Interview by JAMES NIILER | EDITOR-IN-CHIEF
I had the pleasure of interviewing former Republican Congressman and Lt. Col. Allen West one-on-one just before his address to University of Alabama students Apr. 10. We discussed foreign and domestic policy, the actions of the Trump Administration and American renewal. Many thanks to Col. West for his time, and many thanks to UA Young Americans for Freedom Chairman Joseph Ballard for arranging the interview. – JN
You once said that many Democrats in Congress were communists. After their recent healthcare debacle and many failures even before Trump took office, what do you think of the current Republicans in Congress?
Well the thing that I go back to, if you study the history of progressivism in the United States of America, that was just a rebranding of European communism to come here. So it’s the same basic principles, and when you talk about wealth redistribution, when you talk about nationalizing production, creating an expanding welfare state, that’s socialism, Marxism, whatever you want to call it. So that’s where I made that reference, because it’s all about the ideology and how it relates to the governance of individuals, especially in this Republic.
Now I am very concerned – you’ve had seven years, I was elected to be in Congress in 2011, and we were talking about what we needed to do, as far as the Affordable Care Act. The American people know it is not working in the right way for them – I mean, they see their insurance premiums going up – so I think that you have to start from zero when you really have to repeal it. And you can set the repeal date somewhere in the future. It could be in the start of the new fiscal year; it could be in the start of the new calendar year. But I think you have to start from zero, because you cannot take this thing, which is collapsing, and try to tinker around the edges.
And you gotta define the situation to define the problem. The Affordable Care Act is a tax on welfare law. That’s all it is. Twenty new taxes, and it just expanded Medicaid. So that’s not a solution to good-quality healthcare in the United States of America, and it’s definitely not affordable for most people. So I think that’s what the Republicans didn’t do very well: defining it, and then talking about what they’re gonna do to replace it for the working poor, those with pre-existing conditions; what they’re gonna do for better competition; better affordability; tort reform – all of those aspects, piece by piece. Because as I went around and asked people, ‘What do you know, what have you heard about the American Health Care Act?’ and folks were like, ‘I don’t know.’ And so they’ve gotta go back to the drawing board with that.
President Trump recently ordered a missile strike in Syria. Many of his supporters were happy about that; many of them weren’t. (I’ll be straight: I’m a really big Trump supporter, and am kind of worried about the strike.) And then you had many Democrats happy about his intervention. What do you make of Trump’s missile intervention?
I don’t see it as an intervention; I see it as finally standing up for Barack Obama’s red line. There is something about us as a people, and international norms, laws and rules. We cannot afford to have people drop chemical weapons on innocent civilians. That is a complete violation of all standards, all treaties. And the fact that I thought all the chemical weapons were gone from Syria – that’s what we were told from the previous Administration and Vladimir Putin – you gotta make a stand against that. You gotta let people know we will not allow that to happen. So I applaud him in that.
Now what’s next? That’s kinda what I’ll talk about tonight with the folks here at the University of Alabama, but you’ve got to have a strategy. Because the last thing we want to see happen is exactly what Barack Obama did in Libya. He completely went in and he destabilized the country, and now the Islamic jihadists are in control of it again. So I think that it was a necessary step to take, that we will not sit back as a nation and the world idly as this happens, but you now have to understand geopolitics, and how you take this to the next level.
What do you recommend Trump do?
I recommend the most important thing is to isolate Bashaar al-Assad from his main support, and that is Russia and Iran. Russia and Iran cannot side with someone that’s a genocidal maniac, and I think that there are diplomatic and economic measures we can put in place to create that isolation. So first of all, we don’t need to be sending any more pallets of millions of dollars to Iran – I think that would be a good thing. The fact that you have Hezbollah, the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, the Quds forces operating there, that’s something we have to strip away, and I think we can set up some type of safe zone for those individuals – which should have been done, you know, six or seven-odd years ago.
The past several years especially, there’s been a lot of racial and civil unrest in this country, related to the shootings of young black men. There’s been a lot of riots and protests and so on about this, and people say now the racial divide in this country is pretty bad. What do you make of that?
Well it is pretty bad, because people are using it for their own political gain and advantage. You know, what happened in Ferguson was tragic, but the tragedy was that a young man accosted a store owner – he went out and he tried to confront and assault a police officer, and that’s never going to end up very well. What I see happening with certain groups – they are not talking about the real issues that are happening within the inner-city communities, and I grew up in the inner city of Atlanta. They’re not talking about the breakdown of the family, they’re not talking about the lack of quality education opportunities. They’re not talking about the lack of small business entrepreneurship and economic growth in these communities.
