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Opinion: <em>Ka-blam!</em> Obama gives Biden new White House duty: arms deliverer

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Apparently they don’t have enough guns, explosives and ammo in the Middle East. So, as long as he was in Kosovo and Serbia, etc. Vice President Joe Biden was tasked today with making the latest delivery of U.S.-made killing stuff to our side in Lebanon.

Better duty than funerals of foreign royalty anyway.

The timing of the showy arms delivery is probably totally coincidental with the upcoming Lebanese elections because Americans wouldn’t want to mess with such voting in another country. The Lebanese, for instance, might get the impression that if they oust our guys and elect militant Hezbollah to run the place, the flow of these expensive explosive goodies could stop.

We have the full text below of the Democratic VP delivering the bill of lading to Lebanese officials who are eager for the equipment and who are our allies for now. Biden emphasizes American support for the current Lebanese government and makes a good joke here about not giving Lebanon his plane.

The Lebanese might be wary, however. In the past such generous public deliveries of weaponry could be ominous signs of bipartisan American duplicity.

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In the spring of 1975, Republican President Ford ostentatiously shipped an entire C-5A Galaxy-full of 105-mm howitzers to Saigon with great fanfare as a show of public support for the embattled South Vietnamese government. Even as his CIA station and embassy there were hastily shredding tons of files because they knew the same president was about to pull the plug on U.S. support, sealing the doom of the gifted regime.

Those weapons were never used by South Vietnam and, of course, quickly became an appreciated part of the victorious North Vietnamese arsenal.

Other than that historical footnote, Lebanese officials can feel completely confident in unflinching U.S. support. At least for this weekend.

After delivering the new stuff, Biden flew home and gets another entire holiday weekend off in Wilmington, Del., like non-vice presidents, before his much-anticipated Air Force Academy commencement speech on Wednesday in Colorado Springs.

The day before, President Obama is out West too, traveling to Las Vegas on Air Force One, where he doesn’t want bankers to go on taxpayer funds, to give a big speech at a glitzy fundraiser for troubled Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. Although the president has no time to meet Nevada’s Republican governor.The next day Obama flies over to Los Angeles for a Democratic National Committee fundraiser.

-- Andrew Malcolm

Remarks by Vice President Biden at the Announcement of the U.S. Shipment of Equipment to Lebanese Armed Forces, Rafic Hariri International Airport, Beirut, Lebanon


THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Thank you very much. Please be seated.

Mr. Minister, General, it’s a delight to be back in Lebanon, and thank you for the warm welcome. General, we’re going to leave some of this behind, but you cannot take my plane. Air Force Two I get to keep, and the helicopters I get to keep. Other than that, the rest is going to be yours.

It’s an honor, it’s a genuine honor to be here today in the company of two of Lebanon’s genuine patriots -- and I mean that sincerely -- and to convey our support once again for the Lebanese armed forces.

I speak not only as Vice President but I speak on behalf of the United States Congress but,....

...most importantly, the President of the United States, President Obama, because we believe it’s critical that you be able to have -- be able to do your mission to defend the state and the citizens of Lebanon -- one army, one armed group, one police power, one capability to control your whole country.

Just two days ago you marked a bitter but proud anniversary for the Lebanese army. On May 20, 2007, Fatah al-Islam killed 27 of your soldiers in a brazen attack outside of a refugee camp. Your army responded bravely, forcefully, and professionally to ensure that camp residents were not harmed. You overcame shortages of manpower and materiel.

The army fought three grueling months, displaying uncommon dedication and earning a decisive victory. The victory came at a heavy cost: 170 soldiers lost their lives and hundreds more were wounded. I am here today on behalf of my country to honor that sacrifice and that of your families on behalf of your country.

I’m also here to assure you that every member of the Lebanese army -- every member of the Lebanese army -- that the United States of America considers itself a partner in your effort to defend your sovereignty -- the sovereignty of the Lebanese state and the security of all the people of Lebanon.

That’s why, since 2005, the United States has....

...committed more than a half a billion dollars to provide training and equipment, and why we’ve sat with you and Secretary Gates has talked about a multi-year plan.

And that’s why we continue to support you. As I said to the President today, a free and democratic Lebanon hinges on the strength of your national institutions. The Lebanese Armed Forces are as vital a national institution as any other in this country, arguably more vital. We know how much the Lebanese people look to you to protect their interests.

Some have questioned whether our support for your armed forces is as strong as we claim it to be. They wonder, they wonder when we would provide heavy equipment like tanks. Well, let me be clear: We are committing -- we are committed to meeting your army’s needs and determined that those needs are going to be met in close consultation with your army’s leadership.

During the summer of 2007, the army asked for ammunition so your troops could keep firing, body armor so your troops could be protected, and for specialized weapons so your troops could hit their targets without exposing themselves unnecessarily to danger. And that’s exactly what we’ve provided: 42 plane loads of ammunition, in fact.

But we also learned from that fight that you needed more. You needed more. And you can see around you examples of the equipment recently delivered, begun to be delivered to meet your needs: modern M60 battle tanks, close air support aircraft armed with Hellfire-guided missiles, M198 howitzers, and Raven unmanned aerial vehicles.

You can also see the items we’ve provided to the Lebanese army forces over the years, including Humvees, M113 armored personnel carriers, UH1 ‘Huey’ helicopters, in addition to the equipment we plan to continue as long as you wish it; robust training programs in the priority areas identified by your army, Mr. Minister, and by your leadership.

These training programs, including the United States Special Forces, are part of a comprehensive U.S. military assistance effort with Lebanon. To anyone who questions America’s commitment to your defense, I say, look around you. Look around me.

The United States is committed to Lebanon. The United States is committed to Lebanon’s armed forces. The United States, although speaking with others in the area to try to resolve many of the problems in the region, is absolutely committed to the sovereignty of the people of Lebanon and the government of Lebanon. And we are committed to playing a central role, to the extent you wish us to do so, in guaranteeing that sovereignty for a democratic Lebanon.

So Mr. Minister, I thank you for your leadership. General, I thank you, as well. I’ll end where I began: You are two Lebanese patriots. We are confident, as I’m sure the people of your country are, of providing you with what you need to protect their interests. Thank you very much, Mr. Minister. (Applause.) ###

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Photo credits: Hussein Malla / Associated Press (bottom, with Lebanese prime minister Fuad Seniora).


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