Quotes Against Military Intervention in Iraq

Last Updated on June 13, 2014.

Gordon Adams, Former Senior White House Budget Official for National Security “What is happening in Iraq right now is both a cautionary tale and an unfolding tragedy. The caution is about the blithe American assumption that the United States is omnipotent, that with enough money, good will, expertise, equipment, and training Americans can build foreign forces and bring security to troubled areas around the world. The tragedy is that what the U.S. does and has done leads down the road to failure.” [6/13/14]

Retired Lt. Gen. Michael Barbero- “As we have learned in the last decade of fighting insurgents, they obviate our superior firepower by dispersing into small, highly mobile targets and by living and operating among the population. And we have also learned that the decisive way to defeat an insurgency is to attack its entire network: its leaders, financiers, suppliers and key operators. We can hope that this is what the President meant when he said ‘we will be prepared to take targeted and precise military action.’” [6/30/14]

Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-CA)- “Before we put an American in harm’s way, tell us why. No one wants to see the region descend into further chaos. There’s a lot of concern about getting embroiled in another Vietnam and … about sending American troops once again to fight someone else’s war.” [6/24/14]

Robert Beecroft, former U.S. ambassador to Iraq- “On the battlefield, (the U.S. war in Iraq) cannot be considered a success. It’s a struggle. We’re doing what we can to support them with equipment, assistance, training, and sharing any intelligence.” [6/12/14]

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA)-“The current crisis in Iraq has its roots in an ill-conceived war that helped to fuel sectarian violence and an Iraqi government that has excluded minority populations from governing. Much American blood was spilled during the Iraq War and while I believe we should go after ISIS—which poses a threat to the entire world—any U.S. action must be well-considered and well-executed in coordination with our allies and the Iraqi government and military, which we helped train and arm. Iraq should know that it needs a unity government now or its future will be bleak. Some of the biggest GOP cheerleaders for the disastrous war in Iraq are now joining the blame-America-first crowd rather than working with our Commander-in-Chief to confront this crisis.” [6/12/14]

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA)- “Voting against the resolution authorizing the use of military force in Iraq was one of my proudest moments as a senator. It is long past time to close this tragic chapter in American history.” [6/12/14]

Charles Chamberlain, Democracy For America Executive Director “That’s what separates out American democracy from dictators and horrible governments across the world and the reason why that works is that we have a president that can consult with congress before making big decisions. That doesn’t just make a unilateral decision to go in for military conflict.” [6/16/14]

Hillary Clinton, former Secretary of State- “Military activities (are) not a role for the United States. There needs to be a number of steps that Maliki and his government must take to demonstrate that he is committed to an inclusive Iraq, something he has not done up to date.” [6/13/14]

Rep. Mike Coffman (R-CO)- “The only feasible solution is a political reconciliation… Mr. President, the time is now to put pressure on the Iraqi government to change. That is our only hope. Sending a contingent of U.S. military personnel, no matter how small, will be counterproductive to that goal. Our presence will send the wrong message to the Malaki government that we will support them despite what they have done and continue to do to destroy the country by alienating the minority populations of Iraq.” [6/23/14]

Juan Cole, University of Michigan- “To the extent that the (ISIS’s) advance is a series of urban revolts against the government of PM Nouri al-Maliki, the US would end up bombing ordinary city folk. For the US to be bombing Sunni towns all these years later on behalf of Mr. al-Maliki would be to invite terrorism against the US.” [6/16/14]

Doug Collins (R-GA), Iraq War veteran “Aside from an intervention, which I don’t think is on anybody’s mind, Iraq is going to have defend for itself.” [6/12/14]

David Cortright, Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies- “Pouring arms into the spreading cauldron of war risks exacerbating the crisis in Iraq. A fully inclusive international diplomatic process should be attempted and is urgently needed now, before the fires of war and militancy spread further in the region.” [6/12/14]

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX)- “Whatever the history of U.S. intervention in Iraq, our priorities now should be to protect our people and defend our national security interests, not to try to resolve an intractable religious divide some 1,500 years in the making.” [6/19/14]

Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-TX)-“Some of the same self-certified smart people, who preached about mushroom clouds and weapons of mass destruction, are once again trying to stampede us into war. They seem to think only with their guns. To those who want to shoot first and ask questions later in Iraq, I join in a firm ‘No!’ We’ve been there and done that, and America is still paying for their past failure.” [Letter to supporters, 6/19/14]

