ESCALATION IS NOT THE ANSWER: TIME FOR CONGRESS TO ACT TO ENSURE REAL CHANGE IN IRAQ
January 9, 2007
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Washington, D.C. – As a senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Senator Kennedy has been a leading voice of opposition against the war in Iraq and has consistently called for a political solution to the escalating violence. In January of 2005, Kennedy called for the beginning of the withdrawal of troops, making a direct comparison with the war in Iraq to the Vietnam War and drawing intense criticism from the Bush administration. Now, he is strongly opposed to the escalation of the war and believes that it is not enough to speak out against it but that Congress must act immediately to prevent it. The legislation he is introducing today would require Congress to vote before the President escalates troop levels to fight a civil war — giving the American people a voice in the process.
Address of Senator Edward M. Kennedy
“Escalation is Not the Answer: Time for Congress to
Act to Ensure Real Change in Iraq”
(AS PREPARED FOR DELIVERY)
Thank you, President Jonathan Salant, for that generous introduction. It’s an honor for me to be here at the National Press Club.
I had hoped to speak today about health care and my agenda as Chairman of the Senate’s Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. I will speak to those concerns on another day soon, but an issue of grave importance requires our immediate action.
President Bush will address the nation tomorrow about his decision to send tens of thousands of additional American troops to the war in Iraq. That war is the overarching issue of our time, and American lives, American values and America’s role in the world are all at stake.
If ordered into battle, we know our brave men and women will serve us with pride and valor, just as they have throughout this troubling war. All Americans will support them fully, as will those of us in Congress. We will always support our troops in harm’s way.
It’s a special honor to have here with us today a person who symbolizes that commitment – Brian Hart of Bedford, Massachusetts. His presence reminds us who is being called to sacrifice and service – husbands and wives, fathers and mothers, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, friends and neighbors.
Brian Hart’s son John, at the age of 20, gave his life in Iraq in 2003, defending his patrol from ambush. Brian and his wife Alma turned that enormous personal tragedy into a remarkable force for change.
He’s worked skillfully and tirelessly ever since to ensure that our soldiers have better equipment to protect them. Today and every day, I salute his patriotism and his own dedicated service to our country – Brian Hart.
As the election in November made clear, the vast majority of Americans oppose the war in Iraq, and an even greater number oppose sending even more troops to Iraq today.
Families like the Harts and all Americans deserve a voice in that profound decision. Our Constitution gives them that right. The President is Commander-in-Chief, but in our democracy he is still accountable to the people. Our system of checks and balances gives Congress – as the elected representatives of the people – a central role in decisions on war and peace.
Today, therefore, I am introducing legislation to reclaim the rightful role of Congress and the people’s right to a full voice in the President’s plan to send more troops to Iraq. Congressman Ed Markey of Massachusetts will introduce similar legislation in the House of Representatives. Our bill will say that no additional troops can be sent and no additional dollars can be spent on such an escalation, unless and until Congress approves the President’s plan.
Our proposal is a straightforward exercise of the power granted to Congress by Article I, section 8 of the Constitution. There can be no doubt that the Constitution gives Congress the authority to decide whether to fund military action. And Congress can demand a justification from the President for such action before it appropriates the funds to carry it out.
This bill will give all Americans – from Maine to Florida to California to Alaska and Hawaii – an opportunity to hold the President accountable for his actions. The President’s speech must be the beginning – not the end – of a new national discussion of our policy in Iraq. Congress must have a genuine debate over the wisdom of the President’s plan. Let us hear the arguments for it and against it. Then let us vote on it in the light of day. Let the American people hear – yes or no – where their elected representatives stand on one of the greatest challenges of our time.
Until now, a rubber stamp Republican Congress has refused to hold the White House accountable on Iraq. But the November election has dramatically changed all that.
Over the past two years, Democrats reached for their roots as true members of our Party. We listened to the hopes and dreams of everyday Americans. We rejected the politics of fear and division. We embraced a vision of hope and shared purpose. And the American people voted for change.
We campaigned as Democrats in 2006. And we must govern as Democrats in 2007. We have the solemn obligation now to show the American people that we heard their voices. We will stand with them in meeting the extraordinary challenges of our day – not with pale actions, timid gestures, and empty rhetoric, but with bold vision, clear action, and high ideals that match the hopes and dreams of the American people. That is our duty as Democrats and as Americans on the war in Iraq.
