Search Form
First, enter a politician or zip code
Now, choose a category

Public Statements

National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC



Mr. BIDEN. Mr. President, to alert my colleagues, I will take somewhere between 20 and 30 minutes to speak on this issue this morning, and I will speak on it again prior to our finally voting on it on Tuesday.

Look, as I said, I have been a Senator since I was 29 years old. I have been here for seven Presidents, and I have observed that sometimes, on issues relating to national crises, whether it be domestic or foreign, events conspire to generate the kind of support for an idea that when it was first offered had few adherents. I think we are approaching that now.

The amendment Senators Brownback, Boxer, Specter, Kerry, and I, as well as Senator Hutchison and others have says that U.S. policy should support a political settlement in Iraq based on the principles of federalism. Look, for all the division in Washington and across the country over the policy in Iraq, one thing just about everyone accepts, literally--left, right, center, the President, the Congress, the American people, and the so-called experts--is that there is no military solution in Iraq. Let me say that again. There is no military solution in Iraq.

I, along with Senator McCain--in fact, shortly after the war began--said that I thought it was foolish to start this war. But once we started it, I thought: My Lord, we should have more American forces there. I argued for up to 100,000 more American forces in the first year so things would not get out of hand. I argued we needed 5,900 Gendarme paramilitary police from the international community. The Europeans were prepared to participate to literally restore order--make sure people didn't run the traffic lights or break into museums or engage in thuggery and robbery and crimes of ordinary violence, having nothing to do with sectarian divides. But we have passed that point.

To paraphrase General Petraeus, although he doesn't seem to be as adherent to his original comment, and he was paraphrasing someone else--I believe it was 3 or 4 years ago when we were in Iraq with him, and I am looking over my shoulder at my staff generally; at the time I think it was 3 years ago--he said, and I am paraphrasing, there comes a point in every liberation where it becomes an occupation. There comes a point in every liberation effort where it becomes an occupation. And we have reached that point. We reached that point 3 years ago. I argued we reached that point when we went in.

We had one brief, brief moment where, having mistakenly moved when we did, in my view, had we acted more responsibly instead of out of the arrogance and hubris that existed, we might, we might have been able to change the dynamic drastically. But that has long passed. That has long passed.

I guess the point I want to make, again, and the end result of all I am saying here is you will not find a single person who thinks that a military solution will work alone. So what we are all about here today is what everybody says: OK, there has to be a political solution, but literally, I say to you, Mr. President, up to this moment no one on the floor of the Senate has offered a political solution. I mean, it is really fundamental. There is nobody who has said: We all acknowledge there is no military solution. And by the way, I am not claiming I am the only one. I have many cosponsors. We have a lot of people now saying: OK, we acknowledge there is a need for a political solution, embedded in the notion I have been pushing for a couple of years now and in detail for the last year and a half or so with Les Gelb.

I have to recognize Les Gelb, a former administration official in a Democratic administration, in the Carter administration, the president emeritus of the New York Council on Foreign Relations, an incredibly respected voice in American foreign policy, and thought of as a genuine scholar. Les and I started off not in full agreement of what that political solution was, but we were all on the same page. The end result of all this is that the underlying premise of Les Gelb and JOE BIDEN in generating this was that the political solution we are proposing, which is what the Iraqi Constitution essentially calls for--and it is not partition--is federalism.

Well, guess what. It is not going to happen spontaneously. The Iraqis aren't going to spontaneously decide in the midst of what is now a civil war and sectarian strife that they know how to do it on their own.

So getting back to the political question, everyone says there is a need for a political solution. But that begs the question, So what is your political solution?

The critics, and there is legitimate criticism of the Biden-Gelb plan, but the critics have come along and said: I don't like your plan, BIDEN. My response has been from the outset: If you don't like mine, what is yours? Think about it. Think about, as you consider whether the Biden-Brownback plan, which is essentially taking Biden-Gelb and putting it into an amendment to the Defense authorization bill--think about what it says. We say this is our political solution. This is what we think is the way out.

So as I began this debate, my invitation to my colleagues was: I get it. You may not like all parts of it. You may not like it. You may think it is mostly correct. You may be able to legitimately point out there are weaknesses in it; things may or may not happen. I can't guarantee an outcome to this. But I would like you to think about it. If you don't like BIDEN'S proposal, what is your idea?

Up to now, a lot of us have had what we voted on just a moment ago. It started off as the Biden-Hagel-Levin amendment back in January and February. I agree with it totally. It is now Levin-Reed. I think it is a good amendment. It is essentially the same one we voted on twice before. I was the author of it, along with my friend from Michigan, the leader of the Armed Services Committee. But the truth is, it is not a political solution. It is an important tactic to reach the point we all want to reach.

