Senator Lindsey Graham was back on the program today, talking about the ongoing war with radical Islam and his plans for 2016:
HH: I begin with Senator Lindsey Graham, who a week ago on this show said we are in a religious war, and really set off a kerfuffle. Senator Graham, welcome back, it’s good to have you.
LG: Great. We’re still in a religious war a week later.
HH: I know, but I want to begin by playing for you your colleague, Senator Chris Murphy was on with Rachel Maddow last night on MSNBC, and he had an assessment of why we’re in that war that I need your reaction to. Here’s Senator Murphy:
CM: You know, I clearly think that you’re seeing a flow of foreign fighters back and forth into Syria and Iraq that’s presenting real problems and threats to our allies in Europe, and potentially here to the United States. But I think it is important just to recognize that the individuals who carried out these attacks in Paris were originally radicalized not by ISIS, but in coordination against the United States’ invasion and occupation of Iraq. That’s what initially brought them into this fight. And it’s worth repeating that those who would call for another insertion of U.S. ground troops to fight ISIS would be essentially repeating the very mistake that radicalized thousands of Muslims all across the country during our ten year occupation of that country. So I certainly think that ISIS poses a threat to the United States and to our allies. But we’re living with a decade-long mistake in Iraq that had radicalized thousands already, no matter whether or not ISIS was present in that region.
HH: Now Senator Graham, do you think the distinguished gentleman from Connecticut knows who Sayyid Qutb is?
LG: Well, all I can tell you is that I like Chris, but let’s go back and see if we can figure this puzzle out. We got attacked on September the 11th, 2001. We didn’t have one soldier, one ambassador or a dime of money going into Afghanistan. We got attacked by al Qaeda. All of these people pledge allegiance to al Qaeda in some form. So Chris is dead wrong. They want to attack us not because of anything we’ve done with the Palestinians, not because of anything we have done with Israel, not because of anything we have done in Iraq. They want to drive us out of the Middle East and attack our way of life, because we don’t fit into their worldview. And when a United States Senator doesn’t understand that al Qaeda is coming after us, and they started this process long before the invasion of Iraq, it really is bone-chilling.
HH: It is bone-chilling, and it’s not just him. Josh Earnest wouldn’t use the term radical Islam yesterday, and explained at length why he wouldn’t. And I’m curious, Senator Graham, if you feel that the ground is shifting towards realism now after the week and a half that we’ve had?
LG: Yes, I do. And I just want to emphasize this, Hugh. It is not our fault. We have done nothing to deserve the attack on our homeland. The French have done nothing to deserve this kind of attack. When Ron Paul suggests that it’s our policies in the Mid-East that have brought al Qaeda down on us, he doesn’t know what he’s talking about. When Senator Murphy suggests it’s about Iraq, he misses the big point This movement has been around for a very long time. It is stronger today than it’s ever been. There are more organizations like al Qaeda, that are al Qaeda in another form, with more safe havens, more money, more capability, more weapons to attack the homeland. It is a religious war. Their religious teaching compel them to come after us not based on anything we’ve done in Iraq, Afghanistan or with the Palestinians. That’s what I’m trying to say, is that it is a religious war where their teachings have no place for us, our allies, Israel or moderate Muslims. And if you don’t admit that, you can’t fight the war, and you wind up chasing red herrings like the idea that Iraq somehow brought on these radicals.
HH: Now part of the problem is language. A very, very fine blogger, John Schindler, who blogs at the XX Committee, the 20 Committee, says the best thing to call them is Salafist jihadis. Does Senator Lindsey Graham have a preferred term?
LG: Radical Islamists, Salafists are a form of Islam. They’re in Syria, they’re, they were on the ballot in Egypt. They’re more extreme than the Muslim Brotherhood. This is radical Islam. You don’t need to go any further than that. It is a religious doctrine that requires the people who believe in the doctrine to spread their version of the true form of religion, the one way to worship God, by converting you or killing you, and that some people cannot inherit the planet Earth, like Christians, Jews and moderate Muslims, and the Shi’ia are the worst enemy of all. They’re the biggest offenders. So this, there’s radical Islam in two forms – the Sunni version, which is al Qaeda, the Iranian version, which is a Shi’ia version of radical Islam that wants to dominate the planet. But the big threat right now is from the Sunni radical Islamist extremists. The threat that comes tomorrow is when Iran gets a nuclear weapon. And the same people who brought you this very, you know, sophisticated foreign policy, the Obama team, is about to bring you a deal with the Iranians that are going to give the ayatollahs in Iran a nuclear weapon if we don’t do something about it.
