Rand Paul said in 2007 interview that U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East was at the core of the reasons for terrorism and that the 9/11 Commission showed that the September 11th attacks were made in response to U.S. presence in foreign lands.
RAND: You know, the Giuliani thing I think is hilarious. Here's a guy who has 9/11 printed on his chest and everywhere he goes he beats that drum and he hasn't even read the 9/11 Commission. And the 9/11 Commission was a bipartisan commission. It was by no means any kind of partisan statement, but they readily admit that the main reason the terrorists say they came here is because we're over there, because we have bases in their land and they don't like it.
The interview was conducted in December 2007 by Free Range Thought Radio. It is no longer online but available through the Web Archive. Paul was acting as a surrogate for his father's presidential campaign at the time.
The executive summary of the 9/11 Commission noted that Osama bin Laden's 1998 fatwa mentioned American "occupation" of Saudi Arabia. Bin Laden also spoke of Iraqi's who suffered from U.S. sanctions and U.S. support for Israel, among other grievances.
Paul continued, saying violence related to the U.S. occupation of foreign countries was similar to the reasons "we rebelled against the British."
RAND: And while Americans a lot of times don't want to hear this, my Dad says, 'What would it be like if Fort Bragg were full of 50,000 Chinese soldiers? How many North Carolinians would be planting roadside bombs every time the Chinese drove outside their base. People do not like having foreign soldiers quartered in their land. That's why we rebelled against the British. We didn't like their soldiers here.
Paul and the host were discussing this exchange his father had with Rudy Giuliani in a 2007 presidential debate.
In the interview, Paul went on to take aim at then-President George W. Bush, calling him "ridiculous" for saying "they hate us for our freedom." Paul said Americans should try to understand "why they hate us" and what policies create terrorism.
RAND: Yeah, Bush likes to say 'They hate us for our freedom, our big cars, and the First Amendment. And that's just kind of ridiculous, you know, on the face of it. And if you don't really understand why they hate us and why they come here, we can never make any policy. And I think what's important out of that is then some Republicans try to say, 'Oh, you just want to appease the terrorists.' Well that's not true. I mean, you have to recognize what policy creates terrorism. Because you can't kill every Muslim in the world. There's a billion Muslims. We have to learn to live together to a certain point. That doesn't mean we don't pay back and go after people who attack us. My dad did vote to go into Afghanistan. But we have to get away from this whole idea that we can create sort of our own Western-style democracies in other countries. You know, Michael Scheuer, the CIA expert on Al Qaeda, he says Karzai in Afghanistan will last only as long as our soldiers are there. Because they do not want Western hand-picked leaders. They want to pick their own leaders.
Paul's comments stand in contrast to his presidential campaign announcement speech where he said this:
"...without question we must defend ourselves and American interests from our enemies, but until we name the enemy, we can't win the war. The enemy is radical Islam. You can't get around it. And not only will I name the enemy, I will do whatever it takes to defend America from these haters of mankind."
Paul's comments are similar to those he made in a January 2008 speech in Montana where he said "we'd be setting the roadside bombs" if there were Chinese soldiers in the United States.
"We need to figure out what is going on with terrorism. We need to figure why they attack us. Some Republicans don’t want to hear this, but I live near Fort Campbell and there’s 50,000 soldiers there and I tell people you have to imagine your feelings—and you have to truly imagine what your feelings would be if those soldiers were Chinese soldiers and they were occupying the United States. We wouldn’t have it. Republican and Democrat, we’d be setting the roadside bombs, blowing up the Chinese soldiers as they came off the base. No country wants foreign soldiers on their land."
Likewise, Paul added he did not think Iran was a threat to the United States.
"Recently the national intelligence estimate came out and said Iran's not building and hasn't been working on a nuclear bomb for four or five years. Iran cannot even refine their own gasoline. Western or European countries have to help them get the oil out of the ground and sent to Europe and refine and sent back. I find it hard to believe that a country that can't refine their gas is somehow a threat to our national security."