Feb 23 2007

Shelby talks Iraq, fair tax

Talladega Daily Home

By Richard McVay

Sen. Richard Shelby told a Pell City audience Thursday that although Republicans lost a majority in Congress, Democrats won’t have a rubber stamp in the Senate.

“We will be a force to reckoned with,” the senator told a crowd of about 25 people. “The things that affect America affect you.”

Shelby told members that he is 10th in seniority among Republican senators, which he said will allow him to push for legislation important to Alabamians. The meeting was Shelby’s 1,389th town hall meeting as a legislator.

And foremost on Shelby’s list of priorities is dealing with the war in Iraq.

“We were doing great over there a few years ago,” he said. “But we let it get away from us. There have been a lot of mistakes made, but we’ve got to continue to support our troops. That’s going to be a big fight with the Democrats and some Republicans.”

He said Iraq is an important part of the larger “Shiite crescent” of Middle Eastern power, with Iran being perhaps the most sinister nation in the area.

“Iran is trying to establish … a hegemony,” Shelby said. “Somebody’s going to fill the power vacuum, and it’s not going to be our friends. We should go (out of Iraq) of our own accord and when we feel like we should go.”

Shelby said because two-thirds of the world’s oil is held by countries in that crescent, foreign policy issues are entwined with threats of nuclear power in Iran. He said a 10 percent decrease in oil consumption in America could loosen the hold Middle Eastern nations have on oil prices.

“If we could come up with alternate fuels and reduce our consumption by 10 percent, we could have a lower price,” Shelby said. “We need to look at every alternative source of fuel. We’re becoming more and more dependent on foreign oil. We’re exporting our wealth to those countries.”

Shelby said nine years ago, while Pakistan had nuclear ambitions, he asked an expert how long it would be before Iran began seeking nuclear weapons, and the expert said about 10 to 12 years.

“Russia seems to be doing a lot to aid and abet them,” Shelby said. “I don’t believe (United Nations) sanctions will keep them from doing that.”

Shelby added that other nations, including Russia, Cuba and Venezuela, could be potential adversaries of the U.S. as Iran’s nuclear ambitions increase.

“We have to protect our own interests,” Shelby said. He added that publicly voiced opposition to the war by elected officials sends the wrong message to troops.

“We don’t want to aid and comfort our enemies in any way,” Shelby said. “That doesn’t help our cause, and it undermines the whole armed services in general.”

Shelby voiced support for a fair tax, and said he would support the abolishment of the personal income tax, although he said he doubts either will happen. He said a national sales tax would be fairer than income taxes.

He warned the audience to take talk of national health care during the 2008 presidential race with a grain of salt.

“These people are going to promise you everything with your money,” Shelby said. “You think that hasn’t got a price tag? These big companies want to dump their health care costs on the public. It won’t be the quality health care you have today, and it’ll be rationed.

“We can’t do everything for everybody, but we try to help people in need.”