Rep. Cantor's Foreign Policy Address Was Full Of Distortions

May 05, 2010 10:01 am ET — Media Matters Action Network

On May 4, 2010, House Minority Whip Eric Cantor gave a speech on foreign policy at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C.  Rather than offering any clear policy positions, Cantor relied on Republican talking points and false attacks to argue that President Obama is jeopardizing our national security.  However, despite his tough talk (both in his prepared remarks and the Q&A that followed), Cantor's own record shows that he has no idea how to keep America safe.

Cantor Wrongly Claimed The Administration Is Only Paying Attention To Terror Threat "In Limited Spurts"

Rep. Cantor:

Yet with each close encounter, my fear is that the country goes on heightened alert only as long as the media tend to cover it. All too often, that means hours and days rather than permanently.  Equally concerning is that the administration and other elected officials tend to give these warnings due attention only in limited spurts.

In reality, President Obama's commitment to fighting Al Qaeda, the Taliban, and other terrorist threats has produced a series of successes at home and around the world.     

Failed Times Square Attacker Quickly Arrested, Charged: As reported by the Associated Press:

It was just over 53 hours from the moment the authorities say Faisal Shahzad left his failed car bomb in the heart of Manhattan until the moment he was taken off a plane at JFK airport and charged with trying to kill untold numbers of residents and tourists. [...]

Shahzad, a Pakistani-born US citizen, was taken off a flight to Dubai and arrested late on Monday. The authorities say he has admitted plotting the attack. He was charged yesterday with terrorism and attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction. [Associated Press, 5/5/10]

Christmas Day Bomber Cooperated With Authorities.  According to the New York Times:

Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Nigerian man accused of trying to blow up a jetliner bound for Detroit on Dec. 25, started talking to investigators after two of his family members arrived in the United States and helped earn his cooperation, a senior administration official said Tuesday evening.

Mr. Abdulmutallab, 23, began speaking to F.B.I. agents last week in Detroit and has not stopped, two government officials said. The officials declined to disclose what information was obtained from him, but said it was aiding in the investigation of the attempted terrorist attack.

"With the family, the F.B.I. approached the suspect," the senior administration official said, speaking to reporters at the White House on the condition of anonymity because of the pending legal case. "He has been cooperating for days. [New York Times, 2/3/10]

Taliban's Top Military Commander Captured.  The New York Times reported:

The Taliban's top military commander was captured several days ago in Karachi, Pakistan, in a secret joint operation by Pakistani and American intelligence forces, according to American government officials.

The commander, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, is an Afghan described by American officials as the most significant Taliban figure to be detained since the American-led war in Afghanistan started more than eight years ago. He ranks second in influence only to Mullah Muhammad Omar, the Taliban's founder and a close associate of Osama bin Laden before the Sept. 11 attacks. [New York Times, 2/16/10; emphasis added]

Since President Obama's Inauguration, U.S. Forces Have Killed 20 Al Qaeda And Taliban Leaders.   According to the Long War Journal, the following Al Qaeda and Taliban leaders have been killed since President Obama took office:

Killed in 2010:

Sadam Hussein Al Hussami
A senior operative in al Qaeda's external operations network who was involved in the suicide attack that killed seven CIA officials in Khost. Hussami is also known as Ghazwan al Yemeni.
Date killed: March 10, 2010

Qari Mohammad Zafar
A leader of the al Qaeda and Taliban-linked Fedayeen-i-Islam wanted by the US for attacking the US Consulate in karachi in 2006
Date killed: February 24, 2010

Mohammed Haqqani
A mid-level Haqqani Network military commander and brother of the group's top military commander Siraj Haqqani.
Date killed: February 18, 2010

Sheikh Mansoor
An al Qaeda Shadow Army commander who was based in North Waziristan and operated in eastern Afghanistan.
Date killed: February 17, 2010

Abdul Basit Usman
The US has a $1 million bounty on Abdul Basit Usman, an Abu Sayyaf master bomb maker, for conducting attacks that murdered civilians. Usman's death is unconfirmed, however.
Date thought killed: January 14, 2010

Jamal Saeed Abdul Rahim
An Abu Nidal Organization operative who participated in killing 22 hostages during the 1986 hijacking of Pan Am flight 73
Date killed: January 9, 2010.

