MR. RUSSERT: Mr. Speaker, what are we witnessing in the Middle East?
MR. NEWT GINGRICH: Well, let me, let me offer three observations. First, this is not the fifth day of the war. This is the 58th year of the effort by those who want to destroy Israel. As Ahmadinejad, the head of Iran, says, he wants to defeat the Americans and eliminate Israel from the face of the earth. So we should not see this event in isolation. There is an Iran/Iraq/Syria—I mean, an Iran/Syria—was an Iraq before Saddam was replaced—Syria, Hezbollah and Hamas alliance trying to destroy Israel.
Second, the Israelis withdrew from Gaza to create the circumstance of peace. The Israelis withdrew from south Lebanon to create the circumstance of peace. They now have a thousand missiles fired from Gaza, they’ve had hundreds of missiles fired from south Lebanon. You clearly have Iranian involvement, there are at least 400 Iranian guards in south Lebanon. Apparently it was an Iranian missile fired by Iranians which hit an Israeli warship yesterday. The United States should be saying to Syria and Iran, “South Lebanon is going to be cleared out. We are for Israel and the Lebanese government breaking the back of Hezbollah, getting rid of all 10,000 to 13,000 missiles, and we will decisively stop any effort by Syria and Iran to intervene.”
I mean, we, we are in the early stages of what I would describe as the third world war, and frankly, our bureaucracies aren’t responding fast enough, we don’t have the right attitude about this, and this is the 58th year of the war to destroy Israel. And frankly, the Israelis have every right to insist that every single missile leave south Lebanon and that the United States ought to be helping the Lebanese government have the strength to eliminate Hezbollah as a military force, not as a political force in the parliament, but as a military force in south Lebanon.World War III?
MR. RUSSERT: This is World War III?
MR. GINGRICH: I, I believe if you take all the countries I just listed, that you’ve been covering, put them on a map, look at all the different connectivity, you’d have to say to yourself this is, in fact, World War III.
MR. RUSSERT: Senator Biden, is it our war?
SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN (D-DE): Indirectly, it’s our war. It seems to me it’s partially our responsibility. I don’t, I don’t agree with the World War III analogy, but I do believe that here we had Israel get out of southern Lebanon. I was there for that election, I was “an official observer.” All the talk from everyone in the parties in Lebanon, that they had to get rid of Hezbollah. The, the U.N. Resolution 1559 said that the—that as, as Israel got out, the, the army of the Lebanese people were going to move and take over that responsibility, they didn’t.
But I might add that we didn’t do anything to help them. We didn’t do anything at the time to help train them. We didn’t do anything at the time to give any attention to it. And now we are, because of our lack of a prevention strategy, we’re left with no option here, in my view, but to support Israel in what is a totally legitimate self-defense effort. How can they, in fact, sit still when they have all these rockets that are very sophisticated sitting on their border, knowing they’re being—going to be fired at them and expect to stand there and the rest of the world sitting around?
And the last point I’ll make, Tim, is I find it fascinating people talk about has Israel gone too far. No one talks about whether Israel’s justified in the first place. Let’s assume Israel’s overreacting. I want to see the world stand up and say, “By the way, this in fact, is an unprovoked effort on the part of a terrorist organization supported by two countries to undermine the democratic state.” Until they say that, I think it’s awful—I think it’s a secondary question whether Israel’s gone too far.Cease-fire?
MR. RUSSERT: Speaker Gingrich, President Bush, should he try to intervene in this latest Middle East crisis, seek a cease-fire?
MR. GINGRICH: No. I mean, I think it is explicitly wrong and I think Senator Biden and I are basically in agreement on this. It is explicitly wrong to bring pressure on the victim. I mean, Israel did everything it could to withdraw from south Lebanon, and the result was terrorist missiles. Israel withdrew from Gaza, creating an opportunity for a self-governing Palestinian people to create a place of prosperity, and they’ve created a place of terror. And I think for us to now say—imagine that was Miami. Imagine Miami had missiles being fired at it every day. Remember that when Israel loses eight people because of the difference in population, it’s the equivalent of losing almost 500 Americans. Imagine we woke up this morning and 500 Americans were dead in Miami from missiles fired from Cuba. Do you think any American would say, “Now, we should have proportionate response. We shouldn’t overreact”? No. We would say, “Get rid of the missiles.” And, and John F. Kennedy, a Democrat who understood the importance of power in the world, was prepared to go to nuclear war to stop missiles from being in Cuba.
I don’t, I don’t think that, that any realistic person who’s being fair about this is going to focus on Israel. That’s why I don’t want people to think of this as a five-day war. As Senator Biden said, there has been a continuing failure of opportunity to strengthen the Lebanese government. There’s been a failure of opportunity to train and, and, and reinforce the Lebanese Army. There’s been a failure to say, “Look, we are ultimately going have to get—we’re going to have to defeat Hezbollah, and if that means in the long run we have to do something about Syria and Iran, then we need to face up to this.” Ahmadinejad, as recently as yesterday, the leader of Iran, said...
MR. RUSSERT: What do you mean do something about Syria and Iran?
MR. GINGRICH: I mean do whatever it takes—look, let’s say that tomorrow morning the Syrians decide to engage Israel. Let’s say the Iranians decide that they’re going to reinforce their 400 Iranian guards.
MR. RUSSERT: What do you do?
MR. GINGRICH: Well, the first thing you do is say they’re not going to have any over-flight privileges.
MR. RUSSERT: Isn’t it...
MR. GINGRICH: The second thing you do is you say to the Syrians, we have great capacity to pressure the Syrians if we want to. I gave a speech at the American Enterprise Institute three years ago and said that the State Department approach of trying to deal with this dictatorship would fail. I think by any reasonable standard, trying to be nice to the Syrians, trying to understand the Syrians, is a dead loser as long as this dictatorship is there, because the planning meetings with Hamas and Hezbollah occurred in Damascus with the Iranian and Syrian ministers.
MR. RUSSERT: But an attack by Syria or Iran on Israel would be considered an attack on the United States?There's more, too. Great job, Mr. Gingrich & Senator Biden.
MR. GINGRICH: I think it should be, it should be an action that we would reinforce the Israelis and others in doing what is necessary. And I think we have—clearly have the capacity to do something. I’m not describing going—widening a war. I’m saying the first step has to be to understand, this is an alliance- -Syria, Iran, Hezbollah, Hamas—and you can’t deal with it in isolation.