And what is that? When you cut through all of this, what is it the American people, what is it all my colleagues, all 100 of us, want? No one wants to keep American forces there, with almost 3,800 dead, close to 28,000 wounded, roughly 14,000 severely wounded and who are going to require medical attention and care the rest of their lives. No one in here wants that. If we could wave a wand, there is not a single Member, from the most conservative to the most liberal in this body, who wouldn't take every troop out if they could, tomorrow. We don't want our kids going. I don't want my son going, my daughter going. I don't want my grandkids going, either.

What is recognized underneath all of this is there is a clear understanding that even though most of us on this side of the aisle opposed what the President did and how he did it, there is a recognition that it matters what we leave behind. It matters a whole bunch. It matters for our grandchildren. It matters for our children.

Look, folks, there is an overwhelming desire. I live with a woman I adore. We have been married for 30 years. She is unalterably opposed to this war. She, like every mother, lives in fear that her son, who is a captain in the Army, is going to be sent over, which is probable. So her fervent wish every time I go home is: JOE, get them out of there. Get them out of there. You are chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee; get them out of there. Well, the truth is, the vast majority of the people know that getting out of this is almost as difficult as the problems the President caused by getting us into it.

I know I am speaking colloquially here. I am not speaking in senatorial tones. But this is basic stuff.

My two staff members sitting to my left--and I admire the devil out of them--have accompanied me on eight trips to Iraq. The last time coming home, we were all supposed to get on an aircraft, but only one of them did, a C-130 that was supposed to take us home. Ambassador Crocker asked whether I would fly to Germany with him on his way home. He was coming to testify. He thought it would give us a chance to talk. And so I did. Actually, I flew out of Iraq into Kuwait with him to catch a commercial flight. The C-130 cargo plane I was supposed to get on--we got word there were six fallen angels on that plane. Six fallen angels.

That is what these tough, courageous, brave, hard Marines, Army, Navy, some of whom are there, et cetera, Air Force, call a dead American soldier whose body is coming home. They call them fallen angels.

You see these guys also who you know have been shot at and shot back, injured and injured others--it is such an emotional phase, to hear them talk in hushed tones, to treat every one of those coffins that gets put on board the C-130--every one of which comes through my State in Dover, Delaware--to hear these people, these fighting men and women, treat every single solitary death with the reverence it deserves. The American people would be stunned. They would be proud. They would be sad and they would be concerned. So they put six fallen angels on a plane.

The President of the United States a couple of days later--and I was there 2 weeks ago--a week ago--went on television and told the American people what great military progress we are making. But what he said was: I have no plan to end this war. I have no plan to win this war. I have a plan, as one of the press people said--it is not my line--he said: The American people are using the American forces as a cork in the bottle to keep the venom from spreading out beyond the borders in a regional war.

I am not prepared to use my son and his generation as a cork in a bottle. The American people are not prepared to do that either.

So what do we do? What do we do? Do we cut off funding? Talk about a hollow reed. How do you do that? How do you cut off funding for the 166,000 troops? Even if we ordered everyone home tomorrow, they have to get out of that country. Do you not provide them with the mine-resistant vehicles that can increase their life expectancy, when hit with a roadside bomb, by 80 percent? Do you not provide them with that? Do we cut that off? I don't know how you do that.

Some things are worth losing elections over. I am not going to do that. So what do you do? Do you draw down troops on an orderly basis while you are protecting them? Yes. But where does that get you at the end of the day?

The good news is they are out. There are fewer fallen angels. But the bad news is how many angels will fall in the next 10 years or 15 years, if this war metastasizes into the region. Because, ironically, the President's policy, which is dead wrong, has one truism about it: Chaos in Iraq will have regional consequences. The irony is, it is his policy that is causing the chaos.

Getting back to the point of the amendment, so everybody understands the context in which this is being offered, it is being offered to say: Look, there is a way to do all of this. There is a way to reduce the number of fallen angels. There is a way to reduce the injuries and casualties. There is a way to reduce the number of deaths among the Iraqis. There is a way to keep this war from metastasizing. There is a way that we have, a last chance we have, to leave and not run the risk of having to send my grandson back. My grandson is a toddler.

We have been faced in this body with two false arguments. One is more of the same and it will get better, and the other is leave and hope for the best.

Again, I get back to the central premise to what I have been proposing. There is a need for a political rationale. What is the political rationale supposed to accomplish? It is a way--nothing is going to get better. We must leave, by the way. Come hell or high water, we must leave. But are we going to leave giving the Iraqis a chance that they can end up with a political agreement among themselves? For what purpose is the political agreement? To stop the civil war. That is it in a nutshell. Anybody who denies this is a sectarian war I think is denying reality.

