Dick Durbin, the second-ranking Democrat in the U.S. Senate, was in the minority of senators voting against the Iraq War 12 years ago.
But he says he had "no choice" but to support President Obama's plan to train moderate Syrian rebels as part of a strategy to topple Islamic State militants moving to seize control of Syria and Iraq.
Invoking his proudly contrarian Bush-era "no" vote before the Senate on Thursday, when the chamber gave its 78-22 seal of approval paving the way for an American-financed anti-ISIS ground campaign, Durbin stated, via the Sun-Times: "I remember my thinking on that October night 2002 that we should hold back, not get involved in Iraq. And I think I was right. I think history proved me right."
But, he argued, "I think that we have no choice but to do this but to do it thoughtfully, without combat troops, with clear accountability and reports and behind a coalition that has Arab and Muslim nations."
Republican Sen. Mark Kirk of Illinois also voted "yes" to Obama's pitch along with 32 GOP colleagues; 12 Republicans opposed it including Kentucky's Rand Paul and Texas' Ted Cruz. Among the nine out of 44 Democrats voting "no": New York's Kirsten Gillibrand and Massachusetts' Elizabeth Warren, who said: "I do not want America to be dragged into another ground war in the Middle East, and it is time for those nations in the region that are most immediately affected by the rise of ISIS to step up and play a leading role in this fight."
The Senate is (conveniently) waiting until after the Nov. 4 midterm elections to hash things out on authorizing military action in ISIS-addled regions.
Speaking to the Sun-Times, Durbin said: "It goes ’til Dec. 11; we get to see how this unfolds. ... So we can monitor what the administration is actually doing. We won't be doing anything until a coalition is formed. I think that is an important element. And we know that we will return for a larger re-authorization question as soon as we get back in November."
The Establishment Democrat is predicted to win re-election against GOP Illinois state Sen. Jim Oberweis. The latter issued a statement Friday on the ISIS vote, saying: "I think this is a very difficult situation that we would not be in if President Obama had not pulled all of our troops out of Iraq too soon. But that is past. ISIL [another acronym for the Islamic State group] poses a very dangerous threat to Western civilization and had I been in the Senate I would have listened closely to the debate and likely would have voted yes. However I don't say that absolutely because the Syrian funding was part of a larger bill that I haven't seen."