BIDEN: With all due respect, I didn’t hear a plan. Barack Obama offered a clear plan: Shift responsibility to Iraqis over the next 16 months. Draw down our combat troops. Ironically the same plan that Maliki, the prime minister of Iraq and George Bush are now negotiating. Barack Obama and I agree fully and completely on one thing: You’ve got to have a time line to draw down the troops and shift responsibility to the Iraqis. This is a fundamental difference between us, we’ll end this war. For John McCain, there’s no end in sight to end this war.
PALIN: Your plan is a white flag of surrender in Iraq and that is not wha our troops need to hear today. We’ll know when we’re finished in Iraq when the Iraqi government can govern its people and when the Iraqi security forces can secure its people. We are getting closer to that point, that victory that’s within sight.
A: Everyone says there’s no military solution, only a political solution. We offered a political solution today, the Biden plan, & it go 75 votes. It rejected fundamentally the president’s position that there’s a possibility of establishing a strong central government in Iraq and said we’re going to have a federal system. That is the thing that will allow us to come home without leaving chaos behind.
Q: Will you pledge that you have all troops out of Iraq by January of 2013?
A: If you go along with the Biden plan, and you have a stable Iraq like we have in Bosnia--we’ve had 20,000 Western troops in Bosnia for 10 years. Not one has been killed--not one. The genocide has ended. So it would depend on the circumstances.
Q: You would not make a commitment?
A: I would make a commitment to have them all out if there is not a political reconciliation, because they’re just fodder.
A: Absolutely not. I think it’s the wrong strategy. We should be drawing down troops now. We should be in the middle of the 2008, down to 30,000 to 40,000 troops with an end date of getting out of there based upon a political settlement where you set up a federal system there.
Q: What is it Petraeus believes in that you don’t?
A: I think Petraeus believes in what I believe in, that his troops will do whatever they’re asked. I think Petraeus doubts whether or not militarily he can reach a political solution. He’s given a military mission to try to stabilize as much of the country as he can. As a military man, he’s doing what he’s asked to do, but he knows it will not solve the problem. There is no military solution to Iraq that will allow us to leave without leaving chaos and a civil war behind.
A: You know, Bush has not told the truth for seven years; it’s time we tell the truth. The truth is if al Qaeda establishes a base in Iraq, all these people who talk about going into Pakistan are going to have to send your kids back to Iraq. And so the fact of the matter is it matters how we get out of Iraq. Separate the parties. Give them control over their own security. Begin to draw down our troops. But let’s start talking the truth to the American people.
A: We can’t just pull out now. Let’s get something straight. It’s time to start to tell the truth. The truth of the matter is: If we started today, it would take one year, one year to get 160,000 troops physically out of Iraq, logistically. That’s number one. Number two, you cannot pull out of Iraq without the follow-on that’s been projected here, unless you have a political solution. I’m the only one that’s offered a political solution. And it literally means separate the parties; give them jurisdiction in their own areas; have a decentralized government, a federal system. No central government will work. And, thirdly, the fact of the matter is, the very thing everybody’s quoting is the very legislation I wrote in January. It said: Begin to draw down combat troops now; get the majority of the combat troops out by March of ‘08.
A: think it’s the only option. We’re not going to be able to sustain 160,000 troops for another year there. There’s going to be drawing down. The civil war is going to get worst. And Iraq is not going to split into three parts. It’s going to splinter into many parts. The biggest problem is the administration doesn’t deal with what’s on the ground. On the ground, you have prime minister that who is incapable--and, I think, does not have the desire--to make the kind of accommodation needed with the Sunnis. We’re in the midst of a civil war with nobody. Nobody in this administration offering a political alternative brought about by the international community.
