News Release

Biden: What Kind of Foreign Policy “Experience”?

STEPHEN ZUNES
Professor of politics at the University of San Francisco and a contributor to Foreign Policy in Focus, Zunes will be in Denver for the first few days of the Democratic Convention. His recent pieces include “Obama’s Right Turn?”

He said today: “One of Obama’s strongest distinctions from McCain was his wisdom and courage in opposing the invasion of Iraq. By choosing Biden, however, who was as big a backer of the war as the Republican nominee, Obama is now saying that this doesn’t really matter, thereby negating one of his biggest advantages. Biden’s ‘experience’ is that of a militarist whose contempt for international law has been apparent in hard-line positions on Iraq and other critical foreign policy issues.”
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Background:

On July 29, 2002, when Biden was about to chair hearings of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the Institute for Public Accuracy quoted Scott Ritter, who had been a chief UN weapons inspector in Iraq, on a news release: “Sen. Joe Biden is running a sham hearing. It is clear that Biden and most of the Congressional leadership have pre-ordained a conclusion that seeks to remove Saddam Hussein from power regardless of the facts, and are using these hearings to provide political cover for a massive military attack on Iraq. These hearings have nothing to do with an objective search for the truth, but rather seek to line up like-minded witnesses who will buttress this pre-determined result….

“This isn’t American democracy in action, it’s the failure of American democracy. Before we go to war with Iraq, we must be able to determine that Iraq poses a threat to the national security of the United States. Such a determination must be backed up with substantive fact. I believe that Iraq does not pose a threat to the U.S. worthy of war. This conclusion is shared by many senior military officers. According to President Bush and his advisers, Iraq is known to possess weapons of mass destruction and is actively seeking to reconstitute the weapons production capabilities. I bear personal witness, through seven years as a chief weapons inspector in Iraq for the UN, to both the scope of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction programs and the effectiveness of the UN weapons inspectors in ultimately eliminating them. While we were never able to provide 100 percent certainty regarding the disposition of Iraq’s proscribed weaponry, we did ascertain a 90-95 percent level of verified disarmament. These are the sort of facts that must be included in any hearing that seeks to determine the threat posed by Iraq today. It is clear that Sen. Biden and his colleagues have no interest in such facts.”

On Oct. 10, 2002, Biden gave a speech in favor of the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq: “I do not believe this is a rush to war. I believe it is a march to peace and security. I believe that failure to overwhelmingly support this resolution is likely to enhance the prospects that war will occur…. [Saddam Hussein] possesses chemical and biological weapons and is seeking nuclear weapons.” Biden stated he thought conflict may be long, but was still in favor of it: “We must be clear with the American people that we are committing to Iraq for the long haul; not just the day after, but the decade after…. I am absolutely confident the President will not take us to war alone.”
Text and video.

In fact, Biden had been in favor of attacking Iraq unilaterally for years: “The only way, the only way we’re going to get rid of Saddam Hussein is we’re going to end up having to start it alone — start it alone — and it’s going to require guys like you [Ritter] in uniform to be back on foot in the desert taking this son of a — the — taking Saddam down.” After Ritter articulated concerns about the Clinton administration’s Iraq policies, Biden told Ritter it was “above your pay grade.” (Sept. 3, 1998)

For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167