UfPJ's "Congressional Action Days"

David McDonald dbmcdonald at comcast.net
Thu Aug 21 09:51:34 MDT 2003

Here are some extracts from a speech given by Joseph Biden, senator from
Delaware, ranking Democrat on the Foreign Policy Committee of the US Senate,
at the Brookings Institute on July 31. It is a forceful exposition of the
view that the only real problem with the Iraq invasion and occupation is
that it was framed with lies, misstatements, half-facts and the like.

It reminds me of the only speech I ever heard live from a Democrat running
for President, Walte Mondale, whose campaign centered around the call for
honesty on the question of raising taxes (he was for it).

This speech attempts to give the Democrats and all their friends something
to talk about, i.e. Bush administration "missteps" on a road the Democrats
totally supported (except for about five of them), the war and the
occupation. It argues touchingly for frugal imperialism. This is the true
face of the Democratic Party, and those elements of the antiwar movement who
want to avoid the question of Iraq should have their noses rubbed in it.

The quotes are from the prepared speech, except the last one, which is from
a transcript. I couldn't take everything from the transcript because I could
only find it in Acrobat and I can't cut and paste from that program.


>>What we need isn't the death of internationalism or the denial of stark
national interest, but a more enlightened nationalism - one that understands
the value of institutions but allows us to use military force, without
apology or apprehension if we have to, but does not allow us to be so
blinded by the overwhelming power of our armed forces that we fail to see
the benefit of sharing the risks and the costs with others.

Some in my own Party have said it was a mistake to go into Iraq in the first
place, and the benefit is not worth the cost. I believe they're wrong. The
cost of not acting against Saddam would have been much greater, and so is
the cost of not finishing the job. The President is popular. The stakes are
high. The need for leadership is great.

I wish he'd used some of his stored-up popularity to make what I admit is an
unpopular case. I wish the President, instead of standing on an aircraft
carrier in front of a banner that said: "Mission Accomplished" would have
stood in front of a banner that said: "We've Only Just Begun." I wish he
would stand in front of the American people and say: "My fellow Americans,
we have a long and hard road ahead of us in Iraq, but we have to stay in
Iraq. We have to finish the job. If we don't, the following will happen.
Here's what I'll be asking of you and, by the way, I'm asking the rest of
the world to help us as well. And I am confident we'll succeed and as a
consequence be more secure."

Nine months ago, I voted to give the President the authority to use force. I
would vote that way again today.

And if we'd left him [Saddeam] alone for five years with billions of dollars
in oil revenues I'm convinced he'd have had a nuclear weapon that would have
radically changed the strategic equation to our detriment.

For me, the issue was never WHETHER we had to deal with Saddam. but WHEN and
HOW. And it's precisely the WHEN and HOW that this administration got wrong.
We went to war too soon. We went with too few troops. We went without the
world. And we're paying a price for it NOW.

Last month, Senators Lugar, Hagel and I traveled to Baghdad. We left behind
two of our senior staffers for an extra week to see more of the country and
talk to Iraqis
.It was clear to us that the vast majority of the Iraqi
people are happy Saddam is no longer in power. They want us to stay as long
as it takes to get them back on their feet. Much of the country beyond
Baghdad is relatively calm - hospitals and schools are open; the newly
formed Iraqi Governing Council is encouraging; and so are the local
councils, one of which we visited.

The problem breaks down into two parts: First, we haven't put down the
opposition from forces loyal to Saddam. General Abizaid finally admitted
we're facing "guerilla war." Almost every day that our troops continue to
get picked off, sometimes by a lone sniper, other times by roadside bombs
that kill two, three, four, or more at a time. This cannot, it must not

There's a short-term fix: more foreign troops to share our mission and more
Iraqis to guard hospitals, bridges, banks, and schools. If we had them, we
could concentrate our troops in the Sunni triangle -- where they're needed
and where they can do the type of military job for which they were trained.

So that leaves us with three options: We can pull out, and lose Iraq. That's
a bad option; We can continue to do what we're doing: provide 90 percent of
the troops, 90 percent of the money, and nearly 100 percent of the deaths.
That's another, really bad option; Or, we can bring in the international
community and empower Iraqis to bolster our efforts and legitimize a new
Iraqi government which will allow us to rotate our troops out and finally
bring them home.

We have to understand that leaders whose people opposed the war need a
political rationale to get them to support building the peace. We have to
understand and be willing to accept that giving a bigger role to the United
Nations and NATO means sharing control, but it's a price worth paying if it
decreases the danger to our soldiers and increases the prospects of

If we learned one thing last year, it should be that the role of those of us
in positions of leadership is to speak the truth to the American people - to
lay out the facts to the extent we know them and to explain to the American
people exactly what's expected of them in terms of time, dollars, and

Our role as leaders is not to color the truth with cynicism and ideological
rhetoric but to animate that truth with the same resilience the same
dignity, the same decency, and the same pragmatic approach the American
people have applied to every task and every challenge.

It's long past time for the President to address the American people in
prime time, to level with us about the monumental task ahead, to summon our

I and most of my colleagues will stand with him.

I'm reminded of the words of Senator Arthur Vandenberg who said: "Bipartisan
foreign policy does not involve the remotest surrender of free debate in
determining our position. On the contrary, frank cooperation and free debate
are indispensable to ultimate unity...It simply seeks national security
ahead of partisan advantage. Every foreign policy must be totally debated
and the loyal opposition is under special obligation to see that this

>From the question and answer period, this touching remark about the
patriotism of the wealthy in Biden’s home state, Delaware (home of the


What do you think would have happened if the President stood before the
American people and said, look, we’re about to go into a war, the cost of
which is unknowable, but we know it will cost. We know the last war cost us,
in today’s dollars, $75 billion, of which we only paid 15%. We’re going to
go into this war probably basically alone, picking up the cost. And by the
way, the p0ols we have in there, we’re paying for them to be in there. So
even if we get in other people in [sic], we’re still paying. But the cost is
going to be unknowable, but consequential, and so I’m asking the top 1
percent of the country to forego for two years the tax cut that’s coming to
them; or instead of having a tax cut that is literally 100 times the average
American, only ten times the average American.

I believe every single wealthy person in my state would have said sign me
on, no problem, none, none.

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