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Strengthening America's Security in the Middle East Act of 2019

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. PAUL. Mr. President, I compliment President Trump on being bold enough and strong enough to do something no President has contemplated in decades, Republican or Democratic, and that is to end the war in Afghanistan.

We have been there for 17 years. We voted on a resolution initially that said we would go after the people who attacked us on 9/11 and anyone who aided or abetted them. We did that. Today there is no one living who attacked us on 9/11 or who is free. There is no one living who aided or abetted the people who attacked us on 9/11. By any measurement, we are victorious. We killed bin Laden. We have disrupted the terror camps in Afghanistan. Is Afghanistan a mess? Sure, it is a mess. It has always been a mess and always will be a mess, but now our mission has changed to nation-building.

I compliment President Trump for being bold and brave in saying enough is enough. Let's spend that money at home. We spend $51 billion a year in Afghanistan. That money could be spent at home. I have three members of my family who are in the military. I don't want them to go to Afghanistan. Every one of our political and military leaders-- Republican, Democratic, and Independent--will tell you there is no military mission in Afghanistan. Yet we stay. Some of the very same people who say we have no mission, in their next breaths say we need to send more troops there. We sent 100,000, and we completely had victory. Then they came back as our troops came down. Are we to send 100,000 and keep them there forever?

This resolution is an insult to the President, and I will oppose it. This resolution has been put forward by Republicans, who say to President Trump: You are leaving precipitously from Afghanistan. How do you leave precipitously after 17 years? We are no longer fighting anyone who attacked us on 9/11. The people we are fighting were not even born when 9/11 happened. The war over there has nothing to do with 9/11. It has to do with nation-building. I will tell you what one Navy SEAL, whom I met a year or two ago, told me. He said: We will go everywhere. We will kill our enemy. We will do what you ask of us, but the mistake is when you ask us to stay, plant the flag, and become policemen. They don't want to be policemen. Our military members do not want to be the policemen of the world.

We fight when we have to, and we should come home. That money should be spent here at home. I completely and vigorously oppose this condemnation of the President. They say we are leaving precipitously. We have been there 17 years. The same people in the war caucus--and they are on both sides of the aisle--will also tell you, if you announce that you are leaving in 6 months, then you are telegraphing to the enemy that you are leaving. So they don't want us to leave precipitously, but they don't want us to leave in a planned way. They have left us no way to leave.

People talk about bipartisanship. What is the one thing that brings Republicans and Democrats together? War. They love it--the more the better, forever war, perpetual war. We are spending $51 billion a year in Afghanistan. We spend it on luxury hotels that are half completed. The contractors have run off with the money. One of the hotels that sits across from our Embassy serves as a place for snipers to shoot at our soldiers. We have to now patrol this half-built hotel, and the guy who was building it ran off with the money. The government we supported for a decade--the Karzai government--grew more poppy than anybody in the world. The guy's brother was a drug dealer, and his other brother was a thief and ran off with the money. Is it any wonder that the Afghan people turn away from the government we have given them? It is time to declare victory and come home.

This resolution, like so many resolutions, could be misinterpreted as being another affirmation that we stay forever. So I also support language that should be added to this resolution that says: Nothing in this resolution is to be construed as an authorization for war. Why? Because we had an authorization like this about Libya that didn't give power to the government to commit war. It passed on a Thursday evening, when many Members were traveling back to their States, and President Obama, at that time, used it and said: Oh, everybody is in favor of the new war in Libya, which also turned out to be a disaster.

With regard to the troops in Syria, President Trump said: I will defeat ISIS, and we will come home. Now the people are changing the mission. They say: We have to stay there until the Russians leave. We have to stay there until the Iranians leave. They have been there a long time. They are not leaving. That means we stay there forever. We have 2,000 troops compared to tens of thousands of other troops, compared to a couple hundred thousand Turkish troops along the border. Do we really want to be involved in another enormous land war in the Middle East? To what end?

