War and Peace

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) walks with American troops and Afghan police cadets in Kabul, Afghanistan on February 20, 2011. (Photo by Ernesto Hernandez Fonte/U.S. Navy via Getty Images)


The war in Iraq took the lives of 4,487 American troops, killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqi citizens and cost U.S. taxpayers at least $1.7 trillion. We went into Iraq in 2003 based on false information, and the evidence is very clear that the war has been counterproductive in terms of fighting international terrorism. As someone who voted against military action in Iraq in the first place, the senator remains opposed to sending U.S. troops back into Iraq.

The U.S. invasion of Iraq, which Sen. Sanders strongly opposed, has helped create widespread volatility and instability in the region. Islamic State terror group fundamentalists who regard women as fourth-class citizens and who believe they have the God-given right to indiscriminately murder ethnic minorities and political opponents now control wide swathes of northern Iraq and Syria. As they accelerate efforts to create a seventh-century style caliphate, these extremists are threatening Yazidi and Kurdish communities with possible genocide.

There will be no stability in Iraq unless the entire region, including Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Iran work to make that happen. Further, Prime Minster al-Abadi must accelerate efforts to include Iraq's Sunni and Kurdish populations in the national government, as well as protect minority populations like the Yazidis.  These are fundamentally important actions that the previous Maliki government failed to take, with significance consequences for achieving the national unity necessary to end the conflict in that country.    

“The cost of war is great, and it is far more than the hundreds of billions of dollars we spend on planes, tanks, missiles and guns.

The cost of war is more than 6,800 service members who have died in Iraq and Afghanistan. The cost of war is caring for the spouses and children who have to rebuild their lives after the loss of their loved ones. It’s about hundreds of thousands of men and women coming home from war with post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury, many of them having difficulty keeping jobs in order to pay their bills. It’s about high divorce rates. It’s about the terrible tragedy of veterans committing suicide.”

- Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.)


After more than a decade of war, thousands of American service members killed, tens of thousands more wounded, and hundreds of billions of dollars spent, it is past time to bring home the American servicemen and women still serving in Afghanistan. While we may have entered this war with significant clarity of purpose and moral authority, we have lost sight about what our goals are in that nation. The Taliban is no longer in power, bin Laden is dead, and there is almost no presence of al Qaeda left in Afghanistan. After visiting Afghanistan, Sen. Sanders can attest that corruption is rampant, particularly in regards to elections, security and the banking system.

The war in Afghanistan has contributed significantly to our national debt. In 2014 alone, we will spend about $89.1 billion on the war in Afghanistan.  Any serious discussion of how to reduce the national debt and control spending must begin with defense spending instead of talking about cutting Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, education and many other essential programs that benefit millions and millions of children, elderly, veterans and working families that truly depend upon them.

Israel and Gaza

Sen. Sanders is deeply troubled by the outbreak of violence in Gaza. It is extraordinarily depressing that year after year, decade after decade, the wars and killing continue without any apparent progress toward the creation of a permanent peace. While the summer of 2014 was a particularly contentious time in the Israeli-Palestinian dispute, Sen. Sanders’ hope is that the United States will, in the future, help play a leading role in creating a permanent two-state solution. To achieve that outcome the U.S. must work with the international community to support a settlement that respects the legitimate claims and grievances of both sides, lifts the blockade of Gaza, resolves the borders of the West Bank, and allows both the Israeli and Palestinian people to live in peace.

The bottom line is that Israel must have the right to exist in peace and security, just as the Palestinians must have the right to a homeland in which they and they alone control their political system and their economy.

Sanders believes the Israeli attacks that killed hundreds of innocent people – including many women and children – in bombings of civilian neighborhoods and UN controlled schools, hospitals, and refugee camps were disproportionate, and the widespread killing of civilians is completely unacceptable. Israel's actions took an enormous human toll, and appeared to strengthen support for Hamas and may well be sowing the seeds for even more hatred, war and destruction in future years.

The U.S. can and must play a more constructive role in promoting diplomatic efforts to achieve a lasting peace in Gaza. Sen. Sanders believes the ceasefire agreement that was reached is an important step in the right direction. He believes strict adherence, by all sides, to the tenets of international humanitarian law is necessary in order to avoid the escalation of this conflict.