Mansur al Shami
An al Qaeda ideologue and aide to Mustafa Abu Yazid.
Date killed: Exact date is not known, he was last seen on As Sahab on January 4, 2010.

Haji Omar Khan
A senior Taliban leader in North Waziristan.
Date killed: January 1, 2010


Killed in 2009:

Abdullah Said al Libi
The top commander of the Lashkar al Zil, al Qaeda's Shadow Army.
Date thought killed: December 17, 2009 (exact date is not known)

Zuhaib al Zahib
A commander in the Lashkar al Zil, al Qaeda's Shadow Army.
Date killed: December 17, 2009

Saleh al Somali
The leader of al Qaeda's external network.
Date killed: December 8, 2009

Najmuddin Jalolov
The leader of the Islamic Jihad Group, a breakaway faction of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan.
Najmuddin was closely allied with al Qaeda.
Date killed: September 14, 2009

Maulvi Ismail Khan
A military commander in the Haqqani Network.
Date killed: September 8, 2009

Mustafa al Jaziri
A senior military commander for al Qaeda who sits on al Qaeda's military shura.
Date killed: September 7, 2009

Tahir Yuldashev
The leader of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan.
Date killed: August 27, 2009

Baitullah Mehsud
The overall leader of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan.
Date killed: August 5, 2009

Kifayatullah Anikhel
A Taliban commander under Baitullah Mehsud.
Date killed: July 7, 2009

Mufti Noor Wali
A suicide bomber trainer for the Taliban and al Qaeda.
Date killed: July 3, 2009

Khwaz Ali Mehsud
A senior deputy to Baitullah Mehsud.
Date killed: June 23, 2009

Abdullah Hamas al Filistini
A senior al Qaeda trainer.
Date killed: April 1, 2009

[, accessed 5/4/10]

Cantor Likened President Obama's Handling Of Terrorism To Bush Ignoring Warnings Before 9/11

Rep. Eric Cantor:

Many of the same critics who groused about how we failed to connect the dots prior to 9/11 are today repeating the same pattern.  As a result, America is at risk of slipping into the type of false sense of security which prevailed before that September morning.

President Bush Was Warned Of Possible Hijacking And Attack.  As reported by the New York Times, "President Bush was told more than a month before the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, that supporters of Osama bin Laden planned an attack within the United States with explosives and wanted to hijack airplanes, a government official said Friday." [New York Times, 4/10/04]

CIA Director George Tenet Briefed Condoleeza Rice About "Looming Threat" Of Al Qaeda.  As reported by the New York Times:

A review of White House records has determined that George J. Tenet, then the director of central intelligence, did brief Condoleezza Rice and other top officials on July 10, 2001, about the looming threat from Al Qaeda, a State Department spokesman said Monday. [...]

Officials now agree that on July 10, 2001, Mr. Tenet and his counterterrorism deputy, J. Cofer Black, were so alarmed about an impending Al Qaeda attack that they demanded an emergency meeting at the White House with Ms. Rice and her National Security Council staff.

According to two former intelligence officials, Mr. Tenet told those assembled at the White House about the growing body of intelligence the Central Intelligence Agency had collected pointing to an impending Al Qaeda attack. But both current and former officials took issue with Mr. Woodward's account that Mr. Tenet and his aides left the meeting in frustration, feeling as if Ms. Rice had ignored them. [New York Times, 10/2/06]

Despite Cantor's incendiary comparison, Obama's "deep involvement" has aided counterterrorism efforts. 

