Former Vice President Joe Biden’s main selling point for being elected president is that he has been an elected official in Washington longer than most people have been alive. The flip side of that fact is that Biden has said and done many things that, in the view of many, have been problematic indeed.
Quite a few of those problematic things concerns the Iraq War, launched by President George W. Bush to topple Saddam Hussein, Iraq’s bloody tyrant, and to prevent him from acquiring weapons of mass destruction. The war, for various reasons, became highly unpopular and helped to elect Barack Obama in 2008.
Joe Biden, then a senator, decided to dip his toe into freelance strategic diplomacy.
The Federalist explains:
“Joe Biden “talks the talk” about his disdain for Russia, but he has yet to “walk the walk” with a hardball stance. Not only did Russia interfere in the 2016 election, under Biden’s watch, but it turns out Biden tried to buy Russia’s support of the Iraq War by promising Vladimir Putin oil money. Before the United States’ 2003 invasion of Iraq, as senator Biden had a talk with Putin in hopes of gaining Russia’s support. At a 2004 event held at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library, Biden told listeners that he had met with Putin while trying to get other nations to back the invasion.”
Several problems existed for this out of the box scheme.
First, Iraq’s oil wealth was not Biden’s to give to anyone, especially not Vladimir Putin. The Bush Administration envisioned using Iraq’s oil to help rebuild that country once Saddam Hussein had been driven from power.
Second, at that time, Putin was in no mood for adventures in lands filled with bad-tempered Muslims. Afghanistan was still a fresh memory and Russia had been fighting a guerilla war in Chechnya. Only later would Putin become confident enough to put troops in Syria as part of his drive to restore the Soviet Empire.
Finally, the Bush administration was in no mood to have Russian troops in Iraq for reasons that should be obvious.
Biden is a little confused about his record on the Iraq War. As Real Clear Politics notes, he is now claiming that he was against the war soon after it started, even though he voted for the authorization to launch the invasion of Iraq and spoke out in favor of the war at the time. He even claimed that he opposed the war before it was launched, an assertion that is wide of the known facts.
“Hours before the invasion was launched, on March 19, 2003, Biden told CNN, I support the president. I support the troops. We should make no distinction. … Let’s get this war done.’
“Not only did Biden avowedly support the war before it began he furnished some of the key pro-war talking points that the Bush administration used to convince the country of the invasion’s legitimacy. The day of Colin Powell’s infamous speech at the United Nations Security Council – on Feb. 5, 2003 – Biden, then the ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, addressed reporters to praise Powell’s performance. ‘I think Secretary Powell made a very powerful, and I think irrefutable, case today,’ Biden said. ‘… The evidence he produced confirms what I believe and I have known for some time now: Saddam Hussein continues to – he continues to attempt to maintain and garner additional weapons of mass destruction.”
As history records, allied troops found little evidence of WMDs. Whether they existed at all or whether they had been shipped to Syria for safekeeping remains a hotly contested issue. The WMD issue became one of the worst intelligence failures of modern times,
Biden was also the author of the claim that allied troops would be “greeted as liberators.” While many Iraqis no doubt appreciated seeing the backside of Saddam Hussein, many others launched a years-long, bloody insurgency that was only defeated during the waning days of the Bush presidency.
Despite these known facts, Biden still claims to have been an early opponent of the war, citing tepid procedural objections he raised at the time as proof.
Biden, finally, once suggested a plan to divide Iraq along ethnic lines. As Politifact notes, he has hotly disputed the assertion that his plan would be a partition into a Kurdish, Sunni, and Shiite states. He claims that his idea would be more in the line of a federal Iraq, with strong regional governments and a central government over them. The plan, like so much else coming from Biden, went nowhere.