Aug 23, 2021

Rep. Adam Kinzinger Condemns GOP “Fearmongering” About Afghan Refugees: CNN Interview Transcript

Rep. Adam Kinzinger Condemns GOP "Fearmongering" About Afghan Refugees: CNN Interview Transcript
RevBlogTranscriptsRep. Adam Kinzinger Condemns GOP “Fearmongering” About Afghan Refugees: CNN Interview Transcript

GOP Rep. Adam Kinzinger spoke on “fearmongering” about Afghan refugees from other GOP politicians and right-wing media during a CNN interview. Read the transcript of his remarks on Afghanistan here.

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Brianna Keilar: (00:00)
Welcome back to State of the Union, I am Brianna Keilar. Tens of thousands of Afghan refugees, many who assisted the U.S Military during 20 years of war, are now desperately trying to make their way into the Kabul airport. Here in the U.S, governors from both parties are saying they will offer aid and welcome these refugees. But resistance is already building among some in the Republican Party. Let’s talk now with Republican Congressman, Adam Kinzinger, who served as an Air Force pilot in Afghanistan. He is with us now. Sir, thanks for being here. we just spoke with the National Security Advisor, Jake Sullivan, and I want to get your reaction to what we heard from him. Do you think that things are getting better?

Adam Kinzinger: (00:42)
Well, I guess given where we are and the fact that we have the best military in the world that can really execute anything, we’re in a better place than we were a week ago. That doesn’t mean we’re in a good spot. And I think we have a responsibility to talk about what went wrong, where we’re screwing up, as we just sit here and point fingers at the other party because that’s what we’re obsessed about. But this was a disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan. Even Jake himself said, look, yes, there is a acute ISIS threat on the ground. So how is it that we leave Afghanistan?

Adam Kinzinger: (01:12)
We’re going to be able to maintain a counter terrorism posture, supposedly, with this over the horizon magic stuff we have, but there’s already an ISIS threat when we’re there. Why is the Taliban, like what prior administrations have said, not attacking ISIS? Because once we finally leave and we finish this evacuation, which I certainly hope we’re committed to following through with every American and every Afghan that helped us and deserves that shot to come home, I have no idea how we’re going to be able to maintain that posture and stop the growth of terrorism. It’s a real concern.

Brianna Keilar: (01:48)
As we’re looking at making good on that promise, the U.S making good on that promise you just talked about, the Pentagon spokesman was asked earlier this week about U.S troops operating outside the Kabul airport. And he was clear they weren’t doing it. It now seems like that may not be the case. It seems according to what the Pentagon was saying yesterday, that there may be some of that happening. Is that your understanding, that U.S troops are or outside the airport, that there could be special operations extracting people?

Adam Kinzinger: (02:21)
I wouldn’t be surprised. I don’t know that off anything besides open-source reporting. But let me say this, and I think this is a really important thing, Brianna, is we kind of have this failure of confidence right now in this country. And I think we could do a whole segment talking about what went wrong in the nation building side of this. I don’t think it’s as easy as saying we’re not good at nation building. But even the people that are totally against Afghanistan say we’re really good at fighting, we’re just not good at building back. Okay, assuming that, why are we sitting in the Kabul airport in Afghanistan right now with such a lack of confidence, that we’re begging the Taliban to allow us save our own citizens, that were very scared to death to talk about if anybody’s gone outside of the wire?

Adam Kinzinger: (03:06)
Because the United States Military is truly capable of anything. Look, okay, we can fail at the build back of Afghanistan. Again, we could have a whole conversation on that where I might disagree a little bit, but we know we’re good. And we’re sitting around licking our wounds in the airport. And even President Biden at one point said, “Gee, we just can’t guarantee the outcome.” The United States Military can’t, and by the way, I commend the military for carrying out this almost near impossible execution of this, particularly given the circumstances they were handed.

Brianna Keilar: (03:35)
We’re seeing almost a bifurcation right now of U.s Citizens being told by the State Department not to come to the airport, it’s too dangerous. But you’re not seeing these visa applicants or folks who are eligible for that, people who helped Afghans who helped the U.S being deterred by that. And part of that is because they see the deadline, this August 31st deadline, and it’s coming up fast for them. According to the New York Times, the two-year-old daughter of a former interpreter was trampled to death in the crowd. Do you think the president is making good on his promise to get Americans and Afghans who helped Americans and their families out?

