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Exclusive Interview: Former Sen. Rick Santorum Slams Biden's Afghanistan Withdrawal Near 9/11 Anniversary

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Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum is a senior adviser to the Convention of States, a group dedicated to promoting the principles of limited government. Santorum was the chair of the Senate Republican Conference during the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, and reflected on his unique experience on that tragic day close to its 20th anniversary in an exclusive interview with The Western Journal.

Western Journal reporter Cameron Arcand asked Santorum about Sept. 11 and the recent withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan.

Cameron Arcand: Senator, can you describe your experience on that day and what you’ve noticed, and how the nation has changed 20 years later?

Rick Santorum: It was a Tuesday morning. When all this hit, I was still at home. I hadn’t gone into the office yet, which was unusual. But that’s the way it worked out that day. So my day was sort of a surreal day. I was a member of the Republican leadership as the third-ranking leader at the time. I wanted to know if there were any responsibilities I had, because there are the places to go, the things to do and basically talk to the security people, the Sergeant at Arms. They basically said, “Look, we have no idea how extensive this threat is, but there’s going to be more attacks.”

There were reports that there was a plane heading to the White House or to Congress. So the word was, “If you’re not here, don’t come. We have no idea whether there’s any sort of attack planned on the leadership of Congress. Since you’re one of the leaders of the Congress … you should get in your car, you should leave your house, if you have any identifying marks in your car, take them off … and drive someplace you’ve never been before.”

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So I packed up my family, did what I was told — the security protocols — and waited out till the mid-afternoon when it was clear what had happened. We were just listening there like every other American, incredulous to what was occurring in our country.

The second question you had is where are we now compared to then? It was a time when we just elected a president. We just came off of President [Bill] Clinton, who was a controversial president, but one that we were able to unify and get things done in Congress. We passed several major pieces of legislation on a bipartisan basis with George Bush … There was cooperation going on and it was a different atmosphere. It was very partisan, don’t get me wrong — it was more partisan than I would have liked. But there was still a bit of a sense of … collegiality.

When 9/11 came along, everybody bonded together. We were all one team. We were trying to figure it out. There were obviously people who wanted to do different things, but there was a lot more willingness to look at ideas and to respond in a way that was forceful and unified. That was one of the things that we thought was really important, that we had to show a sense of unity against this threat.

We knew it was a growing threat. Most Americans didn’t, and most Americans didn’t because it simply didn’t hit that close to home. We had things going on in Africa and Yemen and other places where Islam was popping. But when it hit, everyone very quickly realized this is a threat that we have to take seriously. So there was a sense of purpose and unity.

Do you agree with Santorum?

People forget if it didn’t happen in the last few weeks or months or a few years, then the memory lapses and we see threats that were once very seriously and universally perceived now are not. So we look at the last 20 years and the people in both parties who suggest that Afghanistan was such a waste and all these commitments that we made, where 20 years ago, the idea that we would have gone 20 years without a major terrorist incident in the United States would have been unthinkable.

There was no chance that was going to happen. The fact that it hadn’t happened would be seen as — whatever policy we put in place would be seen as a great success. But now it’s seen as though we wasted our time and we put all this money in there and this was folly, we were trying to nation-build. I think there may be some in both parties that thought the idea of nation-building was a goal. But I think most people saw it.

Our efforts in South Asia were to prevent bad things from happening. I think it was a pure national security play. We have troops in South Korea, we have troops in Germany, we have troops in Japan, we have troops in dozens and dozens of countries around the world.

And so the idea that this division has occurred is, I think is more reflective of the division that in some respects occurred as a result of the sort of the divide in politics in America, and that there really is no comity left … the parties are so far apart politically. They have nothing politically policy-wise. I mean, we were far apart.

They were liberals and conservatives. You had Bernie Sanders there. But Bernie Sanders was considered a whack job. I mean, he was just way out there on the left and most members dismissed him on the Democratic side as someone who was this crazy, crazy communist-socialist. But now he’s the head of the Democratic Party.

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CA: What’s your message to young Americans like myself and others who are either too young to remember the 9/11 attacks or weren’t even alive for them? How do we make sure that we remember what happened on 9/11 and making sure that something like that doesn’t happen again?

RS: I don’t know what young people see as the reason that another attack on America can’t happen. Maybe the reason is that they don’t see radical Islam as that dangerous? Maybe they just don’t see it as that capable compared to maybe China or Russia or others.

The difference is if you look at radical Islamists, they don’t have the capability of a nation-state now. They have a nation-state in the case of Iran. They do in the case of Pakistan, a nation all of whom are governed by very hard-core Islamists. And again, this is not about remembering 9/11, but this is simply reading the history of Western civilization and its wars against the Islamic world.

CA: What are your thoughts on the administration essentially leaving behind hundreds of Americans in Afghanistan? What should the U.S. government or other groups be doing right now to get these people out of there?

RS: We got a lot of people out of Afghanistan simply because we just were shoving everybody on the planes who could get in and out. But it’s very clear we did not adequately focus on Americans intensively and other folks who were the top targets of the Taliban. We have a situation where the people who did get out, who were many of the cases, those targets were gotten out not by our State Department and by our military, but by individual Americans and Brits and Australians and others who were sent — the French — who were sending people.

You had an international response that was much more effective in getting our people out. It was a situation created by horrible decisions that created a crisis. This was not a crisis. Afghanistan was not a crisis that had a counter there in 18 months. We had a limited number of troops. Things were in a stable place. The idea that Joe Biden said “we had to do this” is ridiculous. He did it for political reasons and it crumbled and fell apart.

He had no really good plan to make sure that Americans and allies and people who had helped us in Afghanistan — where religious minorities who are now being targeted by the Taliban — for them to have a place to go, not necessarily to America, just to get out. We simply set this artificial deadline because he didn’t want any more casualties. So he’s going to lead people on.

Domestic politics have nothing to do with our national security, have nothing to do with making sure that those who are our allies are taken care of. What Joe Biden did was so bad on so many levels. I hate to say it, but I see some in our party who are equally enthusiastic about withdrawing from our role in the world to create a stable world.

So I think people are looking at the incompetence of Joe Biden — the betrayal of our allies, the lack of involvement and engagement and making sure that our national security going forward is protected. You see people on both sides who are giving him a pass on those things. I think that creates a real long-term threat for our ability to be able to protect ourselves.

This interview has been lightly revised for grammar, length and clarity. 

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Cameron Arcand is a political commentator based in Phoenix, Arizona. His "Young Not Stupid" column launched at The Western Journal in January 2021, making Cameron one of the youngest columnists for a national news outlet in the United States. He has appeared on One America News and Fox 5 DC. Since 2019, he has been a Young America's Foundation member.
Cameron Arcand is a political commentator based in Phoenix, Arizona. In 2017 as a school project, he founded YoungNotStupid.com, which has grown exponentially since its founding. He has interviewed several notable conservative figures, including Dave Rubin, Peggy Grande and Madison Cawthorn.

In September 2020, Cameron joined The Western Journal as a Commentary Writer, where he has written articles on topics ranging from the COVID-19 pandemic, the "Recall Gavin Newsom" effort and the 2020 election aftermath. The "Young Not Stupid" column launched at The Western Journal in January 2021, making Cameron one of the youngest columnists for a national news outlet in the United States. He has appeared on One America News and Fox 5 DC. He has been a Young America's Foundation member since 2019.
Location
Phoenix
Languages Spoken
English




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