The American people sent a clear message in November that we must change course in Iraq and begin to withdraw our troops, not escalate their presence. The way to start is by acting on the President’s new plan. An escalation, whether it is called a surge or any other name, is still an escalation, and I believe it would be an immense new mistake. It would compound the original misguided decision to invade Iraq. We cannot simply speak out against an escalation of troops in Iraq. We must act to prevent it.
Our history makes clear that a new escalation in our forces will not advance our national security. It will not move Iraq toward self-government, and it will needlessly endanger our troops by injecting more of them into the middle of a civil war.
Some will disagree. Listen to this comment from a high-ranking American official: “It became clear that if we were prepared to stay the course, we could help to lay the cornerstone for a diverse and independent Asia…If we faltered, the forces of chaos would scent victory and decades of strife and aggression would stretch endlessly before us. The choice was clear. We would stay the course. And we shall stay the course.”
That is not President Bush speaking. It is President Lyndon Johnson, forty years ago, ordering a hundred thousand more American soldiers to Vietnam.
Here is another quotation. “The big problem is to get territory and to keep it. You can get it today and it will be gone next week. That is the problem. You have to have enough people to clear it…and enough people to preserve what you have done.”
That is not President Bush on the need for more forces in Iraq. It is President Johnson in 1966 as he doubled our military presence in Vietnam.
Those comparisons from history resonate painfully in today’s debate on Iraq. In Vietnam, the White House grew increasingly obsessed with victory, and increasingly divorced from the will of the people and any rational policy. The Department of Defense kept assuring us that each new escalation in Vietnam would be the last. Instead, each one led only to the next.
Finally, in 1968, in large part because of the war, Democrats lost the White House. Richard Nixon was elected President after telling the American people that he had a secret plan to end the war. We all know what happened, though. As President, he escalated the war into Cambodia and Laos, and it went on for six more years.
There was no military solution to that war. But we kept trying to find one anyway. In the end, 58,000 Americans died in the search for it.
Echoes of that disaster are all around us today. Iraq is George Bush’s Vietnam.
As with Vietnam, the only rational solution to the crisis is political, not military. Injecting more troops into a civil war is not the answer. Our men and women in uniform cannot force the Iraqi people to reconcile their differences.
The open-ended commitment of our military forces continues to enable the Iraqis to avoid taking responsibility for their own future. Tens of thousands of additional American troops will only make the Iraqis more resentful of America’s occupation. It will also make the Iraqi government even more dependent on America, not less.
General Abizaid made this point plainly when he told the Senate Armed Services Committee last November, “I believe that more American forces prevent the Iraqis from doing more and from taking more responsibility for their own future.”
General Abizaid was unequivocal that increasing our troop commitment is not the answer.
He said, “I’ve met with every divisional commander – General Casey, the corps commander, General Dempsey – we all talked together. And I said, ‘in your professional opinion, if we were to bring in more American troops now, does it add considerably to our ability to achieve success in Iraq?’ And they all said no.” That was General Abizaid.
General Casey reiterated this view just two weeks ago. He said, “The longer that U.S. forces continue to bear the main burden of Iraq’s security, it lengthens the time that the government of Iraq has to make the hard decisions about reconciliation and dealing with the militias… They can continue to blame us for all of Iraq’s problems, which are, at base, their problems.”
One of our great military commanders, former Secretary of State Colin Powell, put it this way last month: “I am not persuaded that another surge of troops into Baghdad for the purpose of suppressing this communitarian violence, this civil war, will work.”
Such an escalation would be a policy of desperation built on denial and fantasy. It is “stay the course” under another name. It will not resolve the Iraq war, but it will exact a fearsome new toll in American lives and further weaken our nation. It will make America more hated in the world, and make the war on terrorism even harder to win.
For the sake of our men and women in uniform in Iraq, the President should have heeded these generals, not discarded them and gone shopping for advice that matches his own wishful, flawed thinking. Cooking the intelligence is how we got into this war. Ignoring the sound counsel of our military is no way to end it.
