Devoting his life to public service, my father, Bob Graham, has countless accomplishments that have made me proud — but I have never been more proud of him than 15 years ago, today, when he stood up to vote against authorizing the Iraq War.
It may seem like an easy decision now — but at the time, it was anything but easy.
Republicans and the White House were slandering those who opposed the war as unpatriotic. Some said they didn't support our troops. Right-wing radio hosts even called them traitors.
Most of the public didn't know the Bush administration was taking their attention away from Al Qaeda in Afghanistan and building a false case against Iraq. They misled the American people, Congress and the world by claiming Sadam Hussain supported the September 11 attacks and possessed weapons of mass destruction, while suppressing evidence that contradicted their narrative.
As chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Dad refused to simply take the administration at their word. Just a month before the vote, the committee uncovered the administration hadn't produced a National Intelligence Estimate (NIE), a comprehensive report produced by the entire intelligence community, to rationalize pre-emptive war. Stunned, Dad invoked rarely used senatorial authority and directed the completion of a NIE.
The NIE exposed dissents to the administration's key arguments. Under questioning, CIA Director George Tenet also admitted that much of the information in the report had not been independently verified by American operatives and that most of the information came from Iraqi exiles or other countries with an interest in removing Hussein.
Knowing that war could cost thousands of American lives and distract us from capturing Osama Bin Laden in Afghanistan, Dad came to the conclusion there was not sufficient evidence to attack Iraq. When the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq came before the Senate on October 11, 2002, Dad was one of just 23 senators to vote against war.
Dad took on the president and cast a difficult vote because he knew it was the right thing to do.
Showing courage isn't always popular at the time, but 15 years later I'm still thankful for his vote and the example he sets for all of our country's public servants.
As President Donald Trump tweets threats of war, I hope those serving in Congress today will look to Dad as an example and hold this administration to the same level of scrutiny before risking the lives of our men and women in uniform.