Duncan Hunter Interview 12-01-2009: Obama's Weak Speech, Navy SEALS, Climategate & Downsizing the Gov't
This interview is the sixth installment of an on going series of conversations with the former Congressman and 2008 presidential candidate.
Now home in the San Diego area, Hunter has been keeping busy making appearances on local TV and promoting the campaigns of up and coming, conservative, young military veterans who are attempting to unseat liberal democrats in the 2010 congressional races. Among those Hunter has persuaded to run or has campaigned for are veterans Vaughn Ward in Idaho, Nick ‘Gunny Pop’ Popaditch in California’s 51st District, Jesse Kelly in Arizona and Chris Reed in Iowa. In fact, Hunter has a campaign event scheduled for December 5th for Mr. Reed. He plans on continuing his push for staunch conservatives to help retake the House of Representatives in the next election cycle. We pick up the interview after the introductions and a quick prayer for our friend Russell Scott….
DH: Hey, I think a rare thing has happened, either Jim has stopped talking or he got cut off.
GW: I think so.
AJM: Can you guys hear me???? (no they couldn’t)
DH: Listen, till he comes back in, I thought I’d tell you guys that I just got finished doing a commentary here in San Diego on Obama’s speech for a news channel here, for KUSI. And I was on with a Marine, retired Marine General Mike Neal, a great guy. He’s been out of the corps for a long time, and we were talking about the Obama speech. First, one thing I thought was kind of sad that the President told the West Point graduates, was that he was against the war in Iraq. I thought that was kind of a slap in the face. A lot of those guys fought in that war. And we’ve now won that war; by not following Obama’s call to retreat at a critical moment, along with Hillary Clinton and all the other Democrat nominees, or candidates for the presidential nomination. It was bad taste on Obama’s part.
Also, not much of a confidence builder. He was a guy that said we had to leave in Iraq. We didn’t leave. We put the surge on and we won. That doesn’t reflect well on his judgment. I thought it was bad on the part of Obama not only from the stand point of strategy, but also a slap in the face of the guys that defend the country.
So anyway, the other thought that I had about the speech was that we’re sending 30,000 people, that is not as many as McChrystal had requested. McChrystal’s request has been kind of muted at this point. I think he was criticized pretty strongly in the Administration for coming out and openly talking about the need for more troops.
But the real key here is to bring the NATO allies, the 26 nations which together have not suffered as many casualties as America alone because they stay out of the firefights. They stay out of the combat zones. Bringing them into the war, because right now they are AWOL. They may have their troops to some degree stationed in Afghanistan, but the Germans, for example, have a rule that was established as I understand it, by the Bundestag, that they cannot leave their forts at night, which is a time when our Marines do a lot of their fighting. And the French and others try to stay out of the combat zones and let the Americans take the combat zones. So there is a vast difference between being ‘in the country’ and being in the fight. Right now, most of our NATO allies are not in the fight. And I think this is a chance for Mr. Obama to talk to the leaders of those countries, face to face, and let’s see if he can do something to justify those prizes he’s been awarded lately.
AJM: Can you guys hear me again??
DH: Jim, glad to have you back, I’m about ready to sign off here (laughing)
AJM: (Laughs) Thank you very much. Now I did hear in the news, yesterday I believe, that Great Britain decided to send all of another 500 additional troops. So apparently, whatever arm twisting he’s doing isn’t seeming to have the effect that we’d anticipate.
DH: Once again, the key is not just having troops there, and that (500) is obviously not a lot of troops, but there’s 26 NATO nations who have some people, as I understand, on the ground now in Afghanistan. But there’s a vast difference between providing airport security or security in Kabul, and sending your people into the fight in places like Helmand province. So this needs to be a cheap estate discussion. The Germans, the French and the others need to be kicked into the battle. They need to join the battle and right now they are AWOL from the battle. They may have troops there, but again, there is a vast difference between having a presence in the country and coming to the war.
So that’s the real test for Obama. If we can get the NATO allies engaged strongly in this war we wouldn’t need to have more troops.
