Terrorism Is the Price of Empire

Pat Buchanan spoke with Bill Maher on Sept. 3 about Iraq and the "War on Terror." The following is a transcript from Real Time With Bill Maher.

MAHER: First of all, if Osama bin Laden was captured and killed today, it would have the same effect on terrorism as Ray Kroc had dying for McDonald’s. [laughter] [applause] They have already built the franchises. Ray Kroc doesn’t need to be alive to sell more McDonald’s hamburgers. But I’ve got to go to – I want to talk to Pat Buchanan. I’ve wanted to talk to him for 12 years. He’s been resisting me. He finally said he’d do this show. We got him on the satellite. He’s an MSNBC political commentator. He was, of course, the senior advisor to Nixon, Ford and Reagan, and then ran three times for president himself. His new book is Where the Right Went Wrong. Patrick Buchanan, ladies and gentlemen. [applause] How are you, Mr. Buchanan?

PATRICK BUCHANAN [via satellite]: I’m doing fine, Bill.

MAHER: All right. I have been wanting to talk to you for a long time. I’m always fascinated by the way your positions somehow wind up, even though you are an archconservative, on the left. For example, you are very much against this war in Iraq , that we were just talking about. You called it – you said, “Terrorism is the price of empire.” That’s something Michael Moore might say.

BUCHANAN: Well, I think it’s something the British might say when they were driven out of Palestine, the French might say when they were driven out of Algeria. Quite simply, in this modern world, if you try to rule other peoples, even to alter them, make them democratic or force them to change their ways to conform to your own, you’re going to have a serious problem with those people. They’re going to fight, just like the American revolutionaries fought against the British Empire. [applause] We ought to know that. We were the first – we were the first people to rise up against an empire.

MAHER: So when we were so against the French, maybe they knew something, is that what you’re saying? Maybe the people who had colonial empires like the French and the British people – although not their prime minister – and the Germans, maybe they were trying to tell us something because they had more experience?

BUCHANAN: Oh, I think that’s right. I think that – but I think the president did the right thing in having to go into Afghanistan and take down the Taliban and go after Osama bin Laden. They had come over to our country and killed our people. I think where we made a mistake was invading a sovereign country. It was led by a thug and a criminal, but they had had no role in 9/11. They did not want war with us. [applause] They did not attack us. They could not injure the United States of America . And we sent an army up to Baghdad . And as I warned the president again and again, in columns in our new magazine, “Look, we’re going to get up there, and after three weeks, we’re going to inherit our own West Bank, only it’s going to be 25 million Iraqis.” And that’s exactly what’s happened. [applause]

MAHER: Speaking of Israel , Tom Delay this week equated what’s going on in Israel with the rest of the war on terror. He said they are pretty much one and the same. I’m wondering what you think of that. I’m wondering if you think it’s disturbing that we have a born-again president who believes that the return of Jesus is imminent, and when he returns, he’s going to want to go home; he’s going to go to Jerusalem; he’s not going to wind up in Ohio. [laughter] And therefore, I think Bush’s religious convictions have something to do with his political convictions about that country of Israel .

BUCHANAN: You know, I don’t know exactly – clearly, his religious convictions, which I respect and admire on the president’s part, reinforce his views with regard to Israel . But I believe the mistake the president is making is outsourcing American Middle East policy to Ariel Sharon. [applause] But the problem here, Bill, is this: the problem is that on the war in Iraq , which I think was a mistake, the president does believe in it deeply. I do not believe John Kerry believed in this war. I don’t think Hillary Clinton did. They voted to give him a blank check to wage a war in which they did not believe. And that is why, whether you agree or disagree or like or don’t like Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney, it is quite clear that in their hearts, they still believe they’re doing the right thing. Does John Kerry believe that? I don’t think so.

MAHER: Does that mean you’re voting for Bush?

BUCHANAN: Well, you know, if it comes down to a choice between Kerry, who, you know, really doesn’t seem to – he doesn’t take a strong stand against the president’s policy, like your other guest, Howard Dean, did. I don’t know why you would vote for John Kerry, even if you’re like Pat Buchanan and you believe the country is headed in the wrong direction. On immigration, I think we ought to defend our borders. I think we ought to stop sending those jobs overseas and keep them home. And I think we ought to stop launching imperial wars. [applause]

MAHER: All right.

BUCHANAN: But why vote for John Kerry when he agrees with George Bush on all three of them?

MAHER: I’ll take that as a yes. [laughter] So, 12 years ago, you spoke at the Republican National Convention.


MAHER: And you got blamed by a lot of people because you opened up this can of worms called the “culture wars.” And it amuses me because I think people know what the culture wars are. The shorthand I use is that half the country thinks every problem can be solved by either more guns or more Jesus, and half the country doesn’t. And there’s your culture war. But it seems to me that this President Bush is so much more of a culture warrior than his father. How come he escapes getting blamed for that?

BUCHANAN: Well, he is more – what you’ve got to realize is that George Bush, Sr., really is of Kennebunkport, and George Bush, Jr., has one foot in Midland-Odessa. I do think he is not only credible, believable, but he is honest, that he is a born-again Christian. I deeply respect these people. They voted for me in the South in the primaries and helped me to a great extent. I think, by and large, they’re a beneficent force in American politics, and I don’t have any real problem with him. I agree almost with him all the way. I do disagree on the Middle East. But, Bill, I think that your audience ought to realize – and I know they’re having a lot of laughs at George Bush’s expense – George Bush and those fellows ran a ruthless, tough, brave, magnificent convention. They stayed focused. They paid no attention to the media, which said you’ve got to be kinder, gentler. They went after and they carved up John Kerry. And I think they may have gotten him in a position where if he doesn’t really shine in those debates, he is toast.

MAHER: Why aren’t the Democrats better at fighting back? If John Kerry this week had said the war on terrorism is not winnable, this election would be over, if it isn’t already. How come the Democrats don’t have a mechanism to fight back the way the Republicans can do? Where are those Democratic cojones?

BUCHANAN: Well, look, the Democrats – the Democrats in the past sometimes – John F. Kennedy’s era – they were as tough as Republicans, and even tougher in a lot of cases. I think your problem is your candidate. The candidate feels his party is an antiwar party and an anti-Bush party. It wanted some red meat up there. Kerry wouldn’t give it to them. None of them gave it to them. I think Kerry’s reasoning is this. He thinks, by and large, that if he comes out antiwar, the Republicans will McGovernize him as we did, quite frankly, with Nixon in 1972, with Senator McGovern, and he will go down the tubes just like Dukakis and all the other liberals that ran against conservative Republicans in the last 25 years. He is afraid to make that move.

But I’ll tell you this, Bill. I think he’s going to come to a period in October, if he is not ahead, where he’s going to have to roll the dice and say, “We’re going to have to come out on this war in Iraq and differentiate ourselves from Mr. Bush, or we’re going down to defeat.”

MAHER: I wish somebody would. Thank you very much.

BUCHANAN: Thank you.

MAHER: Patrick Buchanan. I hope you join us again. [applause]

Author: Patrick J. Buchanan

Patrick Buchanan is the author of Churchill, Hitler, and "The Unnecessary War."