NATIONAL DEFENSE AUTHORIZATION ACT FOR FISCAL YEAR 2007 -- (Senate - June 21, 2006)
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Mr. BIDEN. Mr. President, I thank the Senator from Michigan. I, too, compliment the Senator from Missouri for the service of his son. My son is not--he is in the military, in the National Guard. He is not in Iraq, although he did spend some time in Kosovo. I admire the patriotism of his son and respect the point of view his son expressed. But I think it confuses things.
Mr. President, last Thursday, we passed by a 99--1 vote an emergency spending bill to support our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan and provide relief to the victims of Hurricane Katrina.
Unfortunately, behind closed conference doors, a key provision of both the House and Senate versions was stripped out-- an amendment, introduced by Representative Barbara Lee and myse lf that would bar any funds from being used to establish permanent U.S. military bases in I raq or to control Iraq's oil.
I voted to support our troops, though I was surprised that my amendment was stripped after not a single Senator publicly spoke against it during the floor debate.
But what bothers me is that by removing the ``no permanent bases'' amendment, we make life more difficult for our men and women in uniform and undercut our Nation's broader effort against terrorism.
So I will reintroduce my amendment as part of the Defense authorization bill.
It is straightforward, clear, and simpl e. It affirms that the United States will not seek to establish permanent military bases in Iraq and has no intention of controlling Iraqi oil.
I will repeat what I said 6 weeks ago:
While it may be obvious to Americans that we don't intend to stay in Iraq indefinitely, such conspiracy theories are accepted as fact by most Iraqis.
In an opinion poll conducted by the University of Maryland in January, 80 percent of Iraqis--and 92 percent of the Sunni Arabs--believe we have plans to establish permanent military bases.
The same poll found that an astounding 88 percent of Sunni Arabs approve of attacks on American forces in part.
Why do Iraqis believe we want permanent bases? Why do they think we would subject ourselves to the enormous ongoing costs in Iraq in blood and treasure? Do they think we want their sand? No, they think we want their oil.
To my mind, the connection between these two public opinion findings is incontrovertible.
Before you dismiss these as simple conspiracy theories, remember what Iraqis have been through in the past 3 decades:
Three wars and a tyrannical regime that turned brother against brother and made paranoia a way of life.
And ther e is a longer history, too: 400 years of British and Ottoman occupation have led to a deeply ingrained suspicion of a foreign military presence.
These views extend well beyond Iraq. In a 2004 Pew Charitable Trust survey, majorities in all four Muslim states surveyed--Turkey, Pakistan, Jordan, and Morocco--believed that control of Mideast oil was an important factor in our invasion of Iraq.
Our enemies understand the boon these misconceptions provide to their recruiting efforts and use them as a rallying cry in their calls-to-arms.
Last year in a letter intercepted by the United States military, Ayman al-Zawahiri, the deputy leader of al-Qaeda, wrote to the recently killed Jordanian terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi:
The M uslim masses ..... do not rally except against an outside occupying enemy.
Our military and diplomatic leaders understand that countering this vicious propaganda requires clear signals about our intentions in Iraq. And they have done just thi s.
General George Casey, the ground force commander in Iraq, told the Committee on Armed Services last September:
Increased coalition presence feeds the notion of occupation.
At the same hearing, General John Abizaid, the commander of all U.S. troops in the Middle East, told Congress:
We must make clear to the people of the region we have no designs on their territory or resources.
In March, the American ambassador to Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad, told an Iraqi television station that the United States has ``no goal in establishing permanent bases in Iraq.''
Unfortunately, this clarity has been clouded by mixed messages from the senior-most decision-makers in the Bush administration.
To my knowledge, President Bush has never explicitly stated that we will not establish permanent bases in Iraq, and both the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of State have left the door open to do just that.
O n February 17, 2005, Secretary Rumsfeld told the Committee on Armed Services:
We have no intention, at the present time, of putting permanent bases in Iraq.
``At the present time'' is not exactly an unequivocal statement.
On February 15, 2006, at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing, my friend, the Senator from Massachusetts, asked Secretary Rice:
Is it, in fact, the policy of the administration not to have permanent bases in Iraq?
Rather than answering the simple one word, ``Yes,'' Secretary Rice said during a 400 word exchange on the question:
I don't want to in this forum try to prejudice everything that might happen way into the future.
Just last Thursday, columnist Helen Thomas asked the White House press secretary to unambiguously declare that the United States will not seek permanent bases in Iraq. Again, the press secretary could not unequivocally declare this to be the case.
