Biden Criticizes Bush on Pakistan
Sen. Joseph Biden (Del.) isn't president just yet. But he's practicing this week on Pakistan.
In a speech today at St. Anselm's College in Manchester, New Hampshire, Biden criticized President Bush for mishandling the current political crisis and called for a change of approach in dealing with Pakistan. He called for the U.S. to "be far more pro-active, not reactive and make it clear to Pakistan that actions have consequences."
Biden continued, "President Bush's first reaction was to call on President Musharraf to reverse course. Given the stakes, I thought it was important to actually call him - which is exactly what I did. I also spoke to opposition leader Benazir Bhutto."
The senator, who chairs the Foreign Relations Committee and has been working on world conflict for years, described his conversation with President Musharraf as "very direct and detailed... I told him how critical it is that elections go forward as planned in January, that he follow through on his commitment to take off his uniform, and that he restore the rule of law to Pakistan."
Then Biden put on his campaign hat. "Now, President Bush finally got around to calling Musharraf yesterday. As a few of you may know, I'm running for President and I can tell you this: If I'm elected, I won't wait five days to pick up the phone or delegate matters of this magnitude to my secretary of state or to my ambassador. There is too much at stake to leave this kind of conversation to others."
Biden warned that if Musharraf does not restore democracy, "U.S. military aid will be in great jeopardy," and said "big-ticket weapons systems" would be on the table, with Congress ready to act, if Bush and Musharraf don't.
Biden said the U.S. must take a broader approach to Pakistan centered on the well-being of its people, rather than just the stability of its leadership, and said he would start by tripling non-military aid to the country, to $1.5 billion annually. "Instead of funding military hardware, it would build schools, clinics, and roads," Biden said. He would also create a "democracy dividend" of $1 billion, for the first year of democratic rule.
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