Kevin Drum- “After ten years of ‘peacekeeping’ in Iraq, do (they) still seriously think that keeping a few thousand American advisors in Baghdad for yet another few years would have made a serious difference there? The ethnic fault lines hadn’t changed a whit, and American influence over Nouri al-Maliki had shrunk to virtually nothing. We had spent a decade trying to change the fundamentals of Iraqi politics and we couldn’t do it. An endless succession of counterterrorism initiatives didn’t do it; hundreds of billions of dollars in civil aid didn’t do it; and despite some mythologizing to the contrary, the surge didn’t do it either. The truth is that we couldn’t even make a dent. What sort of grand delusion would persuade anyone that yet another decade might do the trick?” [6/12/14]

Chas Freeman, former Ambassador to Saudi Arabia “I don’t think there’s a military solution. If we funnel in more weapons we’re just likely to see more of them turned against us by the people we’re trying to combat.” [6/18/14]

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) and Iraq War veteran- “It makes no sense for us to consider going back there and getting involved in what truly is a religious civil war. What real difference would (air strikes) make on the ground? And secondly, is it in the best interests of the United States to do that? I would say that those questions are not being answered in a compelling way that would cause me to support that.” [6/13/14]

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), Iraq War veteran- “It’s easy to say, let’s go in and get the bad guys. But you have a divided country of Sunnis and Shias. The United States goes and takes action there on behalf of the Iraqi government. You’ve got Iran coming in and saying we’re going to stand with (Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri) al-Maliki, so now we’re aligning ourselves with Iran, and if we do air strikes, becoming de facto air force for them.” [6/13/14]

Rep. John Garamendi (D-CA)-In 2003, Congress should have resisted the rush to a war of choice with Iraq. I will do everything in my power to prevent us from repeating the mistakes of my predecessors.” [6/18/14]

Rep. John Garamendi (D-CA)- “I am deeply skeptical of re-entering into Iraq’s civil war.” [6/19/14]

Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL)-“U.S. military action in Iraq: It sure didn’t work out well last time. Let’s not make that mistake again.” [6/17/14]

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel-“There has to be a reason and objective (to air strikes). What does it do to move the effort down the road for a political conversation?” [Testimony before Congress, 6/17/14]

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel- “This current government in Iraq has never fulfilled the commitments it made to form a unity government with the Kurds, the Sunnis and the Shia. We have worked hard with them within the confines of our ability to do that but we can’t dictate to them.” [6/18/14]

Rep. Janice Hahn (D-CA)- “I oppose U.S. military intervention in Iraq. I believe that we should not send troops or engage in air strikes—our nation’s military involvement needs to be over. The United States has already spent billions of dollars in Iraq while our nation has endured a crumbling infrastructure, cuts to our social programs, a lack of investment in job training and creation, and sadly, a failure to take care of our veterans. Let’s focus our resources at home. Over 4000 men and women have sacrificed their lives for Iraq. That is enough.” [6/18/14]

William Hartung, Center for International Policy- “Military force is irrelevant to many of the most urgent threats we face. If we are to solve our myriad domestic problems and revitalize our economy we need to be more selective about our involvement in foreign crises large and small.” [Huffington Post, 6/16/14]

Matthew Hoh, Iraq War Veteran- “The solution to the chaos in Iraq is not another American military intervention. The President was right to end the Iraq War in 2011, and it would be a tremendous mistake to restart it now. If my friends in Iraq are to ever find peace, if their children and their grandchildren have any chance of growing up without the butchery of beheading knives and the carnage of car bombs, peace will come through negotiation and settlement, as it briefly did post-2007, and not through an American strategy of choosing sides, choosing winners and losers, and indulging in the self-satisfactory, self-indulgent, guilt erasing, yet illusory, medication of bombing.” [Win Without War, 6/16/14]

Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC)- “I’ve done a lot of thinking about this, and even though Saddam was an evil man, he had order in the country. There is no order now. It is total—it’s just a total collapse over there now, with different factions warring against each other. I don’t believe anything we would do other than diplomatic efforts would bring any resolution.” [6/19/14]

Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA)- “The current situation in Iraq is ultimately a crisis of governance, which has allowed extremist groups to take advantage of disillusioned segments of the Iraqi population.”

