U.S. Senate hopeful Maurice Ferre on Afghanistan

02/18/10 Mitch E. Perry
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A recent poll showed Democrat Kendrick Meek in third place behind both Republican Marco Rubio and Republican Charlie Crist in a three-way matchup for the U.S. Senate, if Crist were running as an independent.

That same poll showed that if one of Meek's little-known Democratic opponents, former Miami mayor Maurice Ferre, were running, he'd also finish third. But the poll showed Ferre only 7 points behind Meek, despite the fact that Ferre is raising less money than his opponents and is little-known outside Miami.

Recently, Creative Loafing’s Mitch Perry spoke with Ferre in Tampa.

Maurice Ferre is 77 tears old, and last held any kind of elective office back in 1976. The odds are extremely low of him making any noise against the more heavily financed and union-supported Kendrick Meek. But Ferre says if he gets enough votes in conservative North Florida in his August 24 primary, he can have a chance against Meek.

Interestingly, in our interview, Ferre criticized Meek for being too liberal for Florida voters—yet one important issue that Ferre differs with Meek on is on Afghanistan, where the Miami congressman supports the surge of troops in Afghanistan, but Ferre opposes it.

“And there are several reasons for that. Reason number one is, you don’t go into a war admitting that you’re not going to win it. If you go into a war, you’ve got to say, ‘I’m going to go into the war, and I’m going to win it.’ Now, if you don’t win it, you know, you don’t win it. But you never go into a war saying, ‘Well, I know this is not a winnable war,’ number one.

“Number two, all the military people, including Gen. Petraeus, including McChrystal, have all said that the war is not winnable militarily. Okay?

“Number three, and perhaps most important, is who is the enemy? The enemy is Al Qaeda. Well, who’s Al Qaeda? Well, Al Qaeda is a cell group of very sophisticated, very well-financed terrorists, who are on a mission of destruction based on a fundamental, on a religious fundamentalism. Which is a world unto itself neither you or I, and one I don’t think very many people in the Western world understand. I don’t.

“But here’s the point: Who are we fighting? Well, we’re fighting the Taliban. Well, who’s the Taliban? Well, the Taliban are a bunch of tribal people, mostly Pashtuns, OK, mostly Pashkuns, who don’t give a damn about the United States. They don’t know where the United States is. If you gave them—85% of them can’t even write. And if you say, ‘Well, who are the Americans? Or ‘What is the United States?’ they don’t know. Something they see on television, and they see it here and there.

“But the point is, these Taliban people, they have this horrible thing called the Sharia lore, OK? Yes, it’s horrible. But guess what, you know? That’s their problem. I can’t impose my religion, or my will, or my knowledge, or my democracy, American democracy, on them.”

So should we get out of Afghanistan completely?

“No, no—no, no. Here’s why not, and here’s the point. The point is this, the real problem is Pakistan, OK? It’s not Afghanistan. And the real enemy is Al Qaeda; it isn’t the Taliban. So why are we fighting the Taliban? And the Taliban is mainly made up of Pashtuns. Now, are we bringing in Pashtuns, and educating them, or putting them into the Afghan army? No; we’re getting all the other guys, but not the Pashtuns. You know, where does this make sense? I mean, what’s the logic of it? Explain the logic of it.

“Now, all of a sudden, in my position—and obviously, you read my position paper—McChrystal and the others are now coming around in the last two or three weeks and saying exactly the same thing. They’re saying, ‘This is not winnable militarily; we have to really bring these people over; we have to negotiate with them; we’ve got to bring the Taliban.’ Now you’ve got Karzai bringing in the Taliban, the Pashtun, saying, ‘He’s a Pashtun; let’s cut a deal; let’s see what we can do.’ Of course.

“Now, do we abandon Afghanistan? Of course not; we’ve already done that once. With the Soviets, we helped these guys get armed, trained, and all this. These are the guys who are fighting us. And we abandoned them. And you know, we’ve all seen the Charlie picture, and – “

OK, so we don’t abandon them; but we don’t ... What do we ultimately do?

“I think we have to concentrate our efforts on the enemy—and the enemy, in my opinion, is the fundamentalist, jihadist, Al Qaeda group. Now, where are they now? I don’t know; they’re in Somalia one day, then they go over to Yemen the next day. Then they go—you know… ”

“By the way: their number one target is not America. Their number one target is Saudi Arabia. They want all that money, and all that oil, and they don’t want that king there. And they don’t want these guys that are our friends. So we’re number two. But [unintelligible], because then Israel really has problems. And we have problems. And the world has problems.

“So it’s again, prioritize. First things first. Who is our enemy, and where are we, and where are we going, and how do we best use our strength? How do we leverage strength for its most effective use? It’s not by sending 30,000 more soldiers into Afghanistan. That doesn’t do it.”

Let’s talk—back to you. One thing at least about Kendrick Meek and the other guys, Charlie Crist, Marco Rubio: They’ve all currently been in politics, or in the case of Marco Rubio (he’s) just been out the last year or so. You, it’s been a couple of decades since you’ve last held elective office. So –


So I guess the first thing people would say when they find out who you are is, he was mayor of Miami, but what’s he been doing the last 13, 14 years?

“Well, I’ve [unintelligible] investments [unintelligible); I was a professor at Princeton University for a semester; and then I went to Washington; I went to the Woodrow Wilson Center for Scholars, and I was a visiting policy wonk there. And I’ve been reading and writing. And I’ve been involved, and—you know, I decided to get into this thing because I don’t see any leadership. I don’t see any people, you know, coming up with sensible things that square. You know?

“And, I’m sorry—look at what’s happening over the country. It isn’t that Massachusetts is against Democrats. I don’t think it’s Democrats. They’re against incumbents. It’s the guys that are in that are screwin’ ‘em. All of us, all of them. I’m an outsider, of course, and I can say, ‘Hey, and’—you know, Bill Nostrum is really ticked off with me, because I say, ‘Where is our leadership? Who’s defending my interests?’ It’s certainly not Bill Nostrum, with all due respect to the Democrats, but he’s not defending me.“

That’s Florida Democratic U.S. Senate Democratic Maurice Ferre, speaking earlier this month in Ybor City. Stay tuned for the second part of this interview on the WMNF Evening News later this week.

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