CONCORD — Former Sen. Bob Smith used what he called “an unfortunate choice of words” Tuesday morning when he said during a radio interview that if the United States were to “clear out” Middle Eastern countries where terrorism is flourishing, “we sound like Nazi Germany.”
Smith told the New Hampshire Journal did not mean to compare the United States to Nazi Germany. And he said the United States is not engaging in such a policy, and he is not advocating such a policy.
“The context was, what is the long-term policy?” Smith said of the comment he made on the Rich Girard-At-Large radio program on 90.7 FM. “We’re putting men and women in harm’s way every day without a clear policy.
“If the policy is to defeat the indigenous forces on the ground and create a democracy, how does one do that?” Smith asked. “How do you do that? Do you literally kill all of the people on the ground there or do you try to retrain them to be democratic, with a small ‘d?’
“Unless you are prepared to stay there and defeat all those cultural and religious forces and plant the seed of democracy, then I think we should leave,” Smith said.
Smith said the current U.S. policy is a “bad” one. U.S. forces “are not being allowed to fight and win battles and are subjected to certain rules of engagement, and that is a policy that’s flawed,” he said.
“I shouldn’t have used that term,” Smith said. “It was an add-on statement, and I wasn’t trying to imply that our administration was doing that,” Smith said.
“Nazi German tried to wipe out and exterminate a people and build it back without Jews,” Smith said. “My point was that is clearly not what we were going to do in Iraq and it shouldn’t be. So we should leave.”
The transcript of Smith’s exchange with Girard follows:
Girard: “What do you say to the argument that, you know, you go there, you fix the problem. Right, you clear out Iraq, you clear out Afghanistan, and then those forces that you cleared out come back because there’s nothing to prevent them from reassuming power and recreating the threat.”
Smith: “Well now we sound like Nazi Germany. What are we going to do, we’re going to clear out – we’re going to go in, we’re going to go in to these countries, we’re going to clear everybody out, we’re going to kill everybody? And then we’ll start all over again, we’ll bring what, bring some immigrants over from America and start all over again, is that our policy?”
Girard: “No I’m just asking when the threat reemerges because we bomb it back to the Stone Age and then…”
Smith: “Well now that’s not America, that’s not who we are. We do not, America should not be in the business of imposing its upon a sovereign state. Okay, but on the other hand, if we are attacked or we are threatened to be attacked, in this day in age it’s not just an attack, a nuclear weapon aimed at us, maybe you’re not attacked but if you know it’s coming you have a right in my view to take preventive action if that were to be the case.”
Earlier this week, prior to the radio interview, Smith released this statement on the Middle East:
“News that the Sunni Islamic State in Iraq and Syria have captured the city of Mosul and threaten Baghdad have led to demands that America intervene and help the Shiite Iraqi government.
“This is the wrong policy. The Sunnis and the Shias have been fighting over Muhammed’s succession since his death in 632, almost 600 years before the signing of the Magna Carta. There is nothing we can do which will resolve a religious war in a country which does not share our culture and which has no democratic tradition. In fact, any intervention in their conflicts will be seen as an expansion of their wars, justifying retaliation and perpetual war.
“Our policies in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and Syria have been characterized by a complete lack of understanding of the religious and tribal natures of these countries and the region.
“In defeating Saddam Hussein in Iraq we helped the Shias realize their dream of a Shia Crescent extending from Tehran to Baghdad to Damascus. Turning Iraq over to the Shias constituted a major defeat for the Sunnis and they have spared no expense in funding the Sunni Islamic State in Iraq and Syria to retake Iraq and conquer Syria. It is important to note that our intervention in the Middle East has not only led to increased suffering for both the Sunnis and Shias but destroyed many Christian communities that had existed for 2000 years.
“American democracy cannot be imposed on countries whose religions and cultures don’t share our belief in human dignity and the rights of man.
“American troops are the best in the world but they are neither trained nor equipped to nation-build and serve as policemen to the world. Importantly, the difficulty of performing these missions is aggravated by Rules of Engagement, which frequently put our troops in the position of defenseless targets.
“Our intervention in the Middle East has cost us lives, treasure, standing in the world and, most importantly, our freedoms.
“The problems in the Middle East can only be resolved by the people of the region.”