'No bigger evil' than Islam, Sen. Lindsey Graham says

From the Worcester (Mass.) Telegram & Gazette

By Mark Sullivan

Republican presidential candidate U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina drew applause at a Jewish breakfast held Sunday as he voiced staunch support for Israel while calling for American troops to join a multinational force to take the fight to ISIL in Syria.

“There’s no way to defend freedom without fighting against evil, and there’s never been a bigger evil since World War II than radical Islam,” Mr. Graham said.

U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina speaks Sunday in Worcester, Mass.

U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina speaks Sunday in Worcester, Mass.

“It’s evil in every way you can define it. It represents the darkest of dark. They want three, four things really: to destroy every Muslim who disagrees; to destroy the Christian faith; eradicate the one and only Jewish state, and come after infidels in America and throughout the West.

“They’re going to do it if somebody doesn’t stop them. I intend to stop them.”

Mr. Graham was in Worcester to address a breakfast at Central Mass. Chabad, a synagogue at 22 Newton Ave. that is associated with the Lubavitch branch of Hasidic Judaism.

The South Carolina Republican, a veteran of the U.S. Air Force Reserve, presented on the Chabad House’s behalf the Shlomo Yehuda Rechnitz Inspiration Award, a military appreciation honor, to a U.S. Marine. The recipient, Sgt. Dustin Waldrep, 27, a Georgia native stationed at Fort Devens in Ayer and a veteran of service in Afghanistan, accepted on behalf of all armed service personnel.

Mr. Graham accompanied his hawkish appeal for action against ISIL and defense of Israel with a call for greater bipartisanship in Congress - which he promoted, to laughs from the Hasidic rabbis in his audience, by suggesting rival politicians should drink more together.

“Back here at home, we’re going to become Greece if we don’t deal with the unfunded liabilities of Medicare and Social Security,” Mr. Graham said. “We’re going to have to ask people to work a little bit longer if you’re young, and if you’re in my income level, to give a little bit up.

“I intend to do both - destroy ISIL and save America. I don’t know how to do it without working with Democrats. Ronald Reagan and (former House Speaker) Tip O’Neill got to know each other by having a drink in the White House. If I’m president I’m going to open up a bar, have a drink and save America.”

Mr. Graham, noting he has traveled 36 times to Iraq and Afghanistan, devoted a significant portion of his remarks to Mideast policy and especially the United States’ alliance with Israel.

“Since (I was) ... a little bitty boy in Baptist church, I’ve been told God blesses those who bless Israel,” he said. “That’s a pretty good foreign policy.”

Mr. Graham slammed the recent Iran nuclear deal. “The biggest threat to the state of Israel over time is the ayatollah with a nuke,” he said. “They’ve been trying to build a bomb ... And they actually would use it.”

He said the deal gives Iran $100 billion and enables the regime to buy more conventional weapons in five years, build a missile in eight, and process uranium without limitations in 15.

“This is a bad deal that should be torn up and replaced with a better deal,” he said. “If I’m president we tear it up. The No. 1 obligation of the next president, in my view, is to put Iran back in a box before it’s too late."

He urged taking the fight to the radical Islamic terror groups like ISIL, also known as ISIS, and al-Qaida that are consolidating power in Syria and Iraq, while threatening more terror strikes abroad.

“How many of you believe the only reason 3,000 Americans died on 9/11 is they just couldn’t get the weapons to kill 3 million of us?” he said. “If they could they would. They’re not limited by their desire to kill - they’re limited by their capability to kill.

“What do I worry about the most? Another 9/11. Here’s what’s going to happen if we don’t destroy the Caliphate - they are coming here.

“If you don’t understand that we need more American boots on the ground in Iraq and eventually in Syria as part of a regional army to destroy ISIL, then you’re not ready to be commander-in-chief. I believe that in all my heart."

Mr. Graham has joined his Senate ally John McCain, R-Arizona, in urging a near-tripling of U.S. troops in Iraq from the current 3,500 to 10,000 to help destroy ISIL in Iraq, and the commitment of another 10,000 US troops to a combined Arab-Turkish force of 80,000 to 100,000 to rout ISIL from its capital of Raqqa in Syria.

“We’ll integrate our forces in theirs and we’ll go into Syria and destroy the Caliphate and we’ll pull it up by its roots,” he said. “Then you’ve got to hold the territory. If you don’t it happens all over again."

He said the young people of the Mideast no longer wish to live under dictatorships. “There’s a fight for the heart and soul of Islam,” he said. “I’m going to side with those in the faith who would live in peace with me and reject radical Islam.

“Most moms and dads don’t want to turn their daughters over to ISIL. Most people over there want many of the same things you want here. So this is not a war between us and Islam. This is a war between the world and radical Islam.”

Mr. Graham, who has been running at the bottom of the GOP presidential polls, said he seeks to raise money to buy air time in New Hampshire, in the hope he can do well in the first-in-the-nation Granite State primary. If he can’t break through there, he said, he will re-evaluate his campaign.

“I’ve got to start moving and I’ve got to start moving pretty soon,” he said.

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