Instead of using this week’s nominating convention to articulate a vision for the future of the party, the Democratic Party opted to reach as far back into the past, and to the right, as it possibly could. Seemingly out of a desire to woo disaffected conservatives looking for any excuse to vote against President Trump, the DNC packed the speaking schedule with Republicans, headlined on Monday night by cinematic drone footage of former Ohio governor and presidential candidate John Kasich standing on a dirt road.
On Tuesday, it was Colin Powell, George W. Bush’s Republican secretary of state who played an instrumental role in leading America into war with Iraq. In a pre-recorded speech, Powell praised Joe Biden’s values. “On Day One he will restore America’s leadership and our moral authority,” he said. “He’ll be a president who knows America is strongest when, as he has said, ‘We lead both by the power of our example and the example of our power.'”
Biden was one of 29 Democratic senators who in 2002 voted to exercise this power by invading Iraq. He’s struggled to defend the vote ever since. “I said 13 years ago it was a mistake to give the president the authority to go to war, if in fact he couldn’t get inspectors into Iraq to stop what was thought to be the attempt to get a nuclear weapon,” he said during a debate in January when pressed by Sen. Bernie Sanders. “It was a mistake, and I acknowledge that.”
The military action will forever be one of the bloodiest stains on the already-pretty-damn-bloody fabric of the nation. Estimates of the death toll vary, but a study from researchers in the U.S., Canada, and Iraq found that over 400,000 deaths are attributable to the conflict. According to a Costs of War report from Brown University published earlier this year, it cost American taxpayers nearly $2 trillion.
The totality of war’s toll is, of course, unquantifiable, and Congress’ bipartisan decision to authorize it was institutional failure that precipitated a host of other institutional failures that precipitated the election of Donald Trump. This all could have been avoided if not for a false belief that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction, which Powell would promote in front of the United Nations Security Council on February 5th, 2003. In what he would later describe as a “blot” on his record, the secretary of state delivered a slanted, lie-filled presentation in which he made the case for war, arguing there was “no doubt” Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction.
Powell was given more air time on Tuesday than Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.). She spoke for about a minute on behalf of Sanders, whom she was nominating for president. Unlike Biden, Sanders voted against the Iraq invasion 17 years ago.
“Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Upgraded To Full DNC Speaking Slot After Announcing Support For Iraq War,” The Onion imagined in a headline earlier on Tuesday. As with many of the satirical paper’s funniest jokes, it’s a little too close to the truth.