As Trump Escalates Tensions, Duckworth Reiterates that President Does Not Have Legal Authority to Start a War with Iran
Duckworth criticizes Donald Trump for manufacturing dangerous crisis with Iran
[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – Today, combat Veteran and U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) delivered powerful remarks on the Senate floor criticizing Donald Trump and his Administration’s reckless, erratic strategy on Iran while warning of the severe consequences of blundering into war. Duckworth outlined how the Trump Administration has manufactured a crisis with Iran and unnecessarily ratcheted up tensions in the region, creating a dangerous situation – and how despite Donald Trump’s bluster, only Congress has the constitutional authority to declare war on Iran.
Duckworth also drew on her personal experiences to remind her colleagues of what’s at stake and emphasize the costs of any potential war, both in dollars and cents as well as human lives. Video of the Senator’s speech is available here.
- “I ran for Congress so that when the drums of war sounded, I’d be in a position to make sure that our elected officials fully consider the true costs of war—not just in dollars and cents, but in human lives. That was the vow I made to the troops I deployed with and all those who’ve served since I hung up my uniform. Today, I’m standing here on the floor of the United States Senate to keep that promise.”
- “Iran is no friend of ours. We’ve been adversaries since long before Trump took office. But what we’re facing today is, in part, a manufactured crisis. The Trump Administration seems to be making foreign policy decisions ... to serve some ideology or political purpose. In that effort, they’re using our troops as bait… as if they’re trying to manufacture their own 21st century Gulf of Tonkin crisis that they can use to justify war...Our troops should never be chess pieces in some reckless ideological game.”
- “The fact of the matter is that the President does not have the authority to declare war. Only Congress has that power. We are the ones tasked with deciding when and how we send Americans into combat...Not Donald Trump, and certainly not unelected warmongers like Bolton.”
Duckworth’s full remarks as prepared are below:
The past week has laid bare just how dangerous it can be to have a President who approaches foreign policy as if it’s a reality show where the worst that can happen is getting kicked off before the next episode airs…
A President who doesn’t seem to recognize that his words…his decisions... can have life-and-death consequences for the brave Americans who wear our nation’s uniform.
No matter your political party, what we’ve seen from the White House of late should worry every one of us.
In one breath, Trump is beating the drums of war… thumping his chest and pushing for a conflict that would kill an unimaginable number of people… servicemembers and civilians alike.
In the next breath, he tries to act like a peacemaker who wouldn’t even think of starting another war.
It’s gas-lighting, plain and simple—yet it’s the closest thing to a Trump Foreign Policy Doctrine that we’ve seen since his inauguration.
So while I’m glad he called off a military strike last week, that hasn’t made me forget that he and aides like John Bolton are the ones who brought us to the brink of war in the first place.
Trump won’t get any points from me for taking a small step to avert a disaster he himself created.
And I have no confidence whatsoever that his carelessness won’t lead us right back to that same brink today, tomorrow or a week from now.
Because when it comes to Iran, Trump’s erratic, incoherent strategy isn’t just worrisome…
It’s potentially deadly for the men and women willing to sacrifice everything to keep the rest of us safe.
Look, I ran for Congress so that when the drums of war sounded, I’d be in a position to make sure that our elected officials fully consider the true costs of war—not just in dollars and cents, but in human lives.
That was the vow I made to the troops I deployed with and all those who’ve served since I hung up my uniform.
And today, I’m standing here on the floor of the United States Senate to keep that promise.
Right now, more and more Americans are preparing to head to a warzone 6,000 miles east to protect this nation.
They’re ready to do their jobs, no matter what—just as they’ve done time after time after time, even as their President and, yes, the representatives in this very chamber neglect theirs.
Again and again, this Administration has laid out two scenarios that they say would justify war with Iran.
Then, they’ve taken action to make those circumstances a reality… setting us on a collision course with life-and-death stakes and no easy off-ramp.
The first scenario is if Iran edges closer to making a nuclear weapon.
Well, you don’t need to be a physicist to understand that Trump himself made that possibility more likely.
First, by unilaterally pulling the U.S. out of the nuclear agreement, he freed Iran from having to abide by the deal that limited their nuclear production.
Now, he’s raging about Iran doing the very things his actions encouraged them to do.
It’s circular logic—with potentially fatal consequences.
The second scenario they’ve laid out is an attack on U.S. troops in the area—another possibility made more likely by a series of Trump’s recent moves, as he’s made clear through his bombastic statements that he’s looking for excuses to send more troops to the area.
Now, we’re dealing with the entirely predictable fallout from those actions: the raised stakes… the stoked tensions... and the louder calls for war from some on the right.
Look, Iran is no friend of ours. We’ve been adversaries since long before Trump took office.
But what we’re facing today is, in part, a manufactured crisis.
The Trump Administration seems to be making foreign policy decisions not based on this country’s interests, but to serve some ideology or political purpose.
And in that effort, they’re using our troops as bait… as if they’re trying to manufacture their own 21st century Gulf of Tonkin crisis that they can use to justify war.
In some sort of nightmare déjà vu, it’s as if they’re drawing from the same script that led us into Iraq.