AJM: I agree. What did you think about the timeline? He’s kind of telegraphing….that we are going to do this little surge, but then start withdrawing within a year?
DH: Yeah, I was reminded that in Iraq, because George Bush refused to give a timeline, which was the burning question of the day for the press, trying to extract a timeline from the Bush administration. You know, at one point the Sunni tribes in Anbar Province in western Iraq made a decision. They decided to turn against their fellow Sunnis, Al Qaeda, and be on our side. And actually fight Al Qaeda, fight their former allies. There were a couple of reasons for that. One reason is they found out that these foreign fighters, Al Qaeda fighters, started to wear out their welcome. They taxed Sunni businesses there to sustain the war effort. They took their women for short term marriages. When tribal leaders objected, they were killed. And they provided lots of very heavy punishment, including death for such things as eating ice cream, failing to flop to the ground quickly enough for prayer call, and many number of other things. So they began to resent the Al Qaeda foreign fighters. But at the same time they saw that the US Marines were very tough, that they stood toe to toe in these 15 foot firefights in Falluja with Al Qaeda until they were the only guys standing. They never retreated. And at the same time that Al Qaeda took money from the tribes, the Marines gave them money. They gave them projects. They hooked up sewage lines and water lines and they put together medical clinics and did lots of things that showed that they were the ‘good guys’. And you had as a result of all of that the “Awakening”.
The Sunni tribes did a remarkable and profound thing. That is they turned against their allies, the Al Qaeda, who they had been with and had joined with in attacking the Marines. They joined the Marines and turned and attacked Al Qaeda, their former allies. And what I’m getting to is that at one point, in Bing West’s great book called The Strongest Tribe, he asked one of the Sunni leaders why they had joined with the Marines, and the guy gestured to a squad of Marines that were walking towards them down the street and he said, “because you, the Americans, are the strongest tribe”.
Now those folks in Anbar, Iraq had a history of making choices. And those instances of choosing their allies were something that the well being of their clans, their families and their tribes depended on. They’d been occupied at one point by Genghis Khan, at another point in their history by Alexander the Great, and choosing your allies was something which your very life could depend.
My point is that because George Bush refused to give a deadline for leaving, and because his people, the US Marines in Anbar Province appeared to be the strongest tribe, the native tribes went with the United States, joined us, and turned against Al Qaeda and helped us exterminate Al Qaeda. In fact in 4 days, in the Zaidon area south of Falluja, the 2nd Battalion, 7th Marines joined up with the native Sunni insurgency, they joined the Marines and in 4 days, starting on the 4th of July 2007, they wiped out the Al Qaeda from the entire Zaidon area. They took ‘em out.
AJM: What a beautiful thing.
DH: Yeah, and that was done because the United States refused to give a deadline, amongst other things. And here’s Mr. Obama giving a deadline for the American presence in Afghanistan.
AJM: Whoa. Some heavy stuff here. But at least he’s given us…..I was afraid he was going to pull the rug out. So we have time to convince him to do this right still.
DH: Yeah, I think that’s so. And I think that he feels a little bit connected to this war too. His platform and the democrat platform was that Afghanistan was a ‘real war’ and Iraq was a wrong war. Now we’ve won Iraq, and his military in Afghanistan is saying ‘OK, let’s do this one right and win this thing’. So I was glad to see that he was putting the 30,000 troops in.
I thought it was wrong to try to put an exit strategy up front.
AJM: Well, thank you for your insight, we really appreciate that.
The next question I have has to do with the military as well, Mr. Hunter. And that is….In the news lately, you’ve probably seen it. In Iraq, some of our Navy SEALS, our best and brightest, managed to capture the scumbag who was responsible, or thought to be responsible for the US contractors being hung from the bridge in Falluja. And when they caught him, apparently, they did one of their expert raids when they found out where he was, and somehow he managed to end up with a fat lip or a swollen jaw in the process, claiming that one of the SEALS gave him a whack. Because of this deal – I believe it is 4 Navy SEALS – they are in court martial, for whacking this idiot. I want your take on this kind of nonsense that seems to be hamstringing our bravest, most courageous fighters for basically doing their damn job.