These mixed messages are confusing to the American people and the Iraqi people alike. They feed conspiracy theories and cede rhetorical space to our enemies. They make it that much more difficult to win the battle for the hearts and minds of 1.2 billion Muslims in the world. Our success in that battle will determine our success in the struggle between freedom and radical fundamentalism.
Against this backdrop, I believe that it is incumbent upon us to speak where the administration has not.
My amendment will have no detrimental effect on the military operations of our Armed Forces in Iraq or their ability to provide security for Iraqi oil infrastructure.
United Nations Council Resolution 1546 recognizes that the American and coalition forces are present in Iraq at the invitation of the Iraqi Government and that their operations are essential to Iraq's political, economic, and social well-being.
In his first speech to the Iraqi parliament last month, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki endorsed that resolution. We are anxious for the day when Iraqis can take control of their own destiny, but the Iraqis are suspicious of our intentions and growing increasingly impatient.
This amendment may not in itself change a lot of minds on the ground or in the region.
But it can mark the beginning of a sustained effort to demonstrate through words and deeds that we have no intention of controlling Iraq's oil or staying there forever.
I believe it is our duty to do so.
I want to point out a couple of things. I have listened to some of this debate. Sometimes I wonder whether we are debating the Levin amendment or not. The Levin-Reed amendment says two things. It lays out a plan. The front part of it is the part that is being ignored by most people. The amendment lays out a specific plan to avoid trading a dictatorship for chaos in Iraq. Right now, I respectfully suggest the President has a plan how not to lose but no plan how to win. In my view, a plan to arbitrarily set a date to leave is not a plan. It is an expression of overwhelming frustration and maybe on the part of some a conclusion reached that it is not winnable because it has been so badly handled the last 2 years. I respect that position. I don't agree with it, but I respect it.
The fact is, what is before us in the Levin amendment is it first calls for a political settlement and the sharing of economic resources. That is another way of saying the Iraqis need a deal on oil that gives the Sunnis a fair share of the revenues; and, secondly, it calls for the President to convene what not just JOE BIDEN and this amendment but BIDEN before, and before that Henry Kissinger, and Secretary Shultz and others called for, and that is convening of an international conference to promote a durable political settlement and reduce the interference by Iraq's neighbors in Iraq. And it calls for the things that everyone agrees have to be done, purging the sectarian militia which has infiltrated the security forces.
My friend from Missouri stood up and talked about the Iraqi security forces. The Iraqi security forces are riddled with sectarian infiltration. There is overwhelming evidence that Sadr suggests his Mahdi militia join the military. There is overwhelming evidence that the SCIRI and Dawa Parties have moved their people into the military as have the Sadr militia. There is evidence of the fact that the Peshmerja are in the north. So let me ask a question: How is it remotely possible that this government, assuming it is really good government, has a lot of personal courage and wisdom?
How can it run a country when it does not have a military that--at least at any one time--one-third of the country doesn't trust?
Did you all notice what happened today? Saddam's defense lawyer, for whom I have no particular empathy or sympathy--guess what. Five cops or four cops--Iraqi police--show up with identification, take him away, and shoot him.
What has been going on? Pick up the paper. Every day--almost every day for the past months--a bus gets stopped, a group of Iraqi policemen take people off the bus identified as Sunnis and blow their brains out; or the next morning--every morning--you read the paper. What do you find? You find 9, 12, or 30 Sunnis handcuffed with bullets in their heads.
So I ask you the question, imagine the United States of America trying to unite the North and the South, and if you had hit squads in the South after the Civil War going after anybody who fought in the Confederacy--this is a big deal.
There is no possibility of avoiding a civil war, in my humble opinion, if you don't purge the police and then purge the military of the sectarian thugs.
Second, we have a very first-rate Ambassador there. The best thing that has happened to our effort is our present Ambassador. What did he do? Remember when he said the first unity government wasn't legitimate because the Sunnis didn't participate? It was a legitimate point. How do we get the Sunnis to participate in the election? You had the acting Parliament pass a law defining what could kill the Constitution--changing the law. That is a disaster.
So what did our Ambassador do? He said: Change it--quietly; a brilliant diplomatic move. They changed the law going back to what it had been under the law that was written in the first instance. Second, what did he do? He said: This isn't the final document. They amended the Constitution at the last minute it was being voted on to say you can amend it later. Why? For a specific purpose. Everybody knows that unless you get the Sunnis to buy in, there is no possibility
of success. So everyone has anticipated from the beginning, beginning with our Ambassador, that you have to amend the Constitution to give the Sunnis a piece of the action.
