In the Republican and Democratic primaries, Reps. Ron Paul (R-Texas) and Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) are the only ones who opposed the Iraq war authorization act in 2002 and both have been calling for US troops to be withdrawn and closing of the bases.
In the latest debate amongst the Republican presidential candidates on May 16, Paul was asked about his position.
MR. WALLACE: Congressman Paul, you’re one of six House Republicans who back in 2002 voted against authorizing President Bush to use force in Iraq.
REP. PAUL: Right.
MR. WALLACE: Now you say we should pull our troops out. A recent poll found that 77 percent of Republicans disapprove of the idea of setting a timetable for withdrawal. Are you running for the nomination of the wrong party? (Scattered laughter.)
REP. PAUL: But you have to realize that the base of the Republican Party shrunk last year because of the war issue. So that percentage represents less people. If you look at 65 to 70 percent of the American people, they want us out of there. They want the war over.
In 19- — 2002, I offered an amendment to International Relations to declare war, up or down, and it was — nobody voted for the war. And my argument there was, if we want to go to war, and if we should go to war, the Congress should declare it. We don’t go to war like we did in Vietnam and Korea, because the wars never end. And I argued the case and made the point that it would be a quagmire if we go in.
Ronald Reagan in 1983 sent Marines into Lebanon, and he said he would never turn tail and run. A few months later, the Marines were killed, 241 were killed, and the Marines were taken out. And Reagan addressed this subject in his memoirs. And he says, “I said I would never turn tail and run.” He says, “But I never realized the irrationality of Middle Eastern politics,” and he changed his policy there.
We need the courage of a Ronald Reagan.
Later, he took on the myth that the reason for the 9/11 attacks was that “they hate us for our freedoms” and in the a subsequent exchange refused to bow down to Giuliani’s grandstanding on this issue. (You can see the video of that clip here.)
MR. GOLER: Congressman Paul, I believe you are the only man on the stage who opposes the war in Iraq, who would bring the troops home as quickly as — almost immediately, sir. Are you out of step with your party? Is your party out of step with the rest of the world? If either of those is the case, why are you seeking its nomination?
REP. PAUL: Well, I think the party has lost its way, because the conservative wing of the Republican Party always advocated a noninterventionist foreign policy.
Senator Robert Taft didn’t even want to be in NATO. George Bush won the election in the year 2000 campaigning on a humble foreign policy — no nation-building, no policing of the world. Republicans were elected to end the Korean War. The Republicans were elected to end the Vietnam War. There’s a strong tradition of being anti-war in the Republican party. It is the constitutional position. It is the advice of the Founders to follow a non-interventionist foreign policy, stay out of entangling alliances, be friends with countries, negotiate and talk with them and trade with them.
Just think of the tremendous improvement — relationships with Vietnam. We lost 60,000 men. We came home in defeat. Now we go over there and invest in Vietnam. So there’s a lot of merit to the advice of the Founders and following the Constitution.
And my argument is that we shouldn’t go to war so carelessly. (Bell rings.) When we do, the wars don’t end.
MR. GOLER: Congressman, you don’t think that changed with the 9/11 attacks, sir?
REP. PAUL: What changed?
MR. GOLER: The non-interventionist policies.
REP. PAUL: No. Non-intervention was a major contributing factor. Have you ever read the reasons they attacked us? They attack us because we’ve been over there; we’ve been bombing Iraq for 10 years. We’ve been in the Middle East — I think Reagan was right.
We don’t understand the irrationality of Middle Eastern politics. So right now we’re building an embassy in Iraq that’s bigger than the Vatican. We’re building 14 permanent bases. What would we say here if China was doing this in our country or in the Gulf of Mexico? We would be objecting. We need to look at what we do from the perspective of what would happen if somebody else did it to us. (Applause.)
MR. GOLER: Are you suggesting we invited the 9/11 attack, sir?
REP. PAUL: I’m suggesting that we listen to the people who attacked us and the reason they did it, and they are delighted that we’re over there because Osama bin Laden has said, “I am glad you’re over on our sand because we can target you so much easier.” They have already now since that time — (bell rings) — have killed 3,400 of our men, and I don’t think it was necessary.
MR. GIULIANI: Wendell, may I comment on that? That’s really an extraordinary statement. That’s an extraordinary statement, as someone who lived through the attack of September 11, that we invited the attack because we were attacking Iraq. I don’t think I’ve heard that before, and I’ve heard some pretty absurd explanations for September 11th. (Applause, cheers.)
And I would ask the congressman to withdraw that comment and tell us that he didn’t really mean that. (Applause.)
MR. GOLER: Congressman?
REP. PAUL: I believe very sincerely that the CIA is correct when they teach and talk about blowback. When we went into Iran in 1953 and installed the shah, yes, there was blowback. A reaction to that was the taking of our hostages and that persists. And if we ignore that, we ignore that at our own risk. If we think that we can do what we want around the world and not incite hatred, then we have a problem.
They don’t come here to attack us because we’re rich and we’re free. They come and they attack us because we’re over there. I mean, what would we think if we were — if other foreign countries were doing that to us?
Paul is quite right on the facts about the reasons for the attacks. Bin Laden published a fatwa in 1996 outlining his reasons for ‘declaring war’ on America. The pundits were surprised when in an (unscientific) Fox News poll on who won held immediately after the debate, Paul polled second (with 25%) to Romney’s 29%, after having even led at one point.
What was appalling was the enthusiastic response that some in the crowd gave when Giuliani and Sam Brownback and Mitt Romney and Duncan Hunter implicitly but enthusiastically supported torture and the denial of due process.
You can see Dennis Kucinich express his views on Bill Maher’s show and also see former Alaska governor Mike Gravel (also seeking the Democratic nomination) challenge strongly the bipartisan consensus on the war.
There have been rumors that Paul and Gravel may not be invited to future debates. That would be a travesty because it is only people like them who are really challenging the banalities uttered by the so-called leading candidates, since the media has abandoned that role.