DH: You know, that’s a pretty good leading question. I don’t think you need me for this conversation, Jim (laughs).
DH: I think you just want me to say “Dittos”. (laughing)
AJM: Yeah, I’m a wannabee Rush Limbaugh here (laughs)
DH: Well listen, I haven’t seen all of the testimony regarding these guys, but it will obviously come out. I would simply say this about the judicial system. There have been a lot of charges, as there always are when you have over 100,000 people involved in combat operations over a period of years. You’re always going to have some charges. We’ve had far fewer charges in this war than we had in wars past, including Vietnam, World War II, World War I, Korea.
Generally speaking, the judicial proceedings that have occurred in San Diego County with respect to Marines…
LD: The Haditha Marines?
DH: …in Camp Pendleton and other places have been very favorable to the people who were initially accused – and in some cases convicted in the liberal newspapers. I’m thinking about a lot of the defendants in the Haditha thing, for example.
The good thing about the military system is that those officers who sit in those tribunals realize that these tough combat operation don’t come wrapped in neat packages, where you are able to sit back and contemplate what seven guys in black robes would do, as they sit in their armchairs. They understand that these things happen in the fog of combat. And I think they also balance what happens.
I’ve seen a number of these cases where people got very upset that there were even charges lodged. I don’t know, I haven’t seen the specific reports that came out as a result of this capture. But if this is a case of balancing equities, of balancing actions, and the guy got a fat lip, that’s a fairly nominal wound, if you will, considering what his is alleged to have done.
The other thing is, you know, we are falling into this abyss of giving enormous rights to enemy defendants. For example, nobody wearing the uniform is considered to have the right to have a lawyer. Or to cross examine his accusers. Or to have any number of other rights that we give to criminals. If you took 500 POWs in any given conflict, and you required that each one of those people be specifically convicted, found beyond a reasonable doubt to have engaged in warfare against us, you’d have to release about two-thirds of them. Because it is very hard in the fog of war to find the particular sergeant who captured a particular enemy private, or enemy lieutenant, and is there to testify that he actually saw this person fire a weapon or undertake some other act of war. If you put this heavy, heavy standard, you apply that heavy standard – that’s why it’s very difficult with these terrorists that we’ve brought in from Afghanistan that heretofore have been at Guantanamo – it’s very, very tough to find the specific American who actually saw this person in an act of war. To apply this standard that we grant under our constitution to criminals, to apply that to terrorists makes it very difficult to keep these guys off the streets. And I think a lot of that is proven by the fact that there was a large degree of recidivism with the people in Guantanamo that we actually screened and released. A number of them went back and picked up weapons and were recaptured or killed fighting Americans again in the war theatre.
So giving this extraordinary, new protection to terrorists that our own soldiers don’t have is, I think, a very dicey thing.
It’s a long answer to your question, and I haven’t seen the specific reports on what you just described to me, but I have seen some pretty good outcomes in the military judicial system.
AJM: Yeah, so have I. I’m very grateful for that as well. On Free Republic, we’re very big supporters of the Marines who have been brought up on those charges. But one of the things that it seems to do is that it takes these guys out of combat, and it could be for years. In the case of the Haditha Marines, I think Chessani has his last hearing tomorrow, and Sgt Wuterich is still up for his court martial. But in regard to these SEALS, it blows my mind, Congressman, that they should have been authorized to execute the son of a bitch, yet they rough him up a little bit when they capture him, and they’re going to be put through this wringer. I think that is exceedingly ill-suited for the type of combat that we are dealing with here.
