Commentary Magazine


Biden’s Appalling Statement on Iraq

U.S. troops are rushing pell-mell for the exits in Iraq. Time has almost run out on their presence because the Obama administration–either through incompetence, lack of will, or both–did not renew the treaty that would allow a residual force to remain behind in 2012 and beyond. The Iraqis, as they have repeatedly said, would be open to a training mission, but instead of getting the job done, the administration is pulling out.

The sad coda for our involvement may well have come from Vice President Biden, who has just recently visited the country we are abandoning:

“We’re not claiming  victory,’’ he said. “What we’re claiming here is that we’ve done our job — ending the  war we did not start, to end it in a responsible way, (and) to bring Americans home. (We want to) end bleeding both financially and physically that this war has caused, and to leave in place, the prospect of a trained military, a trained security force within democratic institutions. It’s not done yet, but there’s real hope.”

What an amazing and appalling statement. Biden recognizes we have not yet won the war, that the job is “not done yet,” but we’re pulling out anyway. Why?

Because he and Obama want to “end [the] bleeding both financially and physically.” In fact, casualties of U.S. troops have been so low in recent months, troops would probably be in greater danger from training accidents, motorcycle accidents, excessive alcohol consumption, and other mishaps back home. The cost of stationing say 20,000 troops in Iraq–perhaps $20 billion a year–is hardly a gaping wound in a federal budget of a staggering $3.7 trillion that has been grotesquely bloated by this administration’s free-spending ways; it’s more like a rounding  error.

But the most outrageous thing about this statement is Biden’s conceit that he and Obama are “ending the war we did not start.” Obama and Biden are the two most senior elected officials of the U.S. government. The U.S. government as a whole made a decision to intervene in Iraq, and it is the height of irresponsibility for one administration to think it can abandon with impunity the commitments made by its predecessor, whatever it may think of those commitments.

In this case, the irresponsibility of this statement is heightened by the fact that Biden himself was part of the majority in both Houses who voted to go to war. Perhaps he’s simply forgotten that inconvenient bit of history. Whether he remembers it or not, however, Biden and Obama have a responsibility to make sure we do not end our commitment in Iraq as carelessly and chaotically as we began it. So far, they are flunking the test.


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