A: That language is actually the language that Carl Levin and I drafted, which said that, “Mr. President, you got to start moving combat troops out of harm’s way now.” This tries to get this president to change his strategy. He operates on the premise that, if we put enough troops in the middle of a civil war, we can give breeding room to a group of people in Baghdad to get together and form a strong central government that’s a democracy. That will not happen in your lifetime or mine. I said that four years ago; I say it now. The only rational purpose for troops in Iraq now: train Iraqis, prevent al-Qaeda from occupying large chunks of territory, and we should begin to decentralize the government. That’s the underlying essence of what the language in this bill is about.
BIDEN: I think it is unconstitutional to say we’re going to tell you, “You can go, but we’re going to micromanage the war.” When we wrote the Constitution, the intention was to give the commander in chief the authority how to use the forces when you authorize him to be able to use the forces.Q: [By linking spending authorization to a withdrawal date,] aren’t you now micromanaging?
(Videotape, January 7, 2007)
BIDEN: Not at all. We have authority to tell him how to use the forces. We have a responsibility to tell him what the mission is. He does not have the authority to engage in a mission of the use of our force that we do not authorize. And that’s the thrust of what we’re trying to do here. We’re trying to fundamentally change what this president is using our forces for. He’s in the midst of a civil war with a flawed objective of establishing a strong central government.
A: No, we’re not setting a deadline. Read what the bill says. It says the target date, left up to the generals to determine whether or not it is appropriate to withdraw all forces.
Q: Well, a target date is setting a deadline.
A: No, no, but it leaves forces behind. We’re trying to change the mission. The problem here is this is also a moving target. I also called for more troops a couple years ago, in order to stop a civil war. Once the civil war began I said all the troops in the world cannot settle a civil war. So what I’m having to respond to, like everyone else, is the president’s initiatives and his failures that required different answers at different times.
A: They are mistaken. They are making a mistake that is not practical. I don’t know how that can work.
Q: Senators Reid & Feingold have a bill that says: “No funds appropriated may be expended to continue the deployment in Iraq after March 31st, ”2008.“ Do you support that?
A: Here’s where we may end up. This president makes it so difficult to reach the objective--which is to leave Iraq, leaving behind a country secure within its own borders, not a threat to its neighbors, that is a loosely federated republic. It may get so bad that we do not have that option, and the only option we have available to us is to withdraw and try to contain the civil war inside Iraq. We are not there yet. And until we reach that point, I am not prepared to say there are no circumstances under which, after a date certain, we would not have a single troop inside of Iraq.
A: This is not a football game. This is not win or lose. The fact of the matter is that the president has a fundamentally flawed policy. It’s based upon the notion of being able to set a strong, central government in Baghdad that will be democratic. And the real question is: Are we going to be able to leave Iraq, get our troops out, and leave behind something other than chaos? The president should start off by not vetoing the language which we just passed today. Look, there’s only one way. You’ve got to change the fundamental premise of this engagement: you’ve got to decentralize Iraq, you’ve got to give the regions control over their own destiny, get them control over their police forces, and have a limited central government and share their oil wealth. The president better get on the game plan here, or he is just going to drag this out to the point where it’s not recognizable.
A: We should stop training the national Iraqi police force. Two years prior to the Iraqi study group report, I wrote a similar report on the very same thing, after visiting Iraq. I pointed out there was no vetting of recruits, no way to weed out criminals, and that in fact, sectarian thugs were making up the police force. That is why it is so critically important to give local control to the Sunni-, Shia & Kurds in their own regions over their police force, so that we don’t end up in a situation where these thugs continue to undermine the security of neighborhoods. There’s room for a national army, but not for a national police force.
There is a way to do this the right way. Not one person but me has offered a specific political solution for inside Iraq. The Iraqis can’t do it by themselves. That’s why I’d get the Permanent Five of the Security Council; I would bring in the major Muslim nations; and I would put immense pressure upon the regional partners there to stay out of Iraq.
I’d put pressure on Iraq for a federal system. That’s what their constitution calls for. It says Iraq is a de-centralized federal state. And this president continues to try to have a strong central power that’s not within the capacity.
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