DH: Yeah. But you don’t have the right to…..just like Chesty Puller at Guadalcanal, they captured a bunch of Japanese as they were moving through the battlelines, and one of his lieutenants says “what are we going to do”; and as I recall Puller said ‘we’re moving too fast, we got to kill them’. Then they got into a quiet area, a secure area, and the same lieutenant or sergeant said, ”I didn’t shoot those guys back there, what do I do with them now?” And he said “now we’re secure, we got to keep them. You’ve got to protect them. We don’t shoot prisoners”. < p>
That’s not something we do.
You’re not authorized, no matter how heinous the guys are, you’re not authorized to do it. You can’t do it. And if you murder somebody you will be and should be brought up on charges. It’s a sad thing. It happens sometimes. There was a captain and a sergeant in World War II who were found guilty of machine-gunning a truck load of German prisoners. They were sent back to the front lines, and as I recall from reading the research, the captain and the sergeant were both killed in later combat. What that shows is that we realized even in those days that you had to abide by the law of war. On the other hand, it also shows that we kept our eye on the ball – we said ‘we also got to win this war’. So they sent those guys back to the front lines, and unfortunately they were killed. But we kept our eye on the ball. The point was winning. We had to win that war. That was a necessity; we had to keep forcing that front line.
AJM: Yeah, I know. It just rubs us the wrong way. I know Lynn and I have talked about this….
DH: If you look at the motion to suppress evidence, if evidence is found to be obtained in a criminal trial in the US, in a way that is an unconstitutional invasion of privacy, then that evidence is suppressed. No matter how strong it is. That came I think, the original case was Davis vs. Mississippi, and that was a case in which a person who murdered an elderly lady had his fingerprints found on a windowsill of a window. But he was identified out of an unconstitutional lineup. And as a result of that, the evidence was suppressed, and he went free. With motions to suppress, we understand that the real result of that is going to be that killers do go free. And yet, we made a decision as a country that we would allow that, that it was more important to ensure that constitutional rights were not violated.
So society sacrifices even in the domestic scenario to ensure that criminals are treated in a constitutional manner. My point is that we carry that to the battlefield scenario in that we don’t murder prisoners. And you can’t murder prisoners. And you can’t abuse them.
On the other hand, you say we got a prisoner who has a fat lip….you’ve got to remember that these guys in combat are human, they’re not zombies, and again, they aren’t seminal men in black robes in a smoking lounge in the Supreme Court. They are out there in the middle of combat. And as one of the justices once remarked, you have to put them in that context, and understand those are decisions made in the heat of combat. You have to accord them that situation.
AJM: I think you nailed it on that last one. I think as you do find out some more information on this as it comes in – it’s exploded as an issue in the news now – so more and more information is coming out. It sounds like a ‘he said’ – he being the terrorist – versus ‘they said’, being the SEALS. So I would urge the people above who make these decisions to take the word of 4 SEALS over the word of a murderer….
GW: A terrorist
AJM: A terrorist, basically.
DH: I would agree with that.
And you know something else. Look at the disparity in standards here, and the unfairness that enshrouds this entire situation. That is, you had four contractors; they bumbled off the main road in Falluja in April of 2004, or late March of 2004. They were captured, grabbed by this crowd, presumably at the behest of this Al Qaeda leader. They were murdered. They were dragged through the streets. They were hung from that bridge and they were burned as I recall. And where the American press is going to focus is not on that fact, not on the remarkable cruelty of Al Qaeda and their ruthless nature, but it’s going to be on whether or not the guy that did this got a fat lip…
AJM: It’s frickin amazing…
DH: …whether we were mean to him. And one thing I really resented from the president in his remarks tonight. He said, “I have ordered that torture be stopped”.
AJM: No! He said WHAT??
LD: He said THAT??
DH: Yeah, he said “I ordered for torture to be stopped and Guantanamo to be closed”. You know there is only one major prison in the world that has never had a murder. And that’s Guantanamo. The President’s home prisons in Illinois have had multiple murders and he’s never called for any of them to be closed down. But beyond that, we do NOT torture people. Waterboarding is not torture.
DH: We use it as a training device for our own people. And I think it was Chris Matthews who asked me “then what’s your standard for what is torture?” So I said if we do it to ourselves in training, that should be an acceptable method for extracting information.