"Intensive Three-Week White House Focus" Aided Capture Of Najibullah Zazi. According to the Washington Post:

Obama aides pointed to the events leading up to the recent arrest of Najibullah Zazi as a prime example of what they say is the president's deep involvement in anti-terrorism efforts. In late August, shortly after federal agents began tracking the movements of the suspected terrorist in Colorado, senior officials added the case to Obama's daily intelligence briefing in the Oval Office.

Agents had only fragmented information about Zazi at that point, administration officials said. But the case quickly piqued Obama's curiosity and led to what aides called an intensive three-week White House focus on the case.

In interviews, senior Obama officials stressed their efforts to set a different tone than the previous administration; the White House says it avoided trumpeting either the elevated threat level or the averted crisis, while portraying Obama as highly involved in monitoring developments. As Zazi drove across the country under heavy surveillance, John O. Brennan, Obama's top counterterrorism adviser, briefed the president three to four times a day on Zazi's activities. [Washington Post, 10/6/09]

  • Najibullah Zazi Pleaded Guilty To Plotting Terrorist Attack In The United States. According to CNN: "Terrorism suspect Najibullah Zazi pleaded guilty Monday to conspiring to detonate explosives in the United States. [...] Zazi was arrested in September in an alleged plot to build and detonate bombs in New Yorkaround the anniversary of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks." [, 2/23/10]

Cantor Blasted President Obama For Supposedly "Banning" The "War On Terror" Catchphrase

Rep. Eric Cantor:

America cannot win the battle for hearts and minds in the Muslim world by apologizing and by banning terms like 'war on terror' -- (applause) -- nor by banning terms like "war on terror' or 'radical Islam.'  Such self-flagellation only encourages our enemies.  It blurs the moral lines, and undermines us in the struggle of ideas.

Term Not Banned, But Phased Out. As reported by the Associated Press, "The 'War on Terror' is losing the war of words. The catchphrase burned into the American lexicon hours after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, is fading away, slowly if not deliberately being replaced by a new administration bent on repairing the U.S. image among Muslim nations." [Associated Press, 2/1/09]

"War On Terror" Overgeneralized, Failed To Give Weight To Specific Threats.  The Associated Press reported:

During the past seven years, the "War Against Terror" or "War on Terror" came to represent everything the U.S. military was doing in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as the broader effort against extremists elsewhere or those seen as aiding militants aimed at destroying the West.

Ultimately and perhaps inadvertently, however, the phrase "became associated in the minds of many people outside the Unites States and particularly in places where the countries are largely Islamic and Arab, as being anti-Islam and anti-Arab," said Anthony Cordesman, a national security analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington think tank.

Now, he said, there is a sense that the U.S. should be talking more about specific extremist groups - ones that are recognized as militants in the Arab world and that are viewed as threats not just to America or the West, but also within the countries they operate.

The thinking has evolved, he said, to focus on avoiding the kind of rhetoric "which could imply that this was a struggle against a religion or a culture." [Associated Press, 2/1/09; emphasis added]

Furthermore, despite Republican claims to the contrary, President Obama still uses the words "war" and "terror" when discussing threats to America. 

Cantor Falsely Stated President Obama Gave A Speech To "Apologize" For America

Rep. Eric Cantor:

Last year, President Obama traveled to Cairo to address the Arab world, to apologize on behalf of America.  He vowed to reinstate, quote, "the same respect and partnership that America had with the Muslim world as recently as 20 or 30 years ago."  But what does America have to be sorry for? 

