By Kevin Robillard
A GOP candidate running for South Dakota’s lone seat in Congress said last year that a terrorist attack would help him win a contested primary, and also suggested members of the U.S. military are “mercenaries for Saudi Arabia.”
In audio obtained by HuffPost, state Sen. Neal Tapio said in a recorded conversation in the state capitol of Pierre that “there will be one more terrorist attack between now and then and I will be the, just by the Trump effect, I will be the candidate.”
In another snippet of recorded conversation, Tapio says he wouldn’t let one of his children serve in the military, and implies U.S. military operations in the Middle East are waged for the benefit of Saudi Arabia.
Tapio was the state director for Trump’s presidential bid and is selling “Mt. Trumpmore” T-shirts to support his campaign. He is running against Secretary of State Shantel Krebs and businessman Dusty Johnson, who was chief of staff for former South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard, in a three-way primary. The winner of the June 5 primary is expected to win the general election in the heavily Republican state.
Tapio’s comments on the terrorist attack were first reported by KELO, a news radio station. It’s not clear to whom Tapio was speaking. In responses to both KELO and HuffPost, Tapio did not deny the recording was his voice.
In April, Tapio posted a response on his Facebook page to KELO’s questions about the recording. “Terror has something to do with Islam. Nobody dares say this in public. I do,” he wrote.
However, he took issue with a question asking whether he thought a terror attack would help his campaign.
“To suggest I am advocating for a terror attack is a disgusting smear and you should be ashamed of yourself,” he wrote. “Anyone that would even suggest that is a vile and disgusting individual not worthy of being taken seriously.”
In an email to HuffPost, Tapio said his comments on mercenaries were meant to sympathize with U.S. troops, who he said have suffered since the beginnings of the war on terror 17 years ago.
He also said political leaders calling Islam a “religion of peace” meant ceding “the moral high ground of freedom,” and “[u]ntil we face the truth about the root cause of terrorism, we will never win this war.”
“I don’t think it’s controversial to speak the truth about the manipulations and unarticulated objectives of the Obama-Hillary Clinton foreign policy,” he said.
“The result in every conflict in the Bush-Obama era has been regime change that has left the most radicalized and dangerous elements of Muslim leadership in charge of entire nations,” he added.
Here’s Tapio’s full response:
America and the Western world have been fighting an endless war on terror since September 11, 2001. At a cost of nearly $7 trillion, this war has nearly bankrupted our nation. The financial cost fails to account for the heavy long term physical and mental toll on millions of service members and their families.
Shamefully, we don’t even dare call this war by it’s proper name, “the global war against Islamic terrorism.” Failure to properly identify the enemy is a slap in the face to every service member who has served and to all the military families who have sacrificed so much in this endless war. Worse, when our political and religious leaders tell us ‘Islam is a religion of peace’ and ‘terror has nothing to do with Islam,’ America cedes the moral high ground of freedom, and we no longer become a beacon of hope to all those living under a hateful and deadly ideology that punishes or kills them for leaving Islam. Until we face the truth about the root cause of terrorism, we will never win this war.
Many military families are asking, ‘for what purpose are we sacrificing American lives in this war?’ It is our duty as a country to clearly identify the enemy and clearly outline the path to victory. Only then can we ask a service member to place their life in danger.
President Trump is fighting every day to redefine our failed foreign policy of military intervention. He continually battles those who clamor for regime change in the Middle East, including those who want regime change in Syria.
Who is pushing hardest for regime change? I bet a full airing of my conversation would give you a better picture of my thoughts on broader Middle Eastern politics. Here is a brief outline.
For two decades or more, America’s honorable military tradition has been at the beck and call of a policy to rewrite the map of the Middle East, for reasons both evident and secretive. Interests beyond the disclosure of national security objectives and clear and present danger have placed our nation’s finest young men and women in theaters of battle with objectives that have been concealed from the American public and shielded even from Congressional approval to go to war, as demanded by the Constitution.
I don’t think this is a secret to most Americans to say that our military has faced a rate of deployment and a burden of service that has been unprecedented in our national history. And I don’t think it’s controversial to speak the truth about the manipulations and unarticulated objectives of the Obama-Hillary Clinton foreign policy. It’s high time someone spoke the truth about endless wars and the disservice that’s been visited on the finest military tradition and the most effective fighting force in the history of warfare.
Our fighting men and women are always ready and willing to answer the call and to make the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom. We owe to them as leaders and as citizens that that sacrifice never be demanded on false pretense. In Iraq it was weapons of mass destruction. In Libya it was humanitarian intervention. The result in every conflict in the Bush-Obama era has been regime change that has left the most radicalized and dangerous elements of Muslim leadership in charge of entire nations. With accelerated chaos, increased bloodshed and fewer rights and freedoms as a result.
I think our nation’s soldiers deserve better political outcomes than to watch patches of sand they fought, bled and died for to be given back to an ever encroaching enemy, and in every case, turned over to people who hate the United States, are openly hostile to democratic ideals and have no respect or reverence for essential liberty or the dignity of human life. The Middle East is not a military failure. It is a political travesty and a dishonest expenditure of the most valuable resource we have. The very best and most dedicated of our young men and women in uniform.