Even as he castigated the former vice-president for being an enabler of the Iraq War, the veteran maintained that quintessentially military respect for authority.
You are disqualified, sir!
— Iraq War veteran
Sir, indeed! There was not much Biden could say. He made a feeble attempt to defend himself, using his son’s service in Iraq to deflect the accusation, but the vet persisted.
My friends are dead because of your policies.
Their blood is on your hands!
It got me thinking of what it means to be disqualified. It means being eliminated from consideration. But who gets to decide?
Meanwhile, in another browser window, Syrian refugees are trapped in a no-man’s land between two countries that barely acknowledge their right to exist. In the heartbreaking photo two men, carrying their young children, try to make it across the border into Greece. They must have been children themselves, I muse, when Sen. Joe Biden, chairing the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, was making the case for war. We still live with the consequences of the fateful decision to invade Iraq, but of course those consequences have fallen more heavily on others.
Where the consequences of that horrific decision have not fallen, though, is in the corridors of power. The Democratic Party had no qualms running another Iraq War enabler, Hillary Clinton, in 2016. Now it is supposed that Joe Biden, one of the ideological architects of that war, will be the nominee.
Let’s dispense with the conceit that the Iraq War was a mistake. It was not. It was a bloody, deliberate, bipartisan adventure. It was literally a crime under international law.
Sweeping Democratic complicity under the rug did not make it go away. It still rankles that no one was held accountable for what was done in the name of the American people, and the fact that elites blithely presume it is not disqualifying for Biden is telling.
Being qualified—or not—isn’t so much an attribute of the candidate as it is the determination of that Iraq War veteran, or of any individual with a functioning moral compass. We each have the ability, or better, the responsibility to make that determination.
There are millions who opposed the war from the start, in the streets. There are the credulous Americans only able to recognize their tragic complicity in retrospect; those whose imaginations were purloined by a media enraptured by the drama—and the ratings—and conjoined with the military-industrial complex. And there are those who came to understand when their legs were blown off, or their brothers came home in bags, the horror of that war, and its futility.
The notion that the best candidate the Democrats can muster in 2020 is Joe Biden shows us a party elite detached from any accountability for that disaster and the convulsions it caused. However, if we were to elect Biden, that would equally tell us something about ourselves, about our own predisposition to excuse and justify and rationalize, about our negligence in holding them accountable.
Anyone can say Joe Biden is disqualified. Veterans can say it. I can say it. You can say it with me. We can all say it together.
During the Iraq War we said,“Not in my name.” In 2020, it’s simply,“No.”
[Joe Biden photo credit: Gage Skidmore]