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House International Relations Committee - Budget Request for International Affairs

Location: Washington, DC

Federal News Service February 11, 2004 Wednesday







REP. HYDE: Mr. Paul.

REP. RON PAUL (R-TX): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I have two brief comments and then a question dealing with the Intelligence Committee investigation. First off, I found it interesting that there's a change in policy in Libya and a movement toward normalization, which is something I could support, but it also raises questions because, you know, here we've had a bad guy and he was a friend one time, and then he became an enemy and there were sanctions against him. Now he's going to be a good guy again.

And I just wonder what's going on, and asking some around here what it was, and somebody suggested to me it might have something to do with natural gas.

But, anyway, I would suggest that, you know, in the '80s we did this with Saddam Hussein. You know, he was on the terrorist list. We removed it. We gave him subsidies, subsidized loans. We became an ally. We helped him fight a war. And look what came of it.

Normalization to me should mean that we should trade with people, because I think when you put on sanctions, you're more likely to fight with them, and if you trade with them, but not give them subsidies and not pay them so much of taxpayers' money to benefit.

The other comment I wanted to make has to do with the casualties. Along with Senator Hagel, I've been anxious to find out how much this war is really costing us. And we really don't get the answers from-I know this is probably more in Defense, but we don't get it from the Defense Department.

There was an assistant secretary of Defense for health affairs in January who said that there were probably 10,000 and qualified it by saying this was the worst casualty rate ever in our history for 10,000. Our official numbers that you get on occasion are lower. But the other numbers are much higher, so we really don't have that answer. And I hope someday that we will.

But the question I want to ask is dealing with how politicized this investigation has become. I'm in favor of the investigation. There was a failure and we need to look into it, and I'm all for that. And I like to think of myself as a nonpartisan rather than-and sometimes not partisan enough. But the nonpartisan approach to me would be, you know, we set ourselves up for the finger-pointing.

All of a sudden, the way we went into this mess meant that it was decided in a way that I, you know, challenged at the time. In 2002, in October, you know, I came to the conclusion that we were not threatened by Saddam Hussein. I felt strongly about that, and also that the al Qaeda wasn't involved. And I think so far the facts have (bared?) that out to be correct.

But I argued that going to war is a very, very solemn decision- making process. And we went to war the wrong way. And we can't argue that this wasn't a war -- 130,000 troops, 500 men killed and thousands wounded. We occupy a land. We have been at war. But we went to war by this Congress giving the authority and the power to the president to decide when and if he goes to war, and we all know that, to enforce U.N. resolution.

Now, my suggestion is, why should we give up on the constitutional approach to war where this body would be doing the debating back in October, not now, sorting out all these facts, and then the country coming together, the people coming together, making a decision, instead of transferring the power? Some who transferred the power say, "Mr. President, make your decision any