Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2004

By:  Joe Biden, Jr.
Date: Nov. 6, 2003
Location: Washington, DC



Mr. BIDEN. Mr. President, the chairman is correct. I don't plan on speaking on mad cow disease. I will speak for approximately 20 minutes. If anybody comes in with a relevant amendment, I will yield the floor. I am going to talk on the subject of Iraq.

Two days ago, the Congress completed action on the President's request for $87 billion. In fact, I think later today there is going to be a signing down at the White House for military operations reconstruction money for Iraq, as well as Afghanistan, that relates to that $87 billion request.

The debate we had in the Congress over that issue reflected more than our concern about the amount of money. I think it reflected more than the sticker shock that the American people felt when they heard the $87 billion number. I think it reflected the fact that there is a crisis in confidence in the President's leadership in Iraq. To put it more straightforward, there is a grave doubt about the policy we are engaging in now and its prospects for success.

The American people not only have those doubts, but I know, and we all know on the floor, that a number of Members on both sides of this aisle have doubts about the policy. I voted for the $87 billion, and I believe we needed to do that. But we cannot afford to fail in Iraq, and there was no option but the one before us.

It seems to me that we are going to have great difficulty succeeding in Iraq unless we act more wisely, and I want to discuss that very briefly today. I will be coming to the floor next week with a much more expanded speech on this subject. In order for us to succeed, I think we have to simply change our policy. We have to change the policy we are pursuing now in several very important ways.

First, in order to determine whether or not we think this policy is working, it seems we have to understand the situation on the ground in Iraq. There are two realities in Iraq right now. One is that there is some real progress being made: Schools are being opened; hospitals are open; there is a number of reconstruction projects underway; the setting up of local councils is occurring and other things that are good. But all of that progress is being undermined by the other reality on the ground: our failure so far to get security, especially in the Sunni Triangle in Baghdad.

The failure to secure that area has undermined not only the progress we are making but, in my view, has created a circumstance where it becomes incredibly more difficult each day to get the kind of help we need to ultimately succeed. That is to the degree to which other nations, and to the degree to which Iraq is, and the degree to which the American people believe we are not making significant progress is the degree to which they withdraw their support or fail to offer support.

We need international support, we need the continued support of the Iraqi people, and we need the American people prepared to stay the course by spending billions of more dollars in order to get this done and, even more importantly, risking and losing American lives.

I am worried we are going to soon lose the support of the Iraqi people and the vast majority of the American people. The Iraqi people, to make it clear, are happy Saddam Hussein is no longer around. They very much want to build a better future. But the fact is, there has never been a government in Iraq that has been a democracy. In fact, as we all know, Iraq was a nation built and carved out of a colonial circumstance back at the end of the World War I, and it is very difficult, at best, to figure out how to put it together in any form of representative government. It is going to take some time.

So the job, No. 1, here for us, it seems to me, is getting the security right, controlling the streets, securing the weapons depots, getting much better intelligence. But that has always been the No. 1 job we have had, and all other success depends upon that occurring—better security. It has always been the administration's responsibility, not the Congress's responsibility, to figure out how to get the security on the ground correct.

For some time, I have refrained from any prescriptive outline as to what I think should be done because we cannot dictate that kind of policy in the Senate. That is a matter for Presidents to determine, administrations to lead. But I am very concerned that we are on a downward spiral in terms of the prospects of getting it right in Iraq.

Now, it seems to me, right now, we are not getting the job done. It is not because of the lack of bravery and commitment and steadfastness of American troops or American personnel. These are serious people. These are brave young women and men. It seems to me they have been put in a circumstance that makes it very difficult for them to succeed.

Let me lay out very briefly now, and in greater detail next week, what I believe we need to do to succeed.

The bottom line is pretty simple. Three groups can provide security in Iraq: First, the Iraqis themselves; second, our U.S. troops and the few coalition partners we have with us there; and third, there is the possibility of a real international coalition of military forces.

Over the long term, obviously, the single best way to get security right in Iraq is for the Iraqis to provide that security through indigenous police forces and an indigenous army. That is our goal. Everyone agrees upon that goal. And it is their responsibility, ultimately. They can tell the good guys from the bad guys better than we can. But here is the rub: It takes time to build an effective—an effective—indigenous police force or military force.

When I was in Iraq in June, I was told by our experts there on the ground that it would take 5 years to recruit and train the 75,000 Iraqi police force that was needed. I was told it would take 3 years to recruit and train just 40,000 persons for the Army of Iraq—5 years for the police force and 3 years just to train 40,000 Iraqi soldiers.

We can and we are putting that effort into overdrive. Let's understand the risks that go into putting it into overdrive. The faster we go on our training, the poorer the training and less legitimate the police and army will be. Putting them in charge prematurely is a recipe for failure. They will lose the confidence of the Iraqi people, and we will lose the ability to recruit them to participate in the police force and/or in the military force.