The President--as my mother would say, God love him--keeps talking about al-Qaida. Al-Qaida is a problem. I would argue it is a Bush-fulfilling prophecy, al-Qaida in Iraq. But there is even in the military--as my good friend--and I admire the devil out of him, my friend from Virginia--as he points out, he knows when you go to Iraq, the military refers to al-Qaida of Mesopotamia; al-Qaida in Iraq. They are making a distinction by that, between al-Qaida in Iraq and al-Qaida in Afghanistan, al-Qaida in Pakistan. As I said to the President in one of my trips back, in a debriefing--which my friend knows we do. The President has us down and has his war cabinet and asks us--you know, we give our view.

He was telling me about freedom being on the march. I said: With all due respect, Mr. President, if every single solitary jihadi in the world were killed tomorrow--I said if the Lord Almighty came down and sat at the middle of this table--we were in the Roosevelt Room--and looked at you and said, Mr. President, I guarantee there is not one single al-Qaida person living in the world, Mr. President, you still have a massive war on your hands. You have a massive war on your hands.

I see my friend from Virginia is standing. I will be happy to yield to him.

Mr. WARNER. Mr. President, as I have looked back on my years here, one of the chapters I have enjoyed the most is the debates we have had together, and this is not in the nature of a debate, Mr. President, but I do ask the Senator who now--in your current capacity and your long experience in foreign relations, you probably have a better grip than most of us as to the likelihood--and you mentioned it--of the political reconciliation taking place in Iraq. I am talking about the top down, not the smaller, but little things that happened in Al Anbar--which are very positive, but I don't think you can grow political reconciliation all the way from the bottom up. It has to come from the top down.

Our good friend here, Senator Levin, and I were there in Iraq a few weeks ago and we could not find any basis for projecting when that might come to pass. That is the very thing that underpins the entire policy we are pursuing. Because we all acknowledge a military solution is not there. It has to be a political reconciliation from the top down--albeit to get some form of unity government--maybe an adaptation of what the Senator is now advocating. But what is the Senator's projection of the likelihood of that occurring?

Mr. BIDEN. I will be happy to respond because my friend, as usual, gets to the crux of the issue.

Here is the way I look at it. I will try to break these things out. My friend Senator Lugar, whom I think is the most informed man in the Congress on foreign policy, is used to my colloquial ways of expressing things so he will probably understand me better than most because he had to deal with me for 30 years-plus. I try to devolve this, to use a Washington word, into sort of big chunks. You basically have two options here.

No. 1, do you continue with a policy that was well intended by our Government, the President, the administration, of attempting to establish a strong central democratic government in Baghdad that in fact has the capacity to gain the faith and trust of the Sunni, Shia, and Kurds so that they will entrust to that central government their well-being, in terms of security, in terms of economic growth, and in terms of political reconciliation or do you have to reach a point that I have reached, and reached some time ago, of recognizing that is a bridge too far; that the only way in which you will be able to stop the warring factions from killing each other is essentially give them some breathing room under their federal Constitution which says--I am quoting from their Constitution: The Republic of Iraq is a single, independent, federal state.

What I look back to, I say to my friend from Virginia, is this can't be built up from the village up. I acknowledge the requirement that the leaders of the Sunnis and the Shia and the Kurds--and there are multiple claimants to that leadership; I know my friend knows that--those claimants have to conclude their self-interest is better realized in a federal system. The Kurds have clearly recognized that. The Kurds made it clear when Senator Hagel and I got smuggled into Irbil, back before the war began, that they weren't in on any deal that wasn't a federal system giving them pretty significant autonomy.

The Shia have now reached that conclusion themselves, with notable exceptions--Sadr being one of them. But, for example, the Vice President--the Shia Vice President of the, for lack of a phrase I will call the central government the existing government--is totally supportive of what I am proposing and he said so publicly and said so at this conference in Ramadi which I attended a few weeks ago.

The Sunnis up to now have been the odd folks out because they look at it, as my friend clearly knows, and they say: Look, we live in this place called Anbar Province, the majority of us. We don't have much out here but rock and shale. There is not much else out here. All the oil is in the north and all the oil is in the south and if you have regional governments and the oil is controlled by the north and the south, we don't get anything.

But here is what has happened. There is a bit of, as we Catholics say, an epiphany occurring. I will tell my friend in confidence who it is but I don't want to publicly--he is an Iraqi leader who is one of the leading Sunni leaders in the country, who used the following quote with me in the 4 hours we were together in Ramadi.

He said--I am paraphrasing the first part--I initially disagreed with your plan. Now I am quoting.

