Mr. Chairman, I rise in opposition to this resolution.
If the Members of the House choose to pass the Speaker’s one chamber resolution, it should add one finding: that we declare ourselves to be one big constitutionally-created potted plant.
This resolution casts all kinds of aspersions on the President. It states the President has failed to provide Congress with a compelling rationale for operations in Libya. It implies that there has been a withholding of documents and information from this body.
Could the President provide more information to the Congress? Of course. But we need to look not just at the President’s failure to seek and authorization, but the refusal of this body to act as well. The onus rests with us to exercise the sacred duty of authorizing the use of force.
A resolution like this – with no operative language, with no invocation of the War Powers Resolution, and which was presented to Members for the first time just 14 hours ago – simply perpetuates a dynamic of congressional acquiescence, an acquiescence that has existed since the Korean War.
There are two choices here. If the majority thinks that the President’s initial efforts to stop a humanitarian catastrophe were wrong, or that current operations in Libya do not have a compelling national security rationale, it should support Mr. Kucinich’s approach and offer a concurrent resolution pursuant to section 5(c) of the War Powers Resolution requiring the removal of U.S. forces.
If the majority has concerns with Mr. Kucinich’s approach – as many of us do – and believes terminating military action would have grave consequences for U.S. national security, it should simply authorize use of force in Libya and incorporate the restriction on ground forces in this resolution and the Conyers language in the defense bill. I will gladly join the Speaker in cosponsoring such legislation.
But pursuing a non-binding House Resolution that takes potshots at the President and amounts to nothing more than a sense of the Congress, is just an exercise in political gamesmanship. It is a pedantic effort to embarrass the President without taking any ownership for the policy of the intervention.
The majority – not the President – puts this body in a position of powerlessness through such toothless efforts. We are sixty days into this operation – either we should authorize this action or terminate, not play around with reporting requirements.
The resolution is also confusing. It states that the President shall not deploy or maintain the presence of U.S. military units on the ground in Libya, but as the majority well knows, US military activities are limited to air operations, and nothing more. So does this language mean the Majority is ok with the current intervention in Libya? The majority seems to be raising a fuss while winking at the White House. That is no way to legislate.
Finally, I object to this resolution because it is downright inaccurate. The resolution implies there is no compelling national security rationale for these operations in Libya. But U.S. interests are clear. They have been forcefully articulated by the Administration and, ironically, by conservative advocates like Bill Kristol.
We are in Libya because we are averting a probable massacre against civilians.
We are in Libya because our NATO partners need our help. Refusal to act there would send a message to our NATO allies --who are putting their forces on the line in Afghanistan -- that we are not a dependable partner.
We are in Libya because our friends struggling for democracy in the Middle East are watching events there. If we failed to act or, worse, seek withdrawal today, what would we be saying to the activists in Tunisia and Egypt, whose fragile movements for democracy could be stifled by the destabilizing effect of a Qaddafi-led government remaining in power? And what message would we be sending to Asad and to other dictators and enemies about our staying power?
Let’s not kid ourselves – a Qaddafi who is unleashed to commit acts of terrorism around the world, will do so with unspeakable barbarity. We know Qaddafi’s record of bloodshed, we know his readiness to use terror, especially now that he has nothing to lose. I cannot think of a more compelling rationale for current operations in Libya.
I object to the characterization that U.S. national security interests and humanitarian objectives are incompatible. In Libya, it is quite clear that stopping murder and preventing a refugee crisis very much corresponds with U.S. national interests.
The Republican sponsors of this resolution are trying to have it both ways. They want to criticize the President for taking the very action that many of them called for three months ago-- and they want to do so without taking any responsibility. In the process, they are offering nothing but criticism and obstruction and endless second-guessing.
President Bush once accused the Democratic Party of becoming the “the party of cut and run.” Well, it seems the running shoe is now on the other foot. It is a Democratic President that is taking on a brutal tyrant, and it is the Republican Party that refuses to back him.
I urge my colleagues to take seriously U.S. military involvement in Libya and vote no on this resolution.