Carson: If U.S. Declared Energy Independence, Saudis Would Have Given Us bin Laden
STEPHANOPOULOS: "You are the only Republican, the only major candidate who opposed President Bush’s decision to invade Afghanistan after 9/11. I want to show what you said at the debate."
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CARSON: "Declare that within five to 10 years, we will become petroleum independent. The moderate Arab states would have been so concerned about that, they would have turned over Osama bin Laden and anybody else you wanted on a silver platter within two weeks."
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STEPHANOPOULOS: "That’s what you said he should have done. But how would that have worked? How would you have gotten the moderate Arab governments to turn over Osama bin Laden in two weeks? He’d already been expelled by Saudi Arabia. He was already an enemy of those moderate governments."
CARSON: Well, I think they would have been extremely concerned if we had declared — and we were serious about it — that we were going to become petroleum independent, because it would have had a major impact on their finances. And I think that probably would have trumped any loyalty that they had to — to people like Osama bin Laden."
STEPHANOPOULOS: "But they didn’t have any loyalty to Osama bin Laden. The Saudis kicked him out. He was their enemy."
CARSON: "Uh, well, you may not think that they had any loyalty to him, but I believe otherwise."
STEPHANOPOULOS: "So you believe that had President Bush simply declared energy independent, they would have turned over Osama bin Laden. How would they have gotten him out of the tribal areas of Afghanistan and Pakistan?"
CARSON: "I think they would have known where he was. You know, there were indications, for instance, during the Clinton administration that — that they knew exactly where he was but didn’t necessarily pull the trigger. If — if we could tell where he was, I’m certain that they knew where he was."
STEPHANOPOULOS: "But at that point, we had some idea but we didn’t know for sure. I simply don’t understand how you think this would have worked."
CARSON: "Well — well, here’s the point — here — here’s my point. My point is, we have — we had other ways that we could have done things. I personally don’t believe that invading Iraq was an existential threat to us. I don’t think Saddam Hussein was an existential threat to us. It’s a very different situation right now. Now, we have global jihadists who want to destroy us and our way of life."
STEPHANOPOULOS: "But sir, I wasn’t..."
CARSON: "And that is a completely different situation."
STEPHANOPOULOS: "I wasn’t asking about invading Iraq, I was asking about invading Afghanistan, which had been harboring Osama bin Laden."
CARSON: "Well, I was primarily talk — talking about Iraq. You know, I wasn’t particularly interested in going into Afghanistan but I do think that we should have taken aggressive action. And I think, you know, creating a base that did not require tens of thousands of our troops, that required a — a group. And I think we probably have that number pretty close to right now, about 10,000 or so and being able to use our drones and being able to use our intelligence and things of that nature, I think that’s probably all that was necessary in Afghanistan."
STEPHANOPOULOS: "Sir, when we look back at 9/11, 3,000 people dead on that day. We knew Afghanistan was harboring Osama bin Laden. Ninety percent of the American public supported taking military action. Every member of Congress but one. If that is not a case where you would order retaliation, what is?"
CARSON: "Well, I just said, I do believe that we should have taken aggressive action. I just don’t think necessarily putting tens of thousands of our troops was the correct way to do it. But, you know, we’re talking about things that are in the past. We will never know the answer to that. We really need to be concentrating on what are we going to do now to deal with the global jihad threat."
STEPHANOPOULOS: "And you’ve said that you would maintain the military presence in Afghanistan as President Obama announced this week?"
CARSON: "Yes, I would. I — I think we saw what happened in Iraq when we precipitously withdrew. I don’t think that we want to make that mistake again. And I’m very happy to see that we have a learning curve there."
STEPHANOPOULOS: "And just before I move on, though, I just want to be clear here. So you’re standing by the statement that had President Bush simply declared energy independence back after 9/11, that would have caused the moderate Arab governments to turn over Osama bin Laden?"
CARSON: "I think they — I think they would have been extremely concerned about what the ramifications of that would have been. And I believe they would have been considerably more cooperative."