Today, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) spoke at the 114th Veterans of Foreign Wars National Convention in Louisville, Kentucky.
The speech included complaints that Paul has expressed before; the military aid that is sent to Egypt, the possibility of American weapons being sent to Syria, and the foreign aid that continues to be sent to Pakistan.
On Egypt, Paul expressed frustration that U.S. weapons have been sent to Egypt regardless of who has been in charge, whether it be a Mubarak, Morsi, or the military.
Paul also singled out Pakistan, where a doctor who helped the U.S. locate Osama Bin Laden, remains in prison.
When speaking about Syria Paul rightly pointed out that Assad’s opposition is a complex and diverse collection of different groups with different goals and motivating ideologies. Paul made sure to mention the jihadist group Jabhat al-Nusra and that weapons sent to Assad's opposition could be used against Christians.
Read the transcript of the speech in full after the break. Watch video of the speech here.
Below is the transcript of Sen. Rand Paul's comments to the VFW from Paul's press office.
It is humbling to be here with you today.
I’m honored to speak before soldiers who put everything on the line for our country.
We welcome you to Kentucky. In Kentucky, we are proud to host our brave young men at Fort Campbell and Fort Knox and we are proud to host the Veterans of Foreign Wars today.
Senators, like soldiers, take an oath to defend the Constitution against our enemies. I consider it the primary and foremost duty of the Federal Government to defend America, to defend our Bill of Rights and to defend our God-given liberties.
For inspiration and guidance, I often look towards America’s great military leaders. Some of the best observations on war and diplomacy come from the president who was also one of our most decorated generals, Dwight Eisenhower.
Author David Nichols writes that Ike “believed, with good reason, that once the violence begins, everything changes and you can throw your plans in the trash.”
It’s too bad more in Washington don’t heed Ike’s advice today.
There is no greater priority for the Federal Government than the defense of the Constitution and the nation.
Yet, sometimes I think our defense is weakened by our over eagerness to be involved in every civil war on the planet.
In Egypt, the administration insists on sending F-16s and Abrams tanks to the new military junta.
Before that, we sent arms and billions in aid to Morsi’s radical Islamic government.
Before that, we sent F-16s, tanks and $60 billion over three decades to Hosni Mubarak, a dictator who we called our ally.
Common sense tells us that we probably shouldn’t be sending aid to military dictators or the Muslim Brotherhood. Common sense tells us that that we probably shouldn’t be delivering advanced weaponry into unstable situations, where the outcome is completely unpredictable.
Common sense tells us that we shouldn’t be sending foreign aid to nations that burn our flag.
I have tried to stop the continuous flow of your money to countries that hate us and Israel. I have warned that someday these arms may be used to attack us or Israel.
In 2012, I introduced an amendment in the Senate halting the transport of weapons to Egypt, Pakistan and Libya. In February of this year, I introduced an amendment that would’ve prevented the shipment of weapons to the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt.
Over 75 percent of Americans are against arming the Muslim Brotherhood, yet over 75 percent of the Senate voted to continue arming Islamic radicals.
In Egypt, the regimes keep changing—but our system of foreign aid stays the same.
Unlike Eisenhower and earlier generations, we often don’t think before we act. I think many in Washington do things in our foreign policy to accomplish short terms goals but that ultimately hurt our national interests.
As we continue to aid and arm despotic regimes in Egypt, we are also about to send weapons to Islamic rebels in Syria. This is problematic on multiple levels.
The Assad regime is no friend to freedom or the United States. But this does not mean the enemy of our enemy is our friend. There are currently 17 different rebel groups in Syria, including the largest group, al-Nusra.
Al-Nusra fighters are radical anti-American jihadists that are affiliated with al-Qaeda. Politicians in Washington, who are eager to send these weapons, promise they will not fall into the hands of our enemies.
Do you believe that? Does anyone believe that? We have trouble telling friend from foe in Afghanistan. Syria is a thousand-fold more chaotic. Even our Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey, warns that it is becoming increasingly difficult to tell friend from foe in Syria.
Would Eisenhower, who believed small wars could lead to big wars, buy into such nonsense?
Even if you believe we should arm Islamic fighters in Syria, shouldn’t, at the very least, Congress vote on the matter? The Constitution is very clear. Congress is to declare war, not the President.
Nevertheless, President Obama is moving ahead with plans to get involved in the Syrian civil war, without the authorization of Congress.
How can we ask our brave men and women to fight against al-Qaeda in some countries and with al Qaeda in other countries?
It makes no sense.
A great irony is that these weapons may well be used against the two million Christians currently in Syria, who are generally protected by the Assad regime.
I, for one, will fight with every ounce of my energy to prevent American arms from being used against Christians!
If our policies in Egypt and Syria weren’t bad enough, look at Pakistan. When we finally caught Osama Bin Laden, it was in Pakistan and was due in part to help from a man named Dr. Shakil Afridi. Pakistan has imprisoned Dr. Afridi, likely for the rest of his life, for the supposed “crime” of helping us catch Bin Laden.
