Executive Sessionby Senator Lindsey Graham
Posted on 2013-03-07
GRAHAM. I thank my colleague. That is a very good question.
This has been a very lively debate. Senator Paul has a lot of passion, and that is a great thing. This is an important issue. We should be talking about it, and I welcome a reasoned discussion. But to my Republican colleagues, I don't remember any of you coming down here suggesting that President Bush was going to kill anybody with a drone-- I don't even remember the harshest critics of President Bush from the Democratic side. They had a drone program back then, so what is it all of a sudden about this drone program that has gotten every Republican so spun up? What are we up to here? I think President Obama has, in many ways, been a very failed President. I think his executive orders overstep, I think he has intruded into the congressional arena by Executive order, I think ObamaCare is a nightmare, and there are 1,000 examples of a failed Presidency, but there is also some agreement. People are astonished, I say to the Senator, that President Obama is doing many of the things President Bush did. I am not astonished. I congratulate him for having the good judgment to understand we are at war.
To my party, I am a bit disappointed that you no longer apparently think we are at war. Senator Paul, he is a man unto himself. He has a view I don't think is a Republican view. I think it is a legitimately held libertarian view.
Remember, Senator Paul was the one Senator who voted against a resolution that said the policy of the United States will not be to contain a nuclear-capable Iran. It was 90 to 1. To his credit, he felt that would be provocative and it may lead to a military conflict. He would rather have a nuclear-capable Iran than use military force, and he said so--to his credit. Ninety of us thought, well, we would like not to have a military conflict with Iran, but we are not going to contain a nuclear-capable Iran because it is impossible.
What would happen is that if Iran got a nuclear weapon, the Sunni Arab States would want a nuclear weapon, and most of us believe they would share the technology with the terrorists, who would wind up attacking Israel and the United States. It is not so much that I fear a missile coming from Iran; I fear, if they got a nuclear weapon or nuclear technology, they would give it to some terrorist organization-- like they gave IEDs to the Shia militia in Iraq to kill Americans--and they would wreak havoc on the world.
So we don't believe in letting them have it and trying to contain them because we believe their association with terrorism is too long and too deep, that it is too dangerous for Israel and too dangerous for us. But Senator Paul, to his credit, was OK with that; I just disagree with him.
As to what he is saying about the drone program, he has come our way some, and I appreciate that. Before, he had some doubt in his mind as to whether we should have killed Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen--an American citizen who had collaborated with al-Qaida and was actually one of the military leaders of al-Qaida in Yemen, who had radicalized Major Hasan, and who had been involved in planning terrorist attacks against U.S. forces throughout the region.
President Obama was informed through the military intelligence community channels of Anwar al-Awlaki's existence, all the videos he made supporting Jihad and killing Americans, and he, as Commander in Chief, designated this person as an enemy combatant.
Mr. President, you did what you had the authority to do, and I congratulate you in making that informed decision.
And the process to get on this target list is very rigorous--I think sometimes almost too rigorous.
But now, apparently, Senator Paul says it is OK to kill him because we have a photo of him with an RPG on his shoulder. He has moved the ball. He is saying now that he wants this President to tell him he will not use a drone to kill an American citizen sitting in a cafe having a cup of coffee who is not a combatant. I find the question offensive.
As much as I disagree with President Obama, as much as I support past Presidents, I do not believe that question deserves an answer because, as Senator McCain said, this President is not going to use a drone against a noncombatant sitting in a cafe anywhere in the United States, nor will future Presidents because if they do, they will have committed an act of murder. Noncombatants, under the law of war, are protected, not subject to being killed randomly.
So to suggest that the President won't answer that question somehow legitimizes that the drone program is going to result in being used against anybody in this room having a cup of coffee cheapens the debate and is something not worthy of the time it takes to answer.