Duckworth to Mattis: Stand Up to Trump’s Executive Order, American Troops Are at Risk
WASHINGTON, DC - U.S. Senator and combat Veteran Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) called on U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis to stand up to President Trump's executive order (EO), which endangers both our national security and the safety of our currently-deployed troops by limiting travel from certain Muslim-majority countries. In a letter sent to Secretary Mattis this week, Duckworth recalled the Secretary's own words from last year regarding then-candidate Trump's incendiary "Muslim ban" proposal. At the time, the Secretary criticized the proposal, saying "this kind of thing is causing us great damage right now, and it's sending shock waves through the international system."
"There are over 5,000 U.S. troops in Iraq, many of whom are embedded with front-line Iraqi units and working side-by-side with their Muslim counterparts," wrote Duckworth. "Each of these brave Americans serving in uniform was put at risk by President Trump's [executive order. Your own] comments suggest you understand the security implications of this dangerous EO for the region and how it will complicate our counter-ISIL efforts. The EO President Trump signed and handed to you...handed our enemies a propaganda coup [and]...sent a clear message that as an ally America cannot be counted on, cannot be trusted and is willing to compromise our values in turning our backs on Iraqis and Syrians fleeing religious and political oppression perpetrated by our shared enemies."
Duckworth, who served in Iraq at the same time as Secretary Mattis, also reminded the retired General that the Armed Forces-like the country it is duty-bound to protect-has a proud history of including of people of many faiths. She expressed her frustration that the executive order was signed in the Pentagon's Hall of Heroes, a room dedicated to those who gave the last full measure of devotion in defense of the ideals of our nation, including religious freedom and inclusion. In closing her letter, Senator Duckworth highlighted the story of Cpl. Ali J. Mohammed, a former Iraqi refugee who fled his home in Baghdad and joined the Marines. Cpl. Mohammed was featured on DOD's own Twitter account last week, but he would not have been able to enter the United States or enlist in the military had the President's executive order been in effect just 7 years ago.
"I will leave you with the story of Cpl. Ali J. Mohammed, a former Iraqi refugee who fled his home in Baghdad at the age of 16 after his family received numerous threats from extremists for their role in supporting American troops," Duckworth added. "He became a Marine and is currently deployed to Iraq in support of our counter-ISIL efforts. You should know him well, since your own Department posted a message about him on Twitter last week right before the President signed an order that would have barred him from entering this country."
The full text of the letter is as follows:
The Honorable Jim Mattis
Secretary of Defense
U.S. Department of Defense
1000 Defense Pentagon
Washington, DC 20301-1300
Dear Secretary Mattis:
There are over 5,000 U.S. troops in Iraq, many of whom are embedded with front-line Iraqi units and working side-by-side with their Muslim counterparts as they encircle Mosul to expel the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) from their last stronghold in that country. Additionally, we have several hundred special operations forces in Syria, assisting local Syrian militias to combat ISIL. Each of these brave Americans serving in uniform was put at risk by President Trump's January 27, 2017 executive order (EO), "Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States."
By barring all people from Iraq and Syria from the U.S., the Trump Administration sent a dangerous message to our partners - and handed our enemies a propaganda coup - that will result in harmful second and third order effects on current and future operations. The EO President Trump signed and handed to you sent a clear message that as an ally America cannot be counted on, cannot be trusted and is willing to compromise our values in turning our backs on Iraqis and Syrians fleeing religious and political oppression perpetrated by our shared enemies, such as ISIL. Our troops are eating, sleeping, training and fighting alongside the very people the Trump Administration wishes to keep out.
Your experience in the region makes you well aware that the success of the U.S.-led coalition's efforts against ISIL hinges upon this kind of close cooperation. Yet, I am gravely concerned about what happens to these critical coalition relationships when word begins to trickle down to front-line units that this is how we treat those who assist U.S. efforts. Relationships become strained, trust is lost, resentment sets in and unit-cohesion begins to breakdown. Ultimately, combat power is lost. By signing such an executive order at the Pentagon, President Trump failed to take into account that this action erodes the very basis of trust and confidence that is critical for successful combat operations. This EO directly imperils our servicemembers' lives and makes it all but impossible for us to achieve our objectives.
