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Public Statements

Senator Biden's Floor Statement on Iraq

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Date:
Location: Washington, DC

Mr. President, I rise to join my colleague, the Chairman of the Committee, in support of Senate Concurrent Resolution 30, which commends and expresses the gratitude of the United States to the nations participating with the us in the Coalition to Disarm Iraq.

The American people and this Congress stand with the Commander-in-Chief and behind our men and women in uniform. It is their responsibility to prosecute the war in Iraq. It is our responsibility to give them the support they need and deserve. There may be difficult days ahead. But I am confident of their extraordinary skill and of the ultimate success of our endeavour.

As we gather here today, the sons and daughters of four countries - the United Kingdom, Australia, Poland and Denmark -- are fighting alongside our troops. Our purpose is to thank them - from the bottom of our hearts - for their courage. It is to tell their families and loved ones our gratitude for their sacrifice. And it is to express to their leaders our profound admiration for their determination to join our nations in a common and just cause.

Several dozen nations are supporting this coalition in other ways - politically, diplomatically and strategically. They, too, have our deep appreciation.

Let me say a word to the leaders and people from friendly countries and allies who do not support this effort to disarm Saddam Hussein's regime. This Senator and many others may disagree - profoundly - with the choice they have made. But this Senator, at least, respects - equally profoundly - that choice and their right, as sovereign nations, to differ with us.
It is time that we move beyond the finger pointing and recriminations that have been flying across the Atlantic and around the world. We need one another. We will need one another in future endeavors. It is time to heal the differences between us. We could not come together in war but we are going to have to come together in peace.

This Resolution expresses that hope. By its words, it 'welcomes and encourages the active involvement of [the countries in this coalition], other nations and key international organizations in the reconstruction and civil administration of Iraq after the conflict.'

When the war ends - hopefully soon - we will face a tremendous responsibility and an equally important opportunity in terms of Iraq's future. Even as our thoughts and prayers are with our President, our troops, and our allies, we need to think about and act on that future now. Why is this so important? Because it is profoundly against the interests of the United States to be left with sole responsibility for Iraq. As my friend Tom Friedman has put it, we may have to rent the country for a time, but it is not our desire to own it.

There are three reasons for that:
• First, it will cost tens of billions of dollars and take years to build an Iraq that is secure, whole, free and governed by its own people. We shouldn't bear that burden alone.

• Second, an indefinite American military occupation of Iraq would fuel resentment throughout the Middle East, bolster Al Qaeda's recruitment, and make Americans a target for malcontents everywhere. We need to make the peace in Iraq the world's responsibility, not just our own.

• Third, failure to engage the U.N. and as many countries as possible in post-Saddam Iraq would miss an opportunity to repair the damage that has been done to the U.N., to our alliances and to international cooperation - all of which we will need to win the war against terrorism; to contend with North Korea and Iran's nuclear programs; to slow the spread of weapons of mass destruction; to deal with outbreaks of disease; and to contend with so many other threats that have no respect for borders.

I hope the Administration will spare no effort in securing the sanction of the United Nations for everything that will have to be done to keep the peace in Iraq after the war, to provide humanitarian aid, to rebuild the country, and to help put Iraq back into the hands of its people.

By gaining the U.N.'s approval, we would help political leaders around the world whose people oppose the war justify their participation - including financial participation -- in building the peace. It has not been lost on many of our colleagues and on our fellow Americans that in the last Gulf War, we paid between 17 and 20 percent of the cost of the war. This time, we are likely to have to pay nearly the totality of the bill. And the chairman and I have held hearings over the past nine months on what it will cost to secure and build the peace. There is no firm number, just estimates - anywhere from $19 billion a year to numbers well in excess of that. It is in our direct interest that other nations join us. Getting a U.N. mandate would make that more likely. And we would demonstrate a U.S. commitment to rebuild ties to the U.N., which will be important to our long term security.

