August 21st, 2007
05:13 PM ET
15 years ago

Thompson: Time for a 'frank discussion' about fighting terrorism

Thompson addressed the VFW Tuesday.

(CNN) - Fred Thompson, the all but announced Republican presidential candidate, suggested Tuesday that the nation was in denial when it comes to the threat of terrorism.

“I don’t think that yet as a nation we have come to terms with the nature and the extent of the threat facing this country,” Thompson said while addressing the annual convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars in Kansas City, Missouri.

Calling terrorism “a global threat” to the United States, Thompson pointed out that he thought the United States was at a crossroads and told the veterans “it’s time that we had a frank discussion in this country at the highest levels with both parties as to what it’s going to take and the unity we’re going to need” to battle terror.

Thompson also faulted those calling for a troop withdrawal from Iraq, saying it would hurt the overall fight against terrorism.

“Some people in this country apparently think that if we can pull out of Iraq, our problems are going to be over. You and I know better than that. We know that Iraq is an important front in this war,” Fred Thompson said to an audience of combat veterans on Tuesday.

(Related video: watch part of Thompson's remarks at the VFW convention)

Citing recent reports out of Iraq’s Al Anbar province, Thompson said progress was being made on the ground.

Thompson’s remarks about the war on terror echoed themes frequented by President Bush in defending the war in Iraq at a time when the Republican presidential field is trying to win over the Republican Party’s conservative base.

Senators Hillary Clinton, D-New York, and John McCain, R-Arizona, spoke to the convention Monday.

Thompson is expected to formally announce that he is running for president sometime around Labor Day.

Sen. Barack Obama, D-Illinois, also addressed the VFW convention on Tuesday.

"We honor your service and we enter into a sacred trust with you from the moment you put on that uniform," Obama said to the nation's veterans. "That trust is simple. America will be there for you just as you have been there for America," he added.

"As a candidate for the presidency, I know that I am running to become commander-in-chief, to safeguard this nation's security, and to keep that sacred trust. There is no responsibility that I take more seriously," he said after weeks of being attacked for his foreign policy views by Clinton and other contenders for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination.

(Related video: watch the end of Obama's remarks at the VFW convention)

–CNN Associate Producer Martina Stewart

soundoff (69 Responses)
  1. Kevin, Miami, Fl

    I'll vote for this guy if he keeps saying all the right he just did.

    August 22, 2007 04:12 am at 4:12 am |
  2. Izzy, Queens New York

    Fred Thompson is just anoother fear mongering neo-con dunce. What the hell does he mean by 'frank sicussion'? There's no place for fear mongering and trying to use terrorism as a tool to win elections. Those days are long gone. The fact of the matter is the terrorists were holed up in the treacherous valleys between the borders of Pakistan and Afganistan and a republican led government thought it prudent to bomb the s**t out of a nation that had nothing to do with terrorism. Now, iraq is a haven, terrorists thrive there. Who is to blame? It's high time someone be held accountable. Americans would be plain stupid to vote for another republican.

    August 22, 2007 06:14 am at 6:14 am |
  3. macon, charlotte north carolina

    Ask the "True" Ronald Reagan Quesiton. Are we better off than you were 8 years ago? And then ask the question, "Why are we not better off?". Republicans and democrats remember, recovery only starts when you realize you have a problem. Abortion, gay marriage, immigration, Alberto Gonzales are all smoking mirrors. I guess divide and conquer still works. Forget the magic show... tell us the truth.

    August 22, 2007 06:58 am at 6:58 am |
  4. Jo: Louisville, KY

    The problem with some people criticising her is – they think Hillary BELIEVES what she says. There is always a REASON for what she says and it is for affect and seldom true.

    August 22, 2007 07:18 am at 7:18 am |
  5. Anonymous

    Mike San Diego-
    You sir, get it. Best discussion of the real point Ive ever heard..

    August 22, 2007 07:28 am at 7:28 am |
  6. mark, BBH,ME

    CFR, enough said, study and be educated. Understadn the nature of the enemy within we face.


    August 22, 2007 07:41 am at 7:41 am |
  7. Bill Charleston SC

    Never from anyone in the "Out of Iraq" croud have I heard a realistic plan for bringing the troops home while at the same time providing stability in the middle east. The only thing I hear over and over is "we need to get out of Iraq". In other words, we need to come running home with our tail between our legs because this is too hard for us.

