U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D) today offered his condolences to the victims of the heinous terrorist attacks in Paris, France, and discussed how America’s top priority must be to act diligently to eliminate this threat and protect the American people from future attacks.
Remarks (as prepared for delivery):
“Thank you, Madam President.
“I want to begin by echoing the condolences shared by millions around the world regarding last week's attacks in Paris.
“Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families and loved ones of those who died.
“As a nation, we remain committed to supporting and defending the people of France in whatever way we can.
The attacks in Paris last week remind us again of the dangerous world we live in.
“Although Paris has become the focus of attention, the day before the attacks in France, two ISIS suicide bombers in Beirut blew themselves up, killing 40 people in a bustling urban area.
“Our thoughts and prayers go out to the people of Beirut, and to all those who have suffered loss at the hands of this horrific terrorist organization.
“Madam President, ISIS remains one of the most brutal and indiscriminate terrorist organizations in recent history.
Its campaign of violence is not limited to a specific region, nationality, or religion.
“As the events in Paris have shown us, the threat posed by ISIS reaches well beyond the borders of Iraq and Syria.
“If it can, ISIS will spread its campaign of violence to innocent people all over the world.
“Madam President, the United States, as a champion of freedom and democracy, has a duty to stand up against ISIS’ brand of radical Islam and stomp it out wherever it exists.
“ISIS represents a clear and present danger to the American people and our allies, and it must be stopped.
“President Obama, when asked about ISIS the day before the Paris attacks, made the following statement:
“He said, quote, ‘I don't think they're gaining strength … From the start our goal has been first to contain, and we have contained them.’ End quote.
“‘We have contained them’ - Those are his words.
“Unfortunately, ISIS does not appear to be contained.
“My colleague from California, the ranking member on the Intelligence Committee, responded this week by saying, quote, ‘I've never been more concerned. I read the intelligence faithfully. ISIL is not contained. ISIL is expanding.’
“Yet Yesterday, President Obama unbelievably doubled down on this failing strategy, stating ‘We have the right strategy and we're going to see it through …’
“And when referring to the Paris attacks, he called them a ‘setback.’
“Madam President, based on the number of casualties and population of France this attack was the equivalent of a 9/11.
“I would hardly call such an attack a mere ‘setback.’
“When it comes to the U.S. strategy against ISIS, one thing is clear: ISIS cannot simply be contained. ISIS must be defeated.
“From what we have learned so far, most of the terrorists involved in last week’s Paris attack were individuals who already resided in France and Belgium.
“That means these are individuals who became radicalized at home, received training or support from ISIS, and in some cases traveled to Iraq or Syria for training and then returned to France to carry out these attacks.
“Since ISIS first occupied territory in Iraq and Syria and began recruiting foreign fighters, the possibility of these combatants returning home has been a concern to the United States and our allies.
“And this attack in Paris demonstrates the validity of that concern.
“As a nation, we must remain vigilant in defending our homeland against this type of attack by radicalized individuals holding U.S or European passports.
“I also want to speak for a moment about the Syrian refugee crisis.
“As we are all aware, the regime of Bashar al-Assad is responsible for the civil war in Syria that allowed ISIS to gain a foothold and expand.
“Assad used chemical weapons on his own people, and hundreds of thousands of lives have been lost as a result of the conflict he created.
“It is completely understandable that the peace-loving people of that country want out.
“Just this week, several of my colleagues sent a letter to President Obama, expressing concerns about the possibility of ISIS infiltrating the Syrian refugee population, and asking what is being done to thoroughly vet these refugees.
“Over half the governors in this nation have stated they don’t want Syrian refugees resettled in their states.
“I share their concerns.
“The U.S. should not accept Syrian refugees as long as there is a threat posed by ISIS.
“If we cannot be 100 percent certain that additional refugees from Syria do not put Americans at risk, the president's plan to accept up to 10,000 additional refugees this year should be rejected.
“And if the President tries to act unilaterally, Congress should cut off funding to prevent the President from taking any action that would put the American people at risk.
“If we are really going to be serious about solving the Syrian refugee crisis, the answer is not deciding which countries are accepting how many refugees.
“The answer is to defeat ISIS and remove Bashar al-Assad from power so the peace-loving people of Syria can return home.
“On that point, I want to speak about a realistic strategy for defeating ISIS.
“So far, the United States has relied almost entirely on airstrikes.
“Prior to the attacks in Paris, France was already the coalition partner conducting the second-greatest number of airstrikes against ISIS.
“Those airstrikes have been ramped up in recent days, but this is not a fundamental shift in our strategy.
“Airstrikes are important, but ultimately they cannot be a solution in themselves.
“It was Obama's politically motivated decision to withdraw troops from Iraq that ultimately led to ISIS expanding into Iraq to begin with.
“Obama stated yesterday that boots on the ground would be a mistake, but it was Obama's decision to withdraw U.S. troops that is partially responsible for creating this problem.
“And now we are at a point where retaking territory from ISIS will require ground forces - there is no way around it.
“If President Obama is going to be realistic about defeating ISIS, he needs to form a coalition capable of taking the war to ISIS on the ground.
“That does not require the U.S. committing ground troops, but it does require the US leading by example, and forming a coalition capable of fighting both in the air and on the ground.
“The president needs to stop talking about containment, and start acting on a strategy that will root out and defeat ISIS wherever it can be found.
“Thank you, and I suggest the absence of a quorum.”