January 14, 2020
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Baldacci recalls controversial Iraq vote as Congress debates Iran strike

Robert F. Bukaty | AP
Robert F. Bukaty | AP
Former Maine Gov. John Baldacci speaks to a reporter during an interview at the State House on April 16, 2003 in his first year in office. The previous October, he voted against the use of military force in Iraq.

AUGUSTA, Maine — The U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday passed a resolution to limit President Trump’s authority to use military force in Iran.

For some, the resolution calls back to the fall of 2002, when Congress voted to authorize the use of military force in Iraq after the Bush administration claimed that the country had developed weapons of mass destruction.

That resolution passed easily in both chambers. But Maine’s two Democratic representatives, Tom Allen of the 1st District and John Baldacci of the 2nd District, both voted against the war. Their Republican colleagues, Sen. Susan Collins and then-Sen. Olympia Snowe, both voted for it.

Recalling his vote, Baldacci said he sees parallels with the evidence presented in the leadup to the Iraq war and the current situation involving Iran. The Trump administration’s decision last week to kill Iranian Gen. Qassem Solemani has heightened tensions in the Middle East and prompted concern about the potential for prolonged U.S. involvement in the region.

The former governor and congressman said the Trump administration should provide clear evidence that Iran posed an imminent threat — something he thought the Bush administration failed to do in 2002. “With the Iraq war resolution, the thing they were lacking in my mind was evidence that there were weapons of mass destruction,” he said.

Baldacci said he was concerned by statements from two Republican senators, Rand Paul of Kentucky and Mike Lee of Utah, who were briefed by the White House on the justification for Solemani’s killing. Lee called the briefing “probably the worst briefing I’ve seen.”

That Iraq turned out not to have weapons of mass destruction as the Bush administration had claimed “should be a lesson to people today,” Baldacci said. He encouraged lawmakers to push the Trump administration for evidence.

“Get the facts, get the evidence. You want to give the administration deference on foreign policy,” he said. “But at the same time you have to hold their feet to the fire and demand the evidence. You’ve got to stand your ground.”

 



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