Camp Bondsteel in Kosovo is the prototype for United States mega bases that have subsequently been built in Iraq. The headline for a report of Vice President Biden’s visit totally ignores the major policy commitments to the troops and veterans he outlines for their edification.
For Immediate Release May 21, 2009
REMARKS BY THE VICE PRESIDENT TO TROOPS AT CAMP BONDSTEEL/MULTI-NATIONAL TASK FORCE-EAST
Camp Bondsteel, Kosovo
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Soldiers, I apologize for my back to you — I apologize. But thank you, thank you all for having me.
General, it’s an honor — it’s an honor to be with you. And it’s an honor to be back at Fort Bondsteel. I spent a fair amount of time back in the days when I was a senator, when this God-awful war began and Milosevic’s rampage was underway. And this is — I’ve had multiple visits here, but it’s always — always great to be here at Bondsteel.
I was here before it was built, I was here while it was being built, and I keep coming back — one, it’s been built — because, damn, I love the food. (Laughter.) Do they still have ice cream in the mess? Well, that’s why I came, I just want you to know. (Laughter.)
You know, you’re serving shoulder-to-shoulder with our NATO forces that are here. Partners from Armenia and Greece, Lithuania, Poland, and Romania and Ukraine. You know, you show the world, and you continue to show the world what happens when nations resolve to stand together to defeat tyranny and to build free societies. Again, that’s not hyperbole, that’s real. That’s what you’ve been doing here. You’re actually rebuilding the society — one that quite frankly never existed before in this part of the world.
A few years ago — as was mentioned, I have a son in Iraq, but a few years ago another Biden visited here as a member of the Justice Department, the United States Justice Department’s sole representative here in Kosovo, right after the war while things were still kind of dicey — and they’re always dicey — trying to help them put together rule of law, train their judges, and train their prosecutors — that was my son, Beau.
He was inspired by what he saw then and by the women and men he met here at Bondsteel. And now, as I said, he is, like you, he’s serving away from his family, like so many thousands and tens of thousands of Americans. You all didn’t sign on this for being your day job, but it’s become your day job, at least for the year or so you’re away from your family. And he’s going to return home, like all of you, and he’ll return home later this year after a 12-month deployment. And his determination, like yours, to serve our nation at a critical time in our history is not at all unlike yours. He shares with you the kinship of character and the commitment to our country that your generation has showed in extra measure.
Ladies and gentlemen, for just as I’ve seen other bases around the world and made dozens of trips into what we call war zones around the world, what I see reaffirms my absolute belief and knowledge you are the most powerful, you are the most disciplined, you are the best-trained warriors America has ever produced. And that is literally true. You’re the most visible, most vital symbol of our sense of justice and compassion that could possibly be demonstrated to the rest of the world, along with your colleagues in the multinational force. You’re the embodiment of our deep-seated ethic of selflessness and sacrifice.
I’ll never forget going into Romania early on, meeting with the Romanian President, and him saying, “You’re the only nation that’s ever come, conquered, and left without taking anything.” Ladies and gentlemen, that’s America. That’s who we are. And that’s who you — that’s who you advertise to the whole world who we are.
I spoke to the parliament today. Every street I traveled, the streets were lined from the curb to the storefronts with people cheering and holding up signs, thanking America and the multinational force. You know, this is NATO’s second largest deployment in all of its history. You’re making a decisive contribution, getting this country on its feet. And you also demonstrate every day what we call the new NATO.
You know, the poet John Milton wrote, “They also serve who only stand and wait.” Like your parents and your spouses, my family understands that my daughter-in-law and my two grandchildren are serving by only standing and waiting. Ladies and gentlemen, your families back home are making incredible sacrifices. We know — we know — what your families are actually engaged in doing, and they deserve our help, as well.