PolitiFact: Obama Did Not Apologize In Cairo Speech. According to the nonpartisan group "At a speech in Cairo on relations between the U.S. and the Islamic world, Obama got very close to regretting decades-old U.S. actions in Iran. But then he immediately countered with criticism of Iran. He did not make a formal expression of regret, but suggested both countries simply 'move forward.' Here are his exact remarks: 'In the middle of the Cold War, the United States played a role in the overthrow of a democratically elected Iranian government.  Since the Islamic Revolution, Iran has played a role in acts of hostage-taking and violence against U.S. troops and civilians.  This history is well known.  Rather than remain trapped in the past, I've made it clear to Iran's leaders and people that my country is prepared to move forward.'" [PolitiFact, 3/15/10]

In Cairo Speech, Obama Said The U.S. "Has Been One Of The Greatest Sources Of Progress That The World Has Ever Known."  Speaking before students at Al-Azhar University, President Obama said: "But that same principle must apply to Muslim perceptions of America. Just as Muslims do not fit a crude stereotype, America is not the crude stereotype of a self-interested empire. The United States has been one of the greatest sources of progress that the world has ever known. We were born out of revolution against an empire. We were founded upon the ideal that all are created equal, and we have shed blood and struggled for centuries to give meaning to those words - within our borders, and around the world. We are shaped by every culture, drawn from every end of the Earth, and dedicated to a simple concept: E pluribus unum: 'Out of many, one.'" [New York Times, 6/4/09]

Cantor Claimed President Obama Is Weakening Our Nuclear Capability

Rep. Eric Cantor:

Our nuclear-weapons arsenal is aging and desperately needs to be replenished.  But the administration and congressional Democrats have cut off funds to do it.

President Obama's 2011 Budget Requests 10% Increase In Funding For Organization That Maintains Our Nuclear Stockpile. According to the Arms Control Association: "For Fiscal Year (FY) 2011, the Obama administration is requesting $7 billion, a 10 percent increase, in funding for weapons activities in the Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), which oversees the U.S. nuclear stockpile and production complex. The administration plans to spend an additional $5 billion on NNSA nuclear weapons activities over the next five years." [Arms Control Association, 4/27/10]

We Are Constantly Modernizing Our Weapons Arsenal. As the Brookings Institution's Stephen Pifer explained, "We [the US] take a missile frame and we modernize it, and we refurbish it, whereas the Russian practice is to take a missile, they use it for 15 years and then they replace it completely. So you'll see new numbers coming up on the Russian side and you may think that, gosh, the Americans are still deploying these 1970s missiles. I suspect when they retire the last Minuteman III in 2030, it may have three of the original bolts on it from 1970 but it's going to be a very different missile. [Arms Control Association, 12/9/09]

  • US Presently Has 5,113 Nuclear Warheads. As the Financial Times reported, "In an announcement timed to coincide with the opening of the United Nations nuclear non-proliferation conference in New York, the Pentagon said it had a nuclear stockpile of 5,113 warheads as of September 30 2009." [Financial Times, 5/4/10]

Cantor Distorted The Administration's Nuclear Posture Review

Rep. Eric Cantor:

Then the White House promises that the U.S. won't respond to any biological or conventional attack with nuclear weapons.

The Nuclear Posture Review Leaves The Door Open For Nuclear Strikes Against States That Fail To Comply With The Nonproliferation Treaty. The review states that "the United States will not use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear weapons states that are party to the NPT and in compliance with their nuclear non-proliferation obligations." Of all other countries -- including North Korea and Iran -- the NPR states:

In the case of countries not covered by this assurance - states that possess nuclear weapons and states not in compliance with their nuclear non-proliferation obligations - there remains a narrow range of contingencies in which U.S. nuclear weapons may still play a role in deterring a conventional or CBW attack against the United States or its allies and partners. The United States is therefore not prepared at the present time to adopt a universal policy that deterring nuclear attack is the sole purpose of nuclear weapons, but will work to establish conditions under which such a policy could be safely adopted. [, accessed 4/11/10; emphasis added]

U.S. Reserves The Right To Adjust This Policy. The Nuclear Posture Review further states, "Given the catastrophic potential of biological weapons and the rapid pace of bio-technology development, the United States reserves the right to make any adjustment in the assurance that may be warranted by the evolution and proliferation of the biological weapons threat and U.S. capacities to counter that threat." [, accessed 4/11/10]

