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Biden: Bush's Iraq withdrawal comments 'a diversion'
David Edwards and Muriel Kane
Published: Tuesday September 4, 2007


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One day after President Bush traveled to Iraq, a Democratic presidential candidate took some shots at the president's "surprise" visit.

On CBS's Early Show Tuesday, Senator Joe Biden (D-DE), chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, explained Bush's ability to walk around freely in shirtsleeves by saying, "The place he was, the Al Asad Air Force Base, is out in the middle of nowhere. ... It's 15,000 acres surrounded by a fence. It's not like walking through Ramadi."

Biden was asked about Bush's suggestion that he might withdraw some troops from Iraq. "I thought it a bit of a diversion," said Biden. "If he's talking about bringing down our troops to the pre-surge level, to 130,000, that's not withdrawal."

Biden pointed out that there has been a lot of discussion of progress in Anbar Province, where tribal chiefs have begun fighting al Qaeda, but there are no signs of progress in the fighting between Sunnis and Shias. "Prior to the surge, people were fleeing their neighborhoods at 50,000 people a month," he stated. "Since the surge, they've been fleeing their neighborhoods at 100,000 per month."

"As a Kurdish vice president said," Biden continued, "'Centralized rule in Iraq is finished.' The sooner the president realizes that and decides that we're going to have more of a federal system ... with a weak central government -- that's the only chance we have here. ... This is a civil war, and we shouldn't be in the midst of it."

The following video is from CBS's Early Show, broadcast on September 4.