NASHUA -- Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee on Friday warned that the country is at war with a perversion of Islam and that any bending of U.S. resolve will let the jihadists destroy America.
Huckabee, making his first trip to New Hampshire as a candidate for the Republican Party's presidential nomination, told business leaders at Daniel Webster College on Friday that the war isn't about borders or economics. It's about ill-interpreted theology.
"This is an enemy that really basks in the perversion of piety and the face of a faith to create a real sense of the ultimate contrast between light and between darkness, between life and between death," Huckabee said.
He said anything less than a resounding victory in Iraq and elsewhere would mean the end of U.S. culture.
"This is not like most wars and battles which are fought over property or prosperity or personalities or even politics," he said. "At the heart of this is religion. But a perversion of religion. Islamic fascism is real and the jihadists that have declared a war against us must be understood in the theological context in which this war is being waged."
Huckabee, who spent most of his career as a pastor, was the youngest president of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention. He led congregations in Pine Bluff and Texarkana before becoming only the fourth Republican to lead Arkansas since Reconstruction.
As governor of Arkansas, he cut taxes and made health care a top priority in one of the country's most unhealthy states. He lost 110 pounds after being diagnosed with diabetes and earned national attention as an advocate of spending more money to prevent disease and less money to treat it.
Weaving that personal history into remarks Friday, Huckabee said New Hampshire's first-in-the-nation primary shouldn't be won with money alone. Ideas and one-on-one conversations should give him an edge. Otherwise, he said, the whole contest should be auctioned off on eBay.
But the core of his message was that the country is war with a shameful enemy.
"We need to understand that this is, in fact, World War III. Unlike any other world war we've ever fought, this one is one we cannot afford to lose. Because losing it does not mean we lose some land or some geopolitical influence. It means we give up our own lives, because no less than that is the goal of the jihadists."