John McCain Responses to AJC Questionnaire
1. The Iranian regime continues to push forward in its quest for nuclear arms capability, which would give it cover to pursue even more aggressively the goals of expanding its power and version of Islam throughout the region and beyond. Further, Iran refuses to comply with UN and IAEA demands to suspend its nuclear drive, threatening regional and world peace and security—especially with the defiant Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in the presidency. World leaders, including French President Nicolas Sarkozy, and leaders of both political parties in our country, have declared that a nuclear-armed Iran is unacceptable. Do you agree? What steps would you take to ensure that the world remains protected against the threat of a nuclear Iran? Do you think that it is possible to deter the Iranian regime should it come into the possession of nuclear weapons?
If elected, I am determined to stop Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. The Iranian president has called for Israel to be “wiped off the map” and suggested that Israel’s Jewish population should return to Europe. He calls Israel a “stinking corpse” that is “on its way to annihilation.” The Iranian regime is the number one state sponsor of terrorism in the world, providing direct support to a range of violent extremist groups.
In light of both its words and its actions ,the Iranian regime’s continued pursuit of nuclear weapons poses an unacceptable risk to the United States, to Israel, and to the world. Emboldened by nuclear weapons, Iran would feel free to sponsor terrorist attacks against any perceived enemy. The world would also have to live, indefinitely, with the possibility that Tehran might pass nuclear materials or weapons to one of its allied terrorist networks. In tandem with Tehran’s ballistic missile arsenal, an Iranian nuclear bomb would pose an existential threat to the people of Israel.
The international community has repeatedly made generous offers to Iran, in a diplomatic effort to persuade its leaders to abandon their nuclear ambitions and comply with UN Security Council resolutions. Tehran has ignored these offers and is speeding ahead with its nuclear program.
The next President must therefore be ready, from the moment he walks into the Oval Office, to ramp up the economic and diplomatic pressure on Iran, in order to convince its leaders that they must abandon their pursuit of nuclear weapons. To begin with, it is incumbent upon the UN Security Council to impose progressively tougher political and economic sanctions on Iran. Yet should the Security Council delay in this responsibility, the United States must lead like-minded countries in imposing much tougher multilateral sanctions outside the UN framework.
For instance, well over a year ago, I proposed applying sanctions to restrict Iran’s ability to import refined petroleum products, on which it is highly dependent, and the time has come for an international campaign to do just that.
The United States should also impose financial sanctions on the Central Bank of Iran, which aids in Iran’s terrorism and weapons proliferation.
We must also apply the full force of law against Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps—the branch of the Iranian government that is responsible for sponsoring terrorist groups against Israel and the United States. Last year, I supported the efforts of Senators Joe Lieberman and Jon Kyl to impose sanctions on the Revolutionary Guards. Unfortunately, my opponent in this election, Senator Barack Obama, vocally opposed the Kyl-Lieberman amendment, saying that it was “saber rattling.” I deeply disagree.
I also do not believe, as my opponent in this election does, that the answer to dealing with Tehran’s threats is for the President of the United States to hold an unconditional summit meeting with Iran’s leadership. The Iranians have spent years working toward a nuclear program. It’s hard to see what an unconditional summit with President Ahmadinejad would actually achieve, other than an earful of anti-Semitic rants and a worldwide audience for a man who denies one Holocaust and talks before frenzied crowds about starting another.
Israel and the Middle East
2. The United States has a strong bilateral alliance with the state of Israel, and also has played a historic role as a leader in the peace process. This dual role raises a series of questions. How would you characterize the U.S.-Israel alliance, and what role should that friendship play in U.S. Middle East policy? What role should the United States play in the peace process? What should be the role of other international leaders in the Middle East peace process? How could other states in the region help promote peace and fight terrorism? How should the U.S. balance Israeli security in an atmosphere of increasing pressure for concessions to the Palestinians? Should the United States continue its commitment to maintaining Israel’s ability to deter and defend against foreseeable combinations of threats, and maintain its qualitative military edge? What role should the United States play if Israel comes under attack and, in a worst-case-scenario, is unable to defend itself successfully?
The United States and Israel, the most natural of allies, must always stand together. When we join in saying “never again,” that is not a wish, a request, or a plea to the enemies of Israel. It is a promise that the United States and Israel will honor, against any enemy who cares to test us. And so, like the Jewish State itself, America’s alliance with Israel is eternal.
The threats to Israel’s security are large and growing, and our alliance must therefore grow to meet them. I strongly support the increase in military aid to Israel, scheduled to begin in October, and I am committed to making certain Israel maintains its qualitative military edge throughout the region.