The American people are also well aware that the military action authorized by Congress in 2002 was for a very different war than we face today. Our troops are now caught in the crossfire of a civil war – a role that Congress has not approved and that the American people rejected in November.
Many of us felt the authorization to go to war was a grave mistake at the time.
I’ve said that my vote against the war in Iraq is the best vote I’ve cast in my 44 years in the United States Senate. But no matter what any of us thought then, the Iraq War resolution is obviously obsolete today.
It authorized a war to destroy weapons of mass destruction. But there were no WMDs to destroy. It authorized a war with Saddam Hussein. But today, Saddam is no more. It authorized a war because Saddam was allied with al Qaeda. But there was no alliance.
The mission of our armed forces today in Iraq bears no resemblance whatever to the mission authorized by Congress. President Bush should not be permitted to escalate the war further, and send an even larger number of our troops into harm’s way, without a clear and specific new authorization from Congress.
In everybody’s reality except the Administration’s, Iraq is now in the middle of a civil war.
Sectarian violence is on the rise. Militias continue to commit unspeakable acts of violence and torture. Ethnic cleansing is a fact of daily life. Millions of Iraqis are fleeing the violence and leaving their country.
No one can seriously deny that this civil war is radically different from the mission Congress voted for in 2002. Why should even more of our troops be sent to Iraq in the middle of this civil war?
The President may deny the plain truth. But the truth speaks loudly and tragically. Congress must no longer follow him deeper into the quagmire in Iraq.
I recognize the President’s almost certain determination to persist in his failed course. It appears that he will not listen to the views of Congress or of the American people.
It is disappointing that he seems ready – even eager – to reject the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group. Instead of heeding the growing call for genuine change, he has used the time since that report to root out dissent in his own Administration and in our armed forces.
This Congress cannot escape history or its own duty. If we do not learn from the mistakes of the past, we are condemned to repeat them. We must act, and act now, before the President sends more troops to Iraq, or else it will be too late.
The legislation that we will introduce today is brief but essential. It requires the President to obtain approval from Congress before he sends even more American soldiers to Iraq. And it prohibits the President from spending taxpayer dollars on such an escalation unless Congress approves it.
Our proposal will not diminish our support for the forces we already have in Iraq. We will continue to do everything we can to make sure they have all the support they truly need. Even more important, we will continue to do all we can to bring them safely home. The best immediate way to support our troops is by refusing to inject more and more of them into the cauldron of a civil war that can be resolved only by the people and government of Iraq.
I will seek a Senate vote on this proposal at the earliest realistic date. I hope that instead of escalation without end and without authorization, the President will follow through on his words last week, when he said, “We now have the opportunity to build a bipartisan consensus” on Iraq. If he truly means those words, he will ask Congress for our approval.
The heavy price of our flawed decisions a generation ago is memorialized on sacred ground not far from here. On a somber walk through the Vietnam Memorial, we are moved by the painful, powerful eloquence of its enduring tribute to the tens of thousands who were lost in that tragic war that America never should have fought. Our fingers can gently trace the names etched into the stark black granite face of the memorial.
We wonder what might have been, if America had faced up honestly to its failed decisions before it was too late.
I often pause as well at Section 60 in Arlington National Cemetery. Those from Massachusetts who have fallen in Iraq lie there now in quiet dignity. Each time, I am struck by the heavy price of the war in their young lives cut so sadly short.
The casualties are high. The war is long. The time is late. But as Tennyson said, “Come, my friends. ‘Tis not too late to seek a newer world.”
Those words speak clearly to all of us today. And we are inspired anew to wage this battle by the concluding line of that great poem: “To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.”
Thank you very much.
SUMMARY OF KENNEDY LEGISLATION
The legislation requires the Congress to vote before the President escalates troop levels in Iraq. It does not cut off funding for our troops already in Iraq.
The legislation claims the people’s right to a full voice in the President’s plan to send more troops into the Iraq civil war. It says that no funds can be spent to send additional troops to Iraq unless Congress approves the President’s proposed escalation of American forces.
The Iraq War Resolution of 2002 authorized a war against the regime of Saddam Hussein because he was believed to have weapons of mass destruction and an operational relationship with Al Qaeda, and was in defiance of U.N. Security Council Resolutions.
