Event: House Foreign Relations Committee Hearing
Ron Paul: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Welcome, Mr. Ambassador. I have a couple of concerns I want to express. The main concern I have is I was hoping to see maybe a change in our foreign policy from the last administration. But, of course, we see just more of the same; more nation building, more policing of the world, more involvement and it just seems like we never learn from our past mistakes.
We don’t learn from what kind of trouble the Soviets got into and yet we continue to do the same thing, and even in your last statement, it’s a grandiose goal that we want to work for a vibrant, modern democracy. Wow, what a dream. But think of how we are doing this. I mean, we label everybody that opposes what we’re doing; we call them Taliban, and all of a sudden, they are many, many thousands of Pashtuns that are right smack in the middle of getting killed by our bombs and then we wonder why they object to our policies over there.
This to me means that we’re into this for a long haul. It’s going to cost a lot of money and it’s going to cost a lot of lives, and if the members of Congress had ever realized what Iraq would end up costing us in the number of deaths, in the number of dollars, now, trillion dollars, they would have been a little more hesitant.
They admit that even now, “well maybe we shouldn’t have”, but who knows what this is going to end up costing in terms of lives and the odds of it working are so slim. This is what my great concern is, you know, in 1999, Sharif was the prime minister and we were supportive of a military coup and Musharraf comes in and we support him. So now, it’s said that we will have relationship with Sharif, which everybody knows exactly what that means. It means that we’re involved in their elections. That is the way we’ve done it for so many years.
But, you know, the Pakistani papers reported as “US taps Sharif to be the next Pakistani Prime Minister”. Now, whether or not we literally can do that, I think that we can have a lot of influence. That’s what they believe in. How do you win the hearts and minds of these people if we’re seen as invaders, as occupiers, and here we are just doing nothing more than expanding our role, you know, in Pakistan and in Afghanistan.
I don’t see any end into it. But my particular question is this, it has to do with those Pashtuns that have been killed by our bombs. I mean, we’re bombing a sovereign country. Where did we get the authority to do that? Did the Pakistani government give us written permission, or did the Congress gave us written permission to expand the war and start bombing in Pakistan?
Why do we, as a Congress and as a people and as I represent not the executive branch, so casually and callously expand the war and say, “Well, today we have to do this. We’ll worry about it tomorrow.”
What about our national debt? We have a [huge] national debt facing us. We think nothing of $3.5 billion, which will turn out to be tens of billions of dollars after this.
So I’d like to know where you stand on this, the innocent killing of Pashtuns. Are they all Taliban or are there some innocent people being killed?
Richard Holbrooke: Congressman Paul, I did not say exactly what you imputed to me (*), but I have thought a long time about the issues you raised, and you mentioned Iraq. Afghanistan, Pakistan is not Iraq. The reason we are in this area, notwithstanding its immense difficulties, is because the people in this area attacked our country on September 11, 2001 and have stated flatly their intent to do it again.
They’ve done all the other things we mentioned earlier, and therefore it is not Iraq and it’s not Vietnam, despite the fact that many people say it is. It’s about defending our country. It is not easy. I agree with you. It’s not cheap and having seen wars on three continents, having been shot at for my country, I sure don’t feel comfortable in a situation where you ask brave, young American men and women, to risk their lives and sometimes pay the ultimate sacrifice.
However, the President of the United States reviewed everything in regard to this and he came to the conclusion, not that it’s the same policy, he spent the whole meeting today talking about differences and dozens of others, but it’s not the same policy but our goal has to be to defeat Al-Qaeda. You cannot let them take over an even larger terrain, move into other parts of the world, and then plan what they’re planning, in my view.
(*) Mr. Holbrooke actually said, “All of our efforts in Pakistan are geared toward creating the vibrant, modern, and democratic state that Pakistanis desire and U.S. policy envisions as a partner in advancing stability and development in a key region of the world.”