Although it makes sense for us to try to speed up as rapidly as we can the training and the deployment of Iraqis, it is going to take time for it to work. Even on steroids, we are going to need a year at least before we can hand over the keys of security to the Iraqi people, the Iraqi military, and the Iraqi police.

The real question is, What do we do in the meantime? The reason I am so concerned about the meantime is that within a year, before we are even able, under this extended and intensive effort, to speed up the training and turn over the responsibility to the Iraqis, if we continue to have the attitude that pervades in Iraq today, or is beginning to pervade and is beginning to pervade in the United States that this is a difficult, if not hopeless, task, we are unlikely to accomplish the circumstance of being able to put the Iraqis in a position even a year from now. We have to do something now to make things better on the ground.

That brings us to option No. 2, and that is flood the zone with more U.S. troops. Putting in more troops now will allow us to get them out a lot faster. We especially need MPs, special forces, and civil affairs experts.

I listened to my friend John McCain—he and I have been on the same page on this issue for the last 5 months—I listened to him yesterday make a very compelling speech about the need to immediately increase, not decrease, the number of American forces. We understand—John McCain and I and others—that is not a very popular thing to say.

Guys like me who thought the administration went about this war wrongly in the first place are in the dubious position of being in the Chamber suggesting to the Americans who don't like the war that we should put more forces in Iraq immediately in order to take them out totally sooner while the administration announces that in the rotation of American forces through next spring, we are going to rotate troops, but we are also going to draw down the total number of American troops. It is somewhat perverse. Here are BIDEN and MCCAIN talking about putting in more troops, and the administration is talking about taking out more troops.

The irony here is, we do not have control of the security on the ground. To the extent we don't, for every Chinook that is shot down, for every American who is killed, every Iraqi who is blown up, every Iraqi policeman who goes to a barracks now and is blown up, every Red Cross depot that is exploded—every one of those events undermines the willingness of the United States, the Iraqis, and the world to stay the course and do the job in Iraq.

I might note parenthetically, my real problem is the President has yet to tell the American people why this is so important. He keeps talking about and using the phrase, which is very catchy and very compelling—I am paraphrasing—if we don't fight the terrorists in Baghdad, we will fight them in New York, Washington, Seattle, or wherever. There is some truth to that.

The American people are a lot smarter. If you ask the American people if they think if we succeed in Baghdad or if we succeed in Iraq that is going to end terrorism in the United States, or conversely, whether or not that is the source of terrorism and the threat to the United States, about 60 percent of the American people will say no, they don't think that is it. They understand it. They understand the next terrorist attack, God forbid, in the United States is more likely to come from Somalia, Philippines, Iran, or any number of other countries, than it is going to be from something that has been planned in Baghdad.

That is not to suggest there is not terror in Baghdad; there is. But there are the beginnings of a classic counterinsurgency in Baghdad, aided and abetted by international terrorist operations that are beginning to mobilize in that area.

The real reason we have to succeed in Iraq and the real reason we had better get it straight pretty quickly before we lose the support of the American people is that if we fail to secure the peace in Baghdad and in Iraq, we are going to see a significantly emboldened and radicalized Iran with over 70 million people. We are going to see the prospect of—that fancy word we use in foreign policy circles—modernity in the Middle East evaporate. The idea that there are going to be more modern democratic states is going to diminish, not increase. We are going to see, I predict, a reconsideration of the attitude about whether to look East or West in Turkey from Ankara from an Islamic government. We are going to see the circumstances in Pakistan deteriorate because, sure as the devil, if things deteriorate in Iraq and we lose the peace there, we are going to lose it in Afghanistan as well. We will have two failed states.

It is absolutely essential that we succeed, even though most of us—I shouldn't say most; I speak for myself—even though I did not agree with the way the President went about the conduct of this war. The facts are, we are there and we must succeed.

What do we do? We need more civil affairs officers, we need more special forces, and we need more MPs. But this is hard stuff. Our forces are stretched way thin in Iraq already and in Afghanistan. We would have to bring folks back to Iraq for second or third tours, and that is a decision no one wants to make. We have to at least consider it if it would make our troops safer now, increase the chances of success and security in the triangle now being more likely than not because otherwise we just dribble this away.

Short of bringing in more U.S. troops, there are things we can do with our forces to get a better grip on security in the region. We have to deal with those ammo depots. There are more than 600,000 tons of ordnance in Iraq. That is one-third of all the munitions the United States of America possesses. Of that, less than 100,000 tons have been destroyed. There are also thousands of shoulder-fired missiles on the loose in Iraq, one of which probably brought down the helicopter last week. We are offering to buy those missiles back at 500 bucks a pop.