HH: Why do you think the President and no one on his team went to Paris? What do you think was their decision-making process?
LG: They wanted, they don’t like talking about the subject matter. It gets in the way of them giving away free college. The President is disconnected. If it had been a good event, he would have sent people. If it had been a positive event for him, he would have sent people. He wants to change the subject. He feels like, that radical Islam and the threat we face from growing al-Qaeda-like threats is getting in the way. It’s an annoyance. All I can tell you is that he has checked out in many ways. Why would anybody in their right mind, Hugh, let people out of Gitmo given the instability in the world? The President must see the world totally different than you and I.
HH: He does. Now…
LG: How can anybody let people out of Gitmo with a 30% recidivism rate?
HH: I don’t know. Now I have to change to politics, because yesterday Senator McCain called you his illegitimate son, and said that he wants you running for president. Is your presidential campaign a single state/favorite son? Or if you do it, will you be on all the ballots?
LG: If I do it, I’ll be on all the ballots. I’m not doing it to make a statement. I’m doing it to change the country and offer what I have to offer to the American people, and to my party. And I think I’m uniquely qualified to deal with the threats we’re talking about. So when I hear a United States Senator trying to rationalize that Iraq created the problems in France, and when I hear some libertarians on my side of the aisle associated with the Republican Party say that it is our interventionist policy that has brought people down on us, they don’t know what they’re talking about. When I hear the president of the United States and his chief spokesperson failing to admit that we’re in a religious war, it really bothers me. And I want to be somebody who can talk about the world as it really is.
HH: And what was your reaction to Mitt Romney’s declaration of reentry into presidential politics?
LG: Probably no finer man ever run for the office. He’s one of the most decent people I’ve ever met. I don’t know if the third time is the charm. I do know this. If he runs for president again, and he embraces self-deportation as a way of solving the immigration problem, we’re going to have a problem as Republicans in general. I don’t know where Mitt is coming from, from the third time around. He’s a decent fellow. He’s a talented fellow. I’m sure he hears all over the country, God, I wish you were president. But at the end of the day, it won’t be about what Mitt does that drives my thinking. It will be about what I feel like I can do. And if there’s a pathway forward, credible pathway forward, a competitive pathway forward, I will take it.
HH: When do you have to make that decision by, Lindsey Graham?
LG: I think in the next few months. I’ve got to look and see. I know I do well in South Carolina. I should, because that’s where I’m from. But you can’t be president of South Carolina. So I’m going to have to look and see. Is there a lane for a guy who really does understand the threats we face regarding our national security, understands the consequences of sequestration’s ability to defend ourselves? Is there a lane for a guy like me who will say you’ve got to reform immigration, not just secure the border, but rationally deal with the 11 million? At the end of the day, I don’t know until I look.
HH: Last question. Is there…
LG: But I’m getting encouragement to look, so we’ll see.
HH: Is there anyone else in that lane right now, because I actually think Romney’s probably the closest guy to being in that lane. Is there anyone else in that lane?
LG: I don’t know whether, where the other guys are at on national security. I know where I’m at. I remember being on your show when everybody was so excited about shutting the NSA program down. I remember being on your show when people were talking about you can’t hold an American citizen as an enemy combatant. I remember being one of a very few voices, along with you and others, trying to remind America we were at war, not fighting a crime. So the one thing I would tell the American people, and people in my party, that if nothing else, I’ve been consistent. I’ve consistently seen this as a war against our way of life that is a religious war, and you can’t win a war fighting it as if it were a crime. And you can’t win a war not understanding what motivates the enemy. What motivates the enemy is a religious doctrine unconnected with American foreign policy.
HH: Well said and well stated, Senator Graham. Keep coming back early and often throughout 2015.
End of interview.