January 08, 2020

VIDEO: Following Congressional Briefing on Iran, Udall Urges Senate to Halt the March to War

Author of bipartisan bill The Prevention of Unconstitutional War With Iran Act calls on Congress to reassert constitutional war powers and prevent another costly war in the Middle East

Calling the echoes of Iraq war “chilling,” Udall urges de-escalation, diplomacy

VIDEO LINK: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jTtMreidu9w&feature=youtu.be

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senator Tom Udall (D- N.M.), a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and author of the bipartisan bill The Prevention of Unconstitutional War With Iran Act, spoke on the Senate floor urging his colleagues to halt the march to an unauthorized war with Iran and reassert congressional war powers.

Udall is the author of the bipartisan Prevention of Unconstitutional War with Iran Actfirst introduced in 2018 and then again in 2019, a bill to prohibit the United States from expending funds which could lead to war with Iran without express approval from Congress, as required by the Constitution. His legislation – S. 1039 – currently has 27 cosponsors in the Senate. Udall also was the lead author of a bipartisan amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) to prevent unauthorized war with Iran. In August, Udall led a bipartisan, bicameral group of 28 lawmakers in calling on the House and Senate Armed Services Committees to include his bipartisan amendment to prohibit unconstitutional war with Iran in the final NDAA. The Udall amendment received a bipartisan majority in the Senate when it was considered in June of 2019. 

“Congress has finally been briefed. And the President has not supplied convincing evidence that his strike stopped an imminent attack on U.S. forces. Nothing we’ve seen has changed my mind,” Udall said following a congressional briefing from administration officials. “And worse, the strike risked more American deaths and greater instability than if the President had taken a different course. In short, I doubt that killing Suleimani was legal. And I am even more confident that it was a mistake.”

“I strongly oppose another war in the Middle East,” Udall said. “And despite the president’s claim to the contrary, any war with Iran would certainly not ‘go very quickly.’ Any war with Iran would be prolonged, bloody, and costly.” 

“But even if you support war with Iran, we all swore an oath to uphold the Constitution, and Congress and Congress alone has the authority under Article 1 of the Constitution to ‘declare war.’ In light of the President’s strike on one of Iran’s highest ranking military commanders – which any country would consider a provocative act of war – this body can no longer hide from its constitutional responsibility,” Udall continued. “The administration did not consult Congress before carrying out the strike, as it should have. It did not consult our allies, or try to form a coalition around what is clearly a highly provocative action that has ramifications for international security.

“Sketchy evidence, bad intelligence, outright misrepresentations, and a call for vengeance against Saddam Hussein are what got us into the war in Iraq,” Udall said. “The administration’s vague assertions of ‘imminent’ threat without concrete evidence are too reminiscent of the origins of the Iraq war. The echoes of Iraq are chilling.

“If we do not act now to preserve our constitutional structure and to assert our constitutional authority, we fail the men and women in uniform whose lives we put at risk,” Udall concluded. “We fail our oath to defend and protect the Constitution. And we fail the American people, who sent us here to represent them on the most consequential decision our country can make.”

The full text of Udall’s remarks as prepared for delivery can be found below:

I want to begin by saying that my prayers are with our armed forces and their families. They stand watch despite the threat of danger – and they rely on their leaders to make wise decisions. I am grateful that there were no casualties during last night’s missile attack.  

For well over a year, I have been sounding the alarm that this President could bring us to war with Iran through mistake, misjudgment, or miscalculation.

I have urged this body to assert our constitutional authority, and pass our bipartisan bill to prevent war with Iran. In 2018, and in 2019, I introduced the Prevention of Unconstitutional War with Iran Act.

In June of last year, my amendment to prevent unauthorized war earned bipartisan majority support in the Senate and passed the House. It may not have become law, but the Constitution has not changed. 

Now, on the brink of war with Iran, it is long past time for Congress to step up to its constitutional responsibilities, and stop the march to an unauthorized war.

Americans strongly oppose another war in the Middle East. And despite the President’s claim to the contrary –war with Iran would certainly not “go very quickly.”  Any war with Iran would be prolonged, bloody, and costly. 

But even if you support war with Iran, we all swore an oath to uphold the Constitution.