There has been a struggle I have had between my heart and my head. My heart has told me up to now that we Sunnis could play a major role in governing this country again, from the center. My head tells me that will not happen anytime soon and our fate lies in a regional system. But we need access to resources.

He said:

But don't quote me yet, Senator, because I have to work on my fellow tribal leaders out here, and others.

Look what is happening with the Turks. The Turks initially were absolutely opposed to this. But as they have begun to figure it out, they realize that if we continue on the path we are on, American patience with keeping the cork in the bottle is not going to be sustained for the next 2 years and that when we leave, absent a political settlement, there will be not a splitting of Iraq into three parts, there will be a fracture of Iraq into multiple parts. But guess what they figured out. Kurdistan will become a de facto independent country. They will be able to say in Kurdistan: Hey, we didn't do this. There was nobody to deal with. And they have all of a sudden begun to understand that it is bad enough, from the Turkish standpoint to have a quasi-independent--and it is not even that--region called Kurdistan, within defined borders of a country called Iraq; it is a very different thing to have a quasi-independent Kurdistan, when you have 4 million Kurds sitting in their eastern mountains.

So all of a sudden they are figuring this out. ``Figuring out'' sounds derogatory, and I do not mean it that way. They are looking at their alternatives and saying: OK, a federal system in an Iraq that is united is a whole lot better than a de facto independent state.

The Iranians. The Iranians have a dilemma. The Iranians have at least five major militia forces among the Shia of Iraq. Some they like, some they do not like. As my friend from Indiana knows, you have a group down around Basra, as the British are pulling out, who are organized pretty well.

As the British two-star said to me: They are like Mafia dons waiting for us to leave to see who claims the territory--who actually argued that Basra should be an independent country because they have access to the gulf, they have oil, and they have four provinces they can put together.

Well, guess what. That is not very well regarded by the Badr Brigade, folks, and Sadr is going: Whoa, whoa, wait a minute.

So this creates a dilemma. The splintering of Iraq creates a dilemma for even the Iranians who do not want to do us any favors at all. The generic point I am making is, as time has passed, and I will use Bosnia as an example, when we first started off talking about what, in essence, became of the Dayton Peace Accords, you did not have any takers. And it only got to the point where you had the Croats and the Serbs concluding they could not dominate. They could not control Bosnia-Herzegovina.

That is when they all began to think, you know, the blood and treasure that was--exceedingly what has happened, once they got to the point where they realized the gun was not going to get their solution, they became, very reluctantly, but they became much more acclimated to the notion of what the Dayton Peace Accords did.

The bottom line is, asking me that question a year ago, I would not have said to you that internally the leaders among the Shia, the Kurds, and the Sunnis will be more inclined to accept this, but they are because reality has set in. The Kurds have figured out they cannot and do not want to be totally independent because the Turks will take them out.

The Shia have figured out, generically, the leadership, that they may have 62 percent of the population or thereabouts and control the political apparatus, but they cannot stop their mosques from being blown up. They cannot physically control the country. And the Sunnis have figured out that they are not going to run the country again in the near term. So it is a little bit like coming face to face with the reality of one circumstance.

As I said at the outset to my friend, a lot of this relates to people arriving at this conclusion, even in Iraq, by default. The Sunnis would much rather dominate the country again. The Shia would much rather keep the Sunnis out, as Maliki in his heart would like to do, but he cannot because he cannot control them.

The Kurds would love to be independent totally but for the fact that they understand it may be their very demise. So reality is sinking in. The larger point, I say to my friend from Virginia is this: The dilemma I hear, and I hear it from my Democratic colleagues, I imagine I will hear it from some of my Republican colleagues, and it is legitimate. They say: BIDEN, we cannot force a political solution any more than we can force a military solution.

Well, I would argue that it is true we have lost our credibility to be able to do what I believe we could have done 5 years ago or 4 years ago. But that is why part of this amendment calls for internationalizing the political solution.

I know my friend from Indiana believes, whether it is the same objective, that there is an overwhelming necessity to engage major powers in the world, to engage regional powers so that, as he says, there are fora; every single day they are sitting down rubbing shoulders trying to figure out an accommodation.

It cannot be done in the abstract. It cannot be done by President LUGAR sitting in the White House dealing with Maliki sitting in Baghdad. It cannot be done by bringing in the regional players in Sharm El Sheikh, with us convening it and thinking that will get it done. It requires something heavier, deeper, more substantial because one of the things that will get people's attention, that will get the attention of the Sunni leaders and Shia leaders and Kurdish leaders, the international community led by the major five powers, is if the Security Council says: Hey, look, we are gathering up the team--Iran, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, et cetera, et cetera--and here is what we think your constitution says, and this is what we are prepared to support.

