Rand Paul to Senate on War Powers: "We've Been At War Illegally For A Long Time Now"

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During a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing Tuesday afternoon, Sen. Rand Paul argued against going to war in Syria without Congressional approval:

PAUL: Madison wrote that the executive branch is the branch most prone to war; therefore, the Constitution, with studied care, granted that power or vested that power in the legislature.

In no way did they argue that Article II was unlimited authority to commence, initiate or engage in war, at all. In fact, most of the founding fathers would disagree with you on saying that Article II gives the president power to commence in war. To defend the country under imminent attack, to execute the war once the war is initiated -- the initiation of war is congressional duty, not -- not the president's at all.

Even the War Powers Act, a couple centuries later -- nobody reports this -- it has a reporting requirement in there, but it also says in another section that this is a reporting requirement for things that are either imminent attack or authorized war. There's nothing in the War Powers Act about unauthorized war, because we're not supposed to be doing it.

So I agree completely with the authors of this, that we should be doing something. I applaud their motives. I don't question their motives. But I do doubt that this will change any of our military interventions, as to what we are doing.

I want to know, are we going to limit the president's power? Are we going to take back our power? I think a five-year sunset, is -- you know, and I don't mean to be mean, but -- is essentially nothing. I mean, we've had millions of people die in five-year wars before, so I think it's -- it's virtually meaningless.

As far as the geographic limit on there, also virtually meaningless. If you look at associated forces, "part of or substantially supports Al-Qaida, the Taliban or the Islamic State." Well, just the Islamic State's in 32 countries right now. I mean, you add in Taliban and you add in Al-Qaida, we're probably at least 50 or 60 countries. I'm not voting to war -- go to war in 50 or 60 countries.

That -- so if we're going to limit something, let's have a debate. If we're going to just simply pass something to say we passed something, but it's not limiting -- I mean, one of our testimonies today says, basically, well, you got all the Article II, and it'd just be nice -- kind of just be nice to have an AUMF.

No, it wouldn't be nice. That's the Constitution. There's supposed to be no war without an AUMF. We have been illegally at war for a long time now. This is illegal war, at this point.

So when we look at this -- and we ask ourselves, "what are we doing here? Are we going to limit the power, are we going to limit the duration of the war? Are we going to identify our enemy?" But, you know, the 9/11 Proclamation -- over and over again, people say "associated forces" as if that's in the document. That's not even in the document.PAUL: The document, as Senator Cardin said, was very, very specific to 9/11. And we've had people just saying, "you can do anything you want" now for 15 years. Then there's the practical question. The practical question is, is doing anything you want, killing every perceived enemy and every perceived leader or chieftain of five people in some misbegotten village, is it helping?

Are we going to defeat an ideology by killing people? I was all for going after the people after 9/11. I would have voted for that but I don't think war in Yemen's necessarily helping us, I don't think the man raid in Yemen made us safer. In fact -- and I don't blame our soldiers for this. Look, I've got members of my family that are active duty. They do what they're told, they're brave young men and women.

But, you know, when they kill four or five Al-Qaida people in a village but we also kill their wives and children -- and I'm not saying we intentionally do it, they're probably firing at us. They're in the middle of the firefight. But is it better? Do we have less terrorists now or more? We killed five, but what do you think happens in that village, and surrounding that village, for decades?

For a hundred years they'll be talking about the time the Americans came and killed the people and killed our women and children. For a hundred years, they're going to be talking about the Saudis dropping bombs on a funeral procession. That does not go away. These people remember the battle of Karbala in 680 A.D. They have long memories.

One of my favorite quotes is, "You have all the watches, but we have all the time." They're just going to be there and they will wait us out. But we're not going to defeat terrorism by having war in 60 some odd countries and dropping drones on everybody that we think in a village is of a radical ideology. We have to defend ourselves but we should be much more specific than this. And I just say now, I won't vote for something that doesn't limit the president's power, but simply gives a rubber stamp to what we're doing.

And I would argue that our founding fathers did not agree with unlimited Article II authority. In fact, they thought Article II was virtually unlimited authority to execute an already initiated war. If you look at every founding father, whether it's Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Madison, every one of them believe that the power to initiate war was Congress'.

You could repel imminent attack -- even against the Barbary pirates, it was an imminent attack and keeping -- but Jefferson worried that he needed to come back and he actually did come back, very quickly, within a few months, and they did vote on authorizing that activity. But that's not what we're talking about. We're not talking about repelling attackers in the open seas, which I'm for.

We're not talking about a limited thing, we're talking about worldwide war and I think this authorization will not limit that in any way. I have no question, thank you.

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