On Senate Floor, Duckworth Condemns Trump’s Response to Escalating Tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran
Her speech highlighted the implications of our nation’s outdated AUMFs, one of which turned 18 this week
[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – Today, combat Veteran and U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, spoke on the Senate floor in response to escalating tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran. Duckworth criticized Donald Trump for seemingly abdicating matters of war and peace to a foreign power, kowtowing to the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia and ignoring the fact that the Constitution grants Congress the sole authority to declare war. Since she was elected to the Senate, Duckworth has urged her colleagues to replace our outdated Authorizations for the Use of Military Force (AUMFs), which set the legal framework, parameters and constitutional basis for our ongoing military engagements.
Video of the Senator’s speech is available here.
“I will not stand idly by and let a single one of [our troops] shed blood in an avoidable conflict because Donald Trump has abdicated matters of war and peace to a despot who regularly flouts basic human rights and openly murders journalists.”
“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. Trump doesn’t get to mire us in yet another Middle East conflict just because he has a bizarre tendency to bow down and kiss up to the world’s cruelest tyrants.”
“A strong president wouldn’t care more about keeping tyrants happy than safeguarding our most precious resource: the brave men and women willing to lay down their lives to defend our nation. Yet day after day, Donald Trump wraps himself in the flag in the morning then abandons our servicemembers and our democratic norms by the afternoon.”
“We haven’t debated and passed a new Authorization for Use of Military Force in more than 15 years, and 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.”
“Once again, the Trump Foreign Policy Doctrine has proven reckless, senseless and dangerous, full of gas-lighting and bluster. A doctrine in which fact and fiction are one and the same. It’s shameful—it’s terrifying—that we have a commander in chief who comes to military decisions by virtue of temper tantrum and announces them via tweet.”
Duckworth’s full remarks as prepared are below:
- I could stay here all day listing the names of the braver-than-brave men and women whom I was lucky enough to serve with.
- I could stay here all night telling stories about their heroism and courage.
- I could stay here all week… all month… talking about the troops serving overseas right now…
- About those who are on their eighth or ninth tours…
- Or about those teenagers who weren’t even alive when the Twin Towers fell yet who are ready to ship off to Afghanistan this very moment if that’s what’s asked of them.
- I could go on and on all year if I wanted, and I still wouldn’t be able to convey the sacrifices they’re making because they love this country and would do anything to defend her.
- I will not stand idly by and let a single one of them shed blood in an avoidable conflict because Donald Trump has abdicated matters of war and peace to a despot who regularly flouts basic human rights and openly murders journalists.
- And yet after tensions spiked between Saudi Arabia and Iran this past weekend, that’s exactly what he seemed willing to do… tweeting that the U.S. was “locked and loaded,” just waiting for the Crown Prince to tell him how to proceed.
- We cannot let that slip by. The President—the commander in chief of the greatest military on the face of the earth!—just suggested that he was outsourcing the powers of war to a foreign regime—powers that aren’t even his to hand over. And he did it in a tweet.
- But while Trump may have never read the Constitution, I have.
- So let me direct his attention to Article I, which makes clear 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 Americans are sent into combat.
- We are the ones charged with that most solemn duty.
- Not Donald Trump, and certainly not Mohammed bin Salman.
- Yet Trump is acting as if Article I simply doesn’t exist… as if he could just usurp this power from the legislative branch and trade it to whomever he pleases … as if obeying the Constitution is optional, even while he tweets that he’s willing to obey a foreign prince.
- This shouldn’t be a partisan issue.
- 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.
- Trump doesn’t get to mire us in yet another Middle East conflict just because he has a bizarre tendency to bow down and kiss up to the world’s cruelest tyrants.
- Whether you ask a Constitutional scholar or a high school student taking U.S. history, they’ll tell you the same thing:
- That on matters of military force, the President doesn’t get to choose to take orders from foreign leaders—whether allies or adversaries.
- They take direction from Congress. Full stop.
- And I’m here today to say that we have not authorized him to ensnare us in another endless, senseless war.
- We haven’t debated and passed a new Authorization for Use of Military Force in more than 15 years, and 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.
- But listen. It’s not just me who believes this. It’s not just my fellow Democrats in the Senate, either.
- During the confirmation hearing for now-Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, I asked Trump’s nominee point-blank whether the existing AUMFs give this Administration the right to conduct a war with Iran.
- His answer? No. No they do not.
- Even in decades past when prior Presidents have gotten us tangled in bad wars based on bad intelligence, at the very least they made sure to loop in the United Nations.
- But Trump’s acting as if he wouldn’t even do that.
- He’s too busy thumping his chest and catering to the whims of autocrats.
- He’s too infatuated with maximum pressure to consider even minimum diplomacy… too distracted beating the drums of war to even think about how many troops he’d be sending into harm’s way.
- And for what? To protect the Saudi oil industry or the Crown Prince’s profits?
- Once again, the Trump Foreign Policy Doctrine has proven reckless, senseless and dangerous… full of gas-lighting and bluster… a doctrine in which fact and fiction are one and the same.
- It’s shameful—it’s terrifying—that we have a commander in chief who comes to military decisions by virtue of temper tantrum and announces them via tweet…
- A president who doesn’t seem to care that if he keeps to the path of fire and fury that he’s been treading, 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.
- Look, Donald Trump may have never deigned to put on our nation’s uniform, but I served in the military for 23 years.
- And 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.
- Now, with the drums of war pounding once again, I’m here today to keep my promise to do our troops justice… and to make sure that Donald Trump doesn’t outsource overseas yet another American job—Congress’s job to declare war.
- So if the Trump Administration wants 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 owe the troops we’d be sending into harm’s way.
- And you know, if the vote to authorize military force passes, 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.
- It would be nice if we had a President willing to do the same instead of one who thinks he looks tough by pushing us to the brink of a needless conflict.
- Because listen, Trump may think he comes off as strong by using phrases like “locked and loaded” and by spewing threats 280 characters at a time.
- But he’s never seemed weaker to me.
- A real commander in chief wouldn’t dole out matters of war to the highest bidder.
- A true leader wouldn’t bend to the whims of despots just because the size of their bank account.
- A strong president wouldn’t care more about keeping tyrants happy than safeguarding our most precious resource: the brave men and women willing to lay down their lives to defend our nation.
- Yet day after day, Donald Trump wraps himself in the flag in the morning then abandons our servicemembers and our democratic norms by the afternoon.
- And while he may have already shirked his duty as an elected official, I refuse to abandon mine.
- So as many times as is necessary, I’m gonna keep coming back to this chamber… keep raising my voice under this great Capitol dome… and keep demanding what’s actually in our nation’s best interest.
- Because I don’t take my orders from war criminals or dictators. I don’t serve foreign regimes.
- I serve the American people.
- Trump would do well to try that sometime.
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