The mission of our armed forces today in Iraq no longer bears any resemblance to the mission authorized by Congress.
Iraq has descended into civil war and sectarian violence continues to escalate.
On March 5, 2006, General Nash said, “We're in a civil war now; it's just that not everybody's joined in.”
On December 3, 2006, U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan said, “When we had the strife in Lebanon and other places, we called that a civil war -- this is much worse.”
On December 17, 2006, Secretary Colin Powell said, “I am not persuaded that another surge of troops into Baghdad for the purposes of suppressing this communitarian violence, this civil war, will work.”
Iraq needs a political solution, not a military solution. The open-ended commitment of our military forces continues to enable the Iraqis to avoid taking responsibility for their own future. Tens of thousands of additional U.S. troops will only make the Iraqis more dependent on America, not less.
On November 15, 2006, General Abizaid was unequivocal that increasing our troop commitment is not the answer and said, “I’ve met with every divisional commander. General Casey, the corps commander, General Dempsey – we all talked together. And I said, “in your professional opinion, if we were to bring in more American troops now, does it add considerably to our ability to achieve success in Iraq? And they all said no.”
On December 29, 2006, General Casey said, “The longer we in the U.S. forces continue to bear the main burden of Iraq’s security, it lengthens the time that the government of Iraq has to take the hard decisions about reconciliation and dealing with the militias…They can continue to blame us for all of Iraq’s problems, which are at base their problems.”
More than 3,000 American soldiers have died in Iraq and more than 22,000 have been wounded. America cannot wait for the next president to resolve the problems in Iraq. A military escalation in Iraq would not strengthen our national security.
President Bush should not be permitted to increase the number of United States troops in harm’s way in the civil war without a specific new authorization from Congress.
The legislation requires a vote before funds are spent to deploy more troops and escalate our military presence. It does not cut off funding for our troops already in Iraq.
ESCALATION IS NOT THE ANSWER
The centerpiece of Bush’s new “Way Forward” in Iraq is to send tens of thousands more troops to Baghdad. This is not the new magic bullet for Iraq.
Troop Escalation has been tried Before with No Long Term Success
• Troops were increased by 15,000 to 137,000 to quell Maqtada al Sadr’s uprising (December 2003-April 2004). April 2004 was the second bloodiest month of the war for our troops. Today, Maqtada al Sadr is more powerful then ever and is currently commanding a militia of 60,000 followers.
• Troops were increased by 12,000 to 150,000 to route out insurgents from Fallujah and provide security for the January 2005 elections (November 2004-March 2005). Today, the situation in Fallujah, part of Anbar Province is dire. In fact, it was the subject of recent Marine Corps report stating that, “prospects for securing that country's western Anbar province are dim and that there is almost nothing the U.S. military can do to improve the political and social situation there.”
• Troops were increased by 22,000 to 160,000 to provide security for the constitutional referendum and parliamentary elections (September-December 2005). The increased troops levels provided calm on election days but did not have a long-term effect on stability for the country.
• Troops were increased by 12,000 to 140,000 to stabilize Baghdad (June-October 2006). This fall was the bloodiest ever for our troops since the war began.
We don’t need more troops to Police a Civil War
• During September and October, 7,054 civilians were violently killed, including almost 5,000 in Baghdad alone. This is an increase of approximately 450 from July and August when the death toll reached 6,599. In May and June 5818 Iraqi civilians were violently killed. The death toll of Iraqi civilians continues to mount. United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq Human Rights Reports May to October 2006
• “Violence reached alarming levels in many parts of the country…Sectarian attacks seem to be the main source of violence in the country, fueled by action of the insurgents and militias, as well as various criminal groups.” United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq, Human Rights Report 1 September-31 October 2006
• “Hundreds of civilians continued to be kidnapped and their bodies subsequently scattered in different areas of Baghdad, handcuffed, blindfolded and bearing signs of torture and execution-style killing. Many witnesses reported that perpetrators wore militia attire and even police or army uniforms. The perpetrators were reported to operate in groups, arrive in what appeared as police vehicles and were not deterred by the presence of police forces in the vicinity.” United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq, Human Rights Report 1 September-31 October 2006
• “Conditions that could lead to civil war exist in Iraq, specifically in and around Baghdad, and concern about civil war within the Iraqi civilian population has increased in recent months.” Department of Defense, Report on Measuring Stability and Security in Iraq, September 1, 2006
• “We're starting to see this conflict here transition from an insurgency against us to a struggle for the division of political and economic power among the Iraqis." General Casey, September 21, 2006
• “The violence has caused an estimated 1.6 million Iraqis to be displaced internally and up to1.8 million refugees are to flee neighboring countries.” United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, UNHCR Briefing Notes, November 3, 2006
The Solution to Iraq’s Problem is Political not Military
The generals know Iraq needs a political solution. Adding more troops won’t force the Iraqis to come together and work out their differences.