The great irony of this is, the war caucus on both sides--Republicans and Democrats, those who will not ever let the soldiers come home-- typically vents its anger and says: The President has unlimited power, and how dare Congress get in his way with regard to war. Here is the irony. We now have a President who wants to use his power to come home, and they are stepping in and saying: Oh, no. We need to make sure he is consulting with Congress because we want to stay at war forever, and the President wants to bring troops home. So this is a resolution to condemn the President for trying to bring troops home for the first time in 17 years.

What are we spending the money on--$51 billion a year? We have spent over $6 trillion between the Iraq war and the Afghan war--$6 trillion. The $51 billion a year we are spending in Afghanistan is being spent on a luxury hotel, and we have spent $45 billion on a gas station. I think we spent about $90 million on the hotel and $45 million on the gas station. Do you know what kind of gas they pump? Natural gas. How many people have a car in America that runs on natural gas? Virtually nobody. How many people in Afghanistan have a car that runs on natural gas? Zero. So we bought them some cars. Then they didn't have any money, so we gave them credit cards so they could use the gas pumps. I sent my staffers to see if the gas station even existed, but they couldn't get there because it was too dangerous. After 17 years, you can't travel more than a few blocks in Kabul except without helicopter warships and an escort of dozens of marines.

It is completely a disaster. More poppy was grown there last year than in any recent year, and the people say: We shouldn't give up. All we have to do is send more soldiers. All we have to do is fight longer. When are they going to fight? They have 300,000 people in their army. When are they going to fight? If they want their homeland, stand up and fight for it. I am tired of America always doing everybody else's fighting. I am tired of America always paying for everybody else's war.

People say: Oh, they might come and attack us. We should be prepared. We should have robust intelligence. We should know what is going on, and we should disrupt terrorist camps if we have to. Yet every person out there who believes in this radical Islam, in this radical jihad is not coming over here. Every misbegotten village in Africa is not a threat to the United States, and that is the debate we should be having.

They say: It is in our national security interests. Really? To go to Niger to go to Mali? to be fighting in Somalia? to be fighting in Yemen? to be fighting in Afghanistan and in Iraq? That is not in our national interest.

People say: We must fight them there or they will come here. Well, guess what. They have been coming here since 9/11. We have arrested over 300 terrorists in our country. It was only a year ago that a dozen people were killed in New York by a terrorist, so it is not as if they haven't been coming. In fact, we don't condone terrorists' reasons for coming, but if you look at their reasons for coming, they say it is because we are over there.

So we are trapped by this platitude. This platitude is: We must fight them over there so they will not be over here. Well, they are over here, and when they tell you why they are over here, they say they are over here because we are over there. I am not saying we do nothing. I am not saying we don't have counterterrorism, but I will tell you that when in some remote village in Yemen we swoop in at night and kill 15 people, including women and children, the surrounding neighborhood and countryside, for 100 years, will speak to an old tradition of the night the Americans came.

Ultimately, Islam must police Islam. They are never going to accept Americans coming in and telling them how to live or how they should behave or getting rid of even the bad elements among them. They need to step up and do it.

We have taken 99 percent of the land back from ISIS. That is not enough. People say there are still suicide bombers. Yes, there will be suicide bombers in the Middle East until the end of time. If we are waiting until there are no suicide bombers in the Middle East, we will wait forever. Can the people there do nothing to take care of themselves? Is there nobody there who can stop the 1 percent from coming back? Will people not step up and fight their own wars?

We have given them trillions of dollars--the uniforms, the weapons. Everything has been ours. Every time we say we have to be involved, there are unintended consequences. In Syria, we gave arms to people who were radical extremists. We gave arms to people who were actually allied with al-Qaida. Some say there is no difference between al-Qaida and the people to whom we gave arms. At one point in time, it was said that ISIS had $1 billion worth of humvees that were from the United States. The arms that were coming out of Libya--and Hillary Clinton supported taking those arms into Libya--were going to the wrong people. We were taking them to one set of bad people and giving them to another set of bad people.

Maybe, sometimes, there isn't a lesser of two evils. Maybe, sometimes, we have to be concerned about America. What I am saying with this resolution is I am for replacing it completely and saying to President Trump: We think we are doing a great job, and thank goodness for being bold enough to say it is time to start thinking about America first.


