this amendment would establish a timetable for withdrawal from Iraq. Voting NAY would keep the current situation without a timetable. The amendment states:
  1. The President shall redeploy, commencing in 2006, US forces from Iraq by July 1, 2007, leaving only the minimal number of forces that are critical to completing the mission of standing up Iraqi security forces and conducting specialized counterterrorism operations.
  2. The President should maintain an over-the-horizon troop presence to prosecute the war on terror and protect regional security interests.
  3. Within 30 days, the administration shall submit to Congress a report that sets forth the strategy for the redeployment of US forces from Iraq by July 1, 2007.
Reference: Kerry Amendment to National Defense Authorization Act; Bill S.Amdt. 4442 to S. 2766 ; vote number 2006-181 on Jun 22, 2006

Voted YES on investigating contract awards in Iraq & Afghanistan.

To establish a special committee of the Senate to investigate the awarding and carrying out of contracts to conduct activities in Afghanistan and Iraq and to fight the war on terrorism. Voting YES would: create Senate special committee to investigate war contracts, taking into consideration: bidding, methods of contracting, subcontracting, oversight procedures, allegations of wasteful practices, accountability and lessons learned in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Reference: Committee to Investigate War Contracts; Bill S Amdt 2476 to S 1042 ; vote number 2005-316 on Nov 10, 2005

Voted YES on requiring on-budget funding for Iraq, not emergency funding.

Amendment to express the sense of the Senate on future requests for funding for military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. A YES vote would:
Reference: Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act; Bill S.AMDT.464 to H.R.1268 ; vote number 2005-96 on Apr 20, 2005

Voted YES on $86 billion for military operations in Iraq & Afghanistan.

Vote to pass a bill that would appropriate $86.5 billion in supplemental spending for military operations and reconstruction in Iraq and Afghanistan, in Fiscal 2004. The bill would provide $10.3 billion as a grant to rebuild Iraq. This includes:
Reference: FY04 Emergency Supplemental for Iraq and Afghanistan; Bill S1689 ; vote number 2003-400 on Oct 17, 2003

Voted NO on authorizing use of military force against Iraq.

H.J.Res. 114; Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002. The administration would be required to report to Congress that diplomatic options have been exhausted before, or within 48 hours after military action has started. Every 60 days the president would also be required to submit a progress report to Congress.
Reference: Bill H.J.RES.114 ; vote number 2002-237 on Oct 11, 2002

Supports $48 billion in new spending for anti-terrorism.

Chafee adopted the Republican Main Street Partnership issue stance:

The Republican Main Street Partnership (RMSP), the largest group of moderate GOP elected officials in the nation, applauds President Bush's call for $48 Billion in new defense spending to win the war on terrorism, provide for homeland defense and modernize the U.S. military.

Main Street Moderates, also offer support for the President's "Homeland Defense" initiative that strengthens border security ($2.1 Billion Increase), bulks up INS and Customs inspectors and agents (focusing on the northern border), and proposes a 500% increase in "Bio-Terrorism" spending. These were part of the RMSP Anti-Terrorism Policy proposed by key Main Street members Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME), Rep. Christopher Shays (R-CT) and others shortly after Sept. 11th. Sen. Snowe called "the President's proposals to boost funding for the Coast Guard, border security and customs right on target." "By focusing on these issues (Defense and Homeland Security), he's clearly in touch with what's most important to the American people," said fellow Main Street member Rep. Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY).

Source: Republican Main Street Partnership press release 01-RMSP5 on Jan 30, 2002

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Page last updated: Sep 01, 2020