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Fox News Sunday - Transcript

Location: Wilmington, DE

Fox News Network


HEADLINE: Interview With Joseph Biden

GUESTS: Joseph Biden

BYLINE: Tony Snow

SNOW: President Bush this week delivered his most important foreign- policy speech to date. He said the fight against terror rests on three pillars: international cooperation, the fierce use of military force and the promotion of democracy.

Joining us from Wilmington, Delaware, to talk about the speech and recent terror attacks around the world, Democratic Senator Joseph Biden.


SNOW: Senator Biden, we have seen a number of attacks in Iraq and elsewhere in recent weeks. Let me get your sense of how safe, how secure or insecure, generally speaking, the situation now is in Iraq.

BIDEN: Well, I think everyone, including our military guys on the ground there, will tell you it is less secure now. It doesn't mean that it's going to continue that way.

We're really fighting an insurgency here that's being aided and abetted by a small amount of terrorism-I mean, terrorists from outside of Iraq. But the bulk of it is, according to our generals on the ground, 5,000 group of insurgents, roughly, made up of the old Saddam Fedayeen and the Republican Guard, et cetera.

And it's going to take a while. And the real question there is, how quickly can we transition to the Iraqis' security force being in place and effective without having more U.S. force in that triangle? And that's a tough call.

SNOW: Let's take a couple of cuts at this. Number one, there was a report today in The Washington Post that the FBI is examining the Saudi Embassy. I want to ask you, A, if that's appropriate, and B, if you think the Saudis have any financial role in the insurgency right now in Iraq.

BIDEN: I don't think they have any intentional financial role in the insurgency now in Iraq. It is not-it is possible that they have some individuals within Saudi Arabia who are wealthy and indirectly connected to the royal family that may in some way continuing to be involved.

For example, they are still involved in the madrassas that are in-not the government itself, but still involved in the madrassas that are those schools that preach and teach hate that are coming out of Pakistan and parts of Afghanistan, even in some places within Iraq.

And so indirectly they do. But I'd be very surprised if they had any direct involvement in supporting the insurgency in any way.

SNOW: Senator, you also mentioned the use indigenous forces in Iraq. They're getting trained up pretty quickly. Are you persuaded that they are being adequately trained for the job, A, of keeping the peace in the streets and, B, going aggressively after the bad guys?

BIDEN: I am absolutely persuaded they're not.

When I was in Iraq and I was on your program shortly after that, Tony, I was told by our folks on the ground, our military people, and it's been our experience in other places, in the Balkans and Afghanistan, that it would take roughly three years to train up 40,000 Iraqis. Now we're being told we have 120,000 or 130,000 Iraqis on the street now providing security. The truth is, these folks aren't trained at all. And if they have any training, it's because of training they received other than through us.

And so I think it's highly speculative that they would be able to move. And you see what's happening now. You have the insurgency and/or terrorists going after the Iraqis themselves. You have Iraqi military personnel that we've trained up and Iraqi police are refusing to wear their uniforms on the street because they know that they are not equipped, they know that they're not ready, and they know that they're going to be a target.

So I think it's a bit Pollyannish to think we're going to have a couple hundred thousand Iraqis trained up by the end of this year to essentially take the place of a significant portion of U.S. or international forces.

SNOW: Now, it's been argued that U.S. forces, at least 100,000, are likely to be there through the year 2006.

Would you like to see, and I think in the past you've said you would, more U.S. troops, especially in terms of civil personnel, civil authority personnel, as well as military police and others, who can handle some of this peacekeeping work?

BIDEN: Tony, I think there is a direct relationship here. The quicker we flood the zone, to use a football metaphor here, the more likely we'll be able to take American troops out.

We've got to quell this insurgency. The war is not over. The ability for us to work up a civil government in Iraq is directly dependent upon security. And security does not exist now.

And so I understand it's incredibly difficult for the president to go to the American people and say we're going to put more troops in near term. And every time I say this, I get mail saying, "Biden, what's the matter with you?"

Well, all I know is that there is not enough force or the right type of force there at this moment to quell the insurgency. Even if it's only, quote, "5,000 folks." And so, it seems to me there's a direct relationship, us going in now and doing more so that we can get out earlier. The longer...

SNOW: So how many troops would you like to see-extra troops would you like to see assigned to Iraq?

BIDEN: I don't know that. I'm not a military guy. I'm not a military planner, Tony. I don't know that number.

And as some military pointed out to me, what we need is a different mix of troops. What we need is more of the-more counterinsurgency folks trained to fight counterinsurgency. And we need more special forces in there.

Again, I don't know the precise answer to that, but I do know that if we think-I do believe that if we think that we're going to be able to turn over this responsibility to Iraqis now, and at the same time work up a government that is able to sustain itself over the next year or so, I think that is unlikely.

SNOW: Do you think that it's safe to say, at this point, that we really cannot count on the United Nations or NATO to supply extra troops to the effort, either because of, A, previous opposition to operations in Iraq or, as in the case of the Germans and others, military commitments that make it impossible to assign troops extra troops to Iraq?

BIDEN: I think it is very difficult. I think that the Germans, it is virtually impossible for the reason you stated. But I don't think it's impossible for a gradual turnover of this operation it NATO forces if, in fact, we change the political dynamic.

I believe we should use the political model we have in Bosnia, where we have a U.N. high commissioner reporting to the United Nations in the circumstance that Bremer is now. And that then invests the Security Council and the major nations in the security within Iraq.

Under that circumstance, I believe, after discussions with Lord Robertson, he's the head of NATO, and meeting with the foreign minister of Germany and the foreign minister of Great Britain, I believe we can gradually, then, have NATO take over responsibilities within Iraq, from border support to demining, et cetera, that eventually would transition them into being the power.

