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On the May 16 broadcast of CNN Headline News' Glenn Beck, during an appearance by former New York City Mayor Ed Koch, host Glenn Beck cited Koch's May 15 op-ed in The New York Sun -- in which he criticized the Democrats' position on Iraq -- and then said to Koch: "I think you're exactly right. What are the Democrats thinking? They are in the dustbin for all time if we pull out, because so many people will die." Koch replied that the Democrats "will be blamed when, as [Republican presidential candidate Sen.] John McCain [R-AZ] quite correctly says, the terrorists will follow us out here to the homeland. And that, obviously, is far worse than our fighting the terrorists in their homeland." However, Beck and Koch both ignored the reported assessments of a wide range of U.S. intelligence officials and military analysts disagreeing with this view.
During the May 15 Republican presidential debate in South Carolina, in response to co-moderator Chris Wallace's first question, "Why should Americans continue to fight and die while Iraqi politicians continue to do so little?" McCain said: "If we fail in Iraq, we will see Iraq become a center for Al Qaeda, chaos, genocide in the region, and they'll follow us home." McCain has made this assertion before, as Media Matters for America has noted.
However, the assertion that terrorists will "follow us home" following a U.S. troop withdrawal is widely challenged:
- According to an April 6 McClatchy Newspapers article, as detailed by Media Matters, "[m]ilitary and diplomatic analysts" say that a similar claim President Bush has repeatedly made about the Iraq war -- that "this is a war in which, if we were to leave before the job is done, the enemy would follow us here" -- "exaggerate[s] the threat that the enemy forces in Iraq pose to the U.S. mainland." The article also reported: "U.S. military, intelligence and diplomatic experts in Bush's own government say the violence in Iraq is primarily a struggle for power between Shiite and Sunni Muslim Iraqis seeking to dominate their society, not a crusade by radical Sunni jihadists bent on carrying the battle to the United States."
- A March 18 Washington Post article reported that "U.S. intelligence officials and outside experts" have said that Al Qaeda in Iraq "poses little danger to the security of the U.S. homeland," as Media Matters also noted.
- In an April 30 report from National Public Radio's All Things Considered exploring Bush's claim that "[i]f we do not defeat the terrorists and extremists in Iraq, they ... will follow us to the United States of America," NPR correspondent David Welna cited several experts challenging this claim. He reported that retired Brig. Gen. John H. Johns considers that warning "propaganda" and that, according to Johns, "[i]t's actually leaving American forces in Iraq ... that increases the chances of a terrorist attack on the U.S." Welna also reported that retired Army Lt. Col. James Carafano, a research fellow at the conservative Heritage Foundation, "calls asserting that terrorists will follow U.S. troops home naive and poor rhetoric." Welna also featured a clip of Carafano saying: "There's no national security analyst that's really credible who thinks that people are going to come from Iraq and attack the United States -- that that's a credible scenario."
From the May 16 broadcast of CNN Headline News' Glenn Beck:
BECK: But hang on just a second. Mayor, I know you. I've read enough of what you believe. You and I are not that far apart --
BECK: -- on what's happening in the Middle East. We can't lose this. We can't just -- it'll be a bloodbath, not only over there but here.
KOCH: Oh, I believe that. I believe --
BECK: Is this -- is this a bluff that you're suggesting?
KOCH: No, no. What I'm -- no, no. You cannot bluff here.
BECK: Thank you for that.
KOCH: You must get out if you say you're going to get out. But I believe that we are not able to win by ourselves. Even the English will be leaving after Tony Blair packs it in, in June.
BECK: Something that you -- something that you said in this op-ed piece today that I found very interesting, because, as a conservative, I think you're exactly right. What are the Democrats thinking? They are in the dustbin for all time if we pull out, because so many --
KOCH: They will be blamed.
BECK: -- people will die.
KOCH: They will be blamed when, as John McCain quite correctly says, the terrorists will follow us out here to the homeland. And that, obviously, is far worse than our fighting the terrorists in their homeland.
And I believe it was right to go into Iraq, based on the information then available, and it's right to stay there now, if we could do the job. But we can't do it alone. So, if our allies, NATO, regional Arab allies, don't come in, I believe that we have to get out, but we should give them that ultimatum.
BECK: Have you seen that there seems to be a possible change in the tide in Europe recently, especially with France, but they're even taking on illegal immigration. There seems to be a change over in Europe. Do you think it's too late for them?
KOCH: Yes, I don't believe that the NATO allies will come and help us, because they didn't come and help Great Britain when Great Britain had a resolution recently before the Security Council asking NATO allies to join in, demanding that Iran return the sailors. They refused to sign on.
BECK: Is there -- your prediction on what happens with Iran. I mean, they're getting close to -- I mean, we're getting close to crossing the line of the point of no return.
KOCH: I believe, as John McCain does, that while war is terrible, it's even more terrible to allow Iran to have the nuclear bomb.