As the Governor of New Hampshire, my first and foremost responsibility is to protect the safety and security of our citizens.
In the wake of the horrific acts of terror in Paris, state emergency management officials and I have worked with federal Homeland Security, the FBI and local police departments to exercise extra vigilance, and I will continue to ensure that the state is taking necessary precautions to protect the safety of Granite Staters.
These heinous attacks were carried out on the streets of Paris, but the terrorists who committed these cowardly acts also targeted each of us — and the values we hold most dear — with threats of their savage violence.
As we see the images of both heart-breaking pain and incredible resilience in France, we know that these heinous attacks will only strengthen our collective resolve to defeat ISIS and rid the world of violent extremism, wherever it may be.
Protecting the safety and security of our people is the highest responsibility of government, and it's clear that we must do more to defeat ISIS.
Given that ISIS has proven that it can expand its violence beyond the territory of the Middle East, it is prudent to take a step back and make sure that every possible action is being taken to protect American citizens here at home.
That is why I have called for the federal government to temporarily halt acceptance of refugees from Syria until intelligence and defense officials can assure that the process for vetting all refugees is as strong as possible to ensure public safety.
This should be a temporary measure. The federal government can and must work in a timely fashion to conduct a thorough re-evaluation of every step in the screening process, including ensuring proper resources for departments responsible for carrying out these screenings.
When it comes to refugee resettlement, the federal government also needs to improve its coordination with state homeland security officials and local public safety officials. As governor, I know firsthand that the federal government does not do enough to communicate with local public safety officials about who is being resettled, what their backgrounds are, and how they have been screened – and that needs to change.
The Paris attacks also reinforce that it is not enough to simply slow the ISIS's progress or contain their territorial gains. We need to use every tool at our disposal, short of ongoing combat ground troops at this time, to defeat these terrorists.
To eliminate ISIS:
— We must intensify our efforts to destroy ISIS's command and control structure through both air strikes and targeted Special Operations raids where necessary.
— We must increase our coordination and support for moderate forces like the Kurdish fighters who have shown promising capability on the battlefield.
— We must strengthen both our intelligence capabilities and our ability to cut off ISIS's funding mechanisms by targeting its lucrative oil business and smuggling activities.
— And we must increase pressure on Russia and the rest of the international community to reach a political solution in Syria that takes into account who will fill the void that will be left after Assad.
And it also means that Congress should finally take up, debate, and pass a strong Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF), and be honest with the American people about the fact that we are at war with ISIS. There is simply no excuse for Congress failing to do its constitutional duty, especially in the face of a threat as serious and evil as ISIS. Congress needs to hold hearings with military leadership on the necessary terms of a new AUMF, and then we need to be clear with the American people about what it will take to eliminate ISIS.
To truly defeat ISIS, we must also ensure that we do not give in to the fear these terrorists are trying to sow. We cannot allow them to undermine the fundamental values that make America the greatest country on earth.
We are a welcoming nation of immigrants, and we must always continue to be. Throughout our history, the United States has been an extraordinary force for good in the world, and as we work to protect our country and our allies, we cannot lose sight of the inclusive values of our founders or of our commitment to addressing humanitarian crises.
Part of the meaning of "Live Free or Die" and of our American values is a recognition that true freedom does not come without risk.
We cannot demonize an entire people or forever close our borders. We must recognize that if we don't remain a welcoming, inclusive, and diverse nation, then we will cease to be America. It's in the interests of our nation — both based on our values and our national security — to aid the vulnerable people, including women and children, who are fleeing from the atrocities and terror of ISIS.
After we re-evaluate and strengthen our security measures, we must engage in the process of addressing this humanitarian crisis.
We can wipe out ISIS and the radical ideology that feeds it. We can strengthen our security procedures to ensure the safety of our people while maintaining the values that make us strong.
And we can demonstrate to all who seek to do us harm that they can never defeat the resiliency and spirit that defines New Hampshire and the United States of America.
(Democrat Maggie Hassan is serving her second term as governor of New Hampshire.)
- Category: Letters
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