What they’re doing is they’re taking a politicized line, because this is about collectivism. It’s about pitting groups against each other. So I think we need to have the voices that stand up and talk about the real issues that are affecting the inner city, because there’s a reason you have these high incarceration rates, when you have only 24 percent two-parent households within that black community. So that’s what we need to be talking about.
President Trump would sometimes talk about a ‘New Deal for Black America’ on the campaign trail. Do you think that will address some of the issues in the black community, as well as bring understanding between the races in this country?
Well I hope that he will. I mean, he talked about it on the campaign trail, and I don’t want to see campaign promises become empty rhetoric, because if we don’t correct the situation in our urban centers, we will never repair the United States of America. And I think that’s a very important thing to do.
During the campaign, Trump attracted a lot of heat because a lot of people said he wasn’t ‘truly conservative.’ But he managed to win (I think) 90 percent of the Republican vote in the end, and he brought the Party out. So there’s obviously been a transformation in Republican and conservative politics. What do you think the future of conservatism in America looks like, in the age of Trump and beyond?
I do not see Donald Trump as Ronald Reagan was, as this great champion or proponent of Constitutional conservatism. Reagan was very good at articulating. Donald Trump is more of a populist. I think a lot of times he will say the things he believes the audience in front of him wants to hear, and they get chanting and they get riled up, kind of like singing ‘Yea, Alabama!’ after a touchdown. But you’ve got to sit down, and I think he has to come to grips with, what are his fundamental principles of governance? What does he see the relationship of government to the individual? And if he cannot answer that question, he’s gonna be kind of like a shotgun, shooting all over the place, but he’s never gonna be like a laser guy with ammunition and really be hitting the target. So when you talk about budgets coming up, when you talk about tax reform, it will be very interesting to see: is this about populism, or is this about Constitutional conservatism?
What is the greatest threat to the American Republic, either inside or out?
I think the greatest threat to the American Republic is the American people, because we have forgotten, like you just said, that it’s a constitutional republic. I always tell people about when Benjamin Franklin, on Constitution Day – September 17, 1787 – came out of Constitution Hall, and Mrs. Powell asked him, ‘Do we have a monarchy or a republic?’ And he said, ‘A republic, if you can keep it.’ But when I look at our education system – starting from middle school, high school, up until college – we don’t teach the fundamentals of this nation. We don’t teach the who we are when it comes to the principles and values and what it means to live in a constitutional republic, as opposed to a constitutional monarchy or something else. We don’t understand the three branches of government, separation of powers, checks and balances. So I think the biggest threat is us, and what we want to have. Because if we want an overarching, ever-reaching government that gets involved in every aspect of our lives – to include what we drink, what we eat, you name it – then we’re going to lose our individual liberties and freedoms and rights.
What do you think can be done to address this problem, beyond voting for conservative politicians?
I think it’s important that we get the message out there. As I always tell folks, the most conservative people in the United States of America yesterday, which was Sunday, are in the black community, because being saved by Christ is an individual responsibility, not a collective responsibility. But because of the fact that we don’t talk about that through the rest of the week, and we’ve really lost that communication, then people don’t understand. It’s not about party, it’s about philosophy and principles. You know, a great Alabamian by the name of Booker T. Washington – when he started Tuskegee Institute, his whole principles were based upon education, self-reliance and entrepreneurship. Those are conservative values. Now why aren’t we talking about that all over the country? And so that’s what I think has to happen. It’s about us having almost like a renaissance.
I have just two more questions. What is the greatest challenge in your life you’ve had to overcome?
Wow…you know, one of my favorite verses in the Bible is Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ Jesus who strengthens me,” and I have always looked for the challenge, because that’s what I believe in. And I believe that when you look for the challenge, it makes you stronger, it makes you tougher. So I think right now the greatest challenge I have is getting more people to open up their ears and shutting their mouths. We need to listen – that’s a critical thing – and we need to read, and educate ourselves, and understand, and stop being manipulated by media, politicians, whoever.
What’s the significance of all the rings and bracelets you’re wearing?
Well, these are my wedding rings of course, but on my salute hand and trigger finger is my #22Kill ring, which represents the fact that, on average, 22 veterans a day are taking their lives in the United States of America. Here on my ring finger on my salute hand is a ring that my two daughters gave me, that says ‘Always and Forever,’ and I’ll always love them. I have my Army master parachutist’s badge; I have a wristband my youngest daughter gave me that says ‘Soldier of God’; but here are the names of three young men who are no longer with us anymore. They were all soldiers: two killed in Afghanistan and one in Iraq, and that reminds me freedom is not free, and I have a story to tell, because I’m still here in the land of the living.