Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) really, really wants a war. And he wants voters to know that if he’s elected, he’ll get one.
The notoriously hawkish and scared of the world lawmaker on Thursday told “Fox and Friends” co-host Steve Doocy that Americans who aren’t fans of perpetual war probably shouldn’t vote for him.
“I would take the fight to radical Islam to keep it coming from coming here,” Graham said.
Throughout his lengthy legislative career, Graham has more often than not been an advocate of swinging, rather than simply wielding, the United States’ big military stick. Since his June 1 presidential announcement, the lawmaker has intensified his hawkish rhetoric.
“I want to be president to defeat the enemies that are trying to kill us. Not just paralyze them, or criticize them, or contain them, but defeat them. I’ve come to conclude that we will never enjoy peaceful coexistence with radical Islam, because its followers intend to destroy our way of life,” he told a crowd gathered for his campaign announcement Monday.
The implication is that a Graham White House would likely ramp up U.S. military involvement in the Middle East to levels not seen since troop drawdowns in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Asked by Doocy whether that was a “tough message” for a GOP candidate to push on voters at a time when “a lot of people are just worn out by war,” Graham answered with little concern.
“Well, don’t vote for me,” the South Carolina senator responded. “Don’t vote for me, because I’m telling you what’s coming: Barack Obama’s policies leading from behind are going to allow another 9/11.
“[ISIS] is large, rich and entrenched,” he continued. “If I’m president they will be poor, small and on the run.”
Then Graham brought forth some serious decider nostalgia. Remember the good old “fighting-them-there-so-we-don’t-have-to-fight-them-here” line?
“I’m trying to tell the American people and the Republican primary voter — the only way I know to defend this country is to send some of us back to Iraq and eventually to Syria to dig these guys out of the ground, destroy the Caliphate, kill as many of them as you can, hold territory and help people over there help themselves,” he said.
It sounds nice, doesn’t it? The prospect of stability in a region that has become so destabilized that it’s being taken over by a group of barbarous, murderous Islamic fundamentalists bent on establishing a caliphate from which it can plan attacks on the West.
Graham is the self-described man with the plan to save the world from all of the problems radiating from the Middle East. After all, as he’s really fond of declaring, “I’ve been more right than wrong when it comes to foreign policy.”
The problem with that statement is this: The only way it could ever be true is if Graham were to say aloud the following words, “The foreign policy positions I have espoused in the past with regard to the situation in Iraq and Syria are substantially responsible for the rise of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.”
In 2002, Graham stated unequivocally that the U.S. must topple Saddam Hussein because the Iraqi regime posed a direct “threat to our way of life” in the U.S. Even better, it would be an easily accomplished task.
Graham circa 2003 on how long U.S. troops would remain in Iraq: “Perhaps a year or more … If we’re there through 2009, something went wrong.”
The U.S. toppled Saddam and spent much longer in Iraq. And for all of the dictator’s evil deeds and the threat he posed to many of his own people, no one in Washington really ever explained how exactly he’d threatened the U.S. homeland.
Curiously, Graham and his fellow hawks never seem to mention Saddam’s absence in discussions about the rise of ISIS. But it is a pretty key plot point.
The Washington Post reported earlier this year:
The de-Baathification law promulgated by L. Paul Bremer, Iraq’s American ruler in 2003, has long been identified as one of the contributors to the original insurgency. At a stroke, 400,000 members of the defeated Iraqi army were barred from government employment, denied pensions — and also allowed to keep their guns.
The U.S. military failed in the early years to recognize the role the disbanded Baathist officers would eventually come to play in the extremist group, eclipsing the foreign fighters whom American officials preferred to blame, said Col. Joel Rayburn, a senior fellow at the National Defense University who served as an adviser to top generals in Iraq and describes the links between Baathists and the Islamic State in his book, “Iraq After America.”
Whatever the U.S. military and top intelligence officials failed to anticipate with regard to the role former Saddam acolytes might play after U.S. intervention turned the tables and handed power to the other side in a thousand-year religious civil war, they knew they weren’t destabilizing Iraq for freedom.
And as ISIS grew in power over the years, it became what hawks wanted all along: a tool to meddle in Syrian affairs and topple the regime of Bashar Assad.
A recently declassified intelligence report from August 2012 noted that “major forces driving the insurgency in Syria” comprise “the Salafist, the Muslim Brotherhood, and AQI [al-Qaida in Iraq]” and that “Western countries, the Gulf states and Turkey are supporting these efforts.”
Also from the report: “If the situation unravels there is the possibility of establishing a declared or undeclared Salafist Principality in eastern Syria (Hasak and Der Zor), and this is exactly what the supporting powers want, in order to isolate the Syrian regime, which is considered the strategic depth of the Shia expansion (Iraq and Iran).”
Salafist Principality means Islamic state led by a monarch. Like a caliphate. Like the one ISIS is pretty close creating as it beheads its way through Iraq and Syria.
Also from the document: “ISI could also declare an Islamic State through its union with other terrorist organisations in Iraq and Syria, which will create grave danger in regards to unifying Iraq and the protection of its territory.”
Graham, unsurprisingly, was all about supporting rebels in Syria at around the time this report was produced.
And that’s Graham’s pattern: Say a regime is scary, advocate for toppling it, say whatever replaces it is scary, advocate for eliminating it and repeat.
In reality, with regard to ISIS and the Middle East, the only thing that’s truly scary is the United States’ long list of deliberately poor foreign policy decisions. Even more terrifying is the prospect of a Graham White House. He is, after all, the sort of monster created by decades of U.S. policymakers’ failure to heed President Dwight Eisenhower’s farewell speech warning about letting military and industrial powers run amok.