RM: There ya go.
DH: So now I have the lefties in the position where they have to say we basically torture our own people in training when we waterboard; for the president to say that!!
You know people around the world really do torture people. There are police departments that drive splints under people’s fingernails. And hook them up to batteries and electrocute them. And when they see that word ‘torture’, they think that’s what WE do. So when the president uses that term, because he’s now decided what has been heretofore considered to be allowable, this waterboarding, is now torture. When he uses that term, he denigrates our country, and he creates what he MUST know is a false impression. That is the impression that we somehow do electrocute people, that we do drive splinters under people’s fingernails, and we do enormous depravation of food and water--- which we simply do not do!
AJM: It fits nicely with his world view, as far as I know it to be. His entire life was mentored by radicals from Bill Ayers to Frank Marshall Davis to a plethora of communists and Palestinian rights activists, and blah blah blah. It’s part of his world view. He can’t shake it.
DH: Yeah. So we definitely got a mixed bag here with this guy. But I thought two major disservices to our country in this speech: One, saying that we tortured people. Another, saying that Iraq was a “bad war”, with all those guys at West Point, some of whom fought in Iraq. And lastly, giving an absolute date for leaving.
There’s never been a war in history that’s been won by establishing a quitting time. The clock doesn’t determine who wins these things.
Anyway, those are my views, and I know you had a few more questions here my friend.
AJM: Yes, yes. I’d like to return very briefly to our previous conversation on our global warming alarmist friends in the media and so forth. I know you’ve had access to the media now that you are out of Idaho. These E-mails that someone hacked into and released, from the East Anglia University, I believe, which is kind of the head operation for the global warming cabal, and global warming scientists. And they released those to the press. Come to find out these dirty suckers have been suppressing real scientific data and crafting the stuff to fit their own agenda, just like you said they did before we knew all this. In fact one of the guys had to step down from his prestigious post today. Its snowballing right back in their face…..
DH: I think what I told you before is this: That the evidence of global warming is very thin. Scientific evidence. That the ‘political evidence’, if you will, now dominates the discussion. And I think that part of that is ensuring that the scientists who don’t believe global warming is either as critical as its described, or that it exists at all, that they are pushed rapidly away from the forum, from the rostrum. And global warming has now become a political ‘fact’, rather than a scientific fact.
AJM: That’s a perfect way to state it. You don’t need to go any farther than that. These guys are in a heap of trouble so stay tuned…..
DH: Hey, incidentally you ought to pull…remember the guy who was the head of one of the major scientific groups. He passed away several years ago. Doggone it, I can’t remember…
AJM: The National Academy of Sciences?
DH: Yes, the National Academy of Sciences. You know who I’m talking about?
AJM: I know who you are talking about, but I don’t know his name.
DH: He was the senior statesman of scientists. He was the head of the National Academy of Scientists. And he was a staunch foe of the proposition of global warming. When I talked to you last time I had mentioned I saw his obituary, some time ago. And his statements ought to be pulled up.
AJM: I’ll look into that.
DH: At least when he was politically correct, he was considered to be a fairly revered scientist. (chuckles)
AJM: Yeah, until he went against the grain, then he was just an old coot.
AJM: I’ll see if I can find it. It will be interesting to see how close he was to the truth. I think we are going to get a lot more revelations coming in the next months and weeks.
DH: Let’s just say there needs to be a REAL scientific debate.
AJM: Absolutely. Last question is not so topical, but it’s kind of important. And we can take it up again later if time expires on us. What do we need to do to actually turn back the massive growth in the federal government? Not just to stop the growth, but to reduce the scope of it. What do Republicans and conservatives, what message do we need to take forward to actually start chopping some of this stuff out. In your record, you have been on record as trying to get rid of the Department of Education, trying to get rid of the Art and Humanities, trying to get rid of even the Department of Energy at one point. So I know you’ve been down this road before. But I think at this time the country is ripe for actually looking seriously at slashing instead of just slowing. What is your recommendation?