Moreover, this EO and the rhetoric that has accompanied it feeds directly into ISIL's apocalyptic narrative that the West is at war with Islam and hates Muslims. In fact, on Saturday pro-ISIL channels on Telegram Messenger were alight with the news of the EO, sharing the stories from Fox News, the New York Times and other media outlets. It is well documented in ISIL's official literature that they seek the elimination of the areas where Muslims and those of other faiths live side-by-side in peace. This executive order only accelerates that narrative, serving as a recruitment tool for jihadists, putting a target on the backs of our servicemembers and diplomats overseas and undermining American efforts to counter ISIL propaganda.
Most alarming is that the Trump Administration's EO effectively bars Iraqis and Syrians who risked their lives in direct service to the U.S. as interpreters. Just by associating with U.S. forces, these brave intepreters and their families become targets for assassination. Despite the clear risk, from 2003 until now, interpreters courageously stepped forward because they saw in our American forces a chance for a better future. They saw hope. They saw something worth fighting for. Without their actions, our forces would not have achieved their missions and Americans lives would have been lost on the battlefield.
Undoubtedly, throughout your distinguished time in the region as the Commanding General of 1st Marine Division deployed to Iraq or as the Commanding General of Central Command, you learned how critical interpreters are to our troops and how they are an important force-multiplier. This EO now requires us to ask who will come forward to partner with American forces in future conflicts if the local populace see how those who come before them are now treated by our country.
Not more than six months ago at the Hoover Institution, in commenting on then-candidate Trump's campaign promise to ban Muslim immigrants, you criticized President Trump's incendiary proposals and rhetoric, stating: "this kind of thing is causing us great damage right now, and it's sending shock waves through the international system."
These comments suggest you understand the security implications of this dangerous EO for the region and how it will complicate our counter-ISIL efforts. Widespread reporting indicates that relevant agencies and officials were not properly informed of the EO, not meaningfully included in its development and not consulted on the consequences of implementing it. These reports raise troubling questions on precisely what role, if any, the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) played in the development of this EO. To assist Congress in conducting oversight of this vital interagency process and examining the implications this EO could have on our brave men and women in uniform, please provide my office with the following information:
- DOD's initial estimates and analysis of the EO and its potential effects on operations in support of Operation Inherent Resolve-including those from prior to the signing of the EO;
- An assessment of the EO's impacts on U.S. and coalition efforts going forward in support of Operation Inherent Resolve;
- A security and risk assessment of the EO's impact on U.S. personnel - both uniformed and civilian - in Iraq, Syria and throughout the region;
- Your assessment of how the EO impacts U.S. relationships with regional allies;
- The analysis DOD produced in estimating the number of interpreters who would be impacted by the EO prior to its signing, or an explanation for why DOD did not conduct such a review;
- DOD's estimate of the number of interpreters and family members that the United States Government has partnered with since 2001, including an analysis of the EO's impact on these individuals; and
- Any other factors you believe warrant consideration in assessing the EO's impacts on our security and diplomatic interests in both the near and long-term.
Given the sensitive and likely classified nature of these requests, my office is ready to help facilitate the logistics of ensuring classified information is properly transmitted in accordance with all applicable guidelines for the proper handling of classified material.
Our servicemen and women swear a solemn oath to "support and defend the Constitution of the United States." Sadly, the EO President Trump signed on Friday and handed to you undermines the very constitution they swore to uphold. The military is full of people of many faiths, including many Muslims. Using the Pentagon as the backdrop for signing an order that effectively bars many Muslims from this country is a slap in the face to the Muslim men and women in uniform who work in your building.
Irrespective of one's religious affiliation, I urge you to consider the message sent to our troops last Friday in the Hall of Heroes. Rather than project strength, this EO represents fear and cruelty. The only strength on display at the signing ceremony was from the memory of those Medal of Honor recipients honored in the Hall.
I implore you to use your considerable position of power and many years of military experience, to impress upon President Trump the folly of such an order and urge the President to rescind it immediately. Now is not the time to follow orders without question or hesitation. DOD needs its civilian leadership to defend the agency's workforce, values and mission.
In closing I will leave you with the story of Cpl. Ali J. Mohammed, a former Iraqi refugee who fled his home in Baghdad at the age of 16 after his family received numerous threats from extremists for their role in supporting American troops. He became a Marine and is currently deployed to Iraq in support of our counter-ISIL efforts. You should know him well, since your own Department posted a message about him on Twitter last week right before the President signed an order that would have barred him from entering this country.
United States Senator
Next Article Previous Article