Sowing chaos. Shrouding intelligence. Putting troops in harm’s way for no clear reason—and with no clear end-state in mind.
On some days, it almost seems like they’re provoking… even promoting… war just for war’s sake.
Repeating those mistakes of years past that cost us so many lives.
It’s as if Trump and the extremists in his Administration don’t remember all the sacrifices of our troops have made in the war we’re still waging just west of Iran.
It’s as if they’ve forgotten all those flag-draped coffins returning from Iraq, and the many Veterans who came home with scars both visible otherwise… most of whom will never be the same.
Look, I’m no dove. I understand that war is sometimes necessary, and our troops certainly do as well.
And while Trump and Bolton may have never deigned to put on the uniform, I volunteered and served in the military for 23 years.
I chose to fight in a war I didn’t support on the orders of a president I didn’t vote for.
Why? Because while I may not have believed in the war, I believed—and still believe—in the Constitution, and my Commander in Chief gave a lawful order after having been authorized to do so by Congress.
So while I may not have supported the war or that President, I’m proud to have deployed to Iraq to serve my country.
So I know what is at stake for the thousands of troops this Administration is sending into harm’s way.
And I can tell you this: it is a whole lot easier to cover your eyes and order other Americans to sacrifice if you don’t have to sacrifice anything for it yourself.
Trump may have responded No, all five times his nation called him to duty. But our troops respond with a salute, and report for duty every single time, time after time after time. I know of troops who have done eight deployments.
It's much easier to ignore the everyday realities of war from inside the secure the security of the White House. But it's nearly impossible if you've been outside the wire yourself.
It’s much easier to ignore the everyday realities of war from inside the security of the White House.
But it’s nearly impossible if you’ve been outside the wire yourself.
So with the drums of war beating loudly once again, I’m standing here under the great Capitol dome today, trying to keep my promise to hold the members of this body accountable…
Trying to make sure we do our jobs.
Because the costs of war in both dollars and cents and human lives will no longer just be theoretical if we keep to the path aides like Bolton are pursuing:
Our own homeland will be in greater danger.
More wounded warriors will be sent to Walter Reed.
And more fallen heroes will be laid to rest at Arlington.
Even if you’re okay with that, the fact of the matter is that the President does not have the authority to declare war.
Only Congress has that power.
We are the ones tasked with deciding when and how we send Americans into combat.
We are the ones the Constitution charged with that most solemn duty.
Not Donald Trump, and certainly not unelected warmongers like Bolton.
Lately though, the White House has behaved as if Article I simply doesn’t exist… Trump has acted as if he can just usurp this power from the legislative branch… as if obeying the Constitution is optional.
Well, it’s not.
This shouldn’t be a partisan issue.
No matter if you’re a factory worker pulling double-shifts or the President of the United States, no one is above the law.
No matter if you’re struggling to pay rent or your name is plastered in gold on the front of a building on Fifth Avenue, no one can overrule the Constitution.
And our troops should never be chess pieces in some reckless ideological game.
So now, in the midst of the very week dedicated to Congress debating next year’s defense funding, it’s past time for Congress to reclaim the solemn responsibility… the burden… of declaring war.
For too long, too many on the Hill have shrugged off that most sacred duty.
Scared of the political risks… staring down Election Days… Congress has shirked its Constitutional responsibility to our troops, refusing to take up any new Authorizations for Use of Military Force.
For decades, Congress has ceded its authority to the White House by failing to act… handing presidents from both parties the ability to command our military without clear authorization, effectively cutting the people’s elected representatives out of the war-making process entirely.
Enough of being so worried about political consequences that we fail to do our own jobs, even as we expect our troops to do theirs without complaint every damn day.
We need to do better by our servicemembers.
We owe it to them to honor their sacrifices.
Part of that means ensuring that no American sheds blood in a war Congress hasn’t authorized.
Because despite what some in the Administration say, there’s just no way that the AUMF passed to go after the perpetrators of 9/11 can justify military action against Iran nearly two decades later, sending troops overseas who may not have been alive when that AUMF was voted on.
So if Trump and company want to go to war, they must bring their case to Congress and give the American people a say through their elected representatives.
They must respect our servicemembers enough to prove why war with Iran is worth turning more moms and dads into Gold Star parents.
And they must testify about what the end-state in Iran actually looks like.
Then, when their case has been made… when Congress’ debate is done… we should vote.
It’s our duty.
It’s the least we can do for those willing to safeguard our democracy… our way of life… our Constitution, even if it means laying down their lives.
But in the days ahead, vigilance is key.
We can’t simply believe the people trying to convince us that in order to support our troops, we need to authorize this war ASAP.
As former commander, I know that isn’t true.
The best thing we can do for our servicemembers is make sure they know their actions are legally justified by their government.
If that takes a week… if that takes two, or three… then it’s worth it.
And if the vote to authorize military force passes… whenever that is… then I will be the first person to volunteer to deploy.
Ready to pack my rucksack. To dust off my uniform.
Ready to fly helicopters… take on the grunt work… or do whatever else it takes to uphold that oath that all servicemembers and Veterans have sworn:
To protect and defend this nation we love. No matter what.
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