U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) today discussed President Obama’s refusal to recognize the growing threat of ISIS and the president’s failed foreign policy that has contributed to the group’s extensive global reach. Thune called on Obama to commit to working with Republicans to take the necessary steps to defeat ISIS.
Remarks (as prepared for delivery):
“Mr. President, two weeks ago I came to the Senate floor to discuss the numerous foreign policies failures of the Obama administration.
“While there has been no shortage of examples over the past seven years, I’d like to revisit one particular subject from the litany of this administration’s errors:
“The very serious national security threat that President Obama once called a JV team.
“Mr. President, last November, President Obama participated in an interview with “Good Morning America” host George Stephanopoulos, who asked him the following question: “ISIS is gaining strength, aren’t they?”
“The president’s reply?
“‘Well, no, I don’t think they’re gaining strength. What is true is that from the start our goal has been first to contain, and we have contained them.’
“One day later, ISIS gunmen and suicide bombers attacked Paris and killed 130 people.
“And less than a month after that, two ISIS-inspired terrorists killed 14 people in the first homegrown ISIS attack on American soil.
“And now Orlando – the worst terrorist attack on America’s homeland since 9/11.
“So much for ‘we have contained them.’
“Unfortunately, Mr. President, despite these attacks, President Obama continues to paint an unrealistically rosy picture of our success against ISIS.”
“Emerging from a meeting last week, the president declared that, quote, ‘we are making significant progress’ in the fight against ISIS.
“‘ISIL’s ranks are shrinking,’ the president said.
“‘Their morale is sinking.’
“Two days later, however, the president’s CIA director painted a different picture.
“Testifying before Congress, CIA Director John Brennan stated, and I quote, ‘Unfortunately, despite all our progress against ISIL on the battlefield and in the financial realm, our efforts have not reduced the group’s terrorism capability and global reach.’
“Let me repeat that, Mr. President.
“‘Our efforts have not reduced the group’s terrorism capability and global reach.’
“That’s something the president neglected to mention.
“And that’s not the only thing he forgot to bring up.
“The president discussed the anti-ISIS coalition’s efforts to target ISIS’ funding.
“But he neglected to mention that those efforts have still left ISIS with a robust revenue stream.
“The CIA director noted that ‘ISIL … continues to generate at least tens of millions of dollars in revenue per month, primarily from taxation and from crude oil sales.’
“The president hailed accomplishments on the ground in Iraq and Syria.
“But he didn’t mention that those successes are doing essentially nothing to reduce ISIS’ ability to attack abroad.
“’The group’s foreign branches and global networks,’ Director Brennan said, and I quote, ‘can help preserve its capacity for terrorism regardless of events in Iraq and Syria. In fact, as the pressure mounts on ISIL, we judge that it will intensify its global terror campaign to maintain its dominance of the global terrorism agenda.’
“The president noted that ISIS is losing ground in Libya.
“But he forgot to mention that ISIS’ Libyan branch is perhaps its most dangerous and poses a real threat to Africa and to Europe.
“Director Brennan testified that, and I quote, ‘ISIL is gradually cultivating its global network of branches into a more interconnected organization. The branch in Libya is probably the most developed and the most dangerous. We assess that it is trying to increase its influence in Africa and to plot attacks in the region and in Europe.’
“Mr. President, if there’s one thing that Director Brennan’s speech testimony made clear, it’s that we’re not doing enough to confront the threat posed by ISIS.
“Unfortunately, that’s not something President Obama seems to understand.
“As his remarks last week made clear, the president is more interested in explaining why he doesn’t like the term ‘radical Islam’ than he is in offering a concrete plan to actually defeat ISIS.
“By the way, Mr. President, it’s difficult to understand why the president so resolutely avoids this term.
“The fact of the matter is, ISIS and its adherents are driven by their radical interpretation of Islam.
“How can we hope to confront this terrorist ideology if we can’t actually call it by its name?
“On the same note, what was the administration hoping to accomplish when it redacted references to ISIS in its initial release of the 9-1-1 transcripts from the Orlando attack?
“Was it hoping to somehow distract from the fact that this was a terrorist attack?
“Did it want to play down the fact that ISIS is now inspiring attacks in the United States?
“Unfortunately, Mr. President, our commander in chief’s disturbing reluctance to identify our enemy by its name is emblematic of the fundamental lack of seriousness that has characterized the president’s foreign policy.
“The attack in Orlando was a terrorist attack, yet the president’s response was a formulaic call for gun control.
“Mr. President, all the gun control laws in the world are not going to stop a terrorist bent on wreaking havoc in our country.
“France’s strict gun laws didn’t prevent terrorists from slaughtering 130 people last November.
“To stop ISIS-inspired attacks, we need to stop ISIS.
“And to do that, we need a serious, comprehensive plan from the president.
“What I wish we’d heard last week from the president is concrete proposals to counter the threat of homegrown terrorism.
“He could have talked about ways to make sure our intelligence agencies have the resources they need to track and counter ISIS’ efforts to communicate with its recruits in the West.
“He could have discussed ways to address the threat of lone-wolf terrorists.
“He could have talked about ways we can improve our ability to monitor terrorists’ communications to disrupt their attack plans.
“He could have called on Senate Democrats to support Senator Cornyn’s amendment to give the attorney general the authority to act on probable cause against would-be terrorists while preserving due process to protect Second Amendment rights.
“But he didn’t.
“Instead he issued a brief call for gun control and spent a large chunk of his speech defending his refusal to use the term ‘radical Islam.’
“Mr. President, when President Obama was elected, we were told that he would restore America’s standing in the world.
“He received a Nobel Peace Prize in the first year of his first term based solely on people’s belief that he would promote peace and bring stability to world affairs.
“I thought of that, Mr. President, when I saw this statement from CIA Director Brennan toward the end of his testimony last week.
“The director said, ‘I have never seen a time when our country faced such a wide variety of threats to our national security.’
“Mr. President, President Obama is certainly not responsible for all the unrest in the world today, but the unfortunate truth is that his foreign policy failures have contributed to a lot of it.
“His politically motivated decision to withdraw our troops from Iraq – and announce the timetable to our enemies – created the vacuum that ISIS quickly moved in to fill.
“His decision not to act when Syrian President Bashar al-Assad crossed the “red line” the president had drawn sent a message to tyrants and dictators the world over that America could be ignored at will.
“The president’s nuclear deal with Iran has left that country better equipped to acquire advanced nuclear weapons down the road.
“Mr. President, President Obama is nearing the end of his term, but there is still time for him to commit to working with Republicans to take the steps necessary to not just contain but actually defeat ISIS.
“There is still time for him to focus on controlling our borders, so terrorists don’t slip across without our knowledge.
“There is still time for him to take measures to strengthen our counterterrorism capabilities.
“There is still time for him to focus on supporting federal and local law enforcement in their efforts to stop terrorism.
“In the coming days, I hope the president will see his way to offering some serious solutions to the danger ISIS poses to our nation.”