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Senator Lindsey Graham On The Paris Attack And The Growing Jihadist Threat

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The transcript:

HH: The latest from the Guardian, at least 140 people, 140 people are dead in Paris as a number of terrorist attacks have raged across the French capital, including two suicide attacks and a bombing outside the national stadium, a massive attack on the Bataclan Concert Hall, an additional two restaurant attacks. The Australian foreign minister says there have been six separate terrorist attacks. That remains unconfirmed. I’m joined now by United States Senator Lindsey Graham, who I know more than most of the people in D.C., cannot be surprised tonight.

LG: I, I’ll be honest with you. I am surprised by the level of the sophistication, but not the desire to kill. And how many times, my good friend, have we talked about what happens if you leave this sickness called radical Islam unchecked?

HH: Now Senator Graham, I have to be thinking that the people in Rome and London and Berlin are scared to death tonight, because the level of sophistication, as you just referenced, if they can send four to eight or more killers to Paris, they can hit anywhere in Europe, right?

LG: Yeah, I mean, the desire to kill is only limited by their capability to kill. And it’s more than ironic that the things that we enjoy most in life, which is having dinner with friends and going to a concert, they hate the most. I think the targets that was obviously intentional, but yeah, the bottom line is that you know, I worry about our homeland. I’ve been saying that for two years now. ISIL is just getting too strong. al Qaeda has not been decimated. And we need an offensive strategy. Let’s don’t be lambs to the slaughter here. It’s not working from an aerial point of view. The good news is that the region and the world is becoming more united against this barbaric behavior. And we just need some leadership to rally the world to deal with it effectively, and I think we can.

HH: Senator Graham, a retired naval aviator, a commander, wrote me tonight. The last time I was this angry was September 11th. When will America, not just the pols, but Americans get serious about this? This is a world war. It’s been building for years. It’s still not too late.

LG: Yes.

HH: But if they get a nuclear weapon, and I mean Iran, it’s game over. The world will see a cataclysmic event like it’s never known. If we as free nations get serious, we can get after this and destroy it. I hope every candidate for every national office is serious about ending this threat. Time is running out. Time is running out. Do you agree with that?

LG: Yes, sir. So we’ve got really two threat lines here. You’ve got radical Islam in the Sunni form, which is al Qaeda/ISIL/al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. You know, they do mass casualty events. They are not nation-states in the traditional sense. But Iran is. Now they’re Shiite radicals. The Ayatollah is a religious Nazi. His form is Islam requires him to destroy Israel, attack infidels like us and purify the faith. That’s why I worry so much about this nuclear deal. What I think we’ve accomplished with the deal with Iran is to give the Ayatollah’s regime power in perpetuity. He’s stronger, not weaker, a pathway to a bomb in 15 years. He doesn’t have to cheat. He can get a bomb, a missile to deliver it in a few years, and $100 billion dollars to pay for it all. I mean, that deal has to be reconfigured, and has to be set aside. If we don’t, we’ll all regret it mightily.

HH: Now Senator Graham, I asked former Governor Bush earlier tonight, who you’re running against for the presidency, does this lie on the feet of former Secretary of State Clinton, who’s debating tomorrow night with Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley, because of her cooperation in the bugout of December, 2011? I don’t know if John Dickerson will ask that. That’s what I would ask. What would you say to that question?

LG: What I want to do is, you know, be respectful of the fallen and their families, and let this settle for a little bit. You’re being good to have me on the show. I have a firm understanding of what the threat is and a plan to deal with it that includes Iran, not just radical Sunni Islam. If you don’t mind, I would like to just be respectful. I’m not here to complain about President Obama or Secretary Clinton. I’m just trying to tell your listeners that what I’ve been worried about for a couple of years now is coming true sooner and quicker than I thought, quite frankly. And we’re at a crossroads. If we don’t act more decisively, this gets worse, not better.

HH: Well, I agree with that, but I believe in candor, Senator, when people are paying attention.

LG: Yes, sir.

HH: And they’ve got, we can’t let the caliphate stay there. They’re just, they’re exporting this.

