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Asked about immigration and border issues, Paul veered into conspiracy-land. After dismissing “the people who want big fences,” Paul explained that “this fence business is designed and may well be used against us and keep us in. In economic turmoil, the people want to leave with their capital. And there’s capital controls and there’s people control. So, every time you think of a fence keeping all those bad people out, think about those fences maybe being used against us, keeping us in.”
During the September 12 debate, Paul informed us that “we’re under great threat, because we occupy so many countries.”
In truth, the U.S. occupies no countries. U.S. forces are welcomed by host governments in every instance, their presence approved by status-of-forces agreements or decade-old treaties. Afghanistan wants U.S. forces to excise Taliban scar tissue. Kosovo, Korea and Kuwait want U.S. troops to maintain regional stability. From Germany to Georgia, those who remember a Europe of concrete walls and iron curtains want U.S. forces on their soil as a hedge against a revisionist Russia. And across the Pacific, those who worry about a rising China are strengthening their ties with America. Australia just inked a deal with Washington to allow U.S. forces full use of Australian naval and air bases. In fact, several countries that once kicked American troops out—the Philippines and Vietnam, for example—are today eagerly seeking security partnerships with America.
Whether these global commitments are “overstretching” America is open to debate. But whether U.S. forces are welcomed by host countries, whether the United States is “occupying” any country, is not.
Speaking of “occupying” other countries, look at Paul’s comments on al Qaeda. “The purpose of al Qaeda was to attack us, invite us over there, where they can target us…We’re there occupying their land. And if we think that we can do that and not have retaliation, we’re kidding ourselves. We have to be honest with ourselves. What would we do if another country, say, China, did to us what we do to all those countries over there?”
When Paul made a similar argument in the 2008 election cycle, Rudy Giuliani dismissed him as “absurd.”
Giuliani was right.
It’s too bad the debate moderator didn’t have the presence of mind to ask Paul the following: “Which part of Iraq, which part of Afghanistan, is ‘al Qaeda’s land’?”
In fact, the Afghan people derisively called their unwelcomed al Qaeda guests “The Arabs” precisely because Afghanistan wasn’t bin Laden’s land. Aside from the Taliban government, the Afghan people hated al Qaeda. Likewise, Iraqis rejected al Qaeda fighters, who came from Libya, Syria, Jordan and Saudi Arabia, as foreigners who tried to destroy Iraq. That’s why Iraqis worked with Americans to defeat al Qaeda in Iraq.
As with Giuliani, Paul’s comments on al Qaeda incensed Santorum. “On your Web site,” he said to Paul, “you had a blog post that basically blamed the United States for 9/11. On your Web site, yesterday, you said that it was our actions that brought about the actions of 9/11. Now, Congressman Paul, that is irresponsible. The president of the United States—someone who is running for the president of the United States in the Republican Party should not be parroting what Osama bin Laden said on 9/11.”
That’s the crux of the issue with Rep. Paul’s candidacy. It’s not that he can’t have such views. He can blame America for whatever he wants. It’s not that he shouldn’t run for president. There are parties and places that embrace these views. But the party of Lincoln and TR, Ike and Reagan, is not one of those places.
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