Rep. Zach Wamp (R-TN) told members of the Pachyderm Club on Monday that “it is in our national interest to have a foreign relations surge in diplomacy like never before.” His reference was to countries throughout the world that have large Islamic populations.
The good news, he said, is that 92% of Islamic people do not support terrorism. The other 8% do. The bad news is that those 8% total 130 million people spread throughout the world, he said.
“We need to be reaching out, we need to be bringing people together, we need to have every voice that understands these problems sitting face-to-face across the table with these people, and I’ll be the first to volunteer,” the congressman said.
“We need to quit talking about bombing Iran,” said Congressman Wamp. “Their gross domestic product is like one of our states,” he said. “This is not a country that is going to take over the world. We need to be very, very careful. This is a time where we need to solve problems not create more.”
“The average person on the street in Iran actually likes Americans. Their leadership is all confused. With just a little bit of help, the people might just take over Iran. So, why in the world would we just isolate them further (by bombing them)?” asked the congressman.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy visited Washington last week and said from the House floor, “we must risk peace.” Congressman Wamp embraced that comment and added, “It’s easy to declare war on somebody, but 130 million people? Are you kidding me? There is no Nagasaki/Hiroshima option here. They are scattered all over the world.”
“We are the greatest nation in the history of the world and we negotiate from a position of strength. Always. We are the United States of America. We don’t have to bomb anybody to be the strongest and greatest country in the history of the world. I know this speech is going to get me in trouble, but it’s in here (pointing to his heart),” the congressman said.
“Now let me give you some good news,” he said. “The surge is working. I believe there is a good scenario whereby this time next year there will be 60% as many troops on the ground in Iraq from the United States of America as there are today. May even be 50%. It’s very, very positive what is going on right now in terms of what we’ve been able to do and what we’ve been able to accomplish. The question now is ‘What do we do beyond Iraq?’
“I believe that this administration and the next administration must reach out like never before. We must have inter-parlimentary discussions. Last week I signed on to a letter in the House agreeing to meet with the Iranian Parliament face-to-face to begin a dialogue. If we ultimately have to go to war with them, at least they will know what is at stake. We should be talking.”
He said, “This, in no way, is meant to say that anything the President has done up to this point is wrong. I’m telling you what we need to do tomorrow, and the next day, and next year in order to maintain our strength and to maintain world peace.”
In October, said the congressman, 138 leading Muslim scholars from every sect of Islam sent a letter to the Pope and other Christian leaders warning that if Christians and Muslims do not make peace with each other, the “very survival of the world” is at stake. The congressman said that he would add “Jews” to that statement and agree with it.
“People of all faiths in our country have equal opportunity, and that is the way it should be everywhere,” he said.
“Do you know how volatile the whole world is right now? Like never before,” the congressman said. “In the last 15 years, religious freedom has been so decimated and there are so many countries now that are intolerant of any other religious perspective that a crusades-like event is right in front of us where millions of people will be killing each other based on religious differences.”
“We (as a nation) need to do as Sarkozy said and risk peace. It’s going to require leadership — real leadership. If our party is going to lead in this country, we need to come to the realization that we need to change. We need to look to the future. We need to be proud of what we’ve done in the past. We want to be proud of our response to September 11th. We want to be proud of the resolve and strength with which we’ve approached these issues. And now, we have to be really smart, really savvy. (We must) reach out like never before and have a foreign relations surge like never before,” Congressman Wamp said in closing.