• “If you look back historically as how insurgencies have been defeated, they have been defeated when the insurgents saw their options as better protected in the political process and their prospects for economic advancement can be better protected by the political process than fighting for them. And that's the essential element here.” General Casey, Testimony to Senate Armed Services Committee, June 23, 2005
• Insurgencies, we've talked about, aren't defeated just militarily. educational opportunities, and informational components both internally and externally. And what we've tried to do is harness all instruments of our national power and all the instruments of national power of our international friends and partners in this to bring those instruments of national power, of which the military is just one, to bear on the problem. General Myers, Testimony to Senate Armed Services Committee, September 29, 2005
• “Our troops are the best equipped, the best trained, the best led in the world. And I am enormously proud of them, and I have the utmost confidence in their ability to handle any mission. Yet, sectarian violence is worse than ever in Baghdad in particular. And I wonder about the validity of a strategy that says that less capable troops that are not as well equipped, trained and led as the best troops in the world can handle the security of this country if the upswing in violence has occurred despite the presence of the best troops in the world. It doesn't give me a lot of confidence in our underlying strategy. And it suggests to me that what we need is a political rather than a military solution.” General Abizaid, Testimony to Senate Armed Services Committee August 3, 2006
More Forces Make Americans a crutch for the Iraqis
• “I believe that more American forces prevent the Iraqis from doing more, from taking more responsibility for their own future.” General John Abizaid, Testimony to Senate Armed Services Committee, November 15, 2006
• “The longer we in the U.S. forces continue to bear the burden of Iraq’s security, it lengthens the time that the government of Iraq has to take the hard decisions about reconciliation and dealing with the militias…they can continue to blame us for all of Iraq’s problems, which are at base their problems.” General George Casey, Telephone interview, December 29, 2006
Generals against Escalation
“I believe that more American forces prevent the Iraqis from doing more, from taking more responsibility for their own future.” General John Abizaid, Testimony to Senate Armed Services Committee, November 15, 2006
“I've met with every divisional commander. General Casey, the corps commander, General Dempsey – we all talked together. And I said, ‘In your professional opinion, if we were to bring in more American troops now, does it add considerably to our ability to achieve success in Iraq?’ And they all said no. And the reason is because we want the Iraqis to do more.” General John Abizaid, Testimony to Senate Armed Services Committee, November 15, 2006
“I am adamantly opposed to reinforcing the current troop strength in Iraq. I think it's a big mistake. If you put an inconsequential increase — 20,000 to 30,000 troops; three, four, five brigades — it won't make any major change in the tactical situation.” General Barry Mccaffrey (Ret.), Hardball with Chris Matthews, November 20, 2006
“Over the last five years, the sustained strategic demand ... is placing a strain on the Army's all-volunteer force,… At this pace, without recurrent access to the reserve components through remobilization, we will break the active component." General Peter Schoomaker, Testimony to Army Panel to recommend changes for the National Guard and Reserves, December 14, 2006
“We do not believe that just adding numbers for the sake of adding numbers—just thickening the mix—is necessarily the way to go.” Commandant of the Marine Corps General James Conway, Press Interview, December 16, 2006
“I am not persuaded that another surge of troops into Baghdad for the purposes of suppressing this communitarian violence, this civil war, will work.” Former Secretary of State Colin Powell, CBS Face the Nation, December 17, 2006
“Putting another 20,000 or 30,000 troops, particularly into urban combat in a city of seven million Arabs of Baghdad, is a fool’s errand. It is sticking your finger in the water. When you pull your finger out, their presence will not have made a difference.” General Barry Mccaffrey, Hardball with Chris Matthews, December 19, 2006
“The longer we in the U.S. forces continue to bear the burden of Iraq’s security, it lengthens the time that the government of Iraq has to take the hard decisions about reconciliation and dealing with the militias…they can continue to blame us for all of Iraq’s problems, which are at base their problems.” General George Casey, Telephone interview, December 29, 2006
Republican Senators against Escalation
“If there is a road map to victory, then I would be prepared to listen to what the president has to say about more troops. But on this date of the record, I do not see it.” Senator Arlen Specter, The Washington Post, January 1, 2007
“I don't think the addition of new American troops in a situation plagued by sectarian strife is the answer. I think more American troops will present more American targets.” Senator Susan Collins, The Washington Post, January 1, 2007
“The prime minister made it pretty clear that he did not welcome the idea of more American troops. I would speculate that he recognizes that he needs to take control of the situation, that if he's seen as completely dependent on American troops it's difficult for him to establish his legitimacy.”
