Should the United States respect Pakistani sovereignty and
not pursue al Qaeda terrorists who maintain bases there, or should we
ignore their borders and pursue our enemies, like we did in Cambodia
during the Vietnam War?
Well, Katie, it's a terrific question.
And we have a difficult situation in Pakistan. I believe that
part of the reason we have a difficult situation is because we made a
bad judgment going into Iraq in the first place when we hadn't
finished the job of hunting down bin Laden and crushing al Qaeda.
So what happened was we got distracted, we diverted resources, and
ultimately bin Laden escaped, set up base camps in the mountains of
Pakistan in the northwest provinces there.
They are now raiding our troops in Afghanistan, destabilizing the
situation. They're stronger now than at any time since 2001. And
that's why I think it's so important for us to reverse course because
that's the central front on terrorism. They are plotting to kill
Americans right now. As Secretary Gates, the Defense secretary, said,
the war against terrorism began in that region, and that's where it
So part of the reason I think it's so important for us to end the
war in Iraq is to be able to get more troops into Afghanistan, put
more pressure on the Afghan government to do what it needs to do,
eliminate some of the drug trafficking that's funding terrorism.
But I do believe that we have to change our policies with
Pakistan. We can't coddle, as we did, a dictator, give him billions
of dollars, and then he's making peace treaties with the Taliban and
militants. What I have said is we're going encourage democracy in
Pakistan, expand our non-military aid to Pakistan so that they have
more of a stake in working with us, but insisting that they go after
And if we have Osama bin Laden in our sights and the Pakistani
government is unable or unwilling to take them out, then I think that
we have to act, and we will take them out.
We will kill bin Laden. We will crush al Qaeda. That has to be our
biggest national security priority.
Well, Katie, thank you.
You know, my hero is a guy named Teddy Roosevelt. Teddy
Roosevelt used to say, walk softly -- talk softly but carry a big
stick. Senator Obama likes to talk loudly. In fact, he said he wants
to announce that he's going to attack Pakistan. Remarkable.
You know, if you are, if you are a country and you're trying to
gain the support of another country, then you want to do anything you
can that they would act in a cooperative fashion.
When you announce that you're going to launch an attack into
another country, it's pretty obvious that you have the effect that it
had in Pakistan. It turns public opinion against us.
Now, let me just go back with you very briefly. We drove the
Russians out, with the Afghan freedom fighters, drove the Russians out
of Afghanistan. And then we made a most serious mistake.
We washed our hands of Afghanistan. The Taliban came back in; al
Qaeda. And we then had the situation that required us to conduct the
Now, our relations with Pakistan are critical, because the border
areas are being used as safe havens by the Taliban and al Qaeda and
other extremist organizations.
And we have to get their support.
Now, General Petraeus had a strategy, the same strategy, very
different because of the conditions and the situation, but the same
fundamental strategy that succeeded in Iraq. And that is, to get the
support of the people. We need to help the Pakistani government go
into Waziristan, where I visited, a very rough country, and get the
support of the people and get them to work with us and turn against
the cruel Taliban and others, and by working and coordinating our
efforts together, not threatening to attack them, but working with
them, and where necessary, use force, but talk softly, but carry a big
Senator McCain --
Tom, just a quick follow-up on this. I think --
If we're going to have follow-ups, then I will want
follow-ups as well.
No, no, I know that.
Be fine with me.
I think we'll get at it, if I can, with this
Be fine with me.
Let's have one.
All right, let's have a follow-up.
Be fine with me.
Just a quick follow-up, because I think this is
I'm just the hired help here, so, I mean --
You're doing a great job, Tom.
Look, I want to be very clear about what I said. Nobody called
for the invasion of Pakistan. Senator McCain continues to repeat
this. What I said was the same thing that the audience here today
heard me say, which is, if Pakistan is unable or unwilling to hunt
down bin Laden and take him out, then we should. Now that, I think,
has to be our policy because they are threatening to kill more
Now, Senator McCain suggests that somehow, you know, I'm green
behind the ears and, you know, I've -- just spoutin' off and he's
somber and responsible. I --
Thank you very much. (Laughs.)
Senator McCain, this is the guy who sang "Bomb,
Bomb, Bomb Iran;" who called for the annihilation of North Korea.
That I don't think is an example of speaking softly. This is the
person who, after we had -- we hadn't even finished Afghanistan, where
he said, next up, Baghdad.
So I agree that we have to speak responsibly and we have to act
responsibly. And the reason Pakistan -- the popular opinion of
America had diminished in Pakistan was because we were supporting a
dictator, Musharraf; had given him $10 billion over seven years; and
he had suspended civil liberties. We were not promoting democracy.
This is the kind of policies that ultimately end up undermining our
ability to fight the war on terrorism, and it will change when I'm
Tom, if -- if we're going to go back and forth, I
then -- I'd like to have equal time to go -- to respond to --
Yeah, you get to --
-- to -- to this.
Last word here, and then we have to move on.
I mean, not true. Not true. I have obviously
supported those efforts that the United States had to go in
militarily, and I have opposed those that I didn't think so.
I understand what it's like to send young Americans into harm's
way. I say -- I was joking with a veteran -- I hate to even go into
this -- I was joking with an old veteran friend who joked with me
But the point is that I know how to handle these, these, these crises.
And Senator Obama, by saying that he would attack Pakistan -- look at
the context of his words.
I'll get Osama bin Laden, my friends. I'll get him. I know how
to get him. I'll get him no matter what. And I know how to do it.
But I'm not going to telegraph my punches, which is what Senator Obama
And I'm going to act responsibly as I have acted responsibly
throughout my military career and throughout my career in the United
States Senate. And we have fundamental disagreements about the use of
military power and how you do it. And you just saw it in response to
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