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March 31, 2011

Libya: There Should Have Been a Vote

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The SPEAKER pro tempore. The Chair recognizes the gentlewoman from Ohio (Ms. Kaptur) for 5 minutes.

Ms. KAPTUR. Mr. Speaker, a little over a week ago, the executive branch launched U.S. military force against yet another Middle Eastern country. This time it is oil-rich Libya. U.S. naval and air forces attacked Libyan military installations across that country, wiping out air defenses, intelligence systems, tanks, and also apparently is now targeting that nation's ground forces.

Under what policy is the executive branch operating without a vote of Congress in expending millions of defense dollars and State dollars on offensive action taken inside a nation that did nothing provocative toward the United States. In fact, last year, Libya was even a recipient of U.S. foreign aid. The President's justification for this action was that it was not an act of war but, rather, a humanitarian mission to prevent a catastrophe that would have resulted from Libya's military forces under the command of Libyan President Muammar Qadhafi from taking the civilian center of Benghazi.

Our President says he did not act alone, as French, British, Canadian, and other Western NATO members participated in these attacks. The President informed Congress that future operations will be handled by NATO. Well, who exactly decided all of this? Not Congress. If this is not an act of war, as F-16s fly over and bomb and U.S. naval forces shell, what is it?

The President has further said he authorized this military action to enforce U.N. Security Council Resolution 1973; yet on that resolution, many nations who normally are U.S. allies abstained from the vote, such as India, Brazil, and Germany.

The President said he sought the permission of the Arab League before taking action. But in fact it was 3 days into the bombing when the press reported the Arab League said it had ``no objection'' to the bombing. So where in these operations have been the Arab League's planes and soldiers? And I might ask, where is the African Union's engagement? Why are they silent?

It appears the administration consulted key allies from oil-dependent Europe, like the French, who dropped the first bombs, and the British. But the President didn't bother to ask Congress. We live in very strange and dangerous times. The administration says it made a couple of phone calls to Members of Congress serving in the leadership. Well, who exactly were they? And then the administration set up an after-the-fact briefing for Members of Congress in the Capitol Visitor Center. None of these gestures meet the spirit or letter of the law under our Constitution relating to military engagement abroad.

Yes, protest movements seem to be springing up across Africa and the Middle East, and we witness some Libyan rebels--though we really don't know exactly who they are or who is funding them--take to the streets to demand reform and an end to the Qadhafi government's grip on power. But we also see troops very loyal to the Qadhafi regime who are fighting to maintain that regime.

So why is America taking a military role in an internal civil conflict without a vote of Congress on behalf of the American people whose sons and daughters are engaged in these operations? Should we not be clear and vote

[Page: H2044]  GPO's PDF
on whom it is we are supporting, for how long, and through what legal means?

I and the entire world watched with horror the news reports of Qadhafi's troops attacking civilians, including shutting off food, water, and fuel, shelling cities and towns, and targeting innocent people for killing. Those responsible for these crimes must face justice for what they have done. But please tell me, where across that region do we not have dictators in charge of nations? Is America to intervene everywhere there is an uprising?

Libya is certainly not the only African country facing a humanitarian crisis. We have all but ignored the situation in Côte d'Ivoire which has already displaced approximately 500,000 people, with triple the population of Libya. The crisis in Côte d'Ivoire would dwarf the violence in Libya. Would the President's logic extend there? Or what about the Congo? Or Sudan? Is it America's new 21st century Monroe Doctrine to now intervene militarily under the guise of humanitarian aid wherever a President chooses?

The crisis in Libya was several weeks old when the President chose to take action. Surely there was time to seek congressional approval. I am highly concerned that this military intervention took the familiar pattern of launching attacks just when Congress left town to go back to our districts for a week, thus silencing our voices in Congress even more as this floor was shut down. How premeditated and how irresponsible I believe the current course of events to be.

I have sent an official letter to the Obama administration asking under what U.S. legal authority U.S. forces have been engaging in Libya. As a member of the Defense Subcommittee, I fully expect a matter of this nature would have been brought up before us. It never was.

Moreover, what have the operations cost to date? And from which accounts are funds being taken? The Department of Defense claims it cannot create a civil works employment program to employ our returning U.S. Iraqi and Afghani veterans when they come home here, yet it finds money for this excursion.

Mr. Speaker, there should have been a vote on the use of force outside our borders, not a notice after the fact. Anyone who is following the news has seen the reports of protest and unrest in multiple nations. Mr. Speaker, on the operations in Libya, there should have been a vote here.

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Does this Administration, like the last one, believe that it has the authority to take military action wherever it chooses in the Middle East? Could the President's same rationale extend to Yemen? Or Lebanon? What about Syria? How would the Administration respond to a similar situation in Iran? Or Pakistan? The list goes on.

The simultaneous commitment of U.S. military force in multiple countries is a serious matter. And the Administration needs to be rebuked for its failure to appropriately engage Congress.

Not only is Congress a co-equal branch. Congress and Congress alone has the Constitutional authority to commit the Republic in such matters. F-16's, Harpoon missiles, Apache helicopters, are all weapons of war not humanitarian assistance. And who exactly are the rebels we are favoring in this Libya incursion, and where is their funding and weapons coming from? Which interests do they represent? Mr. Speaker, on the operations in Libya, there should have been a vote here.

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