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Remarks in Advance of Bush Address on Iraq

September 13, 2007

Wilmington, DE (September 13, 2007): Today during a campaign swing through western Iowa and Nebraska, Sen. Joe Biden made the following remarks in advance of President Bush's address tonight on the war in Iraq.

(As Prepared For Delivery)

Tonight, President Bush will give the American people a progress report on the war in Iraq.

This war belongs to the President, not to his generals or his ambassadors.

It is the President's time - and his responsibility - to answer a question that the general carrying out his policies in Iraq could not answer: is pressing ahead with the war making America safer?

Based on everything we heard this week from the President's surrogates and everything I have seen and heard during my eight trips to Iraq, the answer is no.

The President's strategy in Iraq is not succeeding. It is not making America safer. Doing more of the same would be a disaster.

The President's strategy is to stand up Iraq security forces so that we can stand down.

But four years and $20 billion later, the Iraqi army is still years away from being ready to take over. The Iraqi national police force is so corrupt and so sectarian that one of our most respected military leaders, General Jim Jones, recommended that it be disbanded.

The President's strategy is to build a united, democratic central government in Baghdad that secures the support of all Iraqis. The primary purpose of the President's surge was to buy time for that central government to succeed.

But eight months into the surge, there has been no political progress in Baghdad. The sectarian war continues unabated… militias still dominate the country… and more Iraqis are fleeing their homes for fear of sectarian violence than ever before.

Despite these failures, President Bush is about to tell the American people that: He will continue the surge for another six months, putting more American lives and limbs at risk for no strategic gain.

When the surge finally ends next year, we will be right back where we started: with 130,000 Americans in Iraq, no lasting change on the ground and no end in sight.

That is unconscionable.

Pressing ahead with this war, in this way, will not make America safer. The President does not recognize that reality. I do - and I know what we should do about it.

We need and I have proposed a comprehensive strategy to end the war in Iraq while protecting our troops and not leaving chaos behind.

First, instead of continuing the war with no end in sight, we have to start to bring our troops home now, and withdraw most of them next year.

I would limit the mission of those that remain to fighting al Qaeda, training Iraqis and helping them protect their borders.

Second, so long as we have any troops left in Iraq, we must treat them with care, not disdain, and give them the best protection this country can provide.

If a soldier spends a year in Iraq, he should get at least a year at home before we send him back.

And if a soldier spends a single day in Iraq, he should be able to ride in the Mine Resistant vehicles I've been fighting so hard to build -- vehicles that can cut by 70 percent casualties and deaths from roadside bombs.

Third, while leaving Iraq is necessary, it is not enough. We need a plan for what we leave behind so that we do not trade a dictator for chaos in Iraq and the region that endangers America's interests for a generation.

I have a plan that offers the possibility, not the guarantee, of stability in Iraq as we leave. It's based on the reality that Iraq cannot be governed from the center, as this President believes, because Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds are not ready to entrust their fates to each other.

Instead, we have to give Iraq's warring factions breathing room in regions, with local control over the fabric of their daily lives - police, education, jobs, marriage, religion - as Iraq's constitution provides. A limited central government would be in charge of common concerns, including distributing Iraq's oil revenues.

A federal, decentralized Iraq is our last, best hope for a stable Iraq. More and more people, inside Iraq and out, are coming to that realization.

We should refocus our efforts on making federalism work for all Iraqis. I would initiate a diplomatic surge to do just that, bringing in the U.N., major countries and Iraq's neighbors to help implement and oversee the political settlement I'm proposing.

It is time to turn the corner.

Stop the surge and start bringing our troops home.

End a political strategy that cannot succeed and begin one that can.

And always, always protect our troops.

This is President Bush's war. But it is America's future. We have to get this right, together.

Joseph R. Biden, Remarks in Advance of Bush Address on Iraq Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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