Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul's anti-war arguments during Wednesday night's Republican debate prompted consternation from his fellow candidates and prompted one Fox News moderator to imply the Texas congressman would take "marching orders from al Qaeda."
Paul is the only Republican calling for an immediate end to the US occupation of Iraq, and he said he would remove all US troops from the Middle East, saying their presence in Saudi Arabia was partially responsible for the 9/11 attacks.
Paul said the Iraq was was making the US "less safe, and he called for a "new foreign policy that says we should mind our own business, bring our troops home, defend our security," prompting Wallace's question.
"So, Congressman Paul ... you’re basically saying that we should take our marching orders from al Qaeda?" Fox host Chris Wallace asked. "If they want us off the Arabian Peninsula, we should leave?"
"No!" Paul replied sharply, pointing his pen at Wallace, and continuing to wave it throughout his response. "I'm saying we should take our marching orders from our constitution. We should not go to war without a declaration. ... This is an aggressive invasion. We've committed the invasion of this war, and it's illegal under international law. That's where I take my marching orders, not from any enemy."
The crowd's reaction was mixed, but appeared to demonstrate at least some support for Paul's calls for withdrawal. Several times during the debate however, laughter could be heard from the other candidates or moderators directed at Paul.
Wednesday's debate also featured a rare head-to-head exchange between two candidates. Paul and Mike Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor, argued over the wisdom of keeping US troops in Iraq.
Paul blamed the situation in Iraq on "neoconservatives" who were "advising this administration," and he said the American people should not bear the burden for their mistakes. Huckabee countered that the nation cannot be divided. He had said we should not leave Iraq after "we broke it." The former governor's argument mirrored the "Pottery Barn rule" that had been advanced most prominently by former Secretary of State Colin Powell: "You break it, you own it."
"We bought it because we broke it," Huckabee said. "We've got a responsibility to the honor of this country, and the honor of every man and woman who has served in Iraq ... to not leave them with anything less than the honor they deserve."
Paul said the country has "dug a hole for ourselves ... and it has all to do with foreign policy and we have to wake up to this fact."
"What do we have to do to save face? It's all we're doing is saving face, and it's time we came home," Paul said.