LG: Well, what have I been saying on your show? The source of the problem is Syria. There is something to work with in Iraq. We don’t have enough ground troops to make the Iraqi component as effective as it should be to liberate Anbar Province. Ramadi and Mosul are major military operations. And taking Sinjar back is a tactical gain, but not a strategic shift. The root of the problem is in Syria. There are 30-40,000 people on the ISIL side inside of Syria. There is no competent ground force left. It’s going to take a regional approach. And if you don’t put Assad on the table, the Arabs and Turkey are never going to go in, because they’re never going to turn Damascus over to Iran, and that’s what happens when you leave Assad in power, and that’s what the Russians will demand. So yes, I can work through this. I can tell you a game plan where you form alliances that do two things – check Iran as well as destroy ISIL. If you’re not focused on checking Iranian expansion, and you just focus on ISIL, you’re missing the really big, big picture.

HH: Agree. It’s a two front war. It’s not unlike World War II, except the two fronts are a lot closer in this one. In fact, they’re touching each other and at war with each other.

LG: Yes, they are.

HH: Now tell me about what you expect will come from France and Great Britain in the aftermath of this. I’m not sure what the French, they’ve been cooperating, Their carrier’s in the Mediterranean. They’ve been helping us a little bit. But do you think they have the will to join in a Western coalition?

LG: I think this should be a world coalition. The biggest victims of radical Islam are fellow Muslims. I’ve been to the region 35 times. I understand that the average Sunni Muslim doesn’t want to turn their daughter over to ISIL. So to say otherwise, I think, is just not accurate. So what I would do is I would side with people in the faith. This is a fight for the heart and soul of Islam. The good news is 80-90% of the people reject what ISIL is selling. Start with the region, but have Western nations integrated into the fight, because we’re in the crosshairs, too. They want to do three things – purify their faith, destroy the Christian faith, come after us and destroy Israel. And they’re intent on doing all three. So go on the offense, going on the ground in Syria with a regional army, supplemented by Western forces, then you’ve got to hold the territory. If you don’t hold, it starts all over again.

HH: So does it change the terms of the conversation that’s been underway? You weren’t at the last debate. You may be at the one I’m back at in Las Vegas in a month. But does it, ought it to change the tone, the context, the seriousness, the subject lines?

LG: I think what it should do is it should change the world’s response to radical Islam. These are religious Nazis who are not going to be stopped by immigration reform. You can’t wall them off from the rest of the world. They have a lethality that’s unbounded. Their desire to kill is only limited by their capability. Not only should it be part of the discussion we’re having here in terms of who should be in the next commander-in-chief, it should be a part of the discussion between the civilized world as to how we respond. This is truly a world war. The aviator got it right – radical Islam versus mankind. And I don’t know how the world can respond without American leadership, because we still are the most effective voice and force for good. I embrace that. It is our destiny. And we’re going to have to rebuild our military to deal not only with ISIL, but an expansion of Chinese influence, Russian influence. We need to do what Ronald Reagan did – go on the offense.

HH: Now the President made a statement tonight, and it was early before the scale of this, and I think 140 is going to be low by the time this night is done, and I don’t know that it’s the only attack. Like I said, this is very sophisticated, and you note that. Have you been briefed, by the way? Have any members of the…

LG: Not yet. We’ll probably get that tomorrow. All I can say is about the numbers, every person is an individual. The numbers, you know, every person had hopes and dreams. But I want you to know, and you know this, Hugh, I know who I’m talking to. The only reason it’s 140 is they couldn’t kill more.

HH: Right, right. And the French are good.

LG: The only reason there’s 3,000 on 9/11 is they couldn’t get the weapons to kill three million of us. And that’s where Iran becomes a problem, because the technology developed by the Iranians, I am convinced will fall into the hands of radical Islamists, and work its way here if we don’t stop them now. I just believe that.

HH: Last question, Senator, do your colleagues across the aisle get this, about lethality?

LG: Oh, I think there are problems within the Republican conference and across the aisle. There’s a head in the sand approach regarding Syria. Nobody wants to talk about ground troops, because the country is war weary. You may be tired of fighting them. They’re not tire of fighting you. I hope this is a rally for the world. You’re not going to beat these guys from the air. There has to be an American component to any ground force. Most of it should come from the region. 90% them, 10% us. And if there were a vote tomorrow on the floor of the United States Senate authorizing ground forces to destroy ISIL, which is a direct threat to our homeland, I’m not so sure it would pass.

HH: Wow.

LG: And that breaks my heart, because I see the threat. I’ve talked about it endlessly on your show. It is not going to get better doing what we’re doing. It’s only going to get worse. But the good news is we can win. There is a way forward. You just need to lead.

HH: Senator Lindsey Graham, thank you. The latest news, America, six different assaults in Paris tonight.

End of interview.


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