Cantor Has No Credibility On National Security

Cantor's FIRST Action As Chairman Of The House Task Force On Terrorism And Unconventional Warfare Was To Issue A Press Release On September 12, 2001.  Rep. Eric Cantor's first public action as chairman of the House Task Force on Terrorism and Unconventional Warfare was to issue a press release on September 12, 2001.  The release said: "As the Administration has indicated, the terrorist attacks are an act of war.  Therefore, retribution must be swift, sure, and overwhelming.  But retribution is not enough. In war one must destroy the enemy's ability to wage war... It is only through the destruction of international terrorism's supportive infrastructure that attacks like this can be prevented and terrorists emasculated." [Cantor Release via CQ Congressional Press Releases, 9/12/01] 

  • Rep. Cantor Became Chairman Of The Terrorism Task Force In April 2001. According to Rep. Cantor's bio on the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs website: "On April 1, 2001 , Eric was selected to serve as Chairman of the Congressional Task Force on Terrorism and Unconventional Warfare. The task force is a coalition of Members of Congress studying the threats international terrorism poses to the U.S. and develops policy proposals and legislative recommendations regarding the fight against terrorism." [,]

Cantor Said Al Qaeda And Iraq Were "One And The Same." During CNN's "Crossfire," Paul Begala asked Eric Cantor: "Which is a greater threat to America: al Qaeda terrorists or the country of Iraq?" Cantor answered: "I think, Paul, you ask a good question, but really they're one and the same. And that is part of the threat that Saddam Hussein poses.  The president said today in his U.N. speech that Iraq is harboring al Qaeda terrorists. And if you look at the history and the involvement of Saddam Hussein in sponsoring terror, and the fact that he has coddled, supported, financed these individuals to go ahead and do what they have done. And after September 11, I can't think of anyone who doesn't realize that Saddam Hussein is not a threat to the United States in a great way." [CNN, "Crossfire," 9/12/02; emphasis added]

Cantor: "Clearly" Saddam Hussein Is "Dead-Set On Using Weapons Of Mass Destruction." During an appearance on CNN's "Crossfire," Eric Cantor said: "The weapons inspectors who have been in there and played the game of cat and mouse for seven years with Saddam Hussein, there is -- have come out and said that, yes, there were weapons of mass destruction programs. There was an Iraqi defector who confirmed the fact that Saddam misrepresented what he had, or didn't develop in the terms of biological weapons.  Clearly this man is dead-set on using weapons of mass destruction. He has done so across his borders, within his borders. He is coddling terrorists. He is a brutal dictator, the likes of which the world has very few of." [CNN, "Crossfire," 9/12/02]

Cantor's Reason For War With Iraq: "The Reality That The American People Woke Up To On 9/12/2001." During a Cantor appearance on CNN's "Crossfire," Paul Begala asked: "What has changed on the ground in Iraq in the last year that necessitates this war?" Cantor replied: "Well, I think, again, it is the reality that the American people woke up to on 9/12/2001.  I mean, we are facing a threat unlike which we ever thought was possible. And with this kind of brutal dictator in Saddam Hussein, coupled with the extraordinary reach of the international terrorists and the evidence, the incredible evidence, that we now have linking the two, how can we wait?" [CNN, "Crossfire," 9/30/02; emphasis added]

Cantor: "The Only Language These People Understand Is The Awesome Might Of The United States Military." During an appearance on CNN's "Crossfire," Congressman Bob Filner said: "If you think this demonstration was going on that was you had so much problems with, wait until you see what happens if we have a preemptive unilateral strike... what do you think the Muslim and Arab community is going to say if we occupy Baghdad?"  Eric Cantor said: "This myth of the Arab street, now come on. That same argument was used during Afghanistan and we saw once we went in, the only language these people understand is the awesome might of the United States military." [CNN, "Crossfire," 9/30/02; emphasis added]

For more on Cantor's embarrassing record on foreign policy, click HERE