09.21.12

Statement Of Senator Patrick Leahy On The Amendment Of Senator Rand Paul

Mr. President, we were all outraged by the video that denigrated the Muslim faith, and the mob violence – some of it reportedly encouraged by Al Qaeda or other extremist groups – against our embassies and diplomats in Egypt, Libya, Pakistan, and other countries around the world.  

Secretary of State Clinton said it well:  “The United States rejects both the content and message of that video . . . and deplores any intentional effort to denigrate the religious beliefs of others.” 

The Secretary and President Obama have also said, repeatedly, that there is never any justification for the violent acts that have been perpetrated against our diplomats, and they have called on the governments of those countries to meet their obligation to protect our embassies and consulates.  And of course, they are right.     

As far as I am aware, without exception, we have received the condolences and support of the governments of these countries, as well as scores of other governments around the world. 

The support and sympathy expressed, not only by foreign officials but by countless citizens of these countries who have denounced the attacks on United States personnel, needs to be recognized. 

 

There is no evidence, at least none that I am aware of, to suggest that any of these governments were responsible for, or had any involvement in, these violent demonstrations.  They neither ordered nor condoned them.  To the contrary, they have since taken steps to protect our facilities and personnel.

 

That is why I am mystified by the legislation offered by the junior Senator from Kentucky, Senator Paul, which would cut off aid to key U.S. allies like Israel, Indonesia and Jordan where such demonstrations have occurred, even peaceful demonstrations, as well as security partners like Egypt, Libya, and Pakistan.

 

On the one hand, there are some affirmations of our policy goals in the amendment that I agree with – for example, we all want those responsible for the deaths of Ambassador Stevens and the other Americans in Benghazi, as well as the destruction of property there and in Cairo and elsewhere, to be brought to justice.  And already, dozens of people are under arrest in those countries.

 

But anyone who is inclined to support this legislation should read the fine print, because the way the amendment is drafted is not only unworkable, it would serve to inflame an already dangerous situation, harming America’s national security interests.

 

For example, all aid would be cut off to governments in countries where a demonstration occurred, even a peaceful demonstration, until the government arrests everyone who participated, and until the FBI has identified everyone involved and they are all in the custody of the United States, even if we do not have extradition treaties with those countries.

 

In other words, we would cut off aid to the governments of Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Libya, Pakistan, Indonesia, Morocco, Nigeria, Turkey, Lebanon, Iraq, Bahrain, Afghanistan, Tunisia, Thailand, Yemen, and India, among others, until every one of the thousands of people who participated in demonstrations in those countries – including those who did nothing more than “attempt to trespass” – has been identified by name, arrested, and brought to the United States and imprisoned.     

 

Mr. President, I have seen unworkable, unwise amendments before, but this may win the prize.  Not only would this be a colossal waste of FBI resources, but practically speaking it would be impossible to implement. 

 

How is the FBI going to determine the identity of everyone who joined in these protests?  Is that really what we want the FBI doing?

 

Are we really going to fill up our prisons with thousands of Libyan, Egyptian, Afghani, Tunisian, Jordanian, and Yemeni protesters, including those who have exercised their right of free speech and engaged in peaceful demonstrations, because we disagree with them? 

 

Does the author of this amendment have any idea how much that would cost U.S. taxpayers?

 

Are we really going to cut off aid to the Government of Egypt, which has so far defied the naysayers and reaffirmed its peace agreement with Israel, sent troops against Egyptian extremists in the Sinai, deployed police to protect the U.S. Embassy, and is in the process of negotiating an agreement with the IMF – with U.S. and European support – to reform its economy? 

 

Do we really want to cut off aid to the Government of Indonesia, the largest Muslim country in the world and a key U.S. ally in South East Asia?

 

And Libya, which we helped to liberate, and which has just emerged from a bloody revolution to overthrow a tyrant who posed a real threat to regional peace and security? 

 

Mr. President, as I said before, we are all outraged and saddened by the tragic events in Benghazi, Cairo, and elsewhere.  There is no justification for it.  We expect to see those responsible brought to justice, and we have insisted that these governments fulfill their obligation to protect our embassies, as we protect theirs. 

 

But this amendment is no way to honor the patriotism and sacrifice of Ambassador Stevens and the others who lost their lives. 

 

We are not talking about brutal kleptocracies like the Mobutu Government of the 1980s who the junior Senator from Kentucky spoke of today. 

 

These are fledgling democracies whose people have been ruled and brutalized by corrupt dictators for decades.  They are struggling to draft new constitutions, elect parliaments, reform their police, restructure their stagnant economies, and manage competing ethnic, religious and political factions, some of which have been in conflict with each other for centuries. 

 

Is it their fault that a private American citizen produces a hateful video that incites a riot?  We can punish them by cutting off our aid, even though these governments had no more to do with organizing the protests than our government had to do with producing the video. 

 

That might score political points for some back home. 

 

Or we can support them in making decisions that will improve our relations and strengthen our security.    

 

The choice should be obvious.  Withdrawal is not an option for the United States.  Isolationism is not an option.  Overreacting in ways that embolden violent extremists is not an option. 

 

This amendment is poorly conceived, poorly drafted, and would have all sorts of unintended and dangerous consequences.  The best message the United States Congress could send to the forces of democracy in these countries is to defeat it overwhelmingly.  

 

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