Transcript: Sen. Tom Udall’s explanation on vote against the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s resolution to authorize military force against the Syrian government on Sept. 4, 2013

Partial transcript of remarks by Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) on the joint resolution to authorize military force against the Syrian government in response to the use of chemical weapons. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee vote was held on Sept. 4, 2013. 

…Clearly, this authorization of force is an improvement over what was originally proposed but at this point, I don’t see how I can support it and how I can support it in the future.

I want to repeat that I’m horrified by what Bashar al-Assad has done to his own people. He’s committed a heinous act and a violation of the Geneva Convention – no doubt about it.

However, I still believe this proposal is the wrong course of action for the United States and its military.

I’m voting no because this policy moves the United States towards greater involvement in the Syrian civil war and an increasing regional conflict.

This is a very complicated sectarian civil war. Some of the rebels share our values and want an open society. Many others are allied with Al Qaeda and a greater threat to the United States than President Assad ever was.

U.S. military involvement, no matter the limits at this point, will likely only pull us towards greater involvement and with no clear end game.

I remain concerned that we have not sufficiently made our case internationally.

As I said yesterday, our attention should be on the source of Assad’s ability to continue to ruthlessly kill his people and that is support from nations including Russia and China, which are cynically trying to hold the high moral ground. Assad would not be able to maintain his grip on power if he were not being supported from outside. The full force of international outrage should come down on those nations that are refusing to allow the U.N. to act and find a solution.

Instead, an attack on Assad puts us on shaky legal ground internationally.

Just as the President is stronger with congressional support, we are much stronger with international support. But we do not have the support of some of our key allies. We cannot achieve a U.N. mandate.

Our recent history also should serve to make us very cautious.

Vietnam started with U.S. advisors and a limited naval presence. It led to an all-out war and a quagmire that costs lives of thousands upon thousands of U.S. service members.

The Iraq war began as an international effort to kick Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait. As we all know, this limited military action eventually led to what is one of the greatest blunders in U.S. military history. We cannot afford another Iraq, another conflict that costs American and Syrian lives and leaves the world less stable as a result of our actions.

Finally, I want to say that we should not take it lightly that the American people are not with us. I have personally received hundreds of calls and letters from New Mexicans. I talked to scores myself over the last couple of weeks. Over 90% of the calls and letters have been opposed to escalating our involvement in Syria.

New Mexicans are tired of war. Americans are tired of war. They’re worried about the stress it puts on our economy and on our military. They’re worried about the safety of our troops, their husbands, wives, sons, and daughters. They know what the administration is proposing won’t provide us assurance that Assad will not attack again, that it won’t ensure that his regime will not retaliate in some way.

The truth is that we cannot guarantee that even a surgical strike will prevent the United States from being embroiled in war. We should not enter into a conflict until we’ve exhausted every diplomatic and international option. We have not done that.

The risks of the actions that we are contemplating now are too great and I cannot support this proposal…

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2 Comments on “Transcript: Sen. Tom Udall’s explanation on vote against the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s resolution to authorize military force against the Syrian government on Sept. 4, 2013

  1. Pingback: Syria: Chemical Weapons | What The Folly?!

  2. Pingback: Transcript: Sen. Jeanne Shaheen's explanation on vote for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee's resolution to authorize military force against the Syrian government on Sept. 4, 2013 | What The Folly?!

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