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Fred Thompson on War & Peace

Former Republican Senator (TN)


Stay the course and take opportunity to succeed

Q: A couple of years ago you said, “It’s just a matter of staying the course. And as long as we have the will to stay, we’ll be OK.” Is that still your view?

A: Yeah. I think so. It seems to me like, at the end of last year, we were losing the war. It seems to me now, in the last five months, that there’ve been a lot of good things happen there.

Q: But staying the course, the status quo, can that be our strategy?

A: Well, it’s not a stay-the-course strategy, in terms of what’s been going on there. It’s giving us an opportunity to succeed. You know, we’ve got take yes for an answer. We got to take success as a reality when we find it.

Q: Should we plan on being there several years?

A: Well, I don’t know what several years means. I mean, we just don’t know. I would hope that it would not be indefinite.

Q: But you oppose withdrawing any troops right now.

A: Well, I think we ought to stay on the course that we’re on. We’ve got people on the ground who apparently now know what they’re doing.

Source: Meet the Press: 2007 “Meet the Candidates” series Nov 4, 2007

Osama bin Laden is more symbolism than anything else

Q: In Iowa you told reporters, “Bin Laden is ‘more symbolism than anything else.’” To the people who died on September 11th, Osama bin Laden is more than symbolism.

A: I’ve never been accused of being soft on Osama bin Laden. What I think sometimes happens in this country is that we fixate on a personality. And even someone as evil as this man, we need to understand, if he’s killed, someone will take his place. It’s almost like the focus is so much on him that we think our problem will pretty much go away if we get him. Getting him is important. It’s important because he’s the head of this operation right now. It’s important because of symbolism and lots of other reasons. No question about that. But the notion that our problems are pretty much going to be solved when he goes away-- we can’t be fixated-- it minimizes the nature of the problem.

Source: Meet the Press: 2007 “Meet the Candidates” series Nov 4, 2007

Pledges to do everything possible to prevent Iranian nukes

Q: Would you make a pledge that Iran will not develop a nuclear bomb while you were president?

A: That would be my intent. I would make a pledge to do everything that I could to keep it from happening.

Q: How far are they away from having one?

A: Nobody knows. It’s not an easy job. But they’re not easy to find, either, in a place like Iran.

Q: You said an attack may backfire. What, in fact, would be the fallout from a US attack on Iran?

A: Well, sometimes you’re faced with two very bad decisions, and those are two very bad decisions. What would happen if they sent a missile with a nuclear warhead and hit Israel? What would happen if they did the same to our people in the field with some kind of attacks by a nuclear weapon? What would happen if they held that whole region hostage in terms of oil?

Q: So where do you come down?

A: You can’t answer that in advance. I mean, we’re talking about a little ways down the road.

Source: Meet the Press: 2007 “Meet the Candidates” series Nov 4, 2007

Stabilizing Iraq, and not leaving, is the right policy

Q: Has the Bush policy toward Iraq been a good one?

A: I think the policy that we’re engaged in now is the right one. Clearly, to me, we didn’t go in with enough troops and we didn’t know what to expect when we got there. But now we’re showing signs of progress. I think we got to take advantage of the opportunities that we have there, to turn around and us to stabilize that place and not to have to leave with our tail between our legs. If we did that, it would make for a more dangerous USA.

Source: 2007 Republican debate in Dearborn, Michigan Oct 9, 2007

Iraq certainly had WMDs in the past & would have nukes now

Q: We haven’t been able to find the WMD. You said recently that you believed that there were such weapons in Iraq. Do you believe they were there right before we got in and they were moved out somewhere?

A: No, no.

Q: What do you believe?

A: No, I didn’t say that. I was just stating what was obvious, and that is that Saddam had had them prior. They used them against his own people, against the Kurds.

Q: Okay.

A: And of course, he had a nuclear reactor back in ‘81 when the Israelis bombed that. And the Iraqi Study Group reported that he had designs on reviving his nuclear program, which he had started once upon a time. So there’s not question that he had had them in times past. And in my own estimation, there’s no question that if left to his own devices, he and his son would still be running that place, attacking their neighbors and murdering their own people and developing a nuclear capability, especially in looking at what Iran is doing. And the whole place would be nuclearized.

