Giuliani: U.S. Foreign Policy Isn't Cause of Terror Threats

From CBS News' Ryan Corsaro:

CEDAR RAPIDS, IOWA -- Rudy Giuliani says American foreign policy has nothing to do with the threats that America faces from Islamic terrorists and that effective military action and increased trade between cultures is the way to deal with the situation.

He added that Americans have had radical groups in the past, and said "we should not have (a) holier than thou attitude" towards Islam for actions by a small sect of their religion.

Giuliani's response came from a question posed by an audience member at an Iowa campaign event tonight.

"I won't pretend to know more about terrorism than you, but how do we address the causes of terrorism?" asked a young man at a town hall forum in Cedar Rapids. "A lot of people think that it's our foreign policy decisions around the world that are kind of making people upset and that Afghanistan and Iraq may actually perpetuate ill will against America, so how do we balance combating terrorism without making people hate us more?"

"I think first we have to study and learn the root causes of Islamic terrorism," responded Giuliani. "And the root causes of Islamic terrorism do not come about from our foreign policy and the things we are doing."

"They come about from an ideology that they have. They have a set of beliefs. They've taken their religion and perverted it into a set of -- I would actually call them more political beliefs. Because they've taken religious beliefs and perverted them."

"Here are their beliefs. And they go back to the writings of the Ayatollah Khomeini who took over Iran in the late 1970s, and then a number of others that go back even further. They believe that first of all we Americans, westerners, should be driven out of the Middle East."

"Second, and ultimately, we should not have freedom of religion -- that we are infidels whose practices are despicable. Well what practices? Freedom of religion, freedom for women -- freedom in general. That we are defiling the way the world order by these horrible practices I just described to you. And they are at war with us for those reasons. They even declared war on us for those reasons."

"So our foreign policy may exacerbate things or make things easier, they may work to ameliorate some of it, or not, but it's really all irrelevant. There's a core set of beliefs that have created this problem and our foreign policy is either going to make this easier or it's going to make it more difficult. Now, what kind of foreign policy exacerbates it and what kind of foreign policy ameliorates it. I think a foreign policy of weakness exacerbates it, and a foreign policy of strength ameliorates it."

"When we were weak in dealing with terrorism, they took advantage of us, (rather than) since we were strong. Islamic terrorists killed more than 500 Americans before September 11th, 2001. That's a period of time I would say we were weak on Islamic terrorism."

Citing the first World Trade Center attack in 1993, attacks on the Khobar Towers and U.S. embassies, as well as the U.S.S. Cole, Giuliani said that the response from the Clinton Administration was "inconsistent, if not at times non-existent."

"Justification was we didn't know how serious it was," said Giuliani, who would not point fingers at leaders during that period, saying he did not expect anyone to predict the attacks of September 11th.

Although Giuliani had the opportunity to go into depth on this subject at tonight's event, he said the absence of questions regarding Iraq and Iran at today's debate, moderated by the Des Moines Register, bothered him.

"One of the things that I found unsatisfying about the debate today was that it cut off discussing Iraq and illegal immigration. They are two of the biggest issues that face us."

After receiving applause for his statement, Giuliani said that trade, not foreign policy, would establish friendship and peace between the United States and Middle East.

"There's nothing to be afraid of. They have nothing to be afraid of with us. We're good people. We're people who respect and understand that people look at religion differently all over the world. And they're good people."

"They have a certain group that has unfortunately perverted their religion and their way of life. We've had groups like that within our civilization and within our culture as well, so we should not have this 'holier than thou' attitude about it. We should understand that there is a great deal of the Middle East and a great deal of the Islamic world that we can reach out to, and when we do, we're going to be able to embrace each other."