What that does, that not only has implied sticks, it has significant carrots. Significant carrots. That organizational structure can say: We, from the outset, will be the guarantors that none of the regional powers will conclude they must be involved militarily or in a disruptive fashion because the truth is, what I try to do is think of myself as, OK, I am a real bad guy, Iranian leader who hates the United States.

What benefits me the most? What benefits me the most is occupying 10 of our 12 divisions in Iraq posing no threat to them, seeing American blood and treasure spilled. But what I do not want to see is America, notwithstanding all of the bravado of Ahmadinejad, that: We will fill the vacuum; we, the Iranians, will fill the vacuum. That is not a vacuum they are looking to fill. If they could fill it, they would. But their ability to fill that vacuum is marginal at best. Their influence is degraded when there is continuing sectarian violence. It diminishes in the context of an international settlement.

So the truth is, it requires the national leadership to agree on a regional solution. A national leadership will be unable, in the lifetime of any one of us on this floor, to agree to a central solution; a unity government from the capital city of Baghdad, having military and police authority over the entire country.

Can anyone imagine the possibility, even the possibility, that you will see a Shia-dominated police force patrolling in Fallujah? As the old joke goes, raise your hand if there is a remote possibility of that.

Already you cannot send into what is now Kurdistan, three governments, you are not even allowed to fly the Iraqi flag without permission. You cannot send the Iraqi Army there without their permission. You cannot send any national police force there without their permission.

So what makes us think there is anything--let me make an analogy for you. When Washington accepted the surrender documents signed by Cornwallis at the end of our Revolutionary War, I say to my friends from Virginia and Massachusetts, what chance do you think there would have been if we had to vote within 6 months on the Constitution that was ratified in Philadelphia?

Do you think Massachusetts and Virginia would be in the same country? I respectfully suggest, from a historical standpoint, you would not be. So what did we do? We did what I am proposing. You essentially set up Articles of Confederation.

You said: We are going to let Massachusetts and Delaware, the first State, Massachusetts, and Delaware and New Jersey and Virginia, have considerable autonomy. There was no President. There was a Continental Congress, a decentralized federal system.

It took us 13 years to get to our Philadelphia moment. Wherein does the arrogance emanate from that we think by putting 160,000 troops in Iraq, we can, over a 4-year period, in a country that was made by the stroke of a diplomat's pen, where France and Britain divided up the spoils of the Ottoman Empire, what makes us think that we can expect them to do something that we were unable to do? So, folks, this is pretty basic stuff. I know everybody knows that. I am beginning to sound like I am lecturing. I do not mean to do that. This is pretty simplistic in a sense; it is not rocket science.

Mr. WARNER. If I can interrupt my good friend, the central issue is, we are losing, as you pointed out, our greatest national treasure: our youth, killed and wounded. How much longer? You are talking about indefinite periods of time. What do we do now by which to give a greater measure of protection to them while this process that you indicated is very slow can evolve, and what pressures are we going to put on the greater international community, the top five, to do what you have defined?

Mr. BIDEN. I say to my friend: Ask. Let me give you an example. I will be concrete. It is like pushing an open door. I asked for a meeting, I say to my friend, in the tradition of Senator Lugar when he was chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee.

I asked for a meeting, a private meeting with the Permanent Five of the Security Council, who, as my good friend knows, is: China, Russia, England, France, and the United States.

All five of those Ambassadors, including our own, Khalilzad, agreed to meet with me and two other members of the Foreign Relations Committee privately 5 weeks ago--on Monday I think it was 5 weeks ago. We sat in a conference room overlooking the East River for about an hour and a half.

I asked the question to all five, including our Ambassador. I said: What would you do, gentlemen--one lady; the British Ambassador is a woman. I said: What would you do, gentleman and lady, if the President of the United States asked each of your countries to participate in convening an international conference on Iraq?

One of the Ambassadors--since this was a private meeting I will not name him--said: Senator, I would ask your President: What took you so long to ask?

Then I can refer to the French Ambassador. The French Ambassador pointed out that there is an inevitability of us leaving.

And if, in fact, we leave a shattered Iraq, his country is in trouble. Remember, last August we were reading about automobiles being torched from Marseilles to Normandy. Why? Over head scarves. Between 10 and 14 percent of the French population is Muslim. The last thing the French need is a radicalized, cannibalized Iraq. It went on from there.

My point is, the President--I promise you--has not asked. He has not asked. I think my friend from Indiana knows, at least indirectly--because Ambassador Khalilzad, I believe, spoke to him; he was there with me--there is a consensus among many in the administration to ask, but there is still this overwhelming reluctance that we don't need anybody's help; we can do it. Let me tell you, that is a vanity which is a burden, a significant burden.