Source: 2007 Republican debate in Dearborn, Michigan Oct 9, 2007

Ask Congress, even if not required, to attack Iran’s nukes

Q: If you were president, would you need to go to Congress to get authorization to take military action against Iran’s nuclear facilities?

A: Yes, [at a minimum, I’d consult Congress]. Under the War Powers Act there’s always a conflict as to the exact applicability of when an engagement lasts for a particular period of time and when the president must come before Congress. I would say that in any close call, you should go to Congress, whether it’s legally required or not, because you’re going to need the American people, and Congress will help you. If they are voting for it or they support it, or leaders, especially in the opposite party, are convinced in looking at the evidence that this is the right thing to do, that will help you with the American people. In any conflict, we’ve got to have the strong support of the American people over a protracted period of time.

Source: 2007 Republican debate in Dearborn, Michigan Oct 9, 2007

FactCheck: Said Saddam had WMDs, but not at 2003 invasion

Thompson corrected moderator Chris Matthews, who wrongly implied that the former senator had said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction “right before” the US-led invasion of Iraq:
Q: You believed that there were WMDs in Iraq. Do you believe they were there right before we got in--they were moved out somewhere?

A: No, I didn’t say that. I was just stating what was obvious, that Saddam had had them prior. They used them against his own people--against the Kurds.

Thompson was correct. Matthews referred to remarks the senator made in Iowa. The Des Moines Register quoted him as saying, “We can’t forget the fact that although at a particular point in time we never found any WMD down there, he clearly had had WMD. He clearly had had the beginnings of a nuclear program.” Thompson didn’t say in the speech when Saddam “had had WMD.” The Register updated its article with a follow-up interview in which he made clear he was referring to a period long before the war.
Source: FactCheck.org on 2007 Republican debate in Dearborn MI Oct 9, 2007

Success cannot always be measured by battlefield victories

The specter of WMD in the hands of our worst enemies continues to grow, and still we have yet to really come to terms with the nature & extent of the threat we are facing from radical Islamic terrorism. These extremists look at this war as a long struggl that has been going on for centuries; they are willing to take as long as necessary to bring the US and our allies to our knees, while killing hundreds of thousands of innocent people, if possible. Iraq and Afghanistan are current fronts in this war and the world watches as our will is tested. Our courage as a people must match that of the brave men and women in uniform fighting for us.

In this broader war with this different kind of enemy, our success cannot always be measured by battlefield victories. Success will depend upon the determination of the American people and that’s why we’ll win. There is a courage that comes in unity. Now is the time to show that America united can overcome any danger, and America united can complete any missio

Source: Candidacy announcement speech Sep 6, 2007

World becomes more dangerous if we leave Iraq

I don’t think there’s any question that if we leave Iraq before there is some semblance of stability in that nation, so those brave people there have a chance to make their government & democracy work, that the world is going to be a more dangerous place And as long as we have any chance there, as long as those brave people on the front lines who are making our sacrifices for us, and doing so much as long as they have a chance and they say they have a chance, we need to give them the opportunity to make that work there.

My own feeling is that under the worst circumstances there that we’re going to leave a new haven for terrorists and we’re going to leave an area of the world that becomes more and more nuclear. That those civilian nations surrounding Iraq will respond to what Iran is doing to their nuclear program and that the whole place will be nuclearized and that will be bad for us in many respects.

Source: Address at the Lincoln Club 45th Annual Dinner Aug 3, 2007

All wars are full of mistakes; trust General Petraeus

Q: You said, essentially, you agree with what the president is doing now. You said all wars are full of mistakes.

A: Yes.

Q: You said, “We went too light later, and the rules of engagement were wrong, and the strategy was wrong.” Where do we go from here?

A: I think we’ve got to take the next step, and that is wait and see what General Petraeus says in September. I listen to him. I think he may be one of the best people we’ve got in the entire military, and I think he’ll tell us the truth.

