Paul: A Vote from Congress 17 Years Ago Shouldn’t Bind Another Generation to War in Iraq

By Melanie Arter | January 13, 2020 | 1:25pm EST

( – Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) told NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday that he heard “contradictory information” from the Trump administration at last week’s military briefing on Iran.

“I think we've heard contradictory information. We've heard … from the Secretary of State that they don't know where or when, but it was imminent. That to me does seem inconsistent. He thinks he can square the circle, but to me it seems pretty inconsistent. To me there's a bigger question too, though,” he said. 

“This is what really infuriated me about the briefing: Is they maintain both in private and in public that a vote by Congress in 2003 or 2002 to go after Saddam Hussein was a vote that now allows them to still be in Iraq and do whatever they want, including killing a foreign general from Iran, and I don't think that's what Congress meant in 2002, nor do I think one generation can bind another generation,” Paul said.

“So my point in being for this war powers debate is that we really need to have a debate about whether we should still be in Iraq or in Afghanistan, and there needs to be authorization from Congress,” he said.

Paul said that it’s “not a new trend” for a president to want to skip notifying Congress when it comes to military operations. He pointed to former Presidents Harry Truman and Barack Obama, for example.

“This started probably very aggressively with Truman in the Korean War, LBJ in the Vietnam War. President Obama did hundreds and hundreds of targeted killings without asking for permission. So I think presidents of both parties have been trying to usurp the authority, but our Founding Fathers wanted it to remain in Congress,” the senator said. “They wanted to make it difficult to go to war. 

“And I think we've been drifting away from that for a long time, but that's why I'm willing to stand up. Not because I distrust President Trump. I actually think he has shown remarkable restraint, but I'm willing to stand up even against a president of my party, because we need to stand up and take back the power. We also need to debate whether or not we're going to keep sending kids forever to Afghanistan and Iraq. And I, frankly, think we ought to end those wars,” Paul said.

Trump’s decision to send more troops to the Middle East sends a “mixed message,” the senator said.

“I think President Trump has been very consistent saying he doesn't want perpetual war, but I have pushed back and I've said, ‘If you keep sending more troops, you will have perpetual war.’ The troops are merely targets. I'm going to be having a hearing in the next couple weeks about the Afghan Papers,” Paul said. 

“It troubles me that in private, commanders and generals have been saying for more than a decade that there's no mission in Afghanistan. We had two young men die this week. You know, I have friends who will be sending their kids there in the next six months. I don't want to send these young men and women to war if there is no mission and if the generals are privately saying it can't be won,” he said.

Paul said it is “incredibly important” to get the Trump administration on paper saying that they would seek congressional approval to deal with Iran militarily if it got a nuclear weapon.

“I think it's incredibly important. Throughout the whole briefing they were dismissive of Congress. They, in the end, said they didn't have time to come back. We only had about eight senators ask questions and they said, ‘Oh, we don't have time. We're busy’ about coming back to brief the rest of us or take questions from the rest of us. So it was very dismissive,” Paul said. 

“But it's also arrogant to say that a vote from Congress, 16, 17 years ago, that that vote now binds another generation and another generation to war in Iraq. It was against Saddam Hussein, for goodness sakes. This is a completely different government. This is not even the Iraqi government we're now fighting. It's Iranian generals that happen to be in Iraq, but here's the great irony of the Iraq War, and this is something Trump gets incredibly right,” he said.

“And that is that since the Iraq War, we now have an Iraq that is more aligned with Iran than us. We're trying to force them to keep our troops. The irony of that is glaring, and I think we really need to have a full throated debate in Congress. The majority of American people want to come home. They don't understand why we're still there. I want to have that debate, and I want to bring our kids home,” the senator said.


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