By Tory Brecht
Campaigning in eastern Iowa Tuesday, U.S. Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del., lambasted President Bush's defense of the ongoing surge strategy in Iraq.
The senator spoke in Davenport, shortly after the president wrapped up a speech at an American Legion convention in Reno, Nev., where he warned the American people that giving up on the military push could "imperil the civilized world."
Biden chastised the president for continuing to tie the war in Iraq directly to the struggle against the al-Qaida terrorists that attacked the United States in September 2001.
"Today, the president argued we have to stay in Iraq to fight extremists," he said. "But the fact is his misguided and mismanaged war has fueled extremists in Iraq, Afghanistan and beyond.
"The al-Qaida we failed to finish off in Afghanistan and Pakistan because we went into Iraq has regenerated. It remains intent on attacking us at home. That should have put to rest once and for all the false refrain President Bush keeps repeating that "we're fighting them over there in Iraq so we don't have to fight them here.'"
Citing the most recent National Intelligence Estimate and a statement made by CIA Director Michael Hayden in November that "the inability of the (central Iraqi) government to govern is irreversible," Biden stressed the importance of a diplomatic rather than military push to end the fighting in Iraq.
"We'll be hearing a lot about the "surge' over the next several weeks, but remember its purpose: to buy time for the central government in Iraq to get its act together and win the trust of all Iraqis," Biden said. "That will not happen."
Absent an occupation, which the United States cannot sustain, or the return of a dictator, which the country cannot support, Iraq cannot be governed from the center, Biden said.
"There is no trust within the government, no trust of the government by the people, no capacity by the government to deliver security and services, and no prospect it will build that trust and capacity any time soon," he said.
Biden said his plan -- which calls for dividing Iraq into federations with strong local control and a weaker central government -- mirrors the successful effort to end the war in Bosnia in the early 1990s.
"We have to give (Iraq's) warring factions breathing room in their own regions, with control over the fabric of their daily lives -- police, education, jobs, marriage, religion," he said. "A limited central government would be in charge of truly common concerns, including protecting Iraq's borders and distributing oil revenues. More and more of my Democratic and Republican colleagues now agree that what I'm proposing may be the best possible outcome in Iraq."
After his Davenport stop, Biden was headed to a town hall meeting in Keokuk Tuesday night.
He said he is pinning his presidential hopes on doing well in the Iowa caucuses and thinks he is making progress against the two better-known front runners, U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton and U.S. Sen. Barack Obama.
"Iowans are kind of contrarian," he said. "You don't anoint front runners. I think the most recent Iowa polls showed that fewer than 10 percent have made up their minds. I'm going to compete here, and we're gaining traction."