A recent Newsweek or Time Magazine article this week pointed out a young Iraqi came up to an American military person and said: Do you want to buy one of these missiles?

He said: Can you get more of them?

He said: Yes, I can get more of them.

He got a whole truckload of them and brought them back. I think he got paid $40,000 for them. He said he would have brought back more except the truck was not big enough.

We have tens, hundreds, if not thousands, of these shoulder-held missiles on the loose in Iraq. We are paying $500 for the retrieval of each one, and more than 350 have been turned in. The black market price for purchasing those shoulder-held missile launchers is $5,000 a missile. That is kind of hard to compete with.

If we had more forces in place, we could do a better job of guarding those depots, but even without those forces we should be getting Iraqis to fence off the depots, put sensors on the gates, put more UAVs in the air to patrol them.

We have to destroy the weapons faster. Let me acknowledge this is not a simple task. There are hundreds of depots, many of them used, and we have to be very careful in destroying them. We need to protect civilian populations, and we lack enough demolition experts who know how to destroy this stuff without starting a California-size blaze. The administration has to make securing these weapons a top priority. We need to have better intelligence on the ground. It is really hard for our folks to tell the good guys from the bad guys and that is where intelligence comes in.

The Army itself is finding that our intelligence specialists and the reserves trained in civilian affairs and psychological operations do not get the training they need before they are sent to Iraq, so they are not producing very good intelligence.

We do not have enough competent interpreters. We have to get help to rebuild Iraq from their own intelligence network. Here, too, we need a much greater sense of urgency.

The second way to do this is for the United States to do it itself, but it is going to take more personnel and a different kind of personnel to do that. The President has made clear he is not going to do that.

There is another way to buy time until the Iraqis can fend for themselves, and that is to make Iraq the world's responsibility, not just our own. We had that opportunity before the war, and we blew it. We had that opportunity after the war, and we blew it. At the end of the summer, when it became clear the security situation was not getting better, the administration decided it had to reach out, but it did not do it very well. The President's speech to the United Nations was not very well received, so for a third time the administration squandered the opportunity to get international support in significant ways.

This is not totally our problem, but for the most part only Americans are being killed. I am convinced we have one last shot to bring the world in to Iraq, and we must do everything in our power to seize that opportunity. This is the meat of what I have to say. I would like to see President Bush not figuratively but literally go to Europe, call a summit and ask for help. We will have to give up more authority in order to get that help, but as I keep saying, and I have been saying for the last 6 months, we should stop treating Iraq as if it is some sort of prize we won. It is not authority I am looking to possess. We would be giving up nothing as it relates to our security interests.

There are three things we can and should do to get more countries invested in Iraq with troops, police, and resources. The first is we should make Iraq a NATO mission. The model we should be using is not Afghanistan but Bosnia, Kosovo. There is a NATO general in charge of all the troops there. It happens to be an American most of the time because America runs NATO; America commands NATO. So it should be a NATO operation.

We are not getting other NATO forces in because they do not want to work alongside of and/or under the command of a totally US-led operation that is not a NATO operation. So we should make Iraq a NATO mission.

General Abizaid would be put in charge of the new NATO command because the way it always works with NATO, as it does with the U.N., whoever is putting up most of the responsibility, putting up most of the money, most of the troops, gets to be the one in charge. So this should be a NATO operation.

Secondly, we should create a high commissioner for Iraq who reports not just to President Bush or the Secretary of Defense, but who reports to an international board of directors, reports to the NATO countries, reports to those countries that are participating. That is what we did in Kosovo. We never lost control of Kosovo, but there was a high commissioner. The high commissioner was not an American. The first one happened to be a Frenchman. The second one was a Dutchman. They reported to all of the capitals that were participating in the reconstruction of Kosovo.

We have a long way to go in Kosovo and a long way to go in Bosnia, but thank God, knock on wood, there are no American casualties. There have not been American casualties as a consequence of hostile fire. People are not killing one another in those two countries. A lot more has to be done. There is no pure democracy there, but there are not a million people in the mountains about to freeze, there are not 250,000 dead, and Americans are not being shot. The place is secure, and we are only paying 15 percent of the price in terms of money and troops. If we want to get the rest of the world into this deal, because—and people say, well, Joe, why would they even contemplate coming in? They are kind of happy to see us bog down.

The reason they would be happy to come in if they had the right environment is because they have as much at stake in a failed state of Iraq as we do. For the Europeans, Iraq is their front yard. It is our backyard. We have to create the environment in which they are willing to participate. So instead of having Mr. Bremer running the operation—and maybe Mr. Bremer should be the high commissioner. The phrase for that is "double hatted." There has to be a much larger investment by other countries. In return, they have to have much greater participation.

As much as people will not like hearing me say this, the second thing we have to do is change Bremer's function into that of a high commissioner reporting to Washington, London, Berlin, Paris, et cetera. Otherwise, we will not get the kind of participation we need.