    That is definitely not the right answer folks. Were mistakes made in the conduct of the war? You betcha. There's never been a war fought without mistakes. We need to get away from our attitude of fighting "sanitized wars" in this country. War means people die. Many times innocent people. That is the nature of warfare, and soldiers understand this very well. The goal of any war is to kill as many of the enemy while minimizing our own casualties. But just because there are casualties on our side does not necessitate our surrender. Iraq is winnable. And it was good policy to invade in the first place. In the end, if we elect a tough president, we will win in Iraq, and we will provide lasting stability in the middle east. If that's hard for you to swallow, look at Korea. We've been there for over 50 years. And there has been great stability in that area of the world because of our presence. Iraq will be no different.

    Maybe it's time for this nation to grow a real backbone. The war on terror is real. It should be fought places other than Iraq, but also in Iraq

    August 22, 2007 07:54 am at 7:54 am |
  8. Eric, Washington DC

    We do need a clear and honest conversation on radical fundamentalist Islam, and their chosen tactic in the war waged on those whom they oppose. Unfortunately, we have not had one since 2001 but rather have had RFIslam used as a political tool by the administration and Republican party to secure continued power. The Democrats offered little as well. Now, we have Guiliani adopting the same tactics as the administration–campaigning on a 2002-2004 platform of "scare the crap out of us." Once both parties are able to speak of the threat in something other than slogans, soundbites, and hollow proclamations, the conversation will begin. I haven't faith that it will, though, and thus we will remain in danger until we have the courage to abandon "terrorism" and RFI as political tools, and understand them as real figures on the global stage, figures that will not be subdued with bullets or bombs but rather intelligent policy and inspired diplomacy. Good luck, America.

    August 22, 2007 08:23 am at 8:23 am |
  9. NS, New York


    You are quite right about the aims of the leaders and those who have already committed to follow them- but you are overlooking the role of US actions in helping them to continually recruit new members. Every society has fanatical crackpots like them in one form or another, but what makes these particular ones dangerous is that they have been able to continually attract new followers as their old ones are killed off (or kill themselves off). Yes we have to keep fighting them, but we had better try to develop some tactics that won't serve as their best recruitment arguments. And to get this back on topic: Fred T, I have to be very frank and say, that in the war on terror we don't need a lazy (as all of Washington says), not-too-smart (as Richard Nixon said), long-time lobbyist as our leader.

    August 22, 2007 09:12 am at 9:12 am |
  10. Gary, Shoreview Minnesota

    I think Mr. Thompson is in denial. These old people in the Congress are living in fear of themselves. The mindset of all these so-called Christian Warmongers is so far from the Teachings of Christ, the Bible refers to these people as Hypocrites".

    August 22, 2007 09:15 am at 9:15 am |
  11. Steve, Phoenix, Arizona

    That's nice, Fred.

    You and Frank go off somewhere and have a nice discussion and leave the rest of us alone.

    August 22, 2007 10:54 am at 10:54 am |
  12. Dave, Miramar Beach Fl

    Frankly Fred, You need to stay on Law and Order because when you were a Senator, you did absolutely nothing during your term. The inside the beltway joke about you Fred is that you are mentioned as the most inactive Senator in American History! Fred, you need a frank talk to your pal G W Bush about how he screwed up the war on terror when he invaded Iraq. Fred Thompson, America needs someone has a proven leadership, not a throwback to the Nixon years like you. Nice try Freddie see you in the reruns.

    August 22, 2007 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  13. Mary, Beaver, PA

    Evan Esteves, you're right. Apparently, Fred Thompson has forgotten all about Osama bin Laden, just like George W. Bush has.

    August 22, 2007 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  14. J, Seattle, WA

    “Ron Paul is one of the outstanding leaders fighting for a stronger national defense. As a former Air Force officer, he knows well the needs of our armed forces, and he always puts them first. We need to keep him fighting for our country.”

    Ronald Reagan

    August 22, 2007 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  15. David, Gilbert Arizona

    Journalism at its best:

    “it’s time that we had a frank discussion in this country at the highest levels with both parties as to what it’s going to take and the unity we’re going to need” to battle terror.

