Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul said Sunday he thinks flawed U.S. foreign policy "contributed to" the causes that led to the September 11 terrorist attacks, though he stopped short of saying the attacks were America's "fault."
But, he emphasized, "that's a far cry from blaming America."
"I think there's an influence," Paul, a staunch Libertarian, told CBS' Bob Schieffer. "That's exactly what, you know, the 9/11 Commission said. That's what the DOD has said... That's what a lot of researchers have said. Just remember, immediately after 9/11, we removed the base from Saudi Arabia. So there is a connection."
The longtime Texas congressman, whose popularity has recently seen an uptick in the GOP presidential polls, suggested that American military presence abroad fostered anti-American sentiment - which in turn led to actions against the American people.
"You talk to the people who committed it and those individuals who would like to do us harm, they say, 'Yes, we don't like American bombs to be falling on our country. We don't like the intervention that we do in their nations.' So to deny this, I think, is very dangerous - but to argue the case that they want to do us harm because we're free and prosperous, I think, is a very, very dangerous notion because it's not true."
When asked if he was saying "it was our fault" that 9/11 happened, Paul said, no. "That's a misconstruing of what I'm saying," he replied.
"America is you and I," Paul told Schieffer. "We didn't cause it. The average American didn't cause it. [But] if you have a flawed policy, it may influence it.
"I'm saying the policy-makers' fault contributed to it," he added.
Paul, who has long been vocal in his opposition to sending American troops abroad, argued that America should use diplomacy - not the military - to deal with countries like Iran.
He also decried sanctions as "the initial step to war."
"We have 12,000 diplomats. I'm suggesting that maybe we ought to use some of them," Paul said. "I think the greatest danger now is for us to overreact. This is what I'm fearful of. Iran doesn't have a bomb. There's no proof. There's no new information, regardless of this recent report. For us to overreact and talk about bombing Iran, that's much more dangerous."
The candidate said he doesn't think there is any place in the world where it "helps" the United States to have forces stationed - not only because "we can't afford it," but also because, he said, "I believe we can defend ourselves with submarines and all our troops back at home.
"I think a submarine is a very worthwhile weapon," Paul said. "I believe we can defend ourselves with submarines and [station] all our troops back at home. This whole idea that we have to be in 130 countries and 900 bases - now they've just invented a weapon that can hit any spot in the world in one hour. I mean, what's this idea? This is old-fashioned idea that you have to keep troops on 900 bases around the world. Makes no sense at all. Besides, we're bankrupt. We can't afford it any longer."
The famously outspoken congressman added that he'd bring home troops even from Japan and South Korea. "Absolutely. And the people are with me on that. Because we can't afford it. It would save us a lot of money. All those troops would spend their money here at home," he said.
Besides, he added, "Those troops overseas aggravate our enemies, motivate our enemies. I think it's a danger to our national defense. We can save a lot of money cutting out the military expenditures that contribute nothing to our defense."