Press Conference "Iraq"-Transcript
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REP. JONES: (In progress) -- each one of you for being here today, because those of us who will speak -- I'm not the first speaker. I'm Walter Jones, 3rd District of North Carolina. The order today will be the first speaker will be Ron Paul from Texas, who did not support the resolution -- he'll speak to that -- initially, when we sent our troops to war in Iraq.
Then the second speaker will be Wayne Gilchrest from Maryland. Wayne is a Vietnam veteran who was a Marine and was wounded for this country. He will speak second.
I will speak third. So I'm, again, Walter Jones from the 3rd District of North Carolina. Ron, why don't you start this off. Wayne can --
REP. PAUL: Thank you, Walter.
I'm Ron Paul, and I'm from the 14th District in Texas. As Walter said, I did not support the resolution to give the president the authority to go to war. I did not (sic) oppose it for several reasons: one, that I did not think we were threatened, and two, I don't believe this country should ever go to war without a declaration of war. So there were some technical points as well as strategic reasons that I strongly opposed the resolution.
But the other thing that I thought was annoying was that I did not believe it was fully debated at the time, and it turns out that it probably wasn't, because now there's a lot of information that people know about, and they have second thoughts about what happened in 2002 and 2003.
And the resolution. H.J. Res. 543, is a discharge position -- a discharge petition. If we get enough signatures, the leadership has to bring the bill to the floor.
And the original bill said that we were asking for the troops to start coming home by this September. And we're still hoping that will happen.
But that's not what this discharge petition is about. It is -- the original bill was used as a vehicle to write a rule, which brings the rule to the floor that says that we get 17 hours of debate on the floor.
The issue here isn't should we bring the troops home, or when we should bring the troops home, or exactly what we should do. The issue here is to have a debate.
There was a so-called debate on the John Murtha affair; we did not consider that a true, sincere debate but more political shenanigans than anything else. And what we're looking for is a true debate.
I have reluctantly agreed to sign the discharge petition because I think most members in the majority do not like to sign a discharge petition unless we think they are very, very important. I consider this very, very important because of the issue, the issue itself of having this debate and how important the war issue is. And there's a lot of points that can be made. There are a lot of amendments that can be made on this bill -- unlimited. And there can be up-and-down votes, and we deserve this.
I also like to make the point that Congress, I believe, over the many years -- 50, 60 years especially, since World War II -- that Congress has relinquished its prerogatives on the war issue. It has always deferred to the executive branch. And Congress has the major responsibility in foreign policy, and people say, wait a minute; presidents are in charge. The commander in chief, he can do anything he wants. That's not the way the Constitution is written. Most of the prerogatives are with Congress. We declare war, we raise the armies, we finance the war. And we have a tremendous amount of responsibility that we have reneged on, not with this administration, but the last 50 or 60 years, and that's why we're still in Korea, why we fumbled in Vietnam, and now we're into a stalemate in the Persian Gulf, which unfortunately looks like it's going to expand before it shrinks because, quite frankly, I think even though we're talking today about Iraq, I think once again we're neglecting the debate on Iran. And yet there's a lot of threats going on right now about what we might be doing militarily in Iran.
So I think it's -- this is a very, very important issue, that we get this out in the forefront and get an honest, open debate. And the American people deserve it, and we have a responsibility to do it. We've neglected that responsibility. And that's why we are doing this as a bipartisan issue.
I think the other point and the last point I want to make is that I as a conservative Republican constitutionalist have joined with Democrats who are considered liberal on this issue.
But I am also convinced that conservatives as a whole and Republicans as a whole have neglected their true roots, because Republicans and conservatives and constitutionalists and libertarians have been strong on this issue of not getting carelessly involved in foreign intervention; and that, to me, is a very, very dangerous policy.
If you go back to the old right, if you go back even to Eisenhower -- beware of the military-industrial complex, beware of the danger of war -- even Republicans have done well politically by being the party that got us out of war, whether it was Korea, whether it was Vietnam and these other areas, and yet now we have drifted as a conservative party into supporting the war, and I think it's going to -- you know, in flat-out, practical political views, I think it's very unpopular to take this position. I think we did much better when we were the anti-war party, but things have changed around.
But under these circumstances today, I welcome the opportunity to work with Democrats, independents, liberals, conservatives. We need to bring a coalition together, not for the sake of our party or not for the sake of a certain group, but for the sake of America, because this costs. It costs in lives, it costs in injuries and it costs a lot of dollars.
So, no matter what happens with this debate or not, this issue is not going to go away, because it is so significant politically and economically that I think the American people should join us and urge all members of Congress to sign on and say, "Look, at least allow a debate to happen." That's what we're here for today.
I would like now to turn the podium over to Wayne Gilchrest from Maryland.
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Q (Name off mike) -- from The Charlotte Observer. Are you all acting in concert with or are you endorsing what this Win without War coalition is doing, MoveOn.org and other groups that are trying to get people mobilized on -- do you know anything about that?
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REP. PAUL: I mentioned that subject early on about the politics of it, and I too would welcome everybody who's interested, left or right.
My earlier point was that to be opposed to war has generally been a conservative, old right position. I'd like to emphasize that because many conservatives today feel alienated and feel like they will be stereotyped if they take this position. But I don't believe that is true. I believe that they should feel very comfortable to take the position about being anti-war, defend the Constitution, and not be told that they're unpatriotic and un-American and they don't support the troops. I think that's libelous and that's untrue.
So this has been one of my personal goals, is to show that you can be pro-American, you can be a patriot, you can be a constitutionalist; and who has a monopoly on that? Not the conservatives, but all groups. Liberals generally today are probably better organized in being opposed to war, but that doesn't mean progressives and socialists and libertarians and conservatives and constitutionalists -- there's no reason why all of us can't come together.
And I think that's the real emphasis of our conference here today, is let's look it in -- not in labels, party labels or group labels now; let's look at it at the issue. And there's no reason in the world we can't bring the American people together on this issue.