There are three things we should be doing immediately. And I know we have a disagreement on this, in my view, redefining the mission of Americans who are there being killed and wounded. We are not going to settle this civil war by remaining on the faultlines. It is not going to happen. Even to totally quell it, you know--as a military expert, I defer to you--we don't have enough troops with the surge. If you have 500,000 troops, you could sit on the faultlines. It wouldn't solve the problem, but you could send it underground. But we don't. I wouldn't even advise it if we did because there is no underlying political rationale.

My point is, redefine the mission. Were I President today, which is a presumptuous thing to say, I would be doing exactly what General Jones recommended. I would be pulling back to the borders. I would be dealing with force protection. I would be focusing on al-Qaida of Mesopotamia. I would be focusing on training Iraqi forces. I would not be focused on going door to door in Sunni or Shia neighborhoods in a city of 6.2 million people. I would not have an American convoy traveling the streets with roadside bombs being blown up.

The second thing we need to do, but it is not required to support this amendment, there is an incentive to the world, to the region, and to the recalcitrant leadership in Baghdad to say: Hey guys, we are drawing down. For the mission I just stated--and I defer to my friend--you don't need 160,000 troops for the Jones mission, for lack of a better way of phrasing. You need closer to 50,000. Guess what. That is going to get the attention, as my friend Carl Levin has been saying for some time, of the Iraqis. They may have their altar call. I am not counting on it, but they may.

The third thing we should be doing is, if you look at the David Ignatius piece in the Post today, what Senator Lugar and I and others and maybe my friend from Virginia have been talking about for 4 years--we talked about it before we went in. Who is talking to the tribal chiefs? Who is talking to the local folks? Who is engaging them? What are we finding out now? Just read the Ignatius piece. All of a sudden, it is like, my goodness, maybe we should be talking to these guys. So here is the deal. When you get to this, you say: Look, here is what your Constitution says, and here is what you voted on in your Parliament to implement articles 15, 16, 17 and 18, which allows you to become a region, essentially a state like the United States. Write your own Constitution. It can't supersede the federal one. Allow you to own your local security.

Why is it working in Anbar to the extent it is? It is working because we said: Look, we promise you, tribal leaders, nobody is going to send anyone from Baghdad for you. There ain't going to be any Kurds or Sunnis in here. You set up your own police force. Cut through all the diplomatic jargon. That is what we did. That is it. Guess what. Once we did that, the tribal sheiks whistled and said: Boys, you can join. They had 10,000 people show up who wanted to be cops or police. Why? Because Sunnis were going to be guarding Sunnis.

So this stuff about political movement is a joke. Not a joke--that is the wrong way to say it. It is a fiction. There is nothing unity about that.

I sat next to Abdul Sattar for 2 hours, the guy who got blown up last Thursday, the tribal sheikh who led the insurrection against al-Qaida Mesopotamia, told me how safe everything was in Ramadi. They land me and my staff and the Senator from Arkansas in a Blackhawk helicopter with two Cobra gunships. We go inside the city. We are told how safe it is. I can walk down the street; that is true. We have a sandstorm. I say: No helicopters coming. Can you drive to Baghdad? No, no, no. It ain't that safe. Then 7 days later I get a call from a reporter from the Washington Post: Senator, didn't you spend a lot of time with the same tribal chief the President was with at the airbase? I said: Yes. In this safe city that he runs, with an American tank sitting in front of his house, with bodyguards, he got blown to smithereens.

The generic point I am making here is the idea that somehow we are going to be able to negotiate these faultlines is beyond our ability. But it is possible, working with Sunni, Shia, Kurd, we may be able to augment their physical security as they make this transition.

What did we do in Dayton? It is not precisely analogous, but it is analogous. There was more sectarian violence from Vlad the Impaler to Milosevic than in 5,000 years of history of what we now call Iraq. That is a fact. That is a historical fact. What did we do? As my friend from Indiana knows, I was deeply involved in pressuring President Clinton from 1993 on to take action in the Balkans. What did we finally do in Dayton in a bipartisan way? We called in Russia, the European powers. We then brought in the Serbs, Milosevic, the Croats, Tudjman--who, as my friend knows, was no box of chocolates--and Izetbegovic. We got them all in one room. We essentially locked the door. We said: Figure it out, folks.

What did they figure out? Separate the parties. Even I was a little concerned about the Republika Srpska within Bosnia. What did we do? We said: Your militia can now become your police force. That is, in essence, what we did. We said to the Croats and the Bosnians, who were Muslims: You have to coexist in this other place. This place called Sarajevo is going to be a capital city, but it ain't going to govern the whole country in the way in which the capital of Washington, DC, has influence over the rest of America.