The Israeli and Palestinian governments are currently engaged in talks that all of us hope will yield progress toward peace. Yet while we encourage this process, we must also ensure that Israel’s people can live in safety until there is a Palestinian leadership willing and able to deliver peace. A peace process that places faith in terrorists can never end in peace. And we do no favors to the Palestinian people by conferring approval upon the terrorist syndicate that has seized power in Gaza.
During my last visit to Israel in March, I visited the town of Sderot, just across the border from Gaza. I saw the houses that have been hit by Hamas rockets, causing injuries, death, and great destruction. No nation in the world would allow its population to be attacked so incessantly, to be killed and intimidated so mercilessly, without responding. And the nation of Israel is no exception. As the people of Israel know better than most, the safety of free people can never be taken for granted. And in a world full of dangers, Israel and the United States must always stand together.
3. Visions of a final status agreement—including those expressed by Presidents Clinton and Bush—provide for a two-state solution, with the Jewish state of Israel living side-by-side in peace and security with a Palestinian state. These proposed solutions often include adjustments to Israel’s pre-1967 borders to allow for secure and defensible borders, and to take into account major Jewish communities in the West Bank. What, if any, adjustments in the pre-1967 borders would you expect? How do you see the likely final status of Jerusalem? Within the structure of a peace process, what assurances would you expect of Palestinian leaders in fighting terrorism, dismantling the terrorist infrastructure, and ending incitement against Israel? What, if any, actions would you expect of Israel before the Palestinians fulfill these expectations? How do you envision the Palestinian refugee problem will be effectively dealt with in final status agreements? In the shorter term, what are your views on the security fence that Israel is building to a protect its citizens against terrorist attacks from the West Bank?
As President, I would reaffirm our commitment to a two-state solution that would allow Israelis and Palestinians to live in states where they are safe, free and able to build a better future for themselves and their families. But such a solution requires two parties that are both willing and able to deliver results. In the 1990s, Israel made concessions to a Palestinian Authority that may have been able to reach peace but was clearly not willing. Today, some in the Palestinian leadership may be willing to make peace, but, unfortunately, they are not fully able to deliver results. In addition, real peace won’t be achieved so long as Hamas refuses to renounce suicide bombings and other terrorist acts or even acknowledge Israel’s right to exist.
There are a number of issues that will be left to the democratically elected government of Israel to consider as it moves forward with its talks. As President, I would never pressure Israel to make concessions to states or movements committed to its destruction, and my administration will always stand with Israel in our common struggle against Islamic extremists and their state sponsors.
4. The situation in the Darfur region of Western Sudan has markedly deteriorated since President Bush labeled it a genocide a few short years ago. Despite international action to authorize a hybrid United Nations-African Union force, the crisis continues, with at least 200,000 dead and another 2.5 million displaced from their homes. If elected, what steps would you take to help end this pressing humanitarian crisis? What role should the United States play in ensuring that peacekeeping troops are able to enter the country? What steps should the United States take to lead the international community towards taking swift action to pressure Sudan?
From the very start, my administration will work in close coordination with all responsible members of the international community, leveraging all elements of American power and influence to help bring the humanitarian catastrophe in Darfur to an end. If the genocide in Rwanda and the ethnic cleansing in Bosnia taught us anything, it is that we cannot afford to stand by and watch as innocents get slaughtered. This is why, nearly two years ago, I proposed a no-fly zone over Darfur – enforced, if necessary, by NATO – in order to enforce the UN Security Council’s demand that Khartoum end its offensive military flights and bombing raids.
In a McCain administration, we will also do more both to aid in the stand-up of a peacekeeping force capable of protecting the people of Darfur as well as to overcome the obstacles which the Sudanese government has been allowed to place in that force’s way. In addition, I support granting the ICC jurisdiction in the case of Darfur and do not believe we should allow its indictments to be flaunted.
U.S. Homeland Security
5. a) Recent reports suggest that Al Qaeda is as strong as it has been since 2001. Terrorist groups operating under Iran’s influence and with Syria’s support grow more powerful in Lebanon and the Palestinian territories. Reports also suggest that a growing terrorist infrastructure tied to Iranian proxy Hezbollah is taking hold in Latin and South America. How would you, as President, lead the global fight against terrorism? Considering the successes and failures in the years since 9/11, how would you change U.S. foreign policy to effectively combat the threat of global terrorism?
a) I have called for major changes in how our government addresses
the challenge of radical Islamic extremism by investing greater
resources in the fight and promoting the integration of military and
civilian efforts to prevent conflict and address post-conflict
challenges. This is not a war with Islam. It is war within Islam, in
which a small minority of extremists are fighting against the
overwhelming majority of moderates. In this struggle, scholarships will
be far more important than smart bombs. Our goal must be to effectively
counter the plans of the extremists not simply with military force but
with all the other tools at our disposal - economic, diplomatic,
political, legal, and ideological. We must not only track down and
capture or kill confirmed jihadists, we must stop a new generation from
joining the fight.
