OTR Interviews

Looking for a scapegoat? Has Obama set a trap for Congress with Syria?

Former congressman and Army vet Allen West and other critics believe Pres. Obama has turned to Congress for approval of military action in Syria to make them scapegoats in case of failure


This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," September 3, 2013. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: All eyes are on Syria. At this hour American warships already in place, awaiting President Obama's order. But first Congress is debating whether to give the president the green light. Meanwhile, former Congressman Allen West has a warning for Congress. He joins us. Good evening, sir.


VAN SUSTEREN: Very well. So what's your warning for Congress as they consider the president's request for authorization?

WEST: I would look at this and first say why did the president not go to Congress when he went into Libya? Why has the president bypassed Congress on so many other domestic policy affairs? And he has actually made it a very contentious relationship between the executive branch and Congress.

Now all of a sudden at the final hour after John Kerry came out and gave his speech, he's decided he's going to go to Congress. But still he's saying I will retain the right and authority to go in and attack anyhow. So is this just stagecraft? Is this just trying to get additional cover from the United States Congress?

I don't think it's very sincere. If the president was serious about doing this, he would have done it. He would have gone before the American people and explained we cannot tolerate chemical weapons being used anywhere in the world against any people. And that's why I decided to take this action, and I take full responsibility.

But when I look at what happened in Libya and the second and third order effects to the point where we lost an ambassador, John Smith, Ty Woods, Glen Doherty, nothing has been done, no response whatsoever, no one held accountable. And now in Libya, Al Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood are training fighters to go where? To go to Syria. So I think that's the concern the president has.

VAN SUSTEREN: The president is on a plane right now, headed to Stockholm. And he's going to be meeting with -- I imagine, it will be interesting when he sees Vladimir Putin at this point during this. It will be an interesting exchange, if any. But you had Secretary Kerry coming out on, I think it was Friday.

WEST: On Friday.

VAN SUSTEREN: On Friday with his speech, and very forceful, and then we had sort of this weird thing with the president sitting around the table. It's a taped thing. It seems almost like it's been outsourced, this whole big decision to Secretary Kerry and Secretary Hagel. And maybe that's the way it's supposed to be done to go to Capitol Hill. But then you have Senator Rand Paul trying to get the two secretaries and the general to say, if we say no, there's no "no." And so it looks like, and none of the three had the authority to say that, so it looks like even if Congress does say no, the president's going to do it anyway.

WEST: And that's the point. That's why I believe this is just a cover and the Congress is being used as a scapegoat. I've done this because Congress has given me approval. If I was there, I would vote no because I do not see the strategic, the operational, or the tactical objective in doing this. We keep talking about something that's limited. We're going to punish Bashar al Assad.

VAN SUSTEREN: Is there some value in punishing him? Does it send a message to Iran, to Hezbollah, to other parts of the world?

WEST: If you to send a message to Iran and Hezbollah and the rest of the world, you send the message to Iran and Hezbollah. I'll give you a great case in point from history. The Second Punic War between Carthage and Rome, when Rome could not defeat Hannibal who was there in Italy, they launched against their satellite colonies, in Spain, and then they launched an attack against Carthage, which drew Hannibal out of Rome, and then they defeated him.

That's what we have to do, look at who the real people that are sponsoring and supporting Bashar al Assad and go after them. What the president should have done, which would have been true leadership and strategic vision, we should have left a residual force in Iraq instead of zeroing out our presence. And now we don't have anything that stops Iran's transiting through Iraq to go in and help Assad. If we had left some type of force along the border with Iraq and Syria, that would have been a deterrent.

VAN SUSTEREN: We're all going to be watching what goes on here. There's more debate tomorrow on this resolution that they're working on.

But we want to ask you about another topic. It's about a court case. It's actually sort of interesting. An atheist couple says the phrase "under God" violates student rights. The couple wants to remove it from the Pledge of Allegiance in a Massachusetts school district, and a Massachusetts judge rejected the case last year, saying that "under God" does not convert the exercise into prayer and that kids can choose not to say the prayer. Tomorrow the Massachusetts Supreme Court takes the case. Congressman West, should "under God" be removed from the pledge under any circumstance?

WEST: No, absolutely not. I do not think it should be. And again, it's not something we're forcing people to say. I find it very interesting that this case is being brought up in Massachusetts, which was really the birth place of our revolution. We stood up against the greatest power that the world knew at the time, the British empire. But if we want to remove "under God" from the Pledge of Allegiance, then shall we take "In God we trust" away? Let's remove that as our national motto. Let's take it off of our money. Let's look at the fact that Thomas Jefferson said that our unalienable rights come from a creator. Maybe that's offensive. Let's also look at the fact that they owed their divine providence to be able to stand up and create the United States of America. Faith has played an important part in this country.

VAN SUSTEREN: You know what I think is peculiar about this case, maybe it's just my background, is that the plaintiff in this case, the ones that are seeking to have the words removed from the pledge of allegiance, those terms, they filed it anonymously. And the court allowed this to anonymous. That's the one gripe I always had with journalism, always rely on anonymous sources. I say in court you identify yourself, you take the witness stand, you say your name, you get tested. And here for the life of me I can't figure out why in Massachusetts you can file a lawsuit anonymously.

WEST: It's very hard to understand. But again it's this march of quote-unquote "separation against church and state." When you ask people to show in the founding documents where that is, it's not in a declaration. It's not in a constitution. It's not in the Federalist papers. It's just people that believe they should separate any type of faith, any type of belief, from the United States of America when it played an important part in the early writings of the founding fathers.

What Thomas Jefferson, when he wrote the letter to the Danbury Baptist Convention saying that we should not have a head of state who is also the head of church, that's what he meant. And that's why we created the First Amendment that says you have the free exercise of religion. But we don't have state sponsored religion here in the United States of America, so I don't understand what this couple's gripe is about. And I think it's much ado about nothing.

VAN SUSTEREN: The lower court agreed with you, and of course the Massachusetts Supreme Court will hear it tomorrow.

One quick question before you go. When do you think there could be a strike in Syria? Do you want to wager that one?

WEST: If it's going to happen, it would be after a vote with the house and the Senate. I believe that the president is going to wait for that. He's drawn himself into a very, very tight box, and so he has to at least wait until the vote's been taken in the House and Senate.

VAN SUSTEREN: And of course that won't happen until he's out of the country in the next couple days, and they're not back yet from vacation. Don't get me started on that one.

WEST: One of the things that the Taliban would say in Afghanistan, you may have the watches, but we have the time.

VAN SUSTEREN: Nice to see you, sir.

WEST: Always a pleasure.