I personally think Kosovo provides a powerful precedent for such a course of action. Then, we chose not to pursue a use of force resolution at the United Nations that we knew Russia would veto - instead, we secured NATO's support.
But even before the first bombs fell, we worked closely with the Security Council on an agreement that put the U.N. and other countries front and center in Kosovo for humanitarian aid and civil authority once the peace was made. As a result, we did not have to build the peace alone - we carried about 15 percent of the burden -- and our motives were not questioned.

I know there is a tension between those who see the efficiency of an American military occupation and those who seek the legitimacy of a U.N.-led effort. In the immediate weeks after the war, our military will have to be in charge of the country. Longer term, our goal -- working with our allies and the international community -- must be to put Iraq back in the hands of its people.

But during a critical interim period, we must achieve a very difficult balance.

On the one hand, we must avoid prolonging an American military occupation. It's tempting because no other organization - not the U.N., not any multilateral organization - that can get the job done with the speed and efficiency of our military. I know that from my many trips to the Balkans. And of course, for a long as our troops are there, security must be their responsibility - not the responsibility of the U.N. or any other organization.

But it should not be their role to administer Iraq or to choose its future leaders. We don't want the American military having to make political decisions day in and day out - and being blamed for every grievance. That would fuel resentment and turn us from liberators into occupiers. We do not want the American military putting in place a new Iraqi government - it would be seen as a puppet with no legitimacy.

On the other hand, we must not leave too quickly and hand power to Iraqis who lack the ability, the authority and the institutions to govern their country - and risk Iraq coming apart at the seams. How would they deal, for example, with Kurds, Turkmen and Arabs literally fighting over the oil-rich city of Kirkuk, with the possibility of hundreds of thousands of Kurds trying to claim that city? How would they contend with uncooperative ethnic leaders bent on revenge instead of reconciliation?

This is a difficult balance. I'm not suggesting any absolute formula but I am suggesting that to the degree to which the American military commander is seen to be handpicking or putting in place a new Iraqi government, that will diminish its legitimacy. To the degree to which an American lieutenant has to stand someplace in Kirkuk and tell a returning Kurd who was expelled through ethnic cleansing fifteen years ago whether he can go home and expel the Arab Sunni living there, that is a problem for us. I don't want an American GI having to make those calls.

Instead, someone must be given the authority to resolve the incredibly complicated problems that will arise. We should look to our experience in the Balkans - much of it good, some of it not so good - and draw from that.

The U.N. should empower an international civil servant to be the country's high commissioner or representative at some point as the transition moves forward. He or she should be backed by an international civilian administration that empowers Iraqis... and by a credible international security force with American forces at its core.

God willing, this war will continue to go well... casualties on all sides will be few... and victory will be swift. And working with the international community, we will put Iraq on the path to a pluralistic and democratic society.

But even if we succeed in these difficult endeavors, we should not expect Iraq's promise to automatically trigger progress throughout the region. Indeed, we will not truly win the peace unless we adopt and pursue a broader strategy for the Middle East. I believe that the President has recognized that by endorsing the Road Map between Israelis and Palestinians. Now, we must follow through and show a consistent commitment to its implementation.

Finding a solution to this problem would exponentially increase our ability to promote and support democratic reform throughout the region. We must do that for the sake of its people and for the safety of our people.

For when there are no democratic outlets, dissent moves underground... it turns into resentment... and it is ventilated by extremism and even terrorism. So we must make it clear to our friends in the region that their future - and their future with us - requires a move toward democratization.

If we listen to the voices of Arabs themselves... if we heed the wisdom of the U.N.'s Arab Development Report that ties progress to empowering women, reforming economies, and expanding political participation... we can help infuse a sense of hope to the region. Mr. President, by refusing to disarm, a defiant Saddam has made the fateful choice between war and peace. This is not about pre-emption. It's about enforcing a peace agreement that Saddam Hussein made after the Gulf War as the price for staying in power - a peace agreement whose terms he has flouted for twelve years. Saddam made the choice between war and peace. Let us make sure that in winning the war, we also win the peace.

I yield the floor.

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