By Jeffrey Young - 07/04/09 12:08 PM EDT
The new citizens, currently serving in all branches of the military, originally hailed from 59 countries, including 12 Iraqi-born personnel, according to the White House press pool report. About 3,000 U.S. military personnel are naturalized citizens, the report says.
Later, while visiting with the Delaware Army National Guard unit of which his son, Beau, is a part, Biden said, "We did it in Saddam’s Palace and I can think of nothing better than. That S.O.B. is rolling over in his grave right now.’’
During the ceremony with the newly naturalized military service members, Biden said "As corny as it sounds, damn I'm proud to be an American. Thanks for choosing us, you are the reason why America is strong."
"You are the source of our freedom, you and all who came before you. I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart," he said. “What a sight you are today. What a powerful symbol for the rest of the world you are.”
"You are an object lesson for the Iraqis, you are an object lesson for all citizens of the world,’’ Biden said. “You are an object lesson in what it takes to truly have freedom.”
Biden's visit to Iraq takes place just days after U.S. troops began their withdrawal from the nation's cities, a key step in the eventual end of a full U.S. military presence there. Biden has spent time with senior Iraqi leaders over the past two days, including a visit with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki Friday.
During brief remarks prior to their meeting, Biden and Maliki vowed that the two countries would maintain close cooperation. "President Obama asked me to return to Iraq with a very, very clear message: The United States is committed to Iraq's progress and Iraq's success," said Biden, reiterated Obama's pledge to remove all U.S. troops by the end of 2011.
"I have seen very clearly the keen determination from the vice president and his administration to support Iraq on a political level and in the democratic area," Maliki said.
Later, a senior administration official emphasized to reporters in Iraq that the United States's commitment to Iraq is not open-ended and that continuing sectarian violence would not indefinitely extend American military involvement in the country it invaded in 2003.
"Iraq's future is it own responsibility," Biden told Iraqi leaders, according to the official. "He also said if by the actions of different parties in Iraq were to revert to sectarian violence or engage in ethnic violence then that’s not something that would make it likely that we would remain engaged," the official said.
The United States has no "appetite to put Humpty Dumpty back together again if, by the actions of people in Iraq, it fell apart," the official said.
In addition to Maliki, Biden also met with vice presidents Adel Abdul-Mahdi and Tareq al-Hashemi and the Speaker of Iraq's Parliament, Iyad Al-Samarrai. A planned visit to Irbil in the Kurdish region of northern Iraq to see Iraqi President Jalal Talabani and Kurdish regional president Massoud Barzani had to be canceled because sandstorms prevented Biden from flying. The Talabani-Barzani meeting had been kept a secret, according to the White House press pool report.