Source: Fox News “Hannity & Colmes” interview Jun 6, 2007

Pre-emptive attack on Iran if close to nuclear weapon

Q: If it’s clear that Iran is getting close to getting a nuclear weapon, would it be your policy to support preemption as a means of taking out or wiping out those facilities, considering they’ve repeatedly threatened to wipe Israel off the map?

A: Yes, yes.

Q: It would be?

A: Yes.

Source: Fox News “Hannity & Colmes” interview Jun 6, 2007

Iraq is a war between civilization and evil

Q: The defining issue of our time is the war in Iraq. You have said it’s a war between civilization and evil. What do you mean by that?

A: It has to do with the need for all of the civilized countries--that is, most all of them that are not terrorist countries or terrorist havens--to realize we have to come together. That’s one of the big failures that we have right now, because a lot of people in other parts of the world just don’t see it yet. They see us as the #1 threat and really, in some cases, the only threat, when we’re going to have to bond together and face this thing together against these forces, because it’s going to pick us off one by one.

We’ve seen our country attacked time and time again over the last decades. They’re methodically going around trying to undermine our allies and attack people in conventional ways, while they try to develop non-conventional ways, and get their hands on a nuclear capability, and ultimately to see a mushroom cloud over an American city.

Source: Fox News “Hannity & Colmes” interview Jun 6, 2007

If we had not gone to Iraq, Saddam would be developing nukes

Q: Knowing what we know now, was it the right thing for us to go into Iraq?

A: Yes. What people don’t think enough about is what if we had not gone into Iraq. You know, after defying the UN 17 times, after corrupting the oil-for-food program and the UN itself, and defying the US, Saddam would have been there, the new king of the hill in that part of the world, with his murderous sons still putting people in human shredders, still a threat to his neighbors, still developing his plans for a nuclear capability.

I mean, he had those plans. He had the technical expertise. Whether he had them on one particular day or not is almost irrelevant. Especially today, looking at what Iran is doing, he certainly would have had his hands or been working assiduously toward getting the capability of nuclear weapons. And that’s what we would have been faced with had we not done that. Going in there and deposing him was a good thing.

Source: Fox News “Hannity & Colmes” interview Jun 6, 2007

I would do essentially what the president’s doing in Iraq

I would do essentially what the president’s doing [on Iraq]. I know it’s not popular right now, but we’re the leader of the free world whether we like it or not. People are looking to us to test our resolve and see what we’re willing to do in resolving the situation that we have there.

If Saddam Hussein was still around today with his sons looking at Iran developing a nuclear capability, he undoubtedly would have reconstituted his nuclear capability. Things would be worse than what they are today.

Source: The Fred Factor, by Steve Gill, p.144 Jun 3, 2007

Take any chance to not get run out of Iraq

We’ve got to rectify the mistakes that we’ve made. We went in there too light, wrong rules of engagement, wrong strategy, placed too much emphasis on just holding things in place while we built up the Iraqi army, took longer than we figured.

Wars are full of mistakes. You rectify things. I think we’re doing that now.

Why would we not take any chance, even though there are certainly no guarantees, to not be run out of that place? I mean, we’ve got to take that opportunity & give it a chance to work.

Source: The Fred Factor, by Steve Gill, p.144 Jun 3, 2007

Internationalizing war effort will not win the war

For those who argue that “internationalizing” the security force will allow us to win the war, I would simply ask what foreign nation should be in Iraq that is not already there? Does anyone seriously believe that the only thing keeping us from military victory in Iraq is a couple of platoons of French soldiers and a NATO stamp of approval?

We should not confuse symbolic gestures for genuine strategy. Our enemies can tell the difference, and so should we.

Source: The Fred Factor, by Steve Gill, p.153 Jun 3, 2007

President must decide on war based on unclear evidence

Intelligence services had consistently over the years understated the capabilities of enemies & potential enemies. [With Iraq] there was unanimity among the intelligence services, some of whom are supposed to be better than ours. People don’t understand intelligence. It’s seldom clear. It’s often caveated. It’s sometimes flat-out wrong. Different people often have different ideas. That’s what a president is faced with. And some today would say that politically a president has got to have unanimity before he can make a choice.

