Harry Reid answering questions in Washington, D.C.

Former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, the Democrat from Nevada who died in 2021, answered questions at the U.S. Capitol September 16, 2014 in Washington, DC. (Photo:Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Harry Reid's Disastrous Foreign Policy Record Should Not Be Forgotten

With Reid leading Senate Democrats, George W. Bush was emboldened in his reckless and dangerous foreign policy agenda regarding Iraq, Afghanistan, Israel/Palestine, and elsewhere.


The death of former Democratic Senate leader Harry Reid of Nevada has brought forth praise for his parliamentary skills, which helped make possible some critically important legislation, as well as preventing the passage of a number of seriously problematic bills. However, on the foreign policy front, it should be noted that Reid not only failed to challenge dangerous Republican initiatives that violated fundamental principles of international law and human rights, he was often among their most prominent supporters.

As the Senate Assistant Majority Leader in 2002, Reid was prominent among the rightwing minority of Congressional Democrats who supported President George W. Bush's decision to invade and occupy Iraq. To help win public support for this illegal war, Reid teamed up with the Bush Administration, prominent neoconservatives, and Fox News in making a series of false allegations regarding Iraq's military capability.

It is sad to have to acknowledge that a highly effective legislator who left a generally positive mark on domestic policy... simultaneously played such a deleterious role regarding international affairs.

The resolution authorizing the use of military force against Iraq accused that nation, without evidence, of "continuing to possess and develop a significant chemical and biological weapons capability [and] actively seeking a nuclear weapons capability, thereby continuing to threaten the national security interests of the United States."

When other Democratic Senators tried to limit the war resolution so as not to give President Bush the blank check he was seeking, Reid helped circumvent such efforts by signing on to the White House's version.

As the Democratic whip, Reid then persuaded a majority of Democratic Senators to vote down a resolution offered by Senator Carl Levin, Democrat of Michigan, that would authorize force only if the U.N. Security Council voted to give the United States this authority. They instead supported a Republican-led resolution giving Bush the right to invade even without such legal authorization. (By contrast, a sizable majority of Democrats in the House of Representatives, under the leadership of then-whip Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, voted against the GOP resolution.)

But the alleged weapons of mass destruction were never really the issue. Indeed, Reid continued to support the invasion of Iraq in March 2003, even after it was apparent, as many arms control experts had been arguing all along, that there were no banned weapons, weapons systems, or manufacturing facilities to be found.

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