Constitutional problems with the Libyan War

Last
week the Obama Administration took the United States to war against Libya
without bothering to notify Congress, much less obtain a constitutionally
mandated declaration of war. In the midst of our severe economic downturn, this
misadventure has already cost us hundreds of millions of dollars and we can be
sure the final price tag will be several times higher.

Why
did the US intervene in a civil war in a country that has neither attacked us
nor poses a threat? We are told this was another humanitarian
intervention, like Clinton’s 1999 war against Serbia. But as civilian victims
of the US-led coalition bombing continue to add up, it is getting difficult to
determine whether the problem we are creating on the ground is worse than the
one we were trying to solve.

Though
the administration seems to be playing with semantics, calling this a “kinetic
military action,” let’s be clear: this is a US act of war on Libya.
Imposing a no-fly zone over the air space of a sovereign nation is an act of
war, as Secretary of Defense Robert Gates pointed out before the bombing
began. That the administration hesitates to call this war, possibly due
to the troubling Constitutional implications, does not mean that it is not one.
Article 1 Section 8 of the Constitution could not be clearer: the power and obligation
to declare war resides solely in the US Congress.

There
was ample time and opportunity for the administration to consult the UN, NATO
and the Arab League before going to war, but not the US Congress.

Aside
from the manner in which the administration took us to war, it is also
troubling that our government has taken a decisive stand for one side of an
internal conflict in another sovereign country. The administration speaks
out of both sides of its mouth on this, claiming that the US is not attempting
to overthrow the Gaddafi regime while clearly benefitting the rebels and
stating that Gaddafi must leave. Does this make any sense? Gaddafi may well be
every bit the “bad guy” we are told he is, but who are the rebels we are
assisting? Do we have any clue? Will they bring freedom and
prosperity to Libya if they are victorious? We might like to hope so, but
the fact is, we don’t know. Michael Scheuer, former head of the CIA’s Bin
Laden unit, explained in a recent article that there is plausible reason to believe
the rebels are current or former Islamist mujahedin, eager to engage in
jihad. Indeed, Gaddafi has fought against Libyan Islamists for years and
is seen by them as a bitter enemy. Astoundingly, it may well be that we
are assisting al Qaeda in this new war!

The costs of this terrible mistake cannot be
ignored. Congress has been locked in battles over budget cuts and
agonizing over ways to save money. Recent proposed spending cuts have by
now been completely wiped out with this new war! Will we be rebuilding
Libya ten years from now? Will Congress simply roll over and rubber stamp
more emergency spending bills for this new war as they have done in the
past? We must end our participation in any attack on Libya immediately
and I have signed on to legislation that would do exactly that. Congress must
assert its Constitutional authority and rein in an administration clearly out
of control.

* Ron Paul is
the Republican US representative serving the 14th Congressional
District of Texas.

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One Response to “Constitutional problems with the Libyan War”

  1. Peter Jesson says:

    Yes Mr. Paul, Libya is another humanitarian (and also give-the-people-a-voice) intervention, like Clinton’s successful 1999 containment of Serbia. In both cases it seems clear many more lives have been saved than lost and that the cost to the US is minimal. Perhaps the Mr. Paul does not remember the Clinton “containment” of Iraq. Containment, a good word but, like liberal and socialist, blackened by the incessant stream of right wing propaganda that we are subjected to day in day out from every major news outlet. Containment was the primary reason (as pointed out by the UN weapons inspectors) that nothing was found when Bush murdered 1 million innocent Iraqis, wasted $3 trillion dollars and gave Iraq to Iran as a satellite (so much for King Chalabi)
    How about the Constitutional aspects?: Subtlety has never been a quality familiar to the right wing lunatics. As I have pointed out before, aggression comes in all flavors from World Wars I and II down to Timothy McVeigh. Not to recognize this is plain stupidity. Everyone sees the commitment of fighting boots on the grout as a major escalation.
    The United States has formally declared war against foreign nations five separate times, each upon prior request by the President of the United States. Four of those five declarations came after hostilities had begun.
    On at least 125 occasions, a President has acted without prior express military authorization from Congress.

    The vast majority of foreign interventions over the last hundred years from Hawaii to Iraq have been to further US business interests. These have usually involved the installation of vicious dictators who looted their countries and tortured and killed their people. What we are engaged in, in Yemen, Libya, Somalia and Pakistan is containment. The Iraq and Afghanistan wars are legacies of Bush incompetence ; Obama is left to clean up the mess. Containment anyone?
    Poor Mr. Paul – no head for numbers. The Balkan containment cost $1.8 billion – Libya is easier and will surely be less. $1.8 billion is 5% of the small down payment on debt reduction agreed to by the Administration – don’t forget, the salivating crypto-fascists are looking to cut trillions on the backs of the middle class and the poor while further enriching the top 2%.
    To give the %1.8 billion real perspective, it is 0.06% of the cost of the Iraq War.

    The objectives in Libya are clear: To prevent Qaddafi slaughtering his people. In this, it has already been remarkably successful; if in the process we get rid of Qaddafi and bring a popularly elected government to Libya, so much the better. The Balkans, Egypt and Libya are sensible moves in the long term security of our country; minor beacons amongst our disgraceful record of counterproductive foreign aggression.
    With all of his prognostication about what can go wrong in Libya, Mr. Paul is as mentally fuzzy as George Bush. Of course we do not know how things will turn out – this requires sound leadership (which we now have after 20 years of the Reagans and the Bushes) and having some of the chips roll our way.
    What is certain is, had we adopted this approach in Iran and Viet-Nam instead of the Dull, Duller, Dulles approach, we would be way ahead of where we are today.

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