Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) has long been cast as an “anti-war” candidate, running in the 2016 race in part on a foreign policy record which he argues is markedly different from the consistent hawkishness of Hillary Clinton. Here’s a typical account of their differences in a report from the first Democratic debate:
Sanders has sought in particular to distinguish himself from Clinton over foreign policy, an issue where she is often more hawkish than others in the Democratic Party. The former secretary of state reiterated her call for more robust U.S. action to stop the Syrian civil war and defended her judgment on international issues, despite having voted for the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
Sanders called the Iraq war “the worst foreign policy blunder in the history of our country” and said he would not support sending American combat troops back to the Middle East to fight terrorism.
The problem with this narrative of difference is that it’s simply not true.
Yes, Sanders did vote against invading Iraq. But as I’ve noted before here at Rare, he also voted in favor of regime change in Iraq in 1998; in favor of bombing the Balkans in 1999; in favor of a resolution expressing “unequivocal support and appreciation of the nation to [President Bush] as Commander-in-Chief for his firm leadership and decisive action in the conduct of military operations in Iraq” in 2003; and in favor of multiple funding bills to support and continue the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
In spite of all this, Sanders’ foreign policy aggression has so far stayed mostly under the radar.
But it has not gone entirely unnoticed. In fact, actor Viggo Mortensen (you probably remember him best as Aragorn in the Lord of the Rings movies) recently delivered a scathing critique of Sanders’ foreign policy at left-leaning Democracy Now, arguing that it’s no different from his opponents in both parties. This is especially noteworthy because Mortensen is planning on voting for Sanders himself:
VIGGO MORTENSEN: I mean, I wish that Bernie Sanders would be president, for many reasons. I think in many ways he speaks truth to power. But even on foreign policy, you know, I mean, he’s a person who, as a senator, has voted for every military appropriation, has voted for every, you know, resolution, pro-Israel government resolution, without question. In many ways, he’s as hawkish as Hillary Clinton is. […] [F]or all the good things he does, he’s also very hawkish and not really different than Hillary Clinton in that regard, or any of the Republicans.
AMY GOODMAN: How is he different?
VIGGO MORTENSEN: He’s not, really. […] I’m much more troubled about his warlike stance, you know, that is not really any different than—but that’s not going to be talked about, any more than what really happened in Iraq and what it means today. That’s not going to be talked about.
I suspect Mortensen would agree that this comic from political cartoonist Mike Flugennock sums up Sanders’ foreign policy all too well: