Below are the video and transcript to Congressman Jim Bridenstine’s keynote speech at the David Horowitz Freedom Center’s 20th Anniversary Restoration Weekend. The event took place Nov. 13th-16th at the Breakers Resort in Palm Beach, Florida.
Rep. Jim Bridenstine: A lot of people might remember, it wasn’t too long ago, I went down to a military base in my state called Fort Sill. I went down there to visit with the commanding general, and the reason I went is because the Department of Defense is being gutted right now. The fires brigades and the air defense artillery folks that work down there, they’re getting cut drastically, and so I went down there and I wanted to meet with the commanding general, and when I was down there I said, hey, I’d like to take a visit of the UAC facility that’s here at Fort Sill, and the commanding general said you can go, but I’m not going to go with you. If you would, by show of hands, do you remember this incident by chance, if you’d raise your hand if you’re remember. I went down to Fort Sill to visit the UAC facility and I got rejected. I got rejected. Here I am a member of Congress, a representative of the people, a federal representative of the people going to a federal facility and seeing a federal mission, and they told me I couldn’t come in. They said you could come back in three weeks. In three weeks you can come back and we’ll take you on a tour, and I said I’ve got to talk to somebody in your chain of command because this is not right, and you know what they said, they said, sorry, here’s the number for the guy in my chain of command and it was the Deputy Director of Communications, who also told me you’ve got to wait three weeks and we’ll take you on a tour, to which we immediately said, I told my staff I’m not one of these guys that runs to the media for every opportunity. I don’t do that, but in this particular case, the First Amendment was given to us for a purpose, and it’s to petition the federal government, and I never realized that as a member of Congress I would be one of the people having to petition the federal government using the First Amendment.
In the next week and a half, we did 72 interviews on television. Seventy-two. We were tired, but I can tell you this, after a week and a half we get an email from Health and Human Services and they said we’d like to take you on a tour of the HHS facility at Fort Sill housing the unaccompanied alien children. It only took 72 interviews and a week and a half, and then they sent another email, and I’d ask everybody to get quiet because what this next email said is critically important. I want you to listen to this.
The next email we got from HHS said we’re going to take you on a tour, but you can’t ask any questions, you can’t talk to the personnel that work there, you can’t talk to the staff, you can’t talk to the children, you can’t talk to the medical personnel. We’re going to show it to you but you can’t ask any questions, to which we responded with an email of our own that we’re going to treat your restrictions the way the president is treating the law of the United States as a suggestion, and we gave them a list of everybody we expected to talk to once we got inside of this facility, and we got in and we started asking questions. The No. 1 question I asked was how many children here have been abused. We had a great panel with Dr. Fleming and Louie Gohmert and Jeff Sessions regarding the crisis on the southern border and immigration. We had this great conversation. Loved every minute of listening to these great folks talk about this issue, but here is why I have such a big concern. The reports coming out of Lackland Air Force Base is as many as a third of the young girls had been abused, and when I talk about abuse I’m talking about sexual, I’m talking about horrible things that have happened to these young girls, and by the way they’re 12 years old.
So I wanted to find out in my state at Fort Sill the HHS facility how many of the children there had been abused, and I asked them, how many have been abused? Well, we don’t have those numbers. So I asked somebody else, how many children here have been abused? Well, we don’t have those numbers. I couldn’t get an answer. Finally I asked a contractor and the contractor said it’s well over 25 percent, and then another contractor said, sir, it is well over 25 percent, and friends, here’s what everybody in this room needs to understand, the question is where is this abuse occurring? It’s not happening in these facilities. The abuse is occurring on the way to the United States, and the reason it’s occurring is because the children that were coming across our southern border, they already have parents that have been smuggled into the United States illegally, hundreds of thousands of them in 2014, and they made a decision that they want their family to come, including their children, and so they hire a coyote down in Mexico, and the coyote goes down to Central America to bring the children up to the northern border, and here’s what happens, and people in this room understand this. The GAO has indicated, has said that we have operational control of over 44 percent of our southern border. That means 56 percent of our southern border is not under operational control, and if we don’t control it, friends, somebody else does. In this particular case, it’s controlled by drug cartels, transnational criminal organizations and when those children get to the northern border of Mexico, the southern border of the United States, then those transnational criminal organizations say we need more money. If you’re going to come into the United States – and by the way, if you control the southern border of the United States you can make a ton of money, and they are doing it.
And so the children get up there, and the organized crime says they need $10,000.00 and we’ll let you across the border. How many of these children do you think have $10,000.00 on them? They call their parents, their parents don’t have $10,000.00. They barely had enough money to pay the coyote, and ultimately the children have to come up with $10,000.00 and the drug cartels will get their money. So they force the children into slave labor. The force the children into prostitution. Some of the children disappear altogether and it goes from smuggling into human trafficking, and some of the children just get killed.
People don’t realize it, friends, but there are, estimates are 70,000 to 100,000 dead bodies in Northern Mexico as a direct result of our open southern border. We talk about all the crisis in the Middle East, Syria and Iraq. Horrible stuff happening there, but on our southern border we’ve got 100,000 dead bodies just south of our border, and friends, here’s the deal. When the organized crime starts making all of this money, which they are making a ton of money right now, they destroy civil society in northern Mexico. Friends, if you’re a judge, and I know Louie Gohmert is a judge, you understand this as well as anybody. If you’re a judge, a police officer, a politician, a mayor in northern Mexico, in many cases you are either on the payroll of the organized crime or you are dead, which is why there’s this 70,000 to 100,000 dead bodies, many in mass graves in northern Mexico right now. The southern border is a national security issue as much as it is anything, and I’m going to talk for a second about civilized society and how it’s being lost because we’re unwilling to actually enforce the law. The Secure Fence Act, which was passed before I got there, requires 100 percent operational control of the southern border, and yet the president doesn’t enforce that law.
But here’s the situation, I used to mention in the bio, I’m a Navy pilot. I flew combat in Afghanistan in 2002. I flew combat in Iraq in 2003. In 2010, I joined a reserve squadron and I started flying counter-narcotics missions in Central and South America. My squadron alone, VAW77, the world famous Night Wolves, we used to bust $2 billion worth of cocaine every year on the high seas, $2 billion. My squadron was one of many units in the military that did this kind of operation. My squadron got eliminated. That means $2 billion worth of cocaine is coming into our country that didn’t use to come into our country and $2 billion worth of cash is going to organized crime in northern Mexico and Central America. What do you think that does to those countries? And by the way, my squadron was one of many military units that have been cut under the sequester, and it is decimating the Department of Defense, in ways right now that the American public doesn’t realize, but I’ll give you an example.
Nicaragua calls the United States and they say we’re losing our civil society here in Nicaragua, our judges, our politicians, our police officers. We’ve got high crime rates. The organized crime is controlling our country. We need your help with some counter drug operations, to which the United States says, sorry, can’t help you. Who does Nicaragua call next? The Russians. The Russians are more than happy to provide the intelligence surveillance reconnaissance assets. The Russians are more than happy to provide the ships on the ocean, to do the counter-narcotics operations. The only thing the Russians are asking in return is military basing. Do they want military basing for those assets to encounter drug operations? No. They want military basing for long-range strategic bombers in our hemisphere, and by the way, Nicaragua is not the only country in our hemisphere under negotiations for long-range strategic bombing for Russian bombers right now. You’ve got Cuba and Venezuela. Friends, all of this is a national security issue.
The other day, I looked up Homeland Security. There’s leaked information from Homeland Security of how many folks have come across the southern border from Guinea and Sierra Leone and Liberia. Friends, it’s almost 500 people that have been caught coming across the southern border in 2014 from those three countries which have the greatest outbreak of Ebola. Almost 500 people caught. The GAO says that one out of every five gets caught, which means there’s thousands in this country from those countries that are just unaccounted for completely. Friends, the southern border of the United States is a national security issue. It’s a national health security issue, and here’s the important thing I want everybody in this room to take away: The children are victims. It is not their fault, and we don’t not like them. The humanitarian thing to do, the right thing to do, the thing that will save lives and protect them is to enforce the law.
So when you think about foreign policy and national security, friends, it starts right here at home and I just talked about Nicaragua and the Russian military basing that is potentially going to occur there because of our absence, and I want to be really clear about what Russian is up to. They’ve invaded Georgia. They’re occupying South Ossetia and Abkhazia in Georgia. They’re moving the borders towards Tbilisi. They’ve got 80,000 troops in Armenia. They’ve cancelled energy contracts with Azerbaijan. That’s all in the south caucuses. You go over to Eastern Europe, the Baltic States. Remember the Baltic States enthusiastically joined the European Union and NATO at the collapse of the Soviet Union. Well, because of that Russia had to cut off their energy in the dead of winter. People had to suffer. People had to die. In Poland in the Czech Republic they were building a missile defense shield. Why were they building a missile defense shield in Poland? It had nothing to do with the Russians. It’s because Iran is building longer range missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads and the Europeans said, we’ve got to have a missile defense shield to which Vladimir Putin said, if you keep building that missile defense shield, he said this through his generals, he said, we’re going to have nuclear war in Poland and the Czech Republic, and I’m sure everybody in this room remembers when the President of the United States met with Medvedev after that incident. He said wait until after my next election. I’ll have the flexibility to bring down that missile defense shield and guess what happened. He got elected. The missile defense shield came down and then the Russians moved very quickly to give Edward Snowden asylum. Friends, here is the lesson, and every lesson of history teaches this: Weakness is provocative and the more we demonstrate weakness the more we will be taken advantage of and the more provocative the enemies of the United States will be.
Then we get to Ukraine, Yanukovych. This was Thanksgiving. It was a year ago. Yanukovych was trying to enter into an agreement with the European Union. It was social reform, political reform, economic reform. He wasn’t joining the European Union, but it included trade, and if you remember Vladimir Putin himself flew to Kiev on our Thanksgiving Day and he said if you sign that agreement we’re going to cut your energy off, and remember it was going into winter. It was Thanksgiving Day and they did this before December 31, 2005. In Ukraine people suffered, people died, they did it in 2009 as well. So now Yanukovych makes the decision okay I’m going to align with Moscow temporarily. Why? Because he wants to keep energy for his people through the winter. His people revolt. Why? They want freedom. They want independence. As people revolt Kiev gets set on fire and then Russia uses that as an excuse to invade and occupy Crimea and make no mistake, regardless of what the State Department says, Russia is now occupying broader eastern Ukraine. That is happening right now and let’s talk about where else Russia is active. They’re helping the Assad regime in Syria, propping them up. The Mullahs in Iran. They’re going around the sanctions because Russia is enabling it. 19,000 nuclear centrifuges in Iran. I’m sorry, there is no peaceful nuclear program that needs 19,000 nuclear centrifuges, and under the President’s P5+1 Joint Plan of Action they’re going to continue to allow Iran to enrich uranium with 9,000 plus nuclear centrifuges. They’re not even mentioning the heavy water reactor for plutonium in Iraq. The facility in Parchin which is responsible for creating the devices that can fly on long-range missiles, and I’m talking about of course nuclear capabilities. None of these are being talked about in the P5+1 Joint Plan of Action on Iran and I’m going to anchor here for one second.
There is a reason what the President is doing right now to accommodate Iran is wrong and it is because it is extremely dangerous and destabilizing for the best ally the United States has in the Middle East, Israel. And I will say this on Israel, the Land of Judea and Samaria is not occupied territory. It belongs to the Jewish people who have had a relationship with that land for over 4,000 years. And neither the President of the United States or the United Nations has any authority to give that land away. Only Israel has the authority to negotiate over the land that belongs to Israel, period, end of story. So you think about what’s happening in the world and you see that weakness is indeed provocative. When you think about what Russia is doing, and by the way here’s an easy answer on the Russian issue. People don’t realize this. Russia relies on energy for 53 percent of its revenue to the Kremlin. Fifty-three percent of the revenue to the Kremlin is from the export of energy and 84 percent of that energy is going to Eastern Europe, who by the way send ambassadors to my office in Washington, D.C. asking us to send our energy because they no longer want to be dependent on Moscow. There is an easy way to solve this crisis. We could dry up 53 percent of Russia’s revenue simply by exporting American energy. And interestingly, it’s not Moscow that’s preventing us from exporting American energy. It’s Washington, D.C. Friends there are solutions here and, by the way, here’s the thing: That’s not a sanction, that’s allowing the free market to be free, and I know people in this room believe in free markets. It doesn’t require firing a shot. It doesn’t require a sanction, and, oh, by the way, Russia has recently seen fit to send long-range bombers to the Gulf of Mexico. I don’t know if you guys have read these reports, and interestingly they’re defense minister came back and said, well, that’s not going to work as long as energy prices are about $80.00 a barrel. We can’t afford to do this. Friends energy prices are going to come back and it’s up to the United States to actually fill the void that everybody understands is happening in Eastern Europe as it relates to energy.
I want to, I’m going to close here. I know Ann told me not to take a long time so I’m not going to take a long time. I want to close here. Actually, I’m going to say one thing. I have to talk about ISIS. I have to talk about the Middle East and then I’m going to close. I flew combat in Afghanistan in 2002. I flew combat in Iraq in 2003. Our Americans, in 2002, or, actually, I don’t – it was early in the war – we damaged a guy named al-Zarqawi. He was a Lieutenant to Osama Bin Laden. You guys probably remember al-Zarqawi. It was compliments of a 500-pound bomb, compliments of the United States Air Force, that damaged al-Zarqawi, and as a Navy pilot that pains me to say that the Air Force dropped that weapon, and I say that with all due respect to Governor Rick Perry who’s in the front row here who’s an Air Force pilot himself. We’re good, he says we’re good. Thank you. sir. But here’s the important thing: al-Zarqawi was in Afghanistan, he was part of al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. He was a Lieutenant to Osama Bin Laden, and when we damaged him, his ribs, his leg – he went to Uday Hussein’s hospital in Iraq. That’s where he went to get his care, and at Uday Hussein’s hospital he got cured and then he became the leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq, and ultimately he was killed compliments of two 500-pound bombs of the United States Air Force, but not before he trained his own lieutenant, al-Baghdadi, who now is the leader of ISIS. Friends, this is an al-Qaeda affiliated force. All of the authorities necessary to destroy it currently exist, and the President shouldn’t go on TV and give us a laundry list of everything he won’t do and, oh, by the way, when he gives us that laundry list he’s giving it to the enemies of the United States. What he should do is he should go on TV and tell us what he’s already done to eliminate this threat, and it could have been eliminated, and if you go back to 2006 when Obama was a senator, he said these words. He said a precipitous withdraw from Iraq would lead to “chaos, terrorism, ethnic cleansing, genocide.“ He said it would engulf broad swaths of the Middle East and endanger the United States of America. Senator Obama in 2006. Then he ran for President.
Well that message wasn’t going to work when you’re running for President, so then he said it was an unjust war. That we took our eye off the ball, which was Afghanistan, and he’s going to be the President that would end this war. Then he became President, and if you look at what happened next, he had his own Iraq team. Ambassador Crocker, General Petraeus. They said keep 20,000 to 24,000 troops in Iraq. Keep them because we’ve had all these gains from the surge. If you remember the Iraqi economy was growing. Things were at peace. You had an inclusive government, stability and his team said keep 20,000 to 24,000 troops. You have to have that or else we’re going to lose the gains of the surge, and the President said, no, I promised something else, give me a different plan, and they come back with a different plan, and they said keep 10,000 troops. It’s going to require more risk. By the way, when they say more risk, for those of us in the military that means more of us are going to suffer. It will require more risk, but we can sustain the gains of the surge with 10,000 troops. The President said, no, I promised something else. Then it was the President himself in a phone call with Malaki who said that any status of forces agreement we come to has to be ratified by the Iraqi Parliament, and, friends, for those of us in the military the status of forces agreement is how we have diplomatic immunity. It is how when we fight in a foreign country we fall under American law not under foreign law, and that’s critically important if you want to have a foreign fighter. And the President, in a phone call with Malaki – historically all the status of forces agreement is, is an exchange of diplomatic letters. It’s our State Department and their diplomats saying we’re going to exchange diplomatic letters, Americans have diplomatic immunity. That’s all it had ever been, but because the President wanted a zero-two presence in Iraq, ultimately he said it has to be ratified by the Iraqi Parliament, knowing full well that the Iraqi Parliament can’t agree on what day of the week it is, let alone how many American troops need to be in Iraq. The agreement was scuttled. Every last troop came home. And just as Senator Obama predicted in 2006, chaos, terrorism, ethnic cleansing, genocide. It engulfs broad swaths of the Middle East and it’s a danger to the United States of America.