Rear Adm. John F. Kirby, Pentagon spokesman “Ultimately, this is for the Iraqi security forces, and the Iraqi government to deal with.” [6/12/14]

Nicholas Kristof, New York Times “American airstrikes…create risks, especially if our intelligence there is rusty. The crucial step, and the one we should apply diplomatic pressure to try to achieve, is for Maliki to step back and share power with Sunnis while accepting decentralization of government. If Maliki does all that, it may still be possible to save Iraq. Without that, airstrikes would be a further waste in a land in which we’ve already squandered far, far too much.” [6/13/14]

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT)- “The mistake was going into that war in Iraq in the first place. We wasted $2 trillion, thousands of lives, ended up with a country worse off than it was to begin with. And then the leader in the country, Maliki told us to get out. Some would say we ought to say ‘thank you.’ He told us to get out, we’re out. And now we’re saying ‘we’ve gotta go back in there, send troops to do everything because after all they’re a danger to us? Sounds to me like the very same arguments we heard to go in there in the first place. If Maliki is not even willing to do some of the things he should have done for years, it kinda limits what we can do.” [6/17/14]

Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA)- “I agree with Pres. Barack Obama, Iraqis need a political solution. No war in Iraq!” [6/13/14]

Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA)-“We must not let history repeat itself in Iraq. The reality is there is no military solution in Iraq. This is a sectarian war with long standing roots that were flamed when we invaded Iraq in 2003. Any lasting solution must be political and take into account respect for the entire Iraqi population.” [6/20/14]

Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI)- “It’s unclear how air strikes on our part can succeed unless the Iraqi army is willing to fight, and that’s uncertain given the fact that several Iraqi army divisions have melted away.” [6/12/14]

Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) “We shouldn’t knee jerk anything. The Iraqi government a few years back, when they had a chance to sign an agreement that would keep some of our presence there, refused to do it. So we’ve got to be very careful and thoughtful before we do anything.” [6/12/14]

Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-NY)- “The latest developments in Iraq are deeply troubling, but as the United States considers military and diplomatic responses to the actions of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) action, we should be clear that U.S. troops on the ground cannot go a million miles near a sectarian civil war—it’s simply not an option.” [Email to constituents, 7/22/14]

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV)- “If money or military might would change that part of the world… we would have done it by now. Enough is enough.” [6/18/14]

Col. Peter Mansoor- “ICL has blended into the civilian population in these cities they’ve taken. And trying to hit them there would invariably lead to a lot of civilian death. And then a lot of anti-American feeling by the citizens on the ground. Also, we would be supporting Nouri al-Malaki and his government in what is shaping up to be a civil war – Sunni versus Shia. And that’s not the way you win this conflict. The way the surge worked is we created deals with the Sunni tribes and so forth that became every one against al-Qaida. And that’s what we need now – a unity government that is legitimate, represents all sects and ethnicities in Iraq. And then it can become every one against ICL rather than Sunni versus Shia.” [6/15/14]

Ret. General Barry McCaffrey “At the end of the day…if your army won’t fight, it’s because they don’t trust their incompetent, corrupt generals, they don’t trust each other. This is an enduring civil war between the Shia, the Sunni, and the Kurds. So I don’t think we’ve got any options and we’d be ill-advised to start bombing where we really can’t sort out the combatants or understand where the civilian population is.” [6/12/14]

Rep. Jim McDermott (D-WA)- “I’m old enough to remember John Kennedy sending a few advisers into Vietnam. I’m very worried we’ll get in and we’ll get mired down in something we don’t have any idea what to do [with].” [6/24/14]

Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA)- “The United States cannot solve the problems of Iraq, or the consequences of a corrupt, authoritarian government that failed to govern on behalf of all the people of Iraq.  After demanding that U.S. forces leave the country, President Maliki is now asking the United States to use military force to save his government.  Ending the war in Iraq was not a mistake, but renewing it would be. I oppose military airstrikes and sending even more weapons. We’ve sent enough. It’s time the Iraqi government acted like a government and for Iraqi forces to stand up and protect their people.  Since the crisis in Iraq has implications for the entire region, it requires a multilateral diplomatic response to contain it.  I call on President Obama to work with all nations in the region, the Arab League and the United Nations to address the political concerns threatening stability throughout the region.  I also ask the President to place a priority on responding to the safety, protection and needs of Iraqi civilians placed in peril in the days and weeks to come.” [6/13/14]

Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA)- “There has to be something between doing nothing and dropping bombs. Everybody seems to be rushing toward the military solution. We ought to be thinking long and hard about … other ways to do this that would actually have a lasting impact.” [6/18/14]

Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA)- “The solution to every difficult problem in the world is not necessarily flexing our military muscle. We’ve done enough of that.” [6/18/14]

Rep. Buck McKeon (R-CA)- “I’m not interested myself personally right now in doing anything. We went there. We lost a lot of blood, a lot of treasure, did a lot for them. They weren’t interested in us staying. They made a choice.” [6/12/14]

Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ)“There isn’t any air power in the world that can take care of the problem of sectarian divisions.” [6/19/14]

Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT)- “What is happening in Iraq now is awful, but it is a consequence of our invasion, not our withdrawal.The blame for what’s happening right now is squarely at Maliki’s feet. This is not a responsibility of the United States.” [6/13/14]

Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT)- “What is happening in Iraq right now is awful, but it is primarily a consequence of our invasion, not our withdrawal. And had we stayed in Iraq an additional six months, or six years, the underlying problem in the country was not going to go away — that’s why I voted against the surge in 2007. I once again enter this conversation skeptical that American military involvement can improve matters on the ground. For years, Iraq’s Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has shown more interest in seeking vengeance against his Sunni rivals than uniting his country. So the question here, once again, may not be if there’s a WILL to stop the conflict, but if there’s a WAY.” [Letter to supporters, 6/16/14]

Rep. Rick Nolan (D-MN) “We’ve given Iraq a chance. Now they need to stand on their own. This is a 1,400-year-old conflict, and unless we are prepared to bankrupt ourselves spending another 1,400 years policing it, we need to stay out.” [6/20/14]

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) “I hate that Mosul is falling, but I also think that for 10 years we have supplied the Iraqis and they can’t stand up and do anything to defend their country, and it is all up to us?” [6/13/14]

Rep. Scott Perry (R-PA), Iraq War veteran“Going out across the desert I remember the feelings that you have, wondering if you’re going to make it out alive. Right now I wonder what that was all about. What was the point of all of that? I don’t think there’s any appetite from the American people to go back and do our work twice.” [6/12/14]

General David Petraeus- “This cannot be the United States being the air force for Shia militias, or a Shia on Sunni Arab fight.” [6/18/14]

Paul R. Pillar, former CIA officer- “Any outside use of military power would at best furnish a temporary respite from the processes that we see playing out. We know that because we have been through all this before. The “surge” of several years ago was supposed to provide space and time for Iraqi political interests to work out their differences. 30,000 additional U.S. troops failed to lead to any working out of those differences, and the outcome is the mess we see today.” [6/12/14]

Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV)- “Fighting between sectarian factions in Iraq cost thousands of Iraqi and American lives and billions of dollars over the last decade and spawned a new breed of terrorist in Iraq. Yet the original architects of the Iraq War would have us believe that this is all President Obama’s fault. Nothing could be further from the truth. This is an Iraqi civil war and it is time for Iraqis to resolve it themselves. After a decade of war, I believe the American people have had enough. Families have had enough. I do not support putting our men and women in the midst of an Iraqi civil war. It is not in the national security interest of the United States. It is not worth the blood of American service members. It is not even worth the monetary cost to the American taxpayer.” [6/18/14]

Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV)“Do you know how I feel about that? I’m sure this is no big surprise… what a mistake. I should never have voted for that, but I accepted what [former Secretary of State] Colin Powell and the others said. But it took me just a matter of a few months to realize it was a bad mistake, and my record speaks for itself. I’ve spoken out against what was going on, not once, not twice, but lots of times. And I’m sorry that I was misled, but I was, and it was a mistake for me to vote for that war.” [6/18/14]

Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV)-“As far as I’m concerned there shouldn’t be a single boot on the ground. There’s enough American blood in Iraq that lasts forever.” [6/18/14]

Ben Rhodes, Deputy National Security Advisor- “If 150,000 U.S. troops did not compel a nonsectarian politics in Iraq, airstrikes aren’t going to do it on their own, either.” [6/19/14]

Bruce Riedel, Brookings Institution- “There’s plenty of room for finger-pointing for the debacle in Iraq. If it’s a problem that the Iraqi military is broken at its core, then there’s no point in sending more Humvees and Apaches.” [6/12/14]

