Interview with Representative Dana Rohrabacher

Interview with Representative Dana Rohrabacher

By The Situation Room - May 22, 2012

BLITZER: And joining us now is Congressman Dana Rohrabacher. Congressman thanks very much for coming in. I want to discuss what's going on, but first to give our viewers the full perspective, here's the entire exchange I had about you and President Karzai in my interview with President Karzai yesterday. Watch this.


BLITZER: You said you're not going to let this Democratically- elected congressman into your country, why?

KARZAI: A Democratically-elected congressman of the United States of America should not be talking of an ethnic divide in Afghanistan, should not be interfering in Afghanistan's internal affairs, should not be asking the Afghan people to have a federal structure (ph) against about the Afghan constitution has asked for, should not be speaking disrespectfully about the Afghan people or the various ethnic groups in Afghanistan. If an Afghan did that from Afghanistan, how would you react to him in America?

BLITZER: So you're not going to let him back into your country, Dana Rohrabacher?

KARZAI: Definitely not.

BLITZER: Ever, ever?

KARZAI: Until he changes his tongue, until he shows respect to the Afghan people to our way of life and to our constitution. No foreigner has a place asking another people -- another country to change their constitution. Have we ever asked the United States to change?

BLITZER: Even after all that America has done for Afghanistan?

KARZAI: But that doesn't give you the right to play with our lives.

BLITZER: And you think he's that dangerous to you?

KARZAI: Not dangerous. It's a matter of principle. International relations are based on certain principles. We're not America. We're Afghanistan.

BLITZER: But there is a concept known as freedom of speech.

KARZAI: The freedom of speech is good. We respect that, but the freedom of speech with regard to other countries is another issue. He has freedom of speech within the United States and we have freedom of speech within Afghanistan, but if an Afghan member of parliament stood up and said the United States should be divided in five different regions, would you accept that?


BLITZER: Let's discuss what we just heard with Congressman Rohrabacher. First of all, are you ready to apologize? Are you ready to back away from some of your earlier statements in order that President Karzai would give you a visa to come back to Afghanistan?

ROHRABACHER: Well, I will tell you that if I thought that I was being inadvertently disrespectful to the Afghan people I would apologize, but I obviously have a deep felt respect for the people of Afghanistan and their courage and their principle behavior. They are tough people who are actually a model of courage in this world. So I respect them. It's Karzai I don't respect and so I don't think I owe an apology to the people of Afghanistan and of course, Karzai is a corrupt and incompetent leader and I certainly owe no apology for trying to get to Afghanistan to do some investigative work.

BLITZER: Let's talk about some of the specifics what he's complaining about. He says you speak of an ethnic divide in Afghanistan. Is that true?

ROHRABACHER: No, it's not. In fact, what we have now is a constitution that was written by foreigners, I might add that was modeled for Karzai and his clique. And what it does is put all of the power in Kabul which is totally inconsistent with Afghan culture and tradition and what I've been calling for is for all of the sides, both -- all of the ethnic groups to get together and have some constitutional reform that, for example, Karzai points all of the provincial governors. That would be like our president appointing all the governors of the states. That is not dividing the country. That's a federalist approach that will keep the country unified because you have, as we have in the United States, different people operating at different levels and the people elect their leaders.

BLITZER: You can understand where he's coming from when we just heard you say right now you believe there should be a change in their constitution. You're not an Afghan. You're an American. You think it should be changed --


BLITZER: And so he has a point --

ROHRABACHER: Well I think -- no I think -- yes, I think that they should be making sure that the Afghans make those changes and that the power in Afghanistan isn't being held by some corrupt clique. Now remember, I'm the chairman of the Oversight and Investigation Subcommittee. I was going to Afghanistan, among other things, not just to talk about perhaps constitutional reforms that they might consider, but I was also going there to investigate corruption on the part of the Karzai administration. BLITZER: He also says you're disrespectful of the president of Afghanistan, right, namely Karzai. You tweeted this -- you tweeted and I'll put it up on the screen. "Packed (ph) government controls red, terrorists, Muslims, Karzai equals puppet -- Pak puppet (ph), its centralized regime contrary to Afghan tradition and values." What do you mean Karzai is a Pakistan puppet?

ROHRABACHER: That's our biggest problem right now is the Pakistanis as you are well aware are financing the insurgencies that we're having to put up with in Afghanistan. Karzai is a longtime ally of the Paks (ph). He was -- even before he was in power, these are the people he dealt with. So, yes, he is overly, overly associated with Pakistan, and he is not sitting down with his own people. He's sitting down with the Paks (ph) for guidance.

BLITZER: Well I'm sure he disagrees strongly with you on that. What you're saying is in total disagreement with this new Strategic Partnership Agreement that the U.S. and Pakistan have signed and also in total disagreement with what we're hearing from the Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

ROHRABACHER: Well I don't know what Mitt is saying about it, but I am absolutely opposed to what the president just did. We should be looking for ways to get our troops out of Afghanistan at a quicker pace, not at a slower pace. We shouldn't be committing ourselves to another 10 years of military involvement in Afghanistan and we can do that if we worked with all of the Afghan leaders rather than just trying to put all of our eggs in the Karzai basket and trying to force everybody to accept his power.

BLITZER: What Governor Romney says there should be an open-ended U.S. military and financial commitment to Afghanistan. He doesn't like the timelines, if you will, but he's even more aggressive in making sure that U.S. troops stay there to bolster that Afghan government and make sure that there's security there.


BLITZER: What I hear you saying is you disagree not only with President Obama, but with Governor Romney, as well.

ROHRABACHER: I totally -- yes, I totally disagree with the governor. If that is indeed his position I would like to talk to him about it.

BLITZER: Congressman Rohrabacher, thanks very much for joining us. I suspect the story is not going to die down any time soon.

ROHRABACHER: Thank you. 

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