Slow Burn: The Road to the Iraq War

Season 5: Episode 5

Four Dicks (and Vice President Cheney)

The men named Richard who helped determine whether the U.S. would go to war in Iraq.


Episode Notes

Four men in Congress—two from each party—helped determine whether President George W. Bush would be given the authority to invade Iraq. All of them were named Dick. Which of these Dicks scrutinized the case for war the most closely? And who was making obvious political calculations?

Season 5 of Slow Burn is produced by Noreen Malone, Jayson De Leon, and Sophie Summergrad. Mixing by Merritt Jacob.

Sources for This Episode


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Draper, Robert. To Start a War: How the Bush Administration Took America into Iraq, Penguin Press, 2020.

Gellman, Barton. Angler: The Cheney Vice Presidency, Penguin Press, 2008.

Isikoff, Michael and David Corn. Hubris: The Inside Story of Spin, Scandal, and the Selling of the Iraq War, Crown, 2006.

Shapiro, Walter. One-Car Caravan: On the Road With the 2004 Democrats Before America Tunes In, PublicAffairs, 2003.

Shrum, Robert. No Excuses: Concessions of a Serial Campaigner, Simon & Schuster, 2007.


Armey: ‘Unprovoked’ Iraq war would be illegal,” Chicago Tribune, Aug. 9, 2002.

Berke, Richard L. “A Flurry of Hugs for ‘Gang of Five’ in Capital,” New York Times, Oct. 23, 2001.

Bruno, Greg and Sharon Otterman. “National Intelligence Estimates,” Council on Foreign Relations, May 14, 2008.

Bumiller, Elisabeth. “Red Faces in White House Over ‘02 Analysis,” New York Times, June 14, 2002.

Bush Rejects Hill Limits on Resolution Allowing War,” Washington Post, Oct. 2, 2002.

Dewar, Helen. “For Wellstone, Iraq Vote Is Risk But Not a Choice,” Washington Post, Oct. 9, 2002.

Glass, Andrew. “GOP makes gains in midterm elections, Nov. 5, 2002,” Politico, Nov. 5, 2002.

Greenwald, Glenn. “Barbara Lee’s Lone Vote on Sept. 14, 2001, Was as Prescient as It Was Brave and Heroic,” the Intercept, Sept. 11, 2016.

Hulse, Carl. “Endorsement by Gephardt Helps Propel Resolution,” New York Times, Oct. 3, 2002.

Johnsen, Gregory D. “60 Words And A War Without End: The Untold Story Of The Most Dangerous Sentence In U.S. History,” Buzzfeed, Jan. 14, 2016.

Kuhnhenn, James. “Gephardt’s future staked to results of fall elections,” Philadelphia Inquirer, Aug. 5, 2002.

McAllister, Bill. “Richard Lugar: A Resume in Search of Rhetoric,” Washington Post, Feb. 3, 1996.

McLelland, Edward. “How Dick Durbin Became Invincible,” Chicago Magazine, Sept. 23, 2020.

Millbank, Dana. “Democrats Question Iraq Timing,” Washington Post, Sept. 16, 2002.

Millbank, Dana. “In President’s Speeches, Iraq Dominates, Economy Fades,” Washington Post, Sept. 25, 2002.

Mitchell, Alison and Carl Hulse. “Congress Authorizes Bush to Use Force Against Iraq, Creating a Broad Mandate,” New York Times, Oct. 11, 2002.

Nagourney, Adam. “G.O.P. Retakes Control of the Senate in a Show of Presidential Influence,” New York Times, Nov. 6, 2002.

Nagourney, Adam. “More Than Own Re-election Is on Agenda for Gephardt,” New York Times, Nov. 1, 2002.

Richard Gephardt Oral History,” UVA Miller Center, May 24, 2016.

Rosenbaum, David E. “United Voice on Iraq Eludes Majority Leader,” New York Times, Oct. 4, 2002.

Savage, Charlie. “Biden Seeks Update for a Much-Stretched Law That Authorizes the War on Terrorism,” New York Times, March 5, 2021.

Stout, David. “Minnesota Senator Is Among 8 Dead in Crash,” New York Times, Oct. 25, 2002.

Taylor Jr., Stuart. “An Invasion of Iraq Requires the Approval of Congress,” the Atlantic, Sept. 1, 2002.

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Zakaria, Fareed. “Dick Gephardt, Unilateralist,” New York Times, Sept. 5, 2001.

Slate Plus Member Content Bonus Episode

The Politics of the Iraq Resolution Vote

What made members of Congress vote the way they did on Iraq, and how those votes continue to follow some of them today.


About the Show

In 2003, the United States invaded Iraq without provocation. Most Americans supported the war—as did most politicians and intellectuals, both liberal and conservative. Today, it’s universally considered a disaster.

Hosted by award-winning reporter Noreen Malone, the fifth season of Slow Burn explores the people and ideas that propelled the country into the Iraq war, and the institutions that failed to stop it. How did the Iraq catastrophe happen? And what was it like to watch America make one of its most consequential mistakes?

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  • Noreen Malone is the host of Slow Burn Season 5. Formerly, she was the editorial director of New York magazine and a host of Slate’s The Waves. Her magazine reporting has earned a George Polk Award.