Guess what. To truncate this, the West has had an average of roughly 20,000 troops there for 10 years. What has been the result? Knock on wood--not one has been killed, not one has been shot dead. The ethnic cleansing has stopped. What are they doing now? Attempting to amend their Constitution to become part of Europe.

I asked my staff to go back. I said: Tell me how the repatriation is going on. People are returning. Of the 2.2 million refugees in Bosnia, internal or external, 1.1 million have returned to their homes. Almost half a million have returned as minority returns, Serbs moving back into predominantly Croat neighborhoods, Croats moving back into predominantly Bosniak or Serb neighborhoods. It is painful. It takes time. But what did we do? We got them all in a room, figuratively speaking.

We have to get them in a room, Senator Lugar. We have to get them in a room. Because let me tell you something, some in the administration privately say to me: Joe, you are right. There is an inevitability to a federal system. The difference between an inevitability and us being the catalyst to bring it about may be years. That is thousands of deaths, maybe tens of thousands, counting Iraqis and American. We don't have that time. And look, I don't want to criticize the President. I don't. God love him, I don't care whether he gets credit or blame at this point. But let me tell you one thing for certain: What Presidential leadership is about is a change in the dynamic of situations that are admittedly out of control. It requires taking risks. Thus far, the only risk we have taken is the lives of our troops. We have taken virtually no diplomatic risks.

I say to my friends, there is a reason why, although what I am proposing here is not ideal, I think there is a reason why so many people--left, right and center--have come to this conclusion. One thing about us Americans is, we have ultimately led the world as a consequence of two traits we possess, in my opinion, that exceed that of any other country. It is not just our military power; it is our idealism coupled with our pragmatism. It gets down to a very pragmatic question: If you don't like Biden et al.'s political solution, what is yours? What is yours?

The world is waiting. They are literally waiting. No one has the capacity, no group of nations has the capacity, absent our active cooperation and engagement, to do anything to better the situation. We do. The potential power is in our hands. But I respectfully suggest that we can't do it by ourselves. We have lost the credibility to do that, rightly or wrongly.

So it takes me to the essence of this amendment. The amendment simply says--and I will not take the time to read it; I know other people wish to speak. I might add, this is the first and only time in the last 3 months I have spoken on the floor. I apologize for the time, but I think it is the single most critical issue we face. I know my friends think that too.

Regardless of your political persuasion, how do you attend to the agenda each of us has, from the right or the left, to deal with the social ills and concerns of America until we end this war? We are going to spend, counting it all, $120 billion a year. How do you deal with that--the Republican approach to dealing with generating economic growth or the Democratic approach? How do you deal with tax structure and tax policy? How do you do this?

Look, it is the ultimate preoccupation, with good reason, of the American people. Again, I know no one more loyal or knowledgable about the U.S. Armed Forces whom I have served with in the Senate than my friend from Virginia. He knows there is only one group of Americans making a sacrifice now--it is the thousands of families, thousands, 166,000 families.

It is those families. They are the only ones. But guess what. It is against the Senate rules to refer to the Gallery by pointing to them. But I will refer to previous Galleries. Everyone who sits in this Gallery, they get it. They get it, whether they have a child, son, daughter, husband or wife there.

So folks, I must tell you, I am getting frustrated with all the tactical--not strategic--suggestions that have been made with how to deal with this war. Because if you put together a basic syllogism, the basic premise is what? There is no military solution; only a political solution.

So what yields that political solution? Can I guarantee the Senator from Minnesota, the Presiding Officer, that my solution will work? No. But I can guarantee--I will rest my career on what I am about to say--that there is no other political solution being proffered that has any--period; not one ``being offered''--and none of the tactical solutions offered will, in fact, solve this problem, none.

I know you are all afraid. I know everybody who is running is afraid to sign onto a specific proposal. ``Afraid'' is the wrong word--reluctant. Because then you become the target. You become the target. You offer a specific alternative, and it is easy to focus on whether your solution can work. If it is tried and failed, then you made a mistake. As the old saying goes: What do they pay us the big bucks for? Why are we here? Why are we here?

Let's stop pussyfooting around. Either vote for this political solution or offer another one or say you think there is a military solution or say you think it is totally hopeless, there is no resolution. Let's leave and hope for the best. But don't tell me you have a plan if it does not fall in one of those four categories. Don't tell me. That is disingenuous.

So, again, can I guarantee this will work? No. Every single day that goes by, absent an attempt to implement what I am proposing, or something similar to it, without it being attempted, makes it harder. Look, it is not often that Thomas Friedman, David Brooks, Charles Krauthammer, Henry Kissinger, Madeleine Albright, Les Gelb--I will go down the list-- agree on the same principle about the most fundamental, immediate foreign policy issue facing the United States of America.

