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Bernie Sanders’ plan to destroy ISIS

March 23, 2016 at 6:35 PM EDT
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders joins Judy Woodruff to discuss his approach to rallying Mideast allies to destroy the Islamic State militant group and the path to winning the Democratic nomination despite his delegate deficit.
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JUDY WOODRUFF: Hillary Clinton today said the U.S. stands with Belgium and other European allies. But, at the same time, she called for more European countries to invest in security.

In a speech at Stanford University, she also slammed the Republicans’ response to the terror attacks in Brussels.

HILLARY CLINTON, Democratic Presidential Candidate: In our fight against radical jihadism, we have to do what actually works.

One thing we know that doesn’t work is offensive, inflammatory rhetoric that demonizes all Muslims. There are millions of peace-loving Muslims living, working, raising families and paying taxes in this country. These Americans are a crucial line of defense against terrorism. They are the most likely to recognize the warning signs of radicalization before it’s too late, and the best positioned to block it.

So, when Republican candidates like Ted Cruz call for treating American Muslims like criminals and for racially profiling predominantly Muslim neighborhoods, it’s wrong, it’s counterproductive, it’s dangerous.

JUDY WOODRUFF: For more now on the terrorist attacks in Belgium, U.S. foreign policy and the race for the White House, we turn to the other Democratic presidential candidate, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders.

Senator Sanders, welcome. And, first of all, congratulations on your wins yesterday in Utah and Idaho.

I know you know, as the voters were going to the polls in those states, though, on the other side of the Atlantic, the city of Brussels was reeling from this terrible set of terrorist attacks.

Secretary Clinton said just a short time ago that ISIS cannot be contained; it has to be defeated.

Do you agree? And, if so, how?

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (VT-I), Democratic Presidential Candidate: Well, I think it has to be destroyed.

This is a barbaric organization that is a threat not only to the people in the Middle East, to the people in Europe, but obviously to the people in the United States as well. It has to be destroyed.

And here is how we destroy it. We do not destroy it by doing what we did in Iraq and getting into perpetual warfare. I voted against the war in Iraq. In fact, Secretary Clinton, when she was in the Senate, voted for that war.

What we do, as King Abdullah of Jordan has told us, is we work to put together a very effective coalition of Muslim nations who lead the effort on the ground, supported by the United States, the U.K., France, and other major powers in the air and through training.

Now, in the last year, we have had some success. Ramadi has been recaptured. ISIS has lost about 20 percent of the ground that it controlled. But we have a lot more to do. So, I think what we need is strong coalition.

And, by the way, Judy — and very few people talk about this — we have got to bring in some of the Gulf region countries who have kind of sat it out, countries like Qatar, one of the wealthiest countries on earth, who are spending $200 billion in preparation for the World Cups in 2022.

They’re spending $200 billion for the World Cup. Well, they may want to spend some money helping us destroy ISIS. Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Kuwait are going to have to play a greater role.

JUDY WOODRUFF: But, Senator, as the United States waits for these other countries to get on board to form this coalition, ISIS is not only strong in its base in Iraq and Syria. It’s now sending, we know, hundreds of fighters into Europe, the AP reporting today 400 trained fighters planing attacks in Europe.

That’s going on right now.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: Right, and that raises the other issue.

First of all, we have got to destroy ISIS. Second of all, we have got to protect the United States from attacks and protect our allies throughout the world. And that means we need to do a much greater job in sharing intelligence. We need to do a much better job in monitoring those young people who are being drawn into terrorism.

We have got to monitor how they communicate with each other to plan attacks. So, there is a lot of work to be done to protect our country, as well as to protect our allies in Europe and elsewhere, by the way.

JUDY WOODRUFF: But how do you do that, when there are people right now in Europe, in Belgium, and other countries and presumably here in the United States who are prepared to die for this cause?

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: Well, Judy, no one ever said that this is going to be simple.

What we have got to do is work with increased intelligence capabilities, shared intelligence capabilities. We have to work with increased law enforcement, with increased monitoring, with increased tracking of people who come into this country. This is not easy. Your point is right.

If somebody is willing to blow themselves up and walk into an airport, or walk into a movie theater, you know what? It is tough to defend ourselves against that. But, obviously, we must do everything that we can.

JUDY WOODRUFF: But I don’t understand how you destroy ISIS, to use your word, when you’re talking about intelligence operations and cooperation and coalitions.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: You don’t understand how we destroy ISIS?

We destroy ISIS because there are millions of soldiers in the Middle East who are under arms right now. ISIS has perhaps 30,000 or 40,000 fighters. Our goal is to bring those countries together, to put troops on the ground to destroy ISIS, not to get the United States involved in perpetual warfare.

Can ISIS be destroyed? Of course they can. It’s a question of a coalition. It’s a question, as King Abdullah has said, Muslim troops on the ground, not American troops. And, by the way, it is not a question of going to war against a religion, as some of my Republican colleagues would have us do. We’re taking on terrorism and ISIS, not Islam as a religion.

JUDY WOODRUFF: But to play devil’s advocate, just one more question here, Senator. The approach you describe is one that is going to take many months, maybe even many years.

Does the United States…

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: Well, you know, Judy, I don’t know — let me tell you this, also, Judy. I don’t know how we can stop somebody who has an assault weapon from shooting up some people today.

These are not easy answers. You’re right. This is difficult. And anyone who tells you they have a magical solution to this problem is not telling you the truth. But the two-pronged attack — two-pronged approach has got to be, number one, we do destroy ISIS on the ground in Iraq and in that region.

Number two, we do everything possible to defend the United States.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And, Senator Sanders, a question about the path to the nomination.

You do have right now over 900 delegates. But even the most optimistic, realistic scenario shows that it’s very difficult for you, going to be very difficult for you to overcome, to overtake Secretary Clinton.

Do you still believe that it is possible for you to accumulate the number of delegates you need to capture the Democratic nomination?

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: Well, Judy, let’s start off by remembering maybe a discussion you and I might have had 10 months ago when I began.

At that point, I was 3 percent in the polls, 70 points behind Hillary Clinton. CBS had a poll this week had me five points behind. And what Democrats all over this country are taking notice of is that, in virtually every national poll, I defeat Donald Trump by significantly greater numbers than does Secretary Clinton.

So, what Democrats are understanding and what superdelegates are understanding that, really, the most important thing right now is to make sure we don’t have some Republican in the White House. And I think people are taking a second look at Bernie Sanders, because, clearly, he is the stronger candidate to defeat Donald Trump.

Now, in terms of how the electoral process has gone on, Secretary Clinton did very, very well in the Deep South. We didn’t do well. She got a whole lot of delegates. Well, you know, what? We’re moving out of the Deep South now.

Just yesterday, as you know, we got almost 80 percent of the vote in Idaho and Utah. We won Democrats aboard with 67 percent. This weekend, we’re heading to Washington, Hawaii, Alaska. I can’t predict the outcomes. I hope we do very well.

You have major states like New York state, New Jersey, California, Oregon coming up. We think we have a chance to do very, very well there. So, we have come from way, way, way back. And I think very few people would have thought that a Bernie Sanders and our campaign and what we’re talking about would have won 12 contests already.

But we do believe we have a path to the White House, and it is through the West.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Still very much in the fight.

Senator Bernie Sanders, we thank you.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: Thank you very much.

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