Sen. Biden Talks about the Crocker-Petraeus Iraq Hearings on MSNBC Morning Joe
JOE SCARBOROUGH: Let's bring in right now the chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations and the senior voice on U.S. foreign policy, Senator Joe Biden.
Senator, thank you so much for being with us. We greatly appreciate it.
BIDEN: Hey, Joe. How you doing, buddy?
SCARBOROUGH: Hey, I'm doing great.
Quite a hearing yesterday. What did you learn?
BIDEN: Well, I learned that there are going to be 130,000 to 140,000 troops in Iraq when the next president is sworn in next January. That's what I learned.
SCARBOROUGH: And we just had General Scowcroft on before, a guy who opposed the war, said it was a mistake from the beginning. He now says it's a mistake to get out of Iraq.
And, Senator, this is -- it seems that most Americans are at the same place. I mean, some, obviously, want to stay there for a much longer time. But most Americans want to get the hell out of Iraq, but they want to do it in a way that doesn't cause a regional conflict, and just massive...
BIDEN: So do I.
SCARBOROUGH: ... numbers of deaths.
So how do we get there from here?
BIDEN: Well, we get there from here, Joe, with a plan. There is no plan here -- a political plan.
Remember, Joe, the reason for the surge was explicitly stated to bring down the violence to give breathing room to the political factions that are killing each other to work out an accommodation where they don't have to kill each other anymore, and to keep the regional players out; that is, keep Turkey, Syria, Iran out of Iraq.
That was the purpose. Yet, we had this surge, but we didn't have any diplomatic surge, Joe. And everything they point to that's working politically is working along the lines you and I have talked about before, at a local level.
The reason it's working in Anbar province is we're letting Sunnis take care of Sunni business. The reason it's working in the Shia area, to the extent it's working, is we're letting -- we're not having Sunni forces in Shia areas.
So this whole idea of a federal system in Iraq is the only way out. Yet that requires us, by the admission of the administration, to get, you know, the regional powers and the international powers to sign on to that approach. And we're just not doing anything about that.
SCARBOROUGH: And, Senator, that's the approach you've been talking about for some time. And you're exactly right. That's why Al Anbar province is working well. The Sunnis are policing it.
You know, the south was going fine until we had Shiite-on-Shiite fighting.
Let me ask you about something, though, that's very frustrating to me. You keep hearing reports about the oil revenues are up.
MIKA BRZEZINSKI: Yes.
SCARBOROUGH: But there's a big black market. And, for some reason -- for some reason, we're not getting the benefit of Iraq's oil. We're still having to foot their bill, when they're making billions and billions of dollars.
Why can't we get the Iraqis together on an oil revenue-sharing plan and get them together on using this money to fund the rebuilding of their country?
BIDEN: We are spending $3 billion a week, Joe, continue to spend it, as far as the eye can see.
The reason it's not happening is there is rampant corruption, number one.
Number two, you have this fight down in Basra. That's all about controlling oil and which of the Shia -- Shia factions, killing each other, have been killing each other -- which of them is going to control it.
Maliki is the Dawa Party. He hasn't been able to bring down the hammer. He's not willing to work out an oil law that deals with Iraq, let alone deals with us.
And in addition to that, we have this mindset that somehow we're going to continue to babysit this government ad infinitum.
And in the meantime -- Joe, you've spoken about this; Mika's spoken about it -- the opportunity costs are gigantic.
By that, I mean, here we are with debating what happens if we leave too quickly. And none of us are talking a precipitous draw- down. But we're talking about -- and that's a legitimate debate.
BIDEN: But there's no debate about the cost of staying. The costs are enormous, in terms of our security, economic stability, et cetera.
BRZEZINSKI: But, Senator, is there value -- just real quickly, is there any value in giving them some sort of a date to work with and saying, at this point...
BIDEN: Yes. BRZEZINSKI: ... a realistic one, that, "You're on your own...
BRZEZINSKI: ... no matter what happens"?
BRZEZINSKI: I mean, that, at some point, this has got to stop.
BIDEN: The answer is yes.
BRZEZINSKI: I mean, but there are arguments that that would ensue chaos and create...
BIDEN: Well, by the way, I don't know many responsible people who say that would ensue chaos.
For example, you had General Gates -- I wish I had the quote in front of me. And you both will remember, about six months ago, saying the pressure we're putting on to give a date is actually having a salutary impact on progress in Iraq. It's helpful.
And by the way, there's as many people who are really smart, smart people like Scowcroft, former generals and former -- and foreign policy experts, who say, by the way, Al Qaida would be more damaged if we left than if we stay.
There are many people who say, if we were to draw down and the Iranians knew we were going to draw down, they'd become a heck of a lot more responsible because they don't want chaos in Iraq.
So this is not a one-way street, that somehow if we continue to draw down, there's going to be this terrible reckoning. I think it's the opposite.
SCARBOROUGH: All right.
BRZEZINSKI: Senator Biden, great to see you.
SCARBOROUGH: Senator Biden...
BIDEN: Mika, keep him straight.
BRZEZINSKI: I'm trying. I'm trying.
SCARBOROUGH: Senator Biden, thanks for being on the show.
Senator Biden came up to me one time. He said, "My father warned me about people like you, Irishmen that make a little bit of money and then become Republicans."
BIDEN: That's right.
BRZEZINSKI: I wonder if the senator knows.
Senator, do you know that it's Joe's birthday today?
BIDEN: Hey, happy birthday, Joe.
SCARBOROUGH: Thank you so much.
SCARBOROUGH: You're my present. Thanks for being here.
That's a great honor.
BIDEN: All right, buddy, any time, any time.
SCARBOROUGH: Appreciate it.