So you'd have a-and it could be Bremer. He could be, to use the phrase we use, double-hatted. He could have a high commissioner reporting not just to the president of the United States, but reporting to the Security Council.

I want to internationalize this, Tony, for two reasons. One, it's the only way we can get additional forces in, and not even certain then. And two, I want to make it clear to the whole Arab world-and I've said this from the beginning-that this is not a U.S. occupation.

But it's going to be difficult. And although the president's speech - - the president's speech helped change the dynamics slightly.

SNOW: Senator, you just mentioned Paul Bremer, L. Paul Bremer, the civilian administrator. He is planning on packing his bags and getting out in June. Good idea, bad idea?

BIDEN: Bad idea. I'd love for him to able to come home in June. I think he's a good guy, and it's very dangerous over there. But, look, even our own Pentagon has planned, as you said, to have over 100,000 forces, American forces, in Iraq through 2006.

And so, the missing piece here, and I'd be interested to hear Bill Kristol, who you'll have on after I'm on, who I have great respect for from the right here, what happens here? What happens when the Governing Council, us, you know, Bremer's operation, leaves?

Are we going to turn this entire thing over to a hastily-necessarily hastily, temporarily elected government, or some form of election of a government made up of this Iraqi Governing Council? Who then controls the troops that are there? Who's the one that makes the decisions when that Governing Council goes off the deep end, as they have in other places?

SNOW: Senator, I know you like to give full, fair and comprehensive answers, but I want to do a little lightning round here to keep it short and sweet.

BIDEN: All right. OK.

SNOW: Number one: Senators John McCain and Joe Lieberman, along with Chris Cox and Tom Lantos in the House of Representatives, say the human- rights situation in Russia has become intolerable, and they recommend kicking Russia-they've put together a resolution that would kick Russia out of the group of eight.

Do you support or oppose?

BIDEN: I don't support that now. It could be that we have to do that.

SNOW: China-this week a major general in the Chinese army had the following thing to say about the following thing to say about the situation in Taiwan: "If the Taiwan authorities colluded with all splitist (ph) forces to openly engage in pro-independence activities, the use of force may become unavoidable."

Your reaction?

BIDEN: Very dangerous statement for him to make. We're going to defend Taiwan in a circumstance-provide them to be able to defend themselves. I think that is mostly rhetoric right now.

SNOW: Senator Biden, which of the Democratic candidates do you believe has the greatest credibility right now on foreign policy, Democratic presidential candidates?

BIDEN: Well, I think the two that probably have the greatest are Clark, because of his background, and Kerry, because of his involvement for so many years in the United States Senate on the issue-possibly Lieberman.

SNOW: General Clark said this week that if he had been president, we would have captured Osama bin Laden. Do you think that's really the case?

BIDEN: I don't know.


SNOW: Why would he say such a thing?

BIDEN: Well, I think he would've had a very, totally different tactic. For example, you remember the debate about whether or not we used Northern Alliance forces-he may be talking about this. I don't know what he's talking about, but...


... Northern Alliance forces or U.S. forces to cut off the retreat out of Tora Bora, where we were quite sure bin Laden was escaping. He may be referring to that.

He may have used a different method back then. He may have used a different method, as well as to having to deal with the Northwest Province of Pakistan, where we think Osama bin Laden is.

But beyond that, I haven't spoke to him about that. I don't know.

SNOW: OK. Senator, there is talk of a constitutional amendment to define marriage. If, in fact, the courts do not support the previous act, the Defense of Marriage Act, would you support a constitutional amendment?

BIDEN: No. And the reason is, Tony, this is going to be an incredibly difficult thing for America to grapple with, and we're going to go through a process here that is necessary for this nation in terms of how we deal with the rights and the recognition of gay unions. And I don't think that gets settled by a constitutional amendment. It makes it more divisive.

SNOW: So do you believe gay marriage is inevitable?

BIDEN: I'm not sure. I think probably it is.

But one of the things I think more Americans are trying to figure is whether or not somehow a gay union is a threat to a heterosexual union. And I find difficulty in figuring how it's such a threat, if in fact it brings stability, if in fact you have two women who decide to stay with one another for 35 years and are sound and solid in terms of their commitment to one another. I don't know why we should be frightened of that.

But, you know, there are long cultural and moral overtones in some religions and churches about this, and it's going to be something we have to go through as part of the maturation process of the nation.

I just keep thinking, what would happen if one of my children had been gay? I don't know that I'd love him any more, or think that they need any-or they're entitled to any fewer rights than any other American.

SNOW: Senator, very quickly, a couple of big bills being debated on Capitol Hill, you're going to come back and vote on them tomorrow.


SNOW: Medicare, are you going to vote yes or no?

BIDEN: I think I'm going to vote no, Tony, because although it's a close call, as Speaker Hastert said, I think he used the phrase that we're going to modernize Medicare. That translates into less government commitment to Medicare. That worries me.

Secondly, in my state, low-income seniors are going to be dropped off the rolls, not put on the rolls.

And thirdly, I'm worried, very worried that the money we use to subsidize private plans is going to cause people in my state who are on-retirees who are on employee plans, that they're going to be dropped.

And I really think there's no urgency for this, in the sense that it won't go into effect till the year after the next election. I think we should come back and try to bang out the differences that still exist.

SNOW: So you'll support the filibuster?

BIDEN: Well, I don't think that-I don't know if there's going to be a-I hadn't planned on supporting the filibuster, or-when I left Washington, there was not going to be a filibuster. So I just don't know about that at this point.

I heard what you said earlier about Kennedy and Kerry, but I don't know that to be a fact.

SNOW: All right. Senator Joseph Biden, as always, thanks for joining us.

BIDEN: I'm going to miss you on TV.


SNOW: OK, thank you, Joe.

BIDEN: Seriously.

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