WASHINGTON, D.C. - In the wake of the Paris terrorist attacks, U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), a member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and Senate Armed Services Committee, delivered a speech on the Senate floor to discuss our fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
Below are Senator Heinrich's remarks as prepared for delivery:
The attacks in Paris were an unconscionable act of terrorism. America stands with the people of Paris and all of France as we support those grieving and those working to deliver justice to those involved.
Make no mistake; the heinous terrorist attacks in Paris were an act of war.
ISIL has barbarically killed and tortured innocent civilians, including Americans, not just in Paris, but also recently in Beirut and routinely in Iraq.
They operate around the globe, are well funded, well armed, and have no intention of stopping until their radical goals are realized.
They continue to prey upon the innocent and manipulate the vulnerable. In some areas, ISIL operates freely because of the instability created by persistent ethnic, sectarian, and religious conflicts in Iraq and Syria.
But this crisis is not limited to Iraq and Syria, and the world's powers and their interests are quickly aligning in the urgent need to wipe the map clean of ISIL and its affiliates.
To be clear, there are smart ways that we can destroy this barbaric terrorist organization without entangling American troops in another endless and bloody ground-war in the Middle East.
America has a critical role to play in that effort, but it must be part of a larger strategy and coalition, employing a full range of military might, as well as economic and diplomatic power.
We can further engage in this fight in the following ways:
First, we must relentlessly target ISIL's headquarters in Raqqa and Mosul through air power, and destroy ISIL's large oil infrastructure and refineries.
Second, we must strangle the flow of foreign fighters on Syria's northern border.
Third, we must also must compel Russia and other governments to reach a political end to the Syrian war to unify and focus on fighting the Islamic State,
Fourth, we need new measures to crack down on those who finance extremism.
And finally, it's time to drive a much harder bargain with an Iraqi leadership that still refuses to build a state that is politically inclusive and decentralized.
Defeating ISIL can't be solely an American solution and nor should American ground troops be on the front lines.
It is past time that our Arab allies begin focusing their efforts--with our support--on ISIL, militarily, and economically.
Ultimately, local Arab ground forces are the only lasting solution to defeating ISIL, because they will be the only ones left to ensure peace and stability once the more immediate military operations are concluded.
Some say we should deploy 10,000 American troops to Syria. However, we know that this strategy would require significantly more troops and wouldn't permanently eliminate ISIL or kill their ideology.
Instead, doing so may very well exacerbate the conflict and further ISIL's recruitment efforts.
We can say this because we have a historical reference. And the historical reference is not from some distant land or from another century.
For nearly a decade, our brave men and women in uniform were deployed in Iraq and were asked to clear and hold multiple large cities. At its peak in 2007, nearly 170,000 Americans were deployed on the ground providing security in communities all across Iraq.
Nearly 4,500 Americans lost their lives, and more than 32,000 were wounded.
These tragic losses happened in the very same area where ISIL now occupies a major city in Iraq--Mosul, and a major city in Syria--Raqqa.
The point of me bringing up the Iraq war is not to re-litigate the past, but to keep in mind a very important lesson: that even when deploying nearly 200,000 American men and women to stabilize one country, the strategy of clearing and holding large territories is only a Band-Aid--not a permanent solution.
This is especially true when the political leadership in these countries are unwilling to create an inclusive representative government.
The calls for sending 10,000 American troops to fight ISIL and to provide security across both Iraq and Syria would mean asking our sons and daughters to remain in these countries fighting year after year for decades to come.
And we know that when American forces are placed in the heart of the these regional conflicts, it will only further prolong the more lasting solution of having local partners on the ground and our "allies" in the Persian Gulf taking responsibility for the region, economically and militarily.
Lastly, I want to address the issue of the Syrian refugee crisis.
Every single Syrian refugee must be subject to the highest levels of vetting and scrutiny, including repeated biometric screenings, before entering the United States of America. Syria is a war zone and we have a duty to ensure our own homeland security.
The real priority should be addressing the security gaps that currently exist under the Visa Waiver Program--something both Democrats and Republicans agree on.
Currently, the Visa Waiver Program allows citizens of countries who qualify--38 countries including 31 from Europe--to travel freely and stay in the United States for up to 90 days.
Individuals who have purposely traveled to Iraq and Syria and have joined training camps or sympathize with ISIL's cause.
That is where the real risks lie.
The victims who have suffered at the hands of ISIL are not the problem, and we should instead be working to close the loopholes that allow dangerous individuals with violent intentions to potentially enter our country today.
In the coming days, I will be calling for reforms to our Visa Waiver Program so that we can actually focus on the real threats to our homeland.
There's a real difference between terrorists and victims of terrorism.
The implicit assumption that Syrian refugees--many of whom have suffered brutally at the hands of ISIL--are a threat because of their country of origin is a rejection of American values and represents giving in to our worst ethnic and religious prejudices.
I am grateful that when my father and grandparents fled Germany in the years leading up to World War II, that this country chose to see them for what they were: enthusiastic American immigrants seeking to escape the dangerous politics gripping their former nation.
Had this brand of twisted anti-immigrant logic been applied to them, I can only wonder how very different my life would be today.
Let's remember that the enemy in the current scenario is ISIL, not the refugees who flee from their destruction.
We simply will not have the moral standing as a nation to lead in this international crisis if we ignore those who have lost everything at the hands of these barbaric terrorists.
ISIL has killed and tortured many innocent civilians and is actively plotting to do more harm.
We should all agree that ISIL must be eliminated from this earth. But let's learn from our past mistakes and set to this work in a way that is both strategic and effective.