Linda Robinson, former advisor to US Military’s Central Command- “I don’t think there is a good, obvious solution, no matter what our willingness. Any step we might take, like airstrikes, could just make things worse.” [7/1/14]

Rep. C.A. Ruppersberger (D-MD)- “The U.S. can no longer be the sheriff for the whole world. We can’t be everywhere, and we can’t always use military boots on the ground. We have to plan with people who have boots on the ground.” [6/12/14]

Rep. C.A. Ruppersberger (D-MD)-“I think we ought to use the same formula that we used when we took out Moammar Gadhafi in Libya. We have unique resources that no other country has, especially in the air. Intelligence and the ability to find where things are. I think the governments need to get together, because this is getting very serious.” [6/12/14]

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA)-“Look, the situation in Iraq is dire. At the same time, keeping up whole american combat presence in Iraq I don’t think made sense. What’s more, we couldn’t get the Iraqis to agree to want to have us there. Until this Iraqi government makes changes, I don’t see an end to this horrible situation. Senator McCain and others have been proven wrong over time in terms of our intervention in Iraq… The administration tried to get a status-of-forces agreement.. the Iraqis weren’t willing to sell it to the population. It doesn’t matter how much military force is applied, they’re going to have this problem in Iraq.” [6/12/14]

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA)-“Whether we kept a certain number of troops there or pulled out completely, if we can’t get the Maliki government to include a large segment of its population in its security forces and protection, then the small amount of forces that we would have left there might have slowed this day, but they wouldn’t have prevented it altogether.” [6/13/14]

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA)- “I would need to see changes in the Iraq governance. Otherwise I don’t think strikes are going to have any impact and could be very well counterproductive.” [6/26/14]

Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA)- “It is important to understand that there are two separate battles taking place in Iraq: there is the political rift between the Sunnis, Shia and the Kurds and there is a foreign extremist group – ISIS – trying to take advantage of the political environment through violence. If the Iraqis can resolve their political differences, it will be far more difficult for ISIS to thrive. Moving forward, we should continue to evaluate additional steps to help combat ISIS as we see what the Iraqis are willing to do politically, but we must also firmly guard against mission creep.” [6/19/14]

Senior U.S. Military Official “You would need a major commitment of military forces to make a difference. There is not a lot of appetite for that.” [6/12/14]

Matt Southworth, Iraq War Veteran “Our eight year war in Iraq had but one real lesson: military force cannot bring peace and stability to Iraq or anywhere else in our complicated, interconnected world. Furthering the violence with American bombs will only compound the crisis and harden the resolve of the religiously motivated violent movement dominating Iraq today. Too many have already been lost for the folly of yet another sure-to-fail military intervention.” [FCNL, 6/16/14]

Sen. John Walsh (D-MT), Iraq War Veteran I am “deeply troubled” by President Barack Obama’s decision to send 300 U.S. military advisers to help the Iraqi government, “because it looks like the slippery slope we’ve been down before.” [6/19/14]

Sen. John Walsh (D-MT), Iraq War Veteran “America cannot afford another Iraq financially or the human costs that are associated with war. We did our job there, and we did it with honor and integrity, and our men and women should be very proud of their success, and the citizens of this country should be proud of the accomplishments of the men and women who served in our armed forces.” Sending U.S. troops “into the middle of a civil war is not a solution.” [6/19/14]

Sen. John Walsh (D-MT), Iraq War Veteran- “A continued escalation of U.S. commitment in Iraq is troubling. The president has promised to prevent ‘mission creep.’ But how many Americans will we deploy? How much money will we spend?” [7/1/14]

Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) “I am deeply concerned about the situation in Iraq, and my heart goes out to the Iraqi civilians who have been injured or killed and the displaced families who have been forced to flee their homes. Despite our humanitarian concerns, the United States cannot solve all international crises, and the future of Iraq should be in the hands of its people. The American people are war-weary and not interested in another prolonged military effort in Iraq. I will continue to closely monitor the situation, but every conceivable effort must be made in working with the international community to negotiate peace, not a return to war.” [6/18/14]

Rep. Brad Wenstrup (R-OH), Iraq War veteran “It seems to me that the Iraqis laid down a lot of the arms that we gave to them. So that doesn’t seem to be the solution.” [6/12/14]

Micah Zenko, military expert “Unless the US has bombs that can install wisdom and leadership into PM Maliki, airstrikes in Iraq would be pointless.” [6/12/14]

June 13, 2014