    Note the words to battle terror are not inside the quotes. Those words belong to the reporter to shorten Fred's statement into a nice sound byte. What gets me most about these type of articles is the way the short attention span Americans completely over look subtleties such as this.

    Fred describing terrorism as a global threat isn't exactly Earth shattering news. Terrorism from the Middle East goes all the way back to the Nixon Administration. During the Carter Administration Iran extremists took American hostages. During the Reagan Administration I was sitting on a Navy ship off the coast of Beirut Lebanon during the Israeli PLO conflict. All through the Bush Sr. Administration Islamic extremists took hostages like Terry Waite, Jesse Turner, and Alann Steen. A Kuwaiti airliner was hijacked with 122 hostages on board demanding the release of 17 convicted terrorists. This does not take into consideration groups like the IRA or the Red Army either. So yes, terrorism is a global problem and always has been. Maybe it's time this country opens its collective eyes to the reality inwhich we live. Things will never be the same as they were. Get used to it.

    A comment Fred Thompson made during his speech, and one you won't see on CNN, is that he is tired of Americans being ashamed of being American. He said in his speech that the United States has shed more blood in the service of other countries to keep them free than all of the nations of the world combined. That is nothing to be ashamed of.

    August 22, 2007 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  16. David, Salinas, CA

    Bill of Charleston SC writes:
    “Never from anyone in the "Out of Iraq" croud have I heard a realistic plan for bringing the troops home while at the same time providing stability in the middle east.”

    Bill, you might want to look at the soft-partition plan put forward by Senator Joe Biden, whose foreign policy credentials are probably better than anyone else in the race. Here’s an excerpt:

    “The idea is to maintain a unified Iraq by federalizing it and giving Kurds, Shiites and Sunnis breathing room in their own regions. The central government would be responsible for common interests, like border security and the distribution of oil revenues. The plan would bind the Sunnis – who have no oil - by guaranteeing them a proportionate share of oil revenues. It would convene an international conference to secure support for the power sharing arrangement and produce a regional nonaggression pact, overseen by a Contact Group of major powers. It would call on the U.S. military to withdraw most U.S. troops from Iraq by the summer of 2008, with a residual force to keep Iraqis and their neighbors honest. It would increase economic aid but tie it to the protection of minority rights and the creation of a jobs program and seek funding from the oil-rich Gulf Arab states.”

    There’s more on Biden’s web site:

    August 22, 2007 06:06 pm at 6:06 pm |
  17. Pam A Summerside PEI

    Jon Dempsey said, "If we really want to end terrorism against the U.S., we need to look at our foreign policy, our economic globalization, and the way we behave in the international community."

    Unlike Chris, I feel Jon's statement has substance. America needs a new perspective on International Policies and Affairs. I believe there current view of being the World's Super Power bearing the sole responsibly as International Police and Peace Keepers needs more than mere tweaking. If America was willing to see the obvious they would see themselves as the rancorous antagonistic, dictators and ne'er-do-wellers of the world.

    I believe it is America's ill conceived belief of omnipotent power that garners them more enemies than allies. And gives them a priority ranking on the Terrorists' list.

    August 23, 2007 09:46 am at 9:46 am |
  18. Bill Charleston SC

    To David in Salinas

    Of all in the Democratic field, I find Joe Biden to be the most genuine candidate. Sadly, he most likely won't win the nomination. On his plan for Iraq however, I still don't see it as realistic. Leaving a token force behind at this point would be a huge mistake. Iraq needs the security our forces provide, and at the same time, they need time and assistance to work through the issues confronting them politically. Building a democracy takes years, decades even. The example of a young United States of America tells us that. The problem is, our nation does not have the stomach to do what is necessary long term to build democracy in Iraq. We expect immediate gratification, and that is not possible in this case.

    August 24, 2007 08:19 am at 8:19 am |
  19. Ron Nebraska

    A war on terror? Let's win that we'd have to kill every member of the terror side and not make more members willing to use terror as a tactic of war.......sure sounds doable to me! Or maybe we could get past the simple rhetoric and actually intelligently address the problem and move on to a solution.

    August 25, 2007 09:45 pm at 9:45 pm |
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