Ron Paul's Texas Straight Talk - A weekly Column

February 16, 1998

US must not trample Constitution to attack Iraq

It has been the accepted political notion in this half-century that war is a Presidential matter in which Congress may not meddle, and certainly never offer dissent.

Yet no place in the Constitution do we find a presidential fiat power to conduct war. To the contrary, we find strict prohibitions placed on the President when it comes to dealing with foreign nations. The Constitution is clear: No war may be fought without a specific declaration by the Congress.

The president has been beating the drums of war, and many congressional leaders have been goading him along. However, there has been no serious discussion of the Congress claiming its constitutional role in these matters.

One example speaks loudly. As the legislative week came to close on Thursday, February 12, the Congress was told the day would conclude early. The final debate was heard in early afternoon and congressmen began to leave town. But I and my staff noticed something was up. Sure enough, a few minutes after 4 pm, we inquired and learned that the House Leadership, Democrats and Republicans, were taking the floor to show uniform and complete support for any decision the president may make - and especially for sending our troops to battle. I managed to get time to oppose this one-sided maneuver, and as I took up the time, other Members of Congress of both parties who still happened to be around, came to the floor in a rush, ready to make the case I was making: That full debate was constitutionally mandated, and that Congress, not the president, should commit our troops to battle.

Earlier that day, I introduced HR 3208, in an effort to protect US troops from unnecessary exposure to harm and to stop President Clinton from initiating the use of force in the Persian Gulf. As a former Air Force flight surgeon, I am committed to supporting troops and believe the only way to completely support soldiers is to not put them in harms way except to defend our nation. Of course, those banging for war say they want everyone to support the troops by sending them into battle: a contradiction, at best.

There is absolutely no moral or constitutional reason to go to war with Iraq at this time. To go to war to enforce the dictates of the United Nations, or to play the part of 'policemen of the world,' opposes the sensibilities of all who seek to follow the Constitution. I refuse to participate in action which would possibly expose even one soldier to risk when there is absolutely no immediate threat to the US.

Even worse, the President and others promoting this war are arguing for military objectives which are vague and, according to experts, completely unrealistic. The basic flaw in our foreign policy since World War II has been a lack of objectives, mainly because none of the wars have been to protect our nation. Our troops went into battle for political or industrial purposes, rather than to achieve military victory in the face of a real threat. As a result, we saw years of war in Korea and Vietnam drag on, costing thousands of lives with no real success.

Why does the American soldier and taxpayer have to bear the burden of enforcing UN dictates? It is simply immoral for the US to enter into a war which has no objectives other than to kill people with whom we disagree for the sake of looking tough on the world stage. The only moral war is a defensive war to preserve our national security.

But while the politicians are talking about sending our troops to battle, the American people are becoming more concerned with the unforeseen, or, rather, undiscussed, consequences. Up to now, no one has been able to show that Iraq has either the ability or the intentions to attack the United States. Foolish actions against that nation will only make it more likely that American citizens and cities could be targeted for terrorist or military attacks. In fact, Saddam Hussein is hoping to provoke the very actions now being contemplated on Capitol Hill. By attacking the Republic of Iraq, and killing Iraqi nationals with our bombs, Hussein will have the political leverage to gain even more support, and the imperative from his people and supporters to strike back from the position of an underdog. Further, there is discussion of possible anti-West alliances being forged in the Middle East which actions against Iraq could further provoke.

Finally, before committing our troops to this action and opening our people and cities to the possibility of retaliatory attack, we must focus on the consistency of our priorities. According to February 12 stories by the Reuters News Service, from 1985 to 1989 the United States and England provided Hussein with biological weapons - the very weapons we now want to kill Hussein for possessing, according to American and British intelligence documents.

Further, we know that at least 20 nations are developing weapons of mass destruction, and there are numerous nations that already possess them. Does that mean we must attack them all, for fear of their possible use?

According to the US Constitution, only Congress has the power to declare war. My legislation prohibits Defense Department funds from being used for offensive actions against Iraq without Congress legally declaring a war.

It is a sad indictment of our government that it takes legislation is required to force the President and the Congress to follow the Constitution, the supreme law of the land, especially when dealing with issues of life and death for our troops and our people.

Ron Paul represents the 14th District of Texas in the United States House of Representatives. He can be contacted at his office, 203 Cannon, Washington, DC 20515, or via the Internet (