What we need today are more soldiers and more civilians with the right kind of skills to fight a global counterinsurgency. The bulk of our effort must be directed toward helping friendly governments and their security forces to resist our common foes. We must strive to enhance our understanding of foreign cultures. We must launch a crash program in both civilian and military schools to increase the number of experts in strategic languages such as Arabic, Chinese, Farsi, and Pashto. We need to require students at our service academies to spend time studying abroad. These are not measures that will pay quick dividends. We must understand that we confront a lengthy struggle that will not be won quickly or easily. But we will win it.
5. b) How would you balance efforts to prevent terrorism with preserving civil rights? For example, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (“FISA”) enacted in 1978, and recently amended, seeks to balance government’s essential need to conduct foreign intelligence surveillance with its fundamental obligation to protect rights to privacy and due process inherent in the Constitution. Does FISA need to be further amended to ensure that both these aims are achieved? Are current oversight mechanisms sufficient to ensure compliance with FISA, and, if not, what changes would you make? Do you think FISA provides the exclusive framework under which government may conduct electronic surveillance?
b) As President, I will enhance our intelligence gathering and analysis capabilities. From the onset of the debate through its ultimate adoption, I strongly supported modernizing FISA to provide in statute clear guidance for future actions that may need to be taken. Unlike Senator Obama, I never believed that we should punish telecommunications companies that acted in good faith in response to requests for assistance from the nation’s senior national security advisors. Of course, gathering reliable intelligence is only the first step in investigating and preventing terrorist plots. I have called for comprehensive reform of our intelligence gathering efforts. Part of the reform process will include review of current oversight mechanisms to determine if they are adequate. My administration will ensure that intelligence is used effectively to protect the American people, while respecting and preserving the privacy and civil rights of all Americans.
6. Significant media attention been paid to the treatment of prisoners captured by America and its allies. Ranging from the abuses at Abu Ghraib to the attempted narrowing of legal rights at Guantanamo Bay, the current administration has been charged with allowing violations of human rights to occur. If elected, what guidelines would you establish for the interrogation of terror suspects? What status would you give to those prisoners captured during anti-terrorism operations? How would you handle violations, by U.S. soldiers or other American personnel, of these guidelines?
The laws and values that have built our nation are a source of strength, not weakness, and we will win the war on terror not in spite of devotion to our cherished values, but because we have held fast to them. We can’t torture or treat inhumanely suspected terrorists we have captured. I believe we should close the prison at Guantánamo Bay and work with our allies to forge a new international understanding on the disposition of dangerous detainees under our control. I will also direct our armed forces to create a new military occupational specialty in strategic interrogation in order to produce more interrogators who can obtain critical knowledge from detainees by using advanced psychological techniques, rather than the kind of abusive tactics properly prohibited by the Geneva Conventions.
In 2005, I fought for passage of the Detainee Treatment Act (DTA), which applied the Army Field Manual on interrogation to all military detainees and barred cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment of any detainee held by any agency. In 2006, I insisted that the Military Commissions Act (MCA) preserve the undiluted protections of Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions for our personnel in the field. And I have expressed repeatedly my view that the controversial technique known as “waterboarding” constitutes nothing less than illegal torture. America is a shining city on a hill. We cannot do what our enemies do and expect to hold the respect and admiration of people all over the world.
7. As American consumers face increasing costs at the gas pump and some of the world’s largest oil exporters espouse extreme anti-American and anti-Western sentiments, the need for a solution to our nation’s energy crisis becomes more pressing by the day, coupled with potential effects of climate change caused by greenhouse gas emissions. How would you address our dependence on foreign oil? What are viable, long-term solutions? What role should alternative energy and conservation solutions play in this plan? Would your plan include any type of measures to address the potential effects of climate change in the United States?
When I am President, the United States will embark on the most ambitious national project in decades--ending our strategic dependence on foreign oil. We will stop sending abroad $700 billion a year, much of it to countries that don’t like us. We will produce more energy at home. We will drill new wells offshore. We will build more nuclear power plants. We will develop clean coal technology. We will increase the use of wind, tide, solar and natural gas. We will encourage the development and use of flex fuel, hybrid and electric automobiles. Our approach is “all of the above”.
Even if our national security and economic interests were not in the balance, America would still have to follow the straightest path to energy security, because of a threat literally gathering around the Earth itself – climate change. To dramatically reduce carbon emissions, I have proposed a new system of cap-and-trade that over time will change the dynamic of our energy economy. We will cap emissions according to specific goals, measuring progress by reference to past carbon emissions. Energy efficiency is no longer just a moral luxury or a personal virtue – it is part of a critical national effort to regain control of our own energy future.