It’s absurd. Presidents in the future, as always, have to make a determination based on a lot of things, and intelligence is one of them. And the president not only has the right to evaluate the intelligence that he’s receiving, he has a duty to do that. He listens to the British. I mean, if history was any judge, if the Brits tell me that there’s an [Iraqi] deal with Niger and our guys don’t know whether there was or not, I tend to rely on the Brits.

Source: The Fred Factor, by Steve Gill, p.145 Jun 3, 2007

Prophets of doom are wrong--we can’t cut-and-run

In every war, the prophets of doom reach for the same old phrase book: Every significant battle facing the US has been “another Vietnam.” But just as these voices were wrong in 1991, wrong in 2001, wrong in 2003, so too are they wrong again today.

Let’s not minimize the challenges. Our nation faces a formidable enemy, in Iraq & elsewhere. Angry Baathists, fanatical Islamists and opportunistic terrorists from across the Mideast have perpetrated attacks against US soldiers, US allies, & against the Iraqi people themselves. Our resolve as a nation is being tested.

It’s obvious we can’t afford to cut and run. Even the most partisan critics admit as much. However, by invoking Vietnam, they are in effect predicting a US defeat & pullout. Even as they give lip service to winning, they foment a sense of despair, instead of offering a strategy for victory.

Let’s be blunt here: For many of President’s critics there is a domestic constituency to be won from failure abroad. They are campaigning on defeat

Source: The Fred Factor, by Steve Gill, p.149 Jun 3, 2007

Goal of Iraqi enemies is to demoralize us

The strategic center of gravity for this war is American willpower. Our enemies know that they cannot defeat us in any conventional military contest, so instead, their aim is to demoralize us, to shake our resolve. They know that their only hope is in gruesome, made-for-TV atrocities to undermine the confidence of the American public. Their purpose is not to win, but to convince us that we can’t win, to break our will, to convince us to cut and run. Unfortunately, that strategy is not illogical. We have run before.

Past failures of will are among the main reasons we are under siege today. Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in 1990 because he believed that Americans couldn’t take casualties. He looked at Vietnam & Lebanon and concluded that the Americans didn’t have the guts for a really tough fight. America’s failure to confront Saddam during the 1990s, as he thwarted weapons inspectors and economic sanctions and corrupted the oil for food program, only spurred him further.

Source: The Fred Factor, by Steve Gill, p.150 Jun 3, 2007

Serious & painful international sanctions on nuclear Iran

The Iranian people are not an anti-Western horde. They’re an educated and freedom-loving people for the most part, and reformers there have been begging us for support & sanctions that would weaken the ruling theocracy. Instead, they’ve seen the Iranian dictatorship bully the West into impotent submission.

We need to use every means at our disposal, starting with serious and painful international sanctions, to prevent Iran’s rulers from becoming the nuclear-armed blackmailers they want to be. Unfortunately, we are hearing demands that we abandon the people of the Middle East who have stood up to Islamo-fascism because they believed us when we said we would support them.

If we retreat precipitously, the price for that betrayal will be paid in blood & freedom by the Iranian people [and then others]. And America’s word may never be trusted again. Right now, the pirate Ahmadinejad is clearly more confident about the outcome of the Global War on Terror than we are. That ought to give us pause.

Source: The Fred Factor, by Steve Gill, p.155-156 Jun 3, 2007

If world doesn’t stop Iran nukes, Israel will

The balance of power [in the Mideast, between Israel and its neighbors], is about to change. If Iran develops nuclear weapons, the very existence of the tiny nation of Israel will be threatened. The Iranian regime has left little doubt that it intends to see Israel “wiped off the map.” If the world doesn’t act to stop Iran’s nuclear ambitions, it must be prepared for the consequences of Israel defending itself.
Source: Thompson’s blog on ABCradio.com, “Living in Terror” May 30, 2007

If Saddam were still around today, things would be worse

Q: What would you do now in Iraq?

