Joe Biden

A New Compact for Iraq

Published by Good Press, 2021
EAN 4064066444563

Table of Contents


Thank you very much. Thank you very much.

Let me say something very starkly clear at the outset: George Bush is our president; we have one president at a time; he is the president and no one is running against George Bush.

There is a desire here, the intent of my remarks and my meetings at the request of the president with his national security adviser, to figure out how to get it right in Iraq.

There is a credibility gap, a credibility gap that exists between the rhetoric the American people are hearing and the reality of what is happening on the ground. That does not mean the gap cannot be closed, but absent closing that gap, the American people are not, in my view, going to be prepared to give the president the support and time he needs to get it right in Iraq.

I'm very glad to be back here at Brookings. The experts here have produced remarkable amounts and volumes of work on Iraq, starting before the war right up to the beginning of the war and up until today.

Many of you in this building, Jim, have been prescient. I only wish that more of what had been produced out of this building had been read on Pennsylvania Avenue and more of it had been read across the river. And I mean that sincerely. I mean that sincerely.

Folks, here's how the vice president of the United States recently characterized the situation in Iraq: He said, quote, "I think they're in the last throes of the insurgency."

I just returned from my fifth trip to Iraq. That does not make me an expert, but I can tell you the difference between the first time before the war and the last four times since the war began, how it's changed.

When I got back this time, which is about two weeks ago now, my wife asked me, "What was it like compared to before?"

And I pointed out to her, when you arrive in Baghdad, you're in a C-130. You do a corkscrew landing to make it more difficult for an enemy ground-to-air launched missile to take you down.

When you land, you immediately have body armor placed upon you. You are hustled quickly into a Black Hawk helicopter. In the helicopter, there are two brave young soldiers with 30-caliber machine guns hanging out the bays of those doors.

You travel from the red zone to the green zone — the green zone is the supposed safe zone, the rest of Baghdad is the red zone. You travel at roughly 150 miles per hour.

I'm not certain of the exact speed — not a whole lot over 100 feet off the ground, so as not to provide those on the ground with a profile that you're able to shoot down an aircraft.

You get off the aircraft, the helicopter, the Black Hawk, in the green zone, which has redundant great cement blocks and walls to keep it secure.

You are hustled into, in your armor, a beefed-up Chevy van. You travel at speeds, roughly as I could calculate it, above 40 miles an hour, through a 25-block area that, as I said, has redundancy in cement walls.

Many of you have been there. And from where I stand, I have not found that to be particularly evidence of how much more secure the area's become.

My first trip, immediately after Saddam's statute fell in that circle, I was able to ride around in not an up-armored, but an armored vehicle. I don't recall whether I had on a bulletproof vest; I may have. We actually got out of the vehicle numerous times. We walked in the streets. We walked up to buildings, commercial buildings. We looked at what was happening on the street.

And today — today — it is very, very different — no different than my December trip, but very different than my first trip.

So the question I think's legitimate to ask is: What is really happening in Iraq? And here's what I found, one United States senator.

First, the insurgency remains as bad as it was a year ago, but more jihadists are coming across the Iraqi border, and they are an increasingly lethal part of the problem.

Insurgent attacks are back up between 60 and 70 per week. Car bombs now average 30 a week, up from just one a week in January of 2004.

In the seven weeks since the Iraqi government has been seated, more than 1,000 people have been killed.

The good news is — and there is some good news — but the good news is that some disgruntled Sunnis are finally beginning to make the switch from violence to politics.

The bad news is, a whole lot of them are not.

And Iraq's porous borders are being penetrated by well-trained, fanatical jihadists who find a seemingly endless supply in what should not surprise us, somewhat of the excess of 600,000 tons of munitions that we acknowledged existed, that we pointed out we could not guard because we had insufficient forces to guard them as long as 18 to 20 months ago.