How does President Obama respond? He continues to send Pakistan billions of dollars in aid. Last year I introduced legislation that would have made aid to Pakistan contingent upon the release of Dr. Afridi.
While the American public overwhelmingly supports limiting foreign aid, the Senate once again voted against any conditions on that aid.
Why do we arm dictators and the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt? Why do we arm affiliates of al-Qaeda and endanger Christians in Syria? Why do we reward Pakistan with our tax dollars—as they continue to imprison the man who helped us catch Bin Laden?
The first and primary function of our government is a strong national defense. But so much of what Washington does today is more like an irrational offense. How does sending foreign aid to Egypt, Syria and Pakistan help our national security?
In Egypt and Pakistan, they riot and burn our flag.
I say not one penny more to any nation that burns our flag!
In Libya, your politicians also play both sides.
Reagan rightfully called the dictator Muammar Gaddafi, “The mad dog of the Middle East.” Gaddafi was responsible for the Pan Am flight bombing over Lockerbie Scotland, which killed hundreds of innocent civilians and included American school kids.
After Reagan, some genius in our government decided to begin sending aid to Gaddafi.
Members of the U.S. Senate actually travelled to visit Gaddafi and offered to send him arms. Within a year, these exact same Senators flip-flopped and began supporting giving weapons to the Islamic rebels who overthrew Gaddafi.
A year later, our Ambassador to Libya and other diplomats were murdered on the streets of Benghazi. To this day not one terrorist has been caught or captured or held responsible.
Ambassador Stephens pleaded for more security before the attacks and the Secretary of State ignored his pleas. The marines in Tripoli were ordered to stand down. Who made that order?
Marines are famous for risking their lives to rescue their wounded and sometimes even risking their lives to rescue their dead. Who ordered the marines to stand down? Did a politician intervene to cause our marines to stand down?
Democrats and Republicans can disagree on many issues but one thing we should agree on as Americans: No politician should ever, ever, stand in the way of American soldiers doing their job!
No politician should remain in office who refuses to defend our diplomats!
No politician should lead this country who denies our Armed Services the weapons and technology to defend our great nation!
America has never backed down from a fight—but we should never be a nation that is eager to get involved in civil wars that don’t affect our national security.
President Eisenhower said: “I have one yardstick by which I test every major problem - and that yardstick is: Is it good for America?”
Is our current foreign policy good for America? Is our involvement in Egypt, Syria and Pakistan to our benefit—or our detriment?
We must have the strongest military on earth, not because we are eager to use it but so that no would ever dare challenge us. I believe Ronald Reagan got it right when he said:
“As for the enemies of freedom, those who are potential adversaries, they will be reminded that peace is the highest aspiration of the American people. We will negotiate for it, sacrifice for it: we will not surrender for it, now or ever. Our forbearance should never be misunderstood. Our reluctance for conflict should not be misjudged as a failure of will. When action is required to preserve our national security, we will act. We will maintain sufficient strength to prevail if need be, knowing that if we do so we have the best chance of never having to use that strength.”
For our country’s sake, certainly for our soldiers’ sake—for the sake of every veteran who ever donned a uniform and fought for this country—America’s mission should always be to keep the peace, not police the world.
An America that did not seek to become involved in every conflict of the world could take better care of our nation’s greatest resource—our soldiers, including improving a broken VA system and better overall healthcare for those who’ve served.
My wife and I work together to help build homes for wounded veterans through Helpingahero.org. Our commitment to our brave young men and women doesn’t end when they come home from war. It is just the beginning.
A strong National Defense is a Constitutional priority. A lifelong commitment to our veterans is our obligation.
As a physician, when I visited Walter Reed, I was profoundly impacted by wounded men and women, many of them not much older than my kids.
This reinforced my view on the need to prevent conflicts, unless they are absolutely necessary. War is the last resort not the first. Soldiers injured in Iraq and Afghanistan, will require a lifetime of care.
It is our sacred duty to provide and protect those who have protected us!
We must be more prudent in our foreign policy. Eisenhower was right to observe that little wars can often lead to big wars. Reagan was right that America’s purpose is to promote peace through strength.
Those of you here today, Veterans of Foreign Wars, did your duty and we honor your service to protect the peace. We pay our respects to you here today. We thank you for your service and we also pay our respects to those who are not with us today, those who made the ultimate sacrifice.
Ronald Reagan once said, “Above all, we must realize that no arsenal, or no weapon in the arsenals of the world, is so formidable as the will and moral courage of free men and women. It is a weapon our adversaries in today’s world do not have.”
America has always been a beacon of freedom to the world, due in no small part to the brave sacrifice and noble service of the members of the United States military.
Today I salute you and offer your nation’s gratitude for a job well done.
Thank you and God bless America.