Adam Kinzinger: (04:17)
Look, I certainly think he’s trying. I’m not going to say that President Biden at this moment wants to do anything but that. I think the execution has been extremely disastrous. But I also think you have to go back not just early in this administration, but especially the last administration, and frankly, even President Obama’s and say, why was this Afghan SIV issue, the Special Immigrant Visas processed so slowly? I’ve been working on this since I’ve been in Congress, by the way. We could have worked as there’ve been people sitting in Afghanistan for five years, that were maybe waiting on just one piece of that. Why did Stephen Miller, particularly the last administration, slow it down. A Republican staffer on judiciary that told us there’s not a chance we would be able to slip in raising the cap on the Special Immigrant Visas to help get rid of some of this backlog.

Adam Kinzinger: (05:03)
And then of course, the State Department under multi administrations, why was it so slow at processing these. But we are where we are. And I’m going to tell you, Brianna, what’s most important. There’s nobody that really doubts we’re never going to be in a war again. If we fail to follow through on our commitment to these Afghans, that’s going to put our serious national security at risk. If we fail to follow through with their wellbeing, when their here. By the way, as Country 1st,, we have a fund set up to help Afghan refugees and their families. And we’ve raised, this is what’s amazing to me, over $80,000. And that just shows the heart of the American people are with these folks plight.

Brianna Keilar: (05:39)
You’re seeing members of your party, some of whom you mentioned there, President Trump, certainly others, Mike Pompeo, Nikki Haley, Mike Pence, and they’ve criticized the Biden administration despite contributing to this SIV backlog. What’s your reaction to them rewriting history?

Adam Kinzinger: (06:00)
It’s amazing. I think what breaks my heart probably more than anything on a political side, is that America is being splayed out in the world and embarrassed by the world. And our European allies are saying America looks weak. And yet, honestly, the Republicans are putting out talking points to make Biden look bad. The Democrats are putting out talking points to point at the past ministration. Truth, they’re both responsible. And we’re so tribalistic as a country. It’s hard for somebody to imagine a Republican saying everybody’s responsible.

Adam Kinzinger: (06:29)
But let’s keep in mind, mike Pompeo met with the Taliban. As Donald Trump was publicly saying, “We have to get out of Afghanistan at all costs. It’s not worth it.” Mike Pompeo meets with the Taliban and tries to negotiate something. By the way, they ended up getting rolled almost as bad as Neville Chamberlain. Because they knew what the desired outcome of the Trump administration was. So they set this up to fail. But always, of course, Joe Biden could have easily turned this around and instead used it as the excuse to get out. Both parties have failed the American people and it can’t continue. And it particularly can’t continue with just pointing fingers while America’s embarrassed in front of the world.

Brianna Keilar: (07:08)
You mentioned the efforts that you are undertaking and many other veterans are joining you in this as well, trying to get Afghans, their friends out of Afghanistan. You are seeing in your party, what appears to be a trend for some politicians seeing opportunity in this. They’re painting Afghan refugees as invaders. There are undertones even of racism here. What is your message to people in your party who are doing that?

Adam Kinzinger: (07:43)
Oh, for sure. Look, here’s the thing. Keep in mind most Republican members of Congress, for instance, I think when we talked about doing this Afghan SIV program, we had a vote on that recently and only 16 Republicans voted against it. But those 16 Republicans, holy cow, their face should be everywhere and they should be asked why they did. But what you see is in the media eco chamber, this fearmongering. “They’re coming to your neighborhood, these hoards of people that haven’t been vetted.” That is not American. You can always have questions with how this was executed, but America’s always been the country that opens our heart.

Adam Kinzinger: (08:17)
And by the way, refugees to this country have always been the ones that are extremely entrepreneurial. We all know that. They come here, they work hard, they fight hard for success. And so if anybody wants to go out and fear-monger and continue that darkness in your heart and speaking at so you can win an election, A, you’re either evil at your heart yourself, or B, you’re a charlatan who’s only interested in winning reelection. And you truly can’t say you care about the healthy American people you’re out there doing stuff like that.

Brianna Keilar: (08:47)
Congressman, I want to thank you for coming on. Look, we’re still very much in the middle of this story. Lots of moving parts. And we thank you for your insight here.

Adam Kinzinger: (08:54)
You bet. Take care.

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