I am open--I have no pride of authorship--I am open to amending, tweaking, changing, but I will end where I begin. The central, fundamental, animating principle of this concurrent resolution is: Iraq will not be governed from the center anytime soon, and I am not prepared for my son and his generation to continue to shed their blood in an effort to do that. I will not do that.

As we leave--and we will leave, as my friend from Virginia knows--as we leave, the only honest question that any President or Senator must ask himself or herself is: Do we have any ability to affect what we leave behind? If we do, we have a moral overriding, overarching obligation to the next generation to try to do it.

Because let me tell you something, I am out there, as the old saying goes, on the trail. The easiest thing to say is: I wash my hands, man. Out. It is--let me choose my words correctly--it is not an answer. It is not an answer. It is not an honest answer.

So I ask unanimous consent that recent supporting ideas relating to federalism--whether or not they use the Biden language--be printed in the Record.

There being no objection, the material was ordered to be printed in the Record, as follows:

Recent Support for Federalism in Iraq

The Kurdish autonomous zone should be our model for Iraq. Does George Bush or Condi Rice have a better idea? Do they have any idea? Right now, we're surging aimlessly. Iraq's only hope is radical federalism--with Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds each running their own affairs, and Baghdad serving as an ATM, dispensing cash for all three. Let's get that on the table--now.--Thomas Friedman, New York Times, August 29, 2007

Most American experts and policy makers wasted the past few years assuming that change in Iraq would come from the center and spread outward. They squandered months arguing about the benchmarks that would supposedly induce the Baghdad politicians to make compromises. They quibbled over whether this or that prime minister was up to the job. They unrealistically imagined that peace would come through some grand Sunni-Shiite reconciliation.

Now, at long last, the smartest analysts and policy makers are starting to think like sociologists. They are finally acknowledging that the key Iraqi figures are not in the center but in the provinces and the tribes. Peace will come to the center last, not to the center first. Stability will come not through some grand reconciliation but through the agglomeration of order, tribe by tribe and street by street.

The big change in the debate has come about because the surge failed, and it failed in an unexpected way. The original idea behind the surge was that U.S. troops would create enough calm to allow the national politicians to make compromises. The surge was intended to bolster the ``modern''--meaning nonsectarian and nontribal--institutions in the country. But the surge is failing, at least politically, because there are practically no nonsectarian institutions, and there are few nonsectarian leaders to create them. Security gains have not led to political gains.--David Brooks, New York Times, September 4, 2007

A weak, partitioned Iraq is not the best outcome. We had hoped for much more. Our original objective was a democratic and unified post-Hussein Iraq. But it has turned out to be a bridge too far. We tried to give the Iraqis a republic, but their leaders turned out to be, tragically, too driven by sectarian sentiment, by an absence of national identity, and by the habits of suspicion and maneuver cultivated during decades in the underground of Saddam Hussein's totalitarian state. .....

We now have to look for the second-best outcome. A democratic, unified Iraq might someday emerge. Perhaps today's ground-up reconciliation in the provinces will translate into tomorrow's ground-up national reconciliation. Possible, but highly doubtful. What is far more certain is what we are getting: ground-up partition.--Charles Krauthammer, Washington Post, September 7, 2007

It is possible that the present structure in Baghdad is incapable of national reconciliation because its elected constituents were elected on a sectarian basis. A wiser course would be to concentrate on the three principal regions and promote technocratic, efficient and humane administration in each. The provision of services and personal security coupled with emphasis on economic, scientific and intellectual development may represent the best hope for fostering a sense of community. More efficient regional government leading to substantial decrease in the level of violence, to progress towards the rule of law and to functioning markets could then, over a period of time, give the Iraqi people an opportunity for national reconciliation--especially if no region is strong enough to impose its will on the others by force. Failing that, the country may well drift into de facto partition under the label of autonomy, such as already exists in the Kurdish region.--Henry Kissinger, Washington Post, September 16, 2007

Mr. BIDEN. I would assert I am confident there are some major players in this administration who agree with the tact I am taking, and I would invite--that is not why he is on the floor, I know--I would invite any advice or suggestions--not at this moment--from my friend from Indiana or my friend from Virginia as to how to deal with this.

But, ladies and gentlemen, it took us--it took us--13 years to get to our Philadelphia moment. It is going to take the Iraqis a lot longer. I do not want to see a regional war in the meantime because every one of us knows, whether we are here 3 years from now, there will not be 133,000 troops in Iraq. That will not be the case no matter who is President. The American people will not stand for it, and we will respond.

I yield the floor.


Skip to top

Help us stay free for all your Fellow Americans

Just $5 from everyone reading this would do it.

Back to top