Al-Baghdadi has said himself that the next confrontation will be directly against the United States of America. Friends, al-Qaeda was a terrorist organization. ISIS is a caliphate. It has an army. It is well trained. It is well financed. It is well equipped. They’re recruiting from throughout the world and they are looking for people that have American passports, and indeed they have recruited hundreds of Americans to join their ranks, many of which the administration has already admitted have come back to the United States. Friends, this is a very real threat. It has to be taken seriously, and what I will tell you is this: This idea that we are going to train and equip so-called “moderate Syrians” is not gonna work. Here’s what they said, we’re gonna have 5,000 troops in a year; 5,000 moderate Syrian rebels in a year. By the way, a lot of them have already fled and turned over weapons to ISIS and 5,000 – I gave a speech, in fact, I talked to Mike at the Red State Convention down in Fort Worth, Texas. I hear a clap for Fort Worth. And at the time in that speech I was talking about how dangerous ISIS was because they’ve got 15,000 troops in their army. Well now the CIA unclassified is saying that it’s 30,000 troops in a matter of just a couple of months, and again now they’ve got heavy armor, American tanks, Abrams Tanks, with ISIS flags flying on the top. This idea that we’re gonna train and equip so-called moderates, it hasn’t worked. If you look at what weapons they have right now, it’s because we train and equip the Iraqi Army, which fled at the first conflict. Friends, this is going to require American leadership, and this is a critically important thing that America has to understand. Without us, it’s only going to grow, and the longer we wait the worse it gets, and I want to be clear again why this is so dangerous not only to us, but ISIS has its sights set on Israel. This is a threat to Israel, our greatest ally in the Middle East.
Now, sure. I would like to, I’m gonna close now. At this time I really am. I see Mike standing over here. I might take a few more minutes just to upset Ann Coulter. Okay here’s a – I’m in such trouble. When I first got elected a friend of mine came to me and he said, he worked really hard, he delivered all kinds of signs throughout the neighborhood. I challenged an incumbent Republican in a Republican primary which is very difficult and it’s very hard to find friends when you’re doing that, but this guy was loyal to me from day one, he worked really hard and we overcame millions of dollars and 11 years of incumbency, and he said I will never ask from you for anything, but I just want one thing I said, and he said, it’s the only thing that I will ever ask for, he said I want you to get a group, a bipartisan group, Republicans and Democrats alike, and I want you to go down to Arlington National Cemetery and sit there for an hour together and reflect on all the sacrifice that has been given for this nation, and a couple of months ago we made that happen. Four hundred thousand markers. Hill after hill, row after row, mile after mile. Freshman class Republicans and Democrats alike reflecting on the sacrifice and, friends, that is a very small portion of all the sacrifice that has been given for this great country. One of the markers, there is a gentleman named Martin Treptow who fought in World War I. Ronald Reagan talked about him in his first inaugural address, and he died on the Western Front delivering messages back and forth between battalions, and when they recovered his body they found on him a journal and in that journal they found these words. It said – and he was a barber from Illinois who got drafted. His words said: “America must win this war. Therefore I will work, I will save, I will sacrifice, I will endure. I will fight cheerfully and do my utmost as if the issue of the whole struggle depended on me alone.”
It wasn’t just a few weeks ago now I went down to a funeral for a friend of mine who died in the Middle East, and this was in Georgia, and my whole squadron – he got, he was sent, what we call individual augmentation. He’s a Navy pilot, but he got sent on the ground to the Middle East, and there he died. So we were at his funeral. My whole squadron, VAW77, the Night Wolves, my squadron, which no longer exists to do the counter-drug operations that I’ve already talked about, but all the Night Wolves gathered and we spent time talking about our friend. The last time I saw these guys I was just a pilot in the squadron and here I am with my buddies and now I’m a member of Congress. Thanks. And they looked at me and they said, “Jim, our country is in peril. We have threats all over the world that will change the landscape for the next generation,” and it’s not just foreign, it’s also domestic. They said, “We are willing” – they’re not with 77 anymore, but they’re all still serving in the reserves somewhere – “we are willing, but we’ve got to have leadership. We need somebody that will stand up and tell us what needs to be done, ‘cause right now we are not feeling it.“ Friends there is an entire country of people who served this nation in uniform and every single one of them feels the way Martin Treptow felt when he wrote that in his journal and I got to tell you as a member of Congress who’s serving his first term, I got to tell ya, that is the one thing more than anything else that gives me hope and I really do have a lot of hope. What is right about America, and I know this has been said before, can fix what is wrong about America and there’s an entire nation of people that are willing to do the right thing knowing that we need to handoff to the next generation what we ourselves inherited. Thank you so much for having me. It’s an honor to be here.
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