DH: Well, one step that could be taken very quickly is to freeze non-defense discretionary. I think that ought to be frozen. But the annual growth in non-defense discretionary spending could be taken down very quickly.
AJM: There goes Obama’s agenda…
DH: Yeah, you’ve got to realize that necessity is the mother of invention. And I think we are seeing the very difficult times right now, where we are basically printing a lot of money, which has to have an inflationary effect. And the alternative to becoming fiscally responsible is to have massive inflation to pay off this huge amount of borrowing that has attended this last period of time. I’m just an old retired guy now, but I think we are going to have to take very, very strong steps and I think it’s going to be a result of coming up against the brink of massive inflation!
AJM: Yes. Do you still advocate getting rid of the Department of Energy, maybe transferring over its useful functions to….
DH: Oh absolutely!! I think we can get rid of A LOT of departments. And we can also cut….one thing I did for years as the Chairman of the Armed Services Committee, initially chairman of the procurement subcommittee, was to cut the ‘shoppers’. That is the bureaucracy that just purchases weapons systems. These are not the folks that do the engineering, not the folks that bend the metal and make these things. At one point we had two Marine Corps of shoppers, professional shoppers. That’s almost 300,000 in the Department of Defense. They did the paperwork for acquisitions for systems. At one point, if you bought a $10 million helicopter, you spent $3 million on the shopping bureaucracy for purchasing it. So we were cutting 25,000 folks a year, much to the consternation of the Pentagon.
We’ve got a massive bureaucracy. I think it’s instructive that the only job sector that has increased during this period of massive job losses has been in many cases government jobs.
I got to go here pretty quick old kid, but go ahead.
AJM: I just wanted to add to that. I read that Obama was bringing in 20,000 more shoppers to the Pentagon.
AJM: Probably people that were lobbying for such because they lost their jobs when you were running the thing.
DH: That’s too bad. That’s money that doesn’t go to the troops, it doesn’t go to ammunition, it doesn’t go to make things. It simply goes for paperwork.
AJM: Do you think it’s still possible to dump some of these things, like the Dept. of Education that I…
DH: That obviously requires a political change. And it’s going to require a Republican administration.
AJM: Another one I think should go away and give the money back to the states is HUD. There’s a whole plethora of ones like that I think we can work towards eliminating.
DH: You’re never going to get that kind of trimming until you get a conservative, Republican administration. But for us, it’s just having a nice conversation. That’s all its doing. Some of the things we talked about are achievable, like winning in Afghanistan – we could do that with the Obama administration. But if your talking about getting rid of all these departments in the federal government that is not possible with the Obama administration. (laughs)
It is just us having a nice conversation.
AJM: That is true. Well we’ll let you go and….
LD: Wait, wait, wait. Congressman Hunter?
DH: Sure, Lynn.
LD: Was it Frank Press for the Academy of Science?
DH: Now which name did you say?
LD: Frank Press?
DH: I’m just not sure. You know a friend of mine sent me his obituary here some months ago. He was very old. There can’t have been that many presidents of the Academy of Sciences.
LD: Now I had them here just a second ago now and I picked him as the most likely one…
DH: He was quite a senior citizen. And he passed away within the last several years.
LD: DO you know when he was president, how long ago.
DH: No, but it couldn’t have been too long ago.
AJM: Well, we’ll research it. We’ll figure it out.
DH: Yeah, look into it.
LD: I thought if I said the name, Jim, he might remember….
DH: No. No, I don’t recall his name. OK. Listen. Thanks so much guys for tuning in here. And let’s hope our country survives these difficult times.
AJM: And thank you for going out and promoting some of these great candidates to take some of these democratic seats. You have a nice stable there, Mr. Hunter.
DH: We are going to try to help as many as we can. When I come into their districts, there numbers may drop a few points, but I’m going to help them anyway.
AJM: OK, we’ll just talk next week then.
DH: OK. Goodnight.
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