Senator Susan Collins, The Washington Post, January 1, 2007
“Baghdad needs reconciliation between Shiites and Sunnis. It doesn't need more Americans in the cross hairs.” Senator Norm Coleman, The Los Angeles Times, January 5, 2007
“My conclusion was that it would be a mistake to send more troops to Baghdad. I think the sectarian violence there requires a political, not a military, solution.” Senator Susan Collins, AP Worldstream, January 6, 2007
“We are bogged down and will continue to be bogged down in Iraq, and
especially if he puts in more troops. If there's anything clear to me that we should have learned about Vietnam: You can't continue to put more troops in, more troops in, because it makes it more difficult to get out.” Senator Chuck Hagel, Omaha World Herald, January 6, 2007
IRAQ IS IN A CIVIL WAR
• We're in a civil war now; it's just that not everybody's joined in.” General Nash, March 5, 2006
• “Everything is in place if they want to have a civil war,” General Pace, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, March 13, 2006
• “I think we have had a low-grade civil war going on in Iraq, certainly the last six months, maybe the last year.” Senator Hagel, March 19, 2006
• "We are unfortunately engaged in a civil war. We are losing between 50 and 60 persons daily all over the country, and probably more. If this is not civil war, then God knows what civil war is." Former Prime Minister Allawi, March 19, 2006
• "Civil war is taking place in Iraq, the situation is very bad, and the country needs quick measures for saving the situation.” Former Prime Minister Allawi, March 20, 2006
• “It's not a full- blown civil war. It's really terrible and severe sectarian violence which -- which can turn into a full-blown civil war. And sectarian violence is a stage of civil war, one of the stages of -- probably an early stage of civil war.” Former Prime Minister Allawi, March 22, 2006
• “I believe that the sectarian violence is probably as bad as I've seen it, in Baghdad in particular, and that if not stopped, it is possible that Iraq could move towards civil war.” General Abizaid, U.S. Central Command, August 3, 2006
• The prospect of a low intensity civil war and a de facto division of Iraq is probably more likely at this stage than a successful and substantial transition to a stable democracy. British Ambassador to Iraq Patey, August 3, 2006
• “We, in fact, are in probably a low grade, maybe a very defined, civil war.” Senator Hagel, August 20, 2006
• “So what I think we have is something which is, at the very best, civil war in miniature, at the very best.” British Royal Marine Lt. Gen. Fry, August 22, 2006
• “We're starting to see this conflict here transition from an insurgency against us to a struggle for the division of political and economic power among the Iraqis," General Casey, September 21, 2006
• “Given the developments on the ground, unless something is done drastically and urgently to arrest the deteriorating situation, we could be there. In fact, we are almost there." Secretary General Annan, November 28, 2006
• The situation in Iraq could “be considered a civil war." Secretary Powell, November 29, 2006
• “When we had the strife in Lebanon and other places, we called that a civil war -- this is much worse.” Secretary General Annan, December 3, 2006
• “I am not persuaded that another surge of troops into Baghdad for the purposes of suppressing this communitarian violence, this civil war, will work.” Secretary Powell, December 17, 2006
Use of Force in Iraq
• On October 22, 2002, President Bush signed into law the Authorization for the Use of Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002, which gave him congressional authorization to use the military as “necessary and appropriate in order to (1) defend the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq: and (2) enforce all relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions regarding Iraq.”