Mr. PAUL. Mr. President, one of the things that I think are fundamental to our country is the freedom to protest, the freedom to dissent, and the freedom to boycott if you so choose. Our country was actually founded with a boycott. The boycott was dumping English tea into the ocean. In my State, Henry Clay was famous for passing legislation boycotting British goods so that people could wear American clothing. He actually fought a duel over that and became famous and then became one of the most famous U.S. Senators.

The idea that you should be allowed to boycott, that it is an extension of your speech, that it is an extension of the First Amendment, I think goes to the very heart of who we are as a people. It is hard for me to believe that part of this bill they are putting forward would affirm State law that says you can't do business with the government if you are involved with the boycott against Israel.

I am not really making a point on whether the boycott is good or bad or with regard to Israeli policy; my point is whether it is good or bad with regard to the First Amendment. You see, the First Amendment isn't really about hearing from people about things that you like. If it is speech that you like and people say you are a great guy, you are not going to be offended by that speech. It is when people are critical of you or critical of your thoughts or have different thoughts--that is what the First Amendment is about.

It is an extraordinary thing in our country that people can actually speak up and speak their minds. If people don't think the settlements on the West Bank are a good idea, should they be allowed to speak their mind? Should they be forbidden from doing work for the government?

The problem is that the government has gotten so big. There is a teacher in Texas who is Muslim. I think she teaches autistic or special needs kids. She is a contractor. She was asked to sign a statement saying that she would never boycott goods made in Israel. Well, she objects to some of the policies, I presume, on the West Bank. I don't agree with her, but that is a fundamentally American thing--to be able to object. Should we have a law that says you can't boycott your government and that you can't boycott your government's policy? To me, that is a real danger.

Freedom of speech is not about the easy stuff. It is not about the language you like. It is not about saying ``Oh, if you are a Republican and everybody is saying Republican things, that is fine, but we are not going to hear from Democrats,'' or if you are a Democrat, it is not about saying ``Well, the First Amendment is fine for Democrats, but we don't want to hear from those Republicans.'' It is about speech, whether you like it or not. Boycotting is speech.

I went to a Baptist college. I remember when I was in college that the Baptist women of the Southwest Baptist Convention didn't like pornography being out in front at the store where kids could view it. Do you know what they did? They marched. They didn't hurt anybody. They didn't commit violence. They did nonviolent protests by marching in front of the utility stores until--guess what--because of the economic boycott and the bad press, the people put the pornographic magazines behind the counter, and only adults were allowed to buy them and look at them. That is from a boycott.

We boycotted English tea to found a country.

Does anybody remember the boycotts in Montgomery? Rosa Parks didn't like the fact that she was being separated and told to sit in the back of the bus, so African Americans from around the country but definitely across Alabama and Montgomery boycotted the bus system.

Are we here to say that we are going to forbid boycotting, that you can't do business with the government? Here is the problem. People say: Oh, it is a privilege to do business with the government. What if you are a physician and half of your business is with the government? What if you are a nurse? Half of the healthcare in our country is paid for by the government. What if you are a teacher and you work in the public schools? Are we going to ask all of these people to take a litmus test that they are not going to boycott or protest against their government's policy? What kind of country would we live in? Yet it is groupthink around here. Everybody is so paranoid and saying: Oh, we can't object to this lobby. Because this lobby is so powerful, we can't object to them.

Look, it isn't about the ideas; it is about the freedom of speech.

Listen to what you will hear here. There is going to be an objection. They are not going to let me vote on this. So not only are they going to ban boycotting, they are banning the idea that, in the Senate, we would vote on whether we would allow boycotting in our country.

My amendment is to take out the language that supports banning boycotts and reaffirms the First Amendment. It will be denied because nobody wants to vote on this. Nobody wants to have a debate over the First Amendment.


Mr. PAUL. I think this is an important debate, and time will tell. This will go to the Supreme Court, and I expect the Supreme Court will rebuke this body for not carefully considering the First Amendment. Vote on Amendment No. 96


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