8. At the urging of President Bush, the United States Senate considered comprehensive immigration reform. While the Senate’s attempt at reform ultimately failed, it highlighted the severe problems plaguing our nation’s immigration system, particularly the 10-12 million undocumented immigrants currently living in the United States. If elected, how would you determine the fate of these 10-12 million people? What types of changes would you support to U.S. immigration policy on the whole? What safeguards would you take to ensure that those fleeing persecution will continue to be granted safe haven within our nation’s borders?
Along with many colleagues in the House and Senate, I twice attempted to pass comprehensive immigration legislation to fix our broken borders; ensure respect for the laws of this country; recognize the important economic contribution of immigrant laborers; apprehend those who came here illegally to commit crimes; and deal practically and humanely with those who came here, as my distant ancestors did, to build a better, safer life for their families, without excusing the fact they came here illegally or granting them privileges before those who have been waiting their turn outside the country. Many Americans did not believe us when we said we would secure our borders, and so we failed in our efforts. I don’t want to fail again to achieve comprehensive immigration reform.
As part of this reform, I will address the fact that we have a large number undocumented individuals living in the United States and working in our economy. These individuals will be required to enroll in a program to resolve their status. The program will ensure that all undocumented aliens either leave or follow the path to legal residence. America cannot permit a permanent category of individuals that do not have recognized status—a permanent second class. In addition, my program will ensure that the rights of the individual and of families will be protected. It will ensure that families are reunited and address in an expedited manner the status of individuals brought here illegally as minors through no will or intention of their own. Finally, those individuals who are targets of abuse and persecution in the homelands will continue to find safe harbor in the United States of America.
9. Ensuring that the government does not establish a religion is a constitutionally guaranteed right. At the same time, the constitution also protects the rights of individuals to practice their religion free from state influence or coercion. How do you think the government can simultaneously protect these two fundamental rights? Do you support federal money being allocated to religious institutions for provision of social services or to parochial schools? What restrictions, if any, would you put on these funds, whether provided by grants or vouchers? On another religious liberty matter, do you support legislation directed at strengthening the obligation of employers to provide a reasonable accommodation of an employee’s religious practice?
Choosing one’s faith is the most personal of choices, a matter of individual conscience. That is why we cherish it as part of our Bill of Rights. That is why Franklin Roosevelt listed as one of his four freedoms the right of everyone to worship God in his own way, everywhere in the world. And that is why people fleeing religious persecution continue to find safety in our country. All people must be free to worship as they please, or not to worship at all. It is a simple truth: There is no freedom without the freedom of religion.
I strongly support partnerships with faith-based institutions to help them contribute in positive ways to our communities. I would permit faith-based organizations to improve their volunteerism numbers by allowing them to hire consistent with the views of the respective organizations without risking federal funding. I also support school vouchers that can be used at parochial and other private schools. That is why my education plan calls for an increase in funding for the wildly successful D.C. Opportunity Scholarship program.
I am committed to ensuring that no Americans are discriminated against in employment because of their religious beliefs. I will support any legislation that improves our commitment to a pluralistic society, both inside and outside the workplace.
10. Bipartisan support for national service has increased in recent years out of recognition that service programs meet important societal needs and create habits of civic engagement in those whoserve. Would you, as President, support implementation, and even the expanding, of these initiatives? What steps, if any, would you take to increase incentives for young Americans to donate their time in service to their country?
Throughout my career, I have been committed to bolstering our national service programs. A centerpiece of my campaign is a national call to service—a call for all Americans to serve a cause greater than their own self-interest. My plan aims to bolster volunteerism with an energetic and comprehensive national service initiative designed to increase opportunities for people willing to serve their communities and their country. As President, I will ensure coordination of all service efforts across the federal government; convene “Volunteerism Summits” so people can share with others the best ideas and most effective programs currently underway in their own communities; increase the focus of our volunteers on urgent situations such as the high school dropout crisis and job retraining; and boost opportunities for service overseas to increase understanding and communication among diverse cultures. I will also create opportunities for families to spend service opportunities together at home and abroad and increase service opportunities for the disabled community. In addition, my plan calls for coordinating a network of private sector “venture capital” funds matched with government grants to support job retraining or vocational training efforts in high schools and targeted communities where job loss persists.
As your question implies, it is vital that we get young people involved in service. That is why my plan will engage more college students in community service through the Federal Work-Study program. I will also work to strengthen the teaching of American history and civics education through volunteers in our communities and schools.