Thirdly, we should transform the Iraqi Governing Council into a provisional government with greater sovereign powers. Putting NATO in charge of security in Iraq offers the possibility of building a truly multilateral force, with far more participation from Europeans, Asians, and neighboring countries. More countries will take part because they would be reporting to the North Atlantic Council, not to the Pentagon.

We are the North Atlantic Council as well. It is a model, as I said, that worked in the Balkans and now is beginning to work in Afghanistan. In the Balkans, for example, many non-NATO countries, including Russia and some Arab states, joined the effort because they were not joining the U.S. effort; they were joining a NATO effort.

The United States, in all of these models I am suggesting—and they are relatively drastic changes—would retain operational control on the ground with General Abizaid as head of this new NATO command. And we retain effective control in NATO, where the United States is the lead player.

Creating an International High Commissioner for Iraq and putting him or her in charge of reconstruction would also attract far more international participation. The recent donors conference in Madrid was a painful example of the price we pay for doing everything ourselves.

When you go into a country unilaterally, you get to handle the peace unilaterally. One we didn't need, the other we do.

Typically, as in the Balkans, the United States covers reconstruction efforts—pays for about 25 percent of the reconstruction costs after a major conflict. By that ratio, the $20 billion, or $18-point-something billion Congress just approved for Iraq reconstruction should have generated, in Madrid, about $60 billion from the rest of the world. Instead, we got $13 billion, of which $9 billion was loans.

As long as the CPA is the sole deciding authority on how Iraq will be rebuilt, other countries will be reluctant to fork over real money. They want a real say in how the money is spent.

Again, look at the model in the Balkans. Look at the model in gulf war No. 1, George the first, the first gulf war. We paid only about 20 percent of the total cost. The rest of the world came in and made up the remainder of that $60 billion.

What are we doing now? Again, in my view, the model we are operating under is broken. We should fix it. Otherwise, we own it all. This is not something we want to own alone.

If we go the route I am suggesting of a special representative who reports to the U.N. Security Council, of which we are a member—either way, that could be Bremer. Bremer could be double-hatted.

In Bosnia, the High Commissioner reports to a special steering committee led by the United States and the EEU. In Kosovo, the Secretary General of the United Nations designated a Special Representative who reports to the U.N. Security Council.

I ask a rhetorical question to any Americans who may be listening. Would it offend you that a high commissioner reporting to the U.N. Security Council was the model we were using? Would you be angry that we didn't own it all, that we weren't the one having to put up all the money, making all the decisions, and taking all the casualties? What is our reluctance?

I said, either way, in a de facto sense, we remain in charge.

Finally, it seems to me we should turn the Iraqi Governing Council into a true provisional government with more sovereign powers. This transfer of sovereignty should not be held hostage to the very important but very complicated and time-consuming process of writing a new constitution.

I happened to hear General Clark this morning on one of the morning news shows. He pointed this out. I thought it was a great example. He said: It took us 7 years to write our Constitution. Actually, it took a little longer. How would we have felt had the French said: We helped liberate you from the British; we are going to stay here as the regional power while you write your Constitution? I am not so sure we would have greeted that with a warm embrace.

So in order for this Iraqi Governing Council, which has not been all that responsible up to now in my view, to be able to function, it seems to me there has to be a transfer of authority that, in fact, should not be held hostage to the constitution having to be written first. It may require some changes in this provisional government to make it more representative, but that is what we should get on with now. Nothing would send a clearer message to the Iraqi people that the future is theirs to build and to inherit, and nothing would make it clearer to them that the enemies of that future are Saddam loyalists and international terrorists who are killing our troops, other than having sovereignty transferred to the Governing Council.

In conclusion, I am suggesting that the model we are operating under be changed.

No. 1, sovereignty, even requiring, if need be, more representation on the Governing Council, but more sovereignty transferred to the Governing Council.

No. 2, a high commissioner, in place of the system we have now, on the Bosnian model, reporting to more than one world capital—that may be Bremer being double-hatted, but it would be a high commissioner—and that to bring in the rest of the world to participate.

No. 3, that the military operation should be under NATO command and NATO responsibility.

I think by doing those things, we communicate several very important, practical, and substantive messages:

No. 1, we, the United States, have no designs on Iraq. We know we don't, but I am not sure the Iraqi people know we don't.

No. 2, it communicates the notion that we are not the sole determining power in that country, that it is not solely our problem, it is the world's problem.

No. 3, that the military operation is not a U.S. operation, it is a NATO operation.

All of those things, I believe, would significantly improve the prospects of success and significantly diminish the prospect that we will carry the entire load for as long as it takes.

I will elaborate on those points in more detail next week. But it seems to me we have to change the model now and begin the process. I thank the chairman for allowing me to speak and I yield the floor.

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