Former New York City Mayor Ed Koch tells Newsmax that on the eve of the ninth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, Americans are “in greater danger than ever before” from Islamic terrorism.
He also says the controversy surrounding the threatened burning of the Koran has been stirred up by a “nut” and should be downplayed, supports the right of Muslims to build a mosque near ground zero, and declares that President Barack Obama has been “terrible” in office and won’t be able to stave off the “tsunami” of election defeats the Democrats face in November.
In an exclusive interview with Newsmax.TV, Koch — who also served as a U.S. congressman — says that nine years after the September 11 attacks, America’s focus should now be on getting U.S. forces out of Afghanistan.
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“I think it’s a terrible mistake to remain there. We’re supporting a corrupt government. We’re hated by the people there. It’s estimated that between the two wars, Iraq and Afghanistan, we’re spending $3 trillion. Let’s get out and get out tomorrow.”
Asked if Obama’s vow to wind down U.S. involvement there by 2011 is realistic, Koch responds:
“No. His own generals have said we might be there for another 10 years. [Hamid] Karzai, the corrupt president of Afghanistan, has said that we can’t leave for at least four more years. It is an endless pit.
“We have lost young men particularly and some young women as well, and where they haven’t been killed they have suffered grievous injury. It’s not worth it.”
The terrorism threat to America posed by terrorism has not diminished since the 9/11 attacks, Koch maintains.
“I believe we’re in greater danger than ever before,” he says.
“This is a war that will go on against Islamic terrorism for the next 50 years. Al-Qaida is allegedly now set up in 62 countries, and recently U.S. authorities have said that there are cells growing right here in the United States.”
Turning to the threat from a Florida pastor to burn copies of the Koran, which has outraged Muslims around the world, Koch tells Newsmax: “I think we’ve been giving much too much attention to this matter, because obviously he is somewhat of a nut, and there are lots of nuts in the land, as there are in every country.
“So every time somebody makes such a terrible challenge and says he’s going to do something awful, should the president and Petraeus the general and the secretary of state and the secretary of defense all call him to say no? It’s ridiculous.
“What they should be doing is calling the Muslim presidents and kings to say this is a nut. Please tell your people this is not an attack by the United States on Islam, this is an attack by a nut on the United States.”
Asked if he believes there is a chance the planned mosque near ground zero in Manhattan will be moved to another location, Koch responds:
“I do not, frankly. I believe it is their intention to do it. I think it should be moved, but I have said from the very beginning the most important aspect of this is our defense and protection of the First Amendment.
“If they decide that they’re not going to move, it would be regrettable, but then we would have to defend their right to build the mosque.”
Koch says he opposes building the mosque near ground zero because it’s a “matter of sensitivity” to the feelings of the survivors and families of the victims.
Koch, a Democrat, agrees with Obama’s position that the Bush tax cuts affecting the wealthiest Americans should be allowed to expire in January.
“I stand with the president on that issue. All of us have to make sacrifices. I think we have to step up to the plate and do our part. We should be asking at the same time that those people who would be affected by changes in Medicare and Medicaid and other federal programs do their part.”
But he dismisses the political benefits that might result from the Obama administration’s latest efforts to create jobs and stir the economy.
“I believe it’s too late for President Obama to recover and save Democrats from a tsunami in November.”
Koch was a prominent supporter of Obama during the last presidential election, but he now tells Newsmax: “I think his job performance is terrible.”
He adds that while he campaigned for Obama among Jewish voters in Florida in 2008, “if he were to ask me to do that today, I wouldn’t go.”
Koch also says:
- Recent talks between Israel and the Palestinians are a step in the right direction toward the 2-state solution Koch supports. He also suggests an economic union involving Israel, the Palestinian state, Egypt, and Jordan, which would help assure that peace would last.
- Rep. Rick Lazio, who seeks the GOP nomination for governor in New York, is running a “crummy” campaign, his Republican opponent Carl Paladino is “a terrible candidate as well,” and either of them would lose in November to Democrat Andrew Cuomo, the state’s attorney general.
- Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, who was appointed to fill the seat vacated by Hillary Clinton, is likely to win against what Koch calls a poor crop of Republican challengers.
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