Rand Paul: Congress Must Reassert Its Power To Limit Executive War Powers



PAUL: You know, I think it shouldn't surprise any of us that administrations -- Republican and Democrat -- come to us and say they believe in unlimited Article II power to execute war. What should surprise and worry us thought is that it seems like they also argue that they have virtually unlimited power to initiate and to execute war. And that's where the real problem comes here. I'm pretty much like everybody else-execute the war. I don't want to have you restrained, the rules of engagement. I want to engage and kill the enemy. But initiate, imitation of the war was given to us. Madison wrote that the Executive Branch is the Branch most prone to war and therefore was studied care, we gave that power to the Legislature.

And so while some would argue, well we could not appropriate, appropriate money. That becomes very difficult. Even in Viet Nam nobody wanted to cut off the money because no one wants to be accused of not giving money to soldiers in the field. It's our real only chance of preventing war is not to initiate the war. The problem we have with you coming forward to us and saying, "My goodness you will not even tell us we're not going to have preventative war, or preemptive war with North Korea."

This sends a signal not just that we're willing to do first strike but what signal does it send to enemies of other nuclear powers? Enemies of Russia, enemies of China, enemies of Pakistan, of India that we're reserving the right if we don't like what weapon you have and we think it might reach us, we may as well just take you out. And we look Pakistan and India are pointed at each other. You've got Israel pointed at Saudi Arabia, pointed at Iran. You have all of these enemies and if we're going to assert the yes, we have the right and the will and will take preemptive war against a nuclear power.

I think that's very troublesome but if we want to fix it, we should fix it. You know we complain, the Administration is going to take to power, we should reassert our power. It's not just us. It's been generation after generation of Congress just acquiescing in this. And while I applaud the AUMF that's being put forward as asserting our authority, if it doesn't limit the authority of the Executive, I'm not sure we're a lot better. My problem, the Executive Branch thinks it's too restrictive, I think we'll still authorize war in 34 countries; at least 7 for certain but probably 30 some odd.

So when we look at this and we want to ask whether or not there should be limitations, whether or not we are prepared to be involved in perpetual war, but whether we're prepared to let any President involve us in perpetual war. We have to think about this. I mean the war started in the first generation after Mohammad. I mean when you got Ali Hussein, and Yazid I fighting in 66-80, they still remember the battle of Karbala. The Shias still mourn that battle 13 some years later. Are we willing just to not have any more votes and say the vote in 2011, no intellectually honest person thinks 2011 has anything, 2001 has anything to do with this. I promise you that. It says specifically we're going after the enemies who attacked us.

Isis had nothing to do with that. Nobody in Niger has anything to do with 9-11 other than they have sort of this ideology of radical Islam but I don't think we gave the Executive Branch a blanket authority just go to war anywhere they want against people that they say are, you know, a part of Radical Islam. Ultimately there's going to have to be diplomacy involved in this as well. You know, how are we ever going to end the war? Is there ever an end to this war? But really the crux of the argument is over who has the power. You say you've got it. Dick Chaney once said that it should be unconstitutional to challenge Article 2 authority which he also meant to be unlimited basically.

The Constitution was very clear. We were supposed to initiate war. Doesn't matter whether it's a state or a non-state actor, initiation of war comes from Congress. And I believe that very strongly and I think if we all did, we should assert our power. We have the ability to assert our power and we should resist when the Administration, anyone, Republican or Democrat comes before us and tells they believe they have the ability to have preemptive war anywhere anytime and they have the ability to continue to fight a war against and ideology wherever they perceive it to be. So I think it's a very, very dangerous and this should be a wakeup call to all of us and if we can come together.

What I would say, though, just passing AUMF is not enough for me because it should be an AUMF that does give us some hope of someday coming to an end and someday that there will be an end to war. I see no end to this war historically. I think the war and the answers are going to come from within Islam. I think Islam is ultimately going to have to stamp out I think we're a target everywhere we go, and yes we can defeat anyone, but I don't think in the end it ends the war. I mean we went to Yemen. You guys just did it on your own. So you're in a new war theater now, you're involved with Saudi Arabia there. You've got 17 million people on the point of starvation in Yemen and we're assisting and aiding the Saudis in blockading, we give them weapons, they kill civilians, they kill 150 people in a funeral procession. So when we go to a village and you guys come home, we got great information which no one will tell me specifically what the information that came from that village in Yemen, but when we went in there, unavoidably, and I don't blame our soldiers, I blame us-the people in charge. But women and children were killed in that village. What do you think, and you say, "Well, we vets. We didn't try to do that." Sure, but what do you think they tell about us in the surrounding communities?

What do you think they say about the time the Americans came in the night and women, children, and a whole village is wiped out? What do you think they say about that? They'll repeat that by oral tradition. The same way they remember Karbala from 680 AD, they're going to remember this. So I don't think we can kill more than we create in the process, so ultimately there's going to have to be another way that involves some diplomacy, some discussion.

It doesn't mean we can't resist the enemy and we shouldn't, but it shouldn't be your power. I'm here to say very forcefully, it is not your power but the only way we'll ever change that is if we as a body stand up and say enough's a enough. We're going to reassert the power of the Senate and power of Congress to determine these things and we could and my admonition is to do that. I'm alarmed today to find out that Article 10 basically has us involved in civil wars in Africa.

So we can call it any kind of euphemism we want, train and equip, but it sounds like you got a conflict going on there. You've got conflict going on in Niger. We have 6,000 troops in 54 countries in Africa, and we should just blithely say, "Oh, we were given this authority under Article 10 to be anywhere, anytime." I was alarmed that you were going to justify it with 9/11, now I'm even more alarmed that section 10 or Article 10 sounds like you believe you can be anywhere, anytime whether there's a war going on or not.

And we can say it's train and equip, but I suspect there's more going on in Niger than train and equip. But I don't think there is ultimately a question in there other than a hope that we as a body would pull together and stand up and resist, not because you're bad people, you're good people. You served your country, you want what's best for your country, all our soldiers are. But the balance of power -- Madison said we would pit ambition against ambition.

So we would check and balance each other. We haven't been checking and balancing the executive branch for 60 some odd years, maybe longer. So we need to stand up and that's my admonition to our body and I don't think I'll change your minds, but it is an admonition that we should have a real full-throated debate and I thank the Chairman for the beginning of this. Thank you.

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