Republican presidential candidate U.S. Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) delivered a strong anti-war message at an appearance Saturday in Des Moines, praising whistle blowers like WikiLeaks, questioning the use of drone missile strikes and calling for more information going out to citizens before the military intervenes overseas.
Paul’s isolationist message sets him apart from the rest of the Republican field, and many candidates have attacked his stances on dealing with Iran in particular. He’s in third place in the latest Iowa Poll, at 12 percent support, a level of backing that’s remained fairly steady over the last several months.
Paul said whistle blowers like Daniel Ellsberg – who released the Pentagon Papers in 1971 – and groups like WikiLeaks often aren’t considered heroic but are very important in a free society. Without Ellsberg, he said, people wouldn’t have known the Vietnam War “was all rigged.”
“In the same way we get information from groups like WikiLeaks confirming the fact that we actually went into Iraq and there was no Al Qaeda, no weapons of mass destruction, it was all a gimmick to get us into a war that we didn’t need to be in,” Paul said.
Politicians in Washington are generally in favor of protecting whistle blowers, but not on all topics, Paul said. In those cases “they come down very hard on the whistle blower.” The head of WikiLeaks, Julian Assange, is under investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice for publishing diplomatic cables.
“The area where neither the Democrats or Republican leadership seems to welcome any whistle blowing is when there’s an exposure on our foreign policy, the fallacies of why we go to war and what we do,” he said.
But Paul said that information is important, and the American people should know about those things prior to going to war.
“As a matter of fact, the best way to prevent this kind of dilemma for us getting the information after the fact, is we should have the information before the fact,” he said. “That is we should never go to war without a full examination and a declaration of war.”
Paul called U.S. foreign policy “deeply flawed” and said “it’s time for us to come home and mind our own business.” He particularly questioned the use of drone missile strikes and a new policy allowing assassinations of American citizens, like Anwar al-Awlaki and his son.
“You know that when the innocent get killed, because we go after one guy and some extras get killed, don’t you think they have a right to be a little bit annoyed with us?” he asked. “But here we are dropping drones on a daily basis.”
Paul said killing an American without charges, a trial or conviction is a dangerous precedent that throws out the whole system of protecting citizens’ rights.
“How intimidated do we have to be, how insecure do we have to be that we would assassinate a 16-year-old kid that is an American citizen because what is he going to do, is he going to launch a missile against us or something?” Paul said. “I fear much more the erosion of the protection of our liberties here at home and the erosion of our economy than I do from any foreign adversary.”
Paul made the comments at the National Federation of Republican Assemblies Straw Poll, which he won handily.