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Public Statements

National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC


NATIONAL DEFENSE AUTHORIZATION ACT FOR FISCAL YEAR 2008 -- (Senate - September 26, 2007)

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Mr. BIDEN. Mr. President, I want to thank my colleague from Michigan for his suggestions. I believe that federalism and the creation of federal regions would be in the best interest of the Iraqi people and holds great promise for a political settlement among the Iraqi political leadership. I know that my friend is particularly concerned about the opposition of the Sunni community to the constitution. I agree with him that, at, the time of adoption of the constitution, the Sunnis were opposed to many aspects of it including those provisions relating to federalism among others. But in my last visit to Iraq, my conversations with key Sunni leaders reveals a sea change in thinking. There is a growing recognition by the Sunni leadership that Sunnis will not get a fair shake if they are at the mercy of a strong central government controlled by their rivals in the Islamist Shiacamp. One key leader told me that he now understands that federalism is the best option for the Sunnis. Nonetheless, it is not my intention to forego the possibility that the Iraqi Constitutional Review Commission may recommend changes to their constitution nor that the United States should seek to impose a settlement on the Iraqis. I would note, however, at in the last draft proposed by the commission on May 23, 2007, none of the proposed changes would revoke any of the provisions of the constitution which permit the creation of federal regions. However, in deference to the Senator's concerns, I have amended the language to account for the possibility of the issue of regions being reopened by the Iraqis.

Mr. President, I yield the floor.

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Mr. BIDEN. Mr. President, I will oppose the Kyl-Lieberman amendment for one simple reason: this administration cannot be trusted.

I am very concerned about the evidence that suggests that Iran is engaged in destabilizing activities inside Iraq. I believe that many of the steps the Senators from Connecticut and Arizona suggest be taken to end this activity can be taken today. We can and we should move to act against Iranian forces inside Iraq. We can and we should use economic pressure against those who aid and abet attacks on our forces and against Iraqis. The administration already has the authority to do these things and it should be doing them.

Arguably, if we had a different President who abided by the meaning and intent of laws we pass, I might support this amendment. I fear, however, that this President might use the designation of Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist entity as a pretext to use force against Iran as he sees fit. While this may sound far-fetched to some, my colleagues should examine the record in two particular instances.

First, is the misuse of the authority that we granted the President in 2002 to back our diplomacy with the threat of force. My colleagues will remember that, at the time, we voted to give the President a strong hand to play at the U.N. to get the world to speak with one voice to Saddam: let the inspectors back in and disarm or be disarmed. We thought that would make war less likely.

But in the 5 months between our vote and the invasion of Iraq, the ideologues took over. The President went to war unnecessarily, without letting the weapons inspectors finish their work, without a real coalition, without enough troops, without the right equipment, and without a plan to secure the peace.

The second example is the administration's twisting of our vote on the Iraq Liberation Act of 1998 as an endorsement of military action against Iraq. Let me quote the Vice President from November 2005:

Permit me to burden you with a bit more history: In August of 1998, the U.S. Congress passed a resolution urging President Clinton take `appropriate action' to compel Saddam to come into compliance with his obligations to the Security Council. Not a single senator voted no. Two months later, in October of '98--again, without a single dissenting vote in the United States Senate--the Congress passed the Iraq Liberation Act. It explicitly adopted as American policy supporting efforts to remove Saddam Hussein's regime from power and promoting an Iraqi democracy in its place. And just two months after signing the Iraq Liberation law, President Clinton ordered that Iraq be bombed in an effort to destroy facilities that he believed were connected to Saddam's weapons of mass destruction programs.

The Vice President made this argument despite this explicit section of the Iraq Liberation Act: ``Nothing in this Act shall be construed to authorize or otherwise speak to the use of United States Armed Forces.''

These examples are relevant to the debate today.

The Authorization for the Use of Military Force approved in September 2001 would appear to limit the scope of authority it contains to the terrorists who conducted or aided the attacks of 9/11, or harbored them. But the President and his lawyers have frequently argued for a broad reading of this law, and believe they are fighting a ``global'' war on terrorism. In letters to Congress under the war powers resolution, the President has stated that he will ``direct additional measures as necessary'' in the exercise of self-defense and ``to protect U.S. citizens and interests'' as part of this global war.

I do not think the suggestion that the President designate an arm of the government of Iran as a ``terrorist'' entity provides any authority to do anything. After all, it is a nonbinding measure. But this administration already has an unduly broad view of the scope of executive power, particularly in time of war. I do not want to give the President and his lawyers any argument that Congress has somehow authorized military actions. The lesson of the last several years is that we must be cautious about acting impulsively on legislation which can be misconstrued, and misused to justify actions that Congress did not contemplate.

With a different President who had a different track record, I could vote to support this amendment. But given this President's actions and misuse of authority, I cannot support the amendment.

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