MANCHESTER, New Hampshire — One of the most memorable lines from Thursday evening’s final debate between incumbent Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and former Sen. Scott Brown came when Brown accused Shaheen of comparing America’s armed forces to “occupiers.”
“I don’t think we should take tens of thousands of American troops and put them back into Iraq as an occupying force,” Shaheen said when asked by debate co-moderator George Stephanopoulos of ABC News if she’d support sending American troops into Iraq to fight ISIS terrorists. “That’s what my opponent has suggested we should do, he said that we should think about an occupying force like we had in Korea.
“I don’t think we want tens of thousands of American troops as an occupying force for 60 years as we had in Korea,” Shaheen added.
Stephanopoulos then turned to Brown to ask him if he agrees with Speaker John Boehner, who Stephanopoulos noted “did say that American troops would have to go in on the ground if other countries did not step up.”
“I want to rely on the generals on the ground and that is the problem,” Brown said. “The President and Senator Shaheen already taken the greatest fighting force off the table, while ISIS is not taking anything off the table. And with respect to Senator Shaheen, we are a liberating force, we are not an occupying force, Senator. I and every other person who served in the military resents the fact that you are calling us ‘occupiers.'”
Later, Brown explained that it’s not an “occupying force” that he’s talking about. It’s a “transition force” that should have been left in Iraq so that ISIS couldn’t emerge–as has happened after President Obama pulled out all American troops. Shaheen wouldn’t, even though she’s a member of the Armed Services Committee, sign onto a bipartisan letter Brown and Sens. Joe Lieberman and John McCain led years ago in the Senate calling for Obama to smoothly transition out of Iraq.
“We’re not talking about an occupying forces, we’re talking about leaving a transition force as we’ve done in Korea, Germany, Japan,” Brown said. “Having the opportunity to have the Iraqi government lean on us when it’s appropriate. To do otherwise is dangerous. To support the Kurds, we should have done it a long time ago. They’re our greatest ally in that region. Finally, they’re getting some assistance and making gains. The fact is you have called us ‘occupiers’ and Senator, with respect, it’s an insult to the men and women who have served. We are a liberating country for good. We are liberators and it’s an insult to the men and women who have served this country and given blood, life and limb.”
Brown had previously said that the “greatest threat” to America are “radical Islamist jihadists,” because they are “looking to actually plant a flag on the White House” and “they want to disrupt the Middle East and other parts of the world.”