On the (Non)-Declaration of War against Iraq

Tuesday, Jun 23, 2009

Congressman Ron Paul introduced an amendment in 2002 to resolution 114, to make a declaration of war on Iraq rather than ceding the power to declare war to the President under whatever conditions the President chooses. Chairman Hyde then calls the U.S. Constitution "no longer relevant to a modern society" and "Inappropriate, anachronistic, it isn’t done anymore."

Mr. PAUL. Mr. Chairman... As I mentioned before, in the resolution that we have before us, we never mention war. We never mention article I, section 8 [of the U.S. Constitution]. We only talk about transferring the power and the authority to the President to wage war when he pleases. I consider that unconstitutional. Of course, we cite the U.N. 25 times as back-up evidence for what we are doing, so I think it is appropriate for us to think about our oath of office and the Constitution, what America is all about. Because, quite frankly, I think we have suffered tremendously over the last 50 or 60 years, since World War II, since we have rejected this process, because we don’t win wars but men die. One hundred thousand men have died in that period of time, and many hundreds of thousands wounded, and many ignored... We are supposed to be very up-front in doing this as we have been obligated to do.

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Now, let me quote from James Madison. Madison said in 1798:

"The Constitution supposes what the history of all governments demonstrate, that the Executive is the branch of power most interested in war and most prone to it. It has accordingly, with studied care, vested the question of war in the legislature."

We have now just carelessly over the years, and today once again, easily given this up.

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It is interesting to note that in the United Nations Charter, you do not have a provision that says well, when you want to declare war, here you come, and these are the procedures. When the United Nations gets involved, we are always declaring the use of force for peace. But it gets difficult and it gets muddied, and it is murky under today’s conditions because there is no war going on in Iraq. Yet we have not exhausted the vehicle of negotiations and other things that could be done. So, this is why, unfortunately, I have very little faith and confidence this will be the solution to solve the problem in Iraq and the Middle East. As a matter of fact, if that happens, this is a dramatic reversal of 60 years of history. It is not going to happen. We have not dealt with the unintended consequences, what we are dealing with today in the sense that the wars continue, but the unintended consequences. And I disagree with the previous speaker who said that this resolution is not dealing with preemptive strikes. That is what the whole thing is about, allowing the President the authority to do a preemptive strike against a nation that has not committed aggression against us. This is the whole issue.

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Some have argued that in this case what you are saying is we would tie the hands of the President. We would tie the hands of the President. Well, that sounds a little strong. But you know what? That is what was intended in the Constitution. That is what Madison is talking about, tying the hands of one person to make the decision to go to war. Therefore, I think—I want and desire so much to think more seriously, because if there a declaration of war, we will fight to win it and it won’t drag on and be endless and lead to another one.

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Chairman HYDE. All right. The Chair yields himself the 10 minutes in opposition to this. It is fascinating to go back in history and see how our Constitution was drafted and what it means. There are things in the Constitution that have been overtaken by events, by time. Declaration of war is one. Letters of mark and reprisal are others. There are things no longer relevant to a modern society. The problem with a declaration of war is that is a formal step taken by a nation.

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Now, the Congress always has the last word in war and peace because we control the purse strings. We could introduce a bill and rush it through that would say no funds appropriated herein may be used to pay for an expedition to France or to the Caribbean. Congress always has the last word because we control the purse strings. But now this resolution we are dealing with today does not declare war. It does not approach war. War may never happen. If we mean what we say and we say what we mean and we have a reasonably tough posture, we may avoid war. Why declare war if you don’t have to? We are saying to the President, use your judgment. We know you have tried to have inspections work. We have tried the U.N., they have been made a fool of for 11 years now. The League of Nations was muscular compared to the U.N. That is the situation we are in now. So to demand that we declare war is to strengthen something to death. You have got a hammerlock on this situation, and it is not called for. Inappropriate, anachronistic, it isn’t done anymore.

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Chairman HYDE. ... The clerk will report the rollcall. Ms. RUSH. On this vote there are 0 yeas and 41 noes. Chairman HYDE. The amendment is narrowly defeated.

United States House of Representatives, Authorization for use of Military Force against Iraq on H.J. Res. 114, Committee on International Relations, 107th Congress, Second Session, October 3, 2002, Page 125, http://www.foreignaffairs.house.gov/archives/107/82194.pdf.