President Biden Friday again made an exaggeration about the number of times he’s been to the Middle East, as he gave a commencement speech to U.S. Naval Academy graduates in Maryland.
“I’ve been in and out of Iraq and Afghanistan of over 40 I think 38 times,” the president said.
That number was incorrect, however. A spokesperson for Biden’s National Security Council (NSC) said Friday the correct number of times Biden visited Iraq and Afghanistan is 21.
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Biden made the Friday comment in the context of congratulating Naval Academy graduates of being, “members of the greatest fighting force in the history of the world.” The president said that based on his visits to the Middle East, and his family’s military service, he has firsthand knowledge of the quality of the U.S. armed forces.
“I’ve seen you in action, this is the finest military, not a joke, we have the finest military in the history of the world,” Biden said.
Friday’s statement was not the first time Biden’s made a false claim about how often he’s visited the Middle East. While running for president, Biden said at least once he’d been to Iraq and Afghanistan “over 30 times,” according to the Washington Post.
As a presidential candidate, Biden also told at least one “moving but false” war story, according to the Washington Post, which jumbled several events loosely together to create a narrative that “never happened.”
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Friday’s clarification by the NSC is also just the latest of several recent comments from the president that his team needed to walk back.
Most recently, the White House was forced to clean up a comment Biden made which indicated the U.S. may defend Taiwan militarily if attacked by China.
Earlier this year, Biden made a gaffe saying the U.S. may not have a response to a “minor incursion” by Russia into Ukraine, which his staff walked back. And in Warsaw, Poland this year, Biden said, “this man cannot remain in power,” referring to Putin. The White House quickly clarified that Biden was not calling for regime change in Russia.
Also during his speech to Naval Academy graduates, Biden touted his approach to U.S. foreign policy, including his emphasis on alliances. He also said Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war on Ukraine is backfiring as western nations’ alliances get stronger.
“The actions taken by Putin were an attempt, to use my phrase, to Finlandize all of Europe, make it all neutral,” Biden said, using a term that refers to Finland’s neutrality during the Cold War. “Instead, he NATOized all of Europe.”
“Putin’s brutal, brutal war in Ukraine, not only is he trying to take over Ukraine, he’s really trying to wipe out the culture and identity of Ukrainian people,” Biden also said, raising his voice in outrage. “Attacking schools, nurseries, hospitals, museums with no other purpose than eliminate a culture, a direct assault on the fundamental tenets of rule-based international order. That’s what you’re graduating into.”