U.S. Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), a leading opponent of the war in Iraq, took on the Bush administration Tuesday, Sept. 19, during a speech in Reston on national security, civil liberties and the war on terrorism.
Frank, the first openly gay member of Congress, regrets how politics have obscured the course of the war on terror. He said he was disappointed to see people who disagree with the president labeled as “not for fighting terrorism,” or worse, unpatriotic.
SPEAKING TO A CROWD of about 150 people at the Northern Virginia Hebrew Congregation as part of the synagogue’s 4th annual speaker series, Frank criticized the Iraq war, arguing that the U.S. military is overextended.
“I think we should leave. I think we should leave in an orderly fashion so nobody gets shot on the way out,” said Frank, responding to a question from Reston resident Bob Angel.
The 12-term member of Congress said that the Iraq war detracts from America’s ability to effectively fight the war on terror.
“It’s undermining the effort in Afghanistan,” said Frank, adding that the Taliban has now resurfaced in the country. “It was very clear that Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein were never going to be allies.”
He suggested that President Bush manufactured the invasion because he wanted to overthrow Saddam Hussein.
“Remember the argument for going into Iraq — it will enhance our ability to stabilize the Middle East,” said Frank, which caused laughter in the audience. “I think it’s made everything worse.”
At home and abroad, Frank said that the Iraq war has borne “enormous costs.”
AFTER SEPT. 11, when “19 vicious fanatics killed themselves to kill other people,” Frank said the traditional model of law enforcement, which is reliant on deterrence, had to change.
“The other thing we do now is get more intrusive … and we have to do that,” said Frank, referring to aspects of the Patriot Act. “We are giving law enforcement the power to restrain our movements even if we haven’t done anything wrong.”
But Frank emphasized the need for safeguards. “Law enforcement officers are the good guys, no question. But, they’re not perfect. They make mistakes,” said Frank, who advocated for checks on that power, specifically search warrants. “Before law enforcement decides to disregard your civil liberties, they need to justify it to somebody.”
When a member of the audience asked about profiling, Frank said it is often an important tool for police. “Every cop I ever talked to profiles,” said Frank. “But if the consequence is that you get excluded from doing something, then I think that’s a problem.”
RESTON RESIDENT Edgar Glick asked Frank if he expected the Republicans “to pull an October surprise” before November’s election.
Frank said no, but in his answer he took the opportunity to criticize the view that Republican strategists have outmaneuvered Democrats in the past few election cycles. “I don’t think they’ve been so brilliant,” said Frank. “If [President Bush’s chief strategist] Karl Rove is so brilliant, why did Al Gore get more votes than George Bush in 2000.”
While Frank arrived for the speech about 40 minutes late, nobody in the audience seemed to mind.
Seldon Kruger of Reston, who introduced Frank, said he couldn’t think of a better person to talk about these topics.
“He’s considered to have an encyclopedic mind,” said Kruger, coordinator of NVHC’s speaker series. “When he gives a speech in Congress, people of both parties find their way to the floor.”