Up to now, our administration has been saying quietly that would be divisive absent the Parliament doing what is called for under the law, convening, as they should be now, and now with about 3 months left, reporting to the entire Parliament amendments to the Constitution that will then be sent out to the people to vote on. Absent that, I do not know how this works.
The Sunnis need a piece of the action, to stay in the action.
My friend, the chairman, understands that there are three things going on. One, they are so-called insurgents. They are basically the old Saddamists. They are the Baathist Party, they are former military, and they are the Republican Guard.
As I said to the President, who asked the question after my first trip from Iraq--he said: We have taken care of--I don't want to put words in his mouth--he said it was a great victory. And it was a great victory. I said: But Mr. President, 400,000 people went home with their guns. I said: Count the bodybags. We had such a blitzkrieg success; what happened? They didn't resist. They took off their uniforms, kept their guns, and raided the 800,000 tons of ammunition dumps we didn't guard. That is the insurgency--not bunch of dead-enders, as the Secretary of Defense said some time ago, and they are getting increasingly organized.
There is a second group. The second group is the Zarqawi guys. They are the guys who are the jihadists--mostly from out of the country. As my friends, the chairman and ranking member, know, the military has never estimated them to make up more than 5 percent to 8 percent of the entire insurgency. They do bad things, but they are a separate group, coordinating with but separate, with separate agendas, from the insurgents.
There is a third group. The real problem is civil war. Insurgency is not the big problem. It is a problem. The problem is sectarian violence with Sunnis killing Kurds, Kurds executing Shiites, and Shiites mostly eliminating Sunnis. Unless you stop that, what is the deal? I hope I am wrong, but as I say, take a look at my record on this for the last 3 years and tell me. Am I wrong a lot of times? I haven't guessed this one very wrong very many times.
Ask the following question: By December of 2007, we are going to have a drastic withdrawal of American forces for one of two reasons: either because we actually have things going in Iraq, the Iraqis have not only stood but stood together, dealt with the Sunnis, dealt with the militia and kept the neighbors out, which means we will be able to draw forces home, or we are going to be in a full-blown civil war.
I will make a prediction. This is a dangerous thing to do on the floor, and I pray to God I am wrong about it. I think there is at least an even chance that you will hear the following debate among the foreign policy intellectuals on the left and on the right a year from now. You have to let them fight it out in a civil war. It has to be decided in a civil war; nothing we can do about it. Let the chips fall where they may, and we come back in and try to pick up the pieces. That may be the ultimate strategy we have to deal with.
But to my friends who say get out at a time certain, I say I understand your frustration, but what do you do afterward? What do you do if things go to hell in a hand basket quickly and there is civil war that turns into a regional war? What is your plan?
The Levin amendment lays out a plan. It says take care of the insurgency by giving the Sunnis a piece of the action so they turn on the insurgents. They have a reason to want to be a part of the deal.
I thank the Chair.
I have a more detailed plan as to how we should proceed. But don't confuse the Levin plan by ruling it out. The Levin plan lays out what must be done, how to do it, and it is done on the path by which we can leave and leave our interests intact.
I thank the Chair. I thank my colleagues for allowing me a few minutes.
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Mr. BIDEN. Mr. President, I rise today to discuss a matter that has tremendous potential to decrease cancer deaths among the millions of military dependents and retirees served by the TRICARE health program. I am talking about colonoscopy, a medical procedure used very commonly to screen for colon cancer. Medical specialists tell me that colonoscopy is the most accurate test for detecting colon cancer at the very earliest stages, when it is highly treatable.
As my colleagues on the Senate Armed Services Committee are aware, I have been very concerned that DOD's TRICARE medical plan hasn't covered colonoscopy to screen for colon cancer in average-risk beneficiaries over age 50, even though both Medicare and the Federal Employees Health Benefit Program did so. Instead, DOD's policy has been to pay for screening colonoscopy to detect colon cancer only for a very narrow group of high-risk individuals. This limitation meant that many of our military retirees and dependents have not been able to get access to this sensitive cancer screening test, and as a result, they may well have been subject to adverse health consequences from delayed cancer detection.
I called this omission to the attention of the committee and introduced legislation to rectify the situation. I was pleased to be joined in these efforts to fix this problem by Senators Mikulski and Bingaman.
Mr. President, I am pleased to say today that DOD has done the right thing by modifying the TRICARE criteria for screening colonoscopy so that all average-risk TRICARE beneficiaries over age 50 have access to this important cancer screening test. This new policy, which is retroactive to procedures performed since March 15, 2006, is good news in the ongoing battle against colon cancer, and I would hope that DOD would disseminate widely the news of the availability of this important preventive service.