A: I would do essentially what the president’s doing. I know it’s not popular right now, but I think we have to look down the road and consider the consequences of where we are. We’re the leader of the free world whether we like it or not. People are looking to us to test our resolve and see what we’re willing to do in resolving the situation that we have there. People think that if we hadn’t gone down there, things would have been lovely. If Saddam Hussein was still around today with his sons looking at Iran developing a nuclear capability, he undoubtedly would have reconstituted his nuclear capability. Things would be worse than what they are today. We’ve got to rectify the mistakes that we’ve made. We went in there too light, wrong rules of engagement, wrong strategy, placed too much emphasis on just holding things in place while we built up the Iraqi army, took longer than we figured.

Source: Fox News Sunday: 2007 “Choosing the President” interviews Mar 11, 2007

We’re on the way to prevailing in Iraq for a safer US

We are in a global war with radical Islam. They declared war on us a long time ago. We took note for the first time on 9/11. We must do whatever is necessary to protect ourselves. We weren’t considered to be arrogant in Afghanistan when we went in there & won that conflict. We made a mistake in terms of going into Iraq as far as the number of troops is concerned and a flawed strategy. That’s been rectified now. We’re on the way to prevailing there. Because of that, it’s going to be for a safer US.
Source: 2008 Facebook/WMUR-NH Republican primary debate Jan 5, 2006


Fred Thompson on Voting Record

Voting for the war then against funding is just poll-based

Q: Hillary Clinton is wrong saying this is George Bush’s war?

A: Well, of course. I mean, which way did she vote when the time came?

Q: She voted for it, and then she just voted to cut off funds.

A: Yes. It’s a public opinion poll deal for most of them.

Q: What does that mean to you?

A: That means you want to be president worse than anything in the world. And they know how to read public opinion polls.

Source: Fox News “Hannity & Colmes” interview Jun 6, 2007

Voted YES on authorizing use of military force against Iraq.

H.J.Res. 114; Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002. The administration would be required to report to Congress that diplomatic options have been exhausted before, or within 48 hours after military action has started. Every 60 days the president would also be required to submit a progress report to Congress.
Reference: Bill H.J.RES.114 ; vote number 2002-237 on Oct 11, 2002

Voted YES on allowing all necessary force in Kosovo.

Majority Leader Trent Lott motioned to kill the resolution that would have authorized the president to "use all necessary forces and other means," in cooperation with U.S. allies to accomplish objectives in Yugoslavia.
Status: Motion to Table Agreed to Y)78; N)22
Reference: Motion to table S. J. Res. 20; Bill S. J. Res. 20 ; vote number 1999-98 on May 4, 1999

Voted NO on authorizing air strikes in Kosovo.

Vote to adopt a resolution to authorize the President to conduct military air operations and missile strikes in cooperation with NATO against Yugoslavia (Serbia and Montenegro).
Reference: Bill S.Con.Res 21 ; vote number 1999-57 on Mar 23, 1999

Voted YES on ending the Bosnian arms embargo.

Ending the Bosnian arms embargo.
Status: Bill Passed Y)69; N)29; NV)2
Reference: Bosnia Herzegovina Self-Defense Act of '95; Bill S. 21 ; vote number 1995-331 on Jul 26, 1995

Condemns anti-Muslim bigotry in name of anti-terrorism.

Thompson co-sponsored the Resolution on bigotry against Sikh Americans:

Title: Condemning bigotry and violence against Sikh Americans in the wake of terrorist attacks against the United States on September 11, 2001.

Summary: Declares that, in the quest to identify, locate, and bring to justice the perpetrators and sponsors of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, the civil rights and liberties of all Americans, including Sikh-Americans, should be protected.

Source: House Resolution Sponsorship 01-HR255 on Oct 4, 2001

Move the US Embassy to Jerusalem.

Thompson co-sponsored the Jerusalem Embassy Act

Corresponding House bill is H.R.1595. Became Public Law No: 104-45.
Source: Bill sponsored by 77 Senators and 78 Reps 95-S1322 on Oct 13, 1995

Other candidates on War & Peace: Fred Thompson on other issues:
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Libertarian: Rep.Bob Barr
Constitution: Amb.Alan Keyes
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Page last updated: Feb 08, 2010