A picture of Senator Orrin G. Hatch
Orrin H.
Republican UT

About Sen. Orrin
  • National Security Challenges

    by Senator Orrin G. Hatch

    Posted on 2015-02-09

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    HATCH. Madam President, today I rise with my friend, the senior Senator from Oklahoma, to discuss some of the most pressing national security issues the Senate is poised to confront. These matters include the confirmation of Ashton Carter as Secretary of Defense, whose nomination I strongly support; and Senator Ayotte's Guantanamo Bay detainee transfer bill, of which I am a cosponsor. Indeed, I applaud the expeditious consideration of Senator Ayotte's bill in the Armed Services Committee under the leadership of Senator McCain.

    These moves come at a critically important time as we continue to witness the spectacles of barbarism perpetrated by the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS--aid workers and journalists gruesomely beheaded; Christians tortured and murdered for refusing to convert; and most recently, a captured coalition pilot burned alive.

    These acts are just a glimpse of the undiluted savagery unleashed by this terrorist organization on the large swath of territory in Iraq and Syria that it controls. Even beyond its horrific human rights violations, the Islamic State threatens to destabilize the entire Middle East and it is attempting to undo all that was accomplished by our servicemembers in 8 years of blood and sacrifice in Iraq.

    Most troubling of all, the Islamic State serves as a safe haven for terrorist training and planning, similar to Afghanistan prior to the September 11 attacks. With the Islamic State's stated intention to ``raise the flag of Allah in the White House'' and kill ``hundreds of millions'' in a worldwide ``religious cleansing,'' there can be no doubt this organization poses a clear and present danger to the national security of the United States and to our allies, not only in the Middle East but throughout the world. Accordingly, we must fight and defeat this dangerous terrorist organization.

    It is therefore incumbent upon us as legislators to ensure we provide all the tools necessary for defeating the enemy. Personally, I agree with the Obama administration's previous determination that the President has ample powers to conduct operations against the Islamic State under article II of the Constitution as well as the existing authorizations for the use of military force passed by Congress in 2001 against Al Qaeda and the Taliban in 2002 for Iraq. Nevertheless, I agree with the President that Congress should authorize the use of force against the Islamic State, not only to put to rest any legal questions about the President's power to use force, but also to demonstrate to the world America's resolve in this fight against terror.

    If we are to pass a new authorization for use of military force, it is critically important to ensure that this new law is properly crafted. It will define against whom and under what conditions our Nation may direct its national might.

    Therefore, Senator Inhofe and I feel compelled to propose general principles that we believe should guide this effort, especially since it appears the President will send his own draft to Congress shortly. Senator Inhofe and I are offering these thoughts with no intention to undermine careful consideration of the President's proposal by the Senate's national security committees.

    Furthermore, we do not at all wish to complicate the efforts to reach consensus by laying down demands. Far from it. Rather, our intent is to facilitate the legislative process by outlining some of the elements we believe to be most crucial for ensuring the success of our servicemembers as they confront this great evil.

    First, the authorization should clearly articulate that the executive branch is authorized to use force--employed in accordance with the law of armed conflict--against the Islamic State.

    Second, the authorization should be flexible enough to be utilized not only against the Islamic State as it appears today, but also in whatever form the organization takes going forward. This flexibility should also include the authority to use force against organizations that are associated with or materially supporting the Islamic State.

    Finally, and most importantly, the authorization should not impose any artificial and unnecessary limitations--such as those based on time, geography, and type of force--that could interfere with our strategic objective of defeating the Islamic State.

    Unfortunately, many have suggested including such artificial limitations on the use of force in a future authorization. Specifically, many have discussed prohibiting the use of ground forces as well as providing an expiration date for the authorization. These are restrictions the Islamic State could use to its advantage. If we are telling the Islamic State upfront we will not use ground forces, will they not tailor their strategy around that fact? If we advertise when the authorization expires at an arbitrary date and time, will they not hunker down and wait for that date? Why would we not only unilaterally impose limitations as to which types of tools and tactics our servicemembers can use, but then also broadcast those limitations to the enemy? Indeed, we believe that Congress and the President should heed the advice of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey, who stated in an interview on January 23, 2015, that: I think in the crafting of the AUMF, all options should be on the table, and then we can debate whether we want to use them. But the authorization should be there. . . . In particular, it shouldn't constrain activities geographically, because ISIL knows no boundaries [and] doesn't recognize any boundaries--in fact it's their intention to erase all boundaries to their benefit. . . . Constraints on time, or a ``sunset clause,'' I just don't think it's necessary. I think the nation should speak of its intent to confront this radical ideological barbaric group and leave the option until we can deal with it.

    Senators Inhofe and I could not agree more. We hope the Congress will enact a new authorization based on the principles we are outlining here today. I want to thank him. I hope our colleagues will take this seriously and hopefully we can turn this mess around.

    I suggest the absence of a quorum.

    The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Gardner). The clerk will call the roll.

    The bill clerk proceeded to call the roll.

    [[Page S852]]

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