And Congress and Congress alone has the authority under Article 1 of the Constitution to “declare war.”  

Any country would consider the President’s strike on one of Iran’s highest ranking military commanders – someone who many considered to be the 2nd most powerful person in Iran’s government – to be an act of war. 

Now, predictably, Iran has responded. So Congress must no longer hide from its constitutional responsibility. 

If Congress does not stop military conflict with Iran, this President will continue taking a wrecking ball through the Middle East,  making one impulsive decision after another,  with no long term plan or strategic goal in sight. The president’s speech made it clear – he has no strategy to diffuse this situation or to achieve a diplomatic result. He will continue the provocative war path we are on.

Congress should act, now that the President has usurped our authority and unilaterally taken us down this path of conflict with Iran. 

Congress has finally been briefed. And the President has not supplied convincing evidence that his strike stopped an imminent attack on U.S. forces. Nothing we’ve seen has changed my mind. 

And worse, the strike risked more American deaths and greater instability than if the President had taken a different course.

In short, I doubt that killing Suleimani was legal. And I am even more confident that it was a mistake.

While we may now be in a period of relative calm, the position we are in is untenable. And it is because the president abandoned diplomacy and created this crisis.

The administration did not consult Congress before carrying out the strike.

It did not consult our allies, or try to form a coalition around what is clearly a highly provocative action that has ramifications for international security.

Reminder--Sketchy evidence, bad intelligence, outright misrepresentations, and a call for vengeance against Saddam Hussein are what got us into the war in Iraq – this is where we are today in our conflict with Iran. 

The administration’s vague assertions of an “imminent” threat without concrete evidence – and its ever changing story -- are too reminiscent of the origins of the Iraq war.

The echoes of Iraq are chilling. Now, members on the other side of the aisle are attacking those of us who dare speak out against war with Iran.

Congress: Step up. Do your constitutional job. Rein in this reckless course we are on.

We are speaking up to stop this nation from repeating the grave mistakes of Iraq. 

We are speaking up because we love this country.

Because we do not want to see another military family mourn a loved one --- who lost their life in a war that did not need to be fought and that we have the power to avoid.

Let me say this—not just to those of us in this body who are speaking up—but also to the thousands across the country who are marching against a rush to war: speaking out against a war with Iran is patriotic. It is the right action to take, the right thing to do.

President Trump set this disastrous course in motion in May of 2018, when he unilaterally withdrew from the Iran nuclear agreement.

This was a deal that the international community stood firmly behind.

That agreement took the single greatest threat to U.S. and international security from Iran off the table. It prevented Iran from developing nuclear weapons.

And, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency and President Trump’s military and national security experts, Iran was complying with the agreement when the President withdrew.

The nuclear agreement did not solve all problems with Iran – but it is clear that the diplomatic effort reduced tensions with a longstanding adversary, and reduced the threat of hostilities. 

But instead of working to build on this progress, the President precipitously withdrew from the agreement, and began his “maximum pressure” campaign to force Iran to capitulate to a long list of impossible demands.

The President promised he would get us “a better deal.” 

He has not. 

I call on the President and his administration to use all their diplomatic tools to de-escalate this threatening situation. A situation that risks American lives. I call on them to work with our allies. To find a path back to the nuclear limits the international community agreed to.

And to develop channels for productive communication and diplomacy and work toward stabilizing an unstable Middle East.

Leader McConnell and Republican leadership must bring this debate to the Senate floor.

Senator Kaine’s recently-filed war powers resolution is one step. Senator Paul and I have called upon all Senators to support our Prevention of Unconstitutional War with Iran Act. We must keep up this fight and block funds for any war with Iran in the absence of Congressional authorization. And we must repeal the outdated authorizations of force that are being abused.

I strongly support our oath to defend our nation and Constitution from any enemies foreign and domestic.

Including against a President who would take us to war without constitutional authority. 

If we do not act now to preserve our constitutional structure and to assert our constitutional authority, we fail the men and women in uniform whose lives we put at risk. We fail our oath to defend and protect the Constitution. And we fail the American people, who sent us here to represent them on the most consequential decision our country can make. 

Mr. President, I yield the floor.