• The resolution was premised explicitly on statements that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction, had defied U.N. resolutions and harbored and enabled terrorists, including al Qaeda. In reality, Iraq did not possess weapons of mass destruction and did not have any operational relations with al Qaeda.
• Any purpose that the resolution was intended to serve was satisfied when Saddam Hussein and his regime were toppled and replaced by an elected government.
• Pursuant to the War Powers Resolution, which Congress passed in 1973 over the veto of President Nixon, Congress must authorize the use of troops in combat through a declaration of war or other congressional authorization. The President may commit troops without such authorization, but unless he obtains it, he must withdraw the troops within 60 days. He may obtain an additional 30 days to ensure safe withdrawal of the troops. The original resolution governing the use of force in Iraq was consistent with the War Powers Resolution.
• Pursuant to the Constitution, Congress retains substantial authority over decisions to commit troops to combat. It has authority, which it has exercised, to decide whether or not to fund the commitment of troops.
• By all accounts, the President intends to announce a substantial increase in the number of troops committed to the Iraq war to carry out a substantial increase in the mission in Iraq.
• Under the structure of the War Powers Resolution and exercising its constitutional authority, Congress has the power to enact legislation requiring the President to seek an authorization for this new military mission before it will appropriate funds to carry it out.
Background on War Powers Resolution
• The War Powers Resolution was enacted on Nov. 7, 1973 when Congress voted to override President Nixon’s veto by votes of 284-135 in the House and 75-18 in the Senate. Majorities of both Democrats and Republicans supported the override.
• The Resolution was a response to frustration that President had conducted the Vietnam War without meaningful input from Congress. It was designed to establish a framework to force dialogue between the President and Congress before troops were committed to combat and to ensure a role for Congress once troops were in the field.
• The Resolution:
? states that there are three situations in which the President can send forces into imminent hostilities: pursuant to (1) a declaration of war, (2) specific statutory authorization, or (3) a national emergency created by attack upon the United States.
? requires the President “in every possible instance” to consult with Congress before committing troops.
? requires the President to report to Congress within 48 hours after committing troops in a situation involving hostilities or imminent hostilities.
? directs the withdrawal of troops within 60 days after such a report unless the President obtains a declaration of war, congressional authorization or a congressional extension of the deadline. He may keep the troops deployed for an additional 30 days if necessary to ensure their safe removal from hostilities.
? instructs the President to remove troops whenever Congress passes a concurrent resolution directing him to do so.
• Presidents have submitted 119 reports “consistent with” the War Powers Resolution. Generally, Presidents have complied with the terms of the Resolution without acknowledging that they were legally required to do so.
• The Authorization for the Use of Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002, which gave the President power to send troops to Iraq, satisfied the War Powers Resolution. That resolution, however, was based on faulty premises, namely that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction and harbored al Qaeda. It also rested on his defiance of UN resolutions. That authorization no longer has relevance to today’s Iraq, from which Saddam Hussein has been removed.
• Requiring the President to seek a new authorization to support an expansion of the war in Iraq is consistent with the structure and purposes of the War Powers Resolution. It will force the President to come forward with a plan and – after debate -- obtain congressional approval or disapproval.
• Congress unquestionably has the power pursuant to the Constitution to require the President to seek authorization for his war plan before it appropriates the funds to carry it out.
Congress’ Historical Role in Policing Military Escalation
On numerous occasions over the past several decades, Congress has exercised its constitutional authority to limit the President’s ability to escalate existing military engagements by capping the number of American military personnel available for deployment and by refusing to release appropriated funds. It is incumbent upon Congress to exercise that authority to ensure that our men and women are not put in harm’s way unnecessarily or without a plan worthy of their great sacrifice.
? In the Foreign Assistance Act of 1974, P.L. 93-559, enacted during the Vietnam War, Congress limited the number of American military personnel in South Vietnam to 4,000 within six months and 3,000 within a year of the Act’s enactment.
? The Lebanon Emergency Assistance Act of 1983, P.L. 98-43, required the President to “obtain statutory authorization from the Congress with respect to any substantial expansion in the number or role in Lebanon of the United States Armed Forces, including any introduction of United States Armed Forces into Lebanon in conjunction with agreements providing for the withdrawal of all foreign troops from Lebanon and for the creation of a new multinational peace-keeping force in Lebanon.”
? Through the Department of Defense Authorization Act of 1985, P.L. 98-525, Congress prohibited the use of funds appropriated in the Act or in subsequent Acts from being used to increase the number of U.S. military personnel deployed in European nations of NATO. The Act provided that Congress might authorize increased troop levels above the prescribed ceiling upon the Secretary of Defense’s certification to Congress that the European nations had taken significant measures to improve their defense capacity.
? In the Military Construction Appropriations Act of 2001, P.L. 106-246, Congress limited the involvement of U.S. military personnel and civilian contractors in counter-narcotics activities in Colombia by prohibiting the use of appropriated funds to expand their presence above specified levels.
? The Second Supplemental Appropriations Act of 1973, P.L. 93-50, specified that none of the funds appropriated by the Act were to be used “to support directly or indirectly combat activities in or over Cambodia, Laos, North Vietnam, and South Vietnam or off the shores of Cambodia, Laos, North Vietnam and South Vietnam by United States Forces and after August 15, 1973, no other funds heretofore appropriated under any other Act may be expended for such purpose.”
? Congress authorized the use of U.S. Armed Forces in Somalia in the Department of Defense Appropriations Act of 1994, P.L. 103-139, but set a deadline after which appropriated funds could no longer be used to pay for their involvement. The Act specified that the deadline could only be extended if requested by the President and authorized by the Congress.
? In the Department of Defense Appropriations Act of 1995, P.L. 103-335, Congress required congressional approval of “any change in the United States mission in Rwanda from one of strict refugee relief to security, peace-enforcing, or nation-building or any other substantive role” and blocked funding for continued participation of the U.S. military in Operation Support Hope beyond a specified date.
? The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 1998, P.L. 105-85, provided that no funds appropriated for fiscal year 1998 or any subsequent year could be used for the deployment of any U.S. ground combat forces in Bosnia and Herzegovina after a specified cutoff date unless the President first consulted with Congress and then certified to Congress that certain conditions existed in the field.
• “It became clear that if we were prepared to stay the course in Vietnam, we could help to lay the cornerstone for a diverse and independent Asia… If we faltered, the forces of chaos would scent victory and decades of strife and aggression would stretch endlessly before us. The choice was clear. We would stay the course. And we shall stay the course.” President Johnson, Address to the Tennessee Legislature, March 15, 1967
• “The big problem is to get it and to keep it. You can get it today and it will be gone next week. That is the problem. You have to have enough people to clear it… and enough people to preserve what you have done.” President Johnson, Press Conference October 14, 1966
• I believe that more American forces prevent the Iraqis from doing more, from taking more responsibility for their own future.” United States Central Commander General John Abizaid, Testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee, November 15, 2006
• I've met with every divisional commander. General Casey, the corps commander, General Dempsey – we all talked together. And I said, ‘in your professional opinion, if we were to bring in more American troops now, does it add considerably to our ability to achieve success in Iraq?’ And they all said no.” United States Central Commander General John Abizaid, Testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee, November 15, 2006
• “The longer we in the U.S. forces continue to bear the burden of Iraq’s security, it lengthens the time that the government of Iraq has to take the hard decisions about reconciliation and dealing with the militias…they can continue to blame us for all of Iraq’s problems, which are at base their problems.” Multinational Force Commander General George Casey, Telephone interview, December 29, 2006
• “I am not persuaded that another surge of troops into Baghdad for the purposes of suppressing this communitarian violence, this civil war, will work.” Former Secretary of State Colin Powell, CBS Face the Nation, December 17, 2006
• “We now have the opportunity to build a bipartisan consensus” on Iraq. President George W. Bush, What Congress Can Do for America, Wall Street Journal, January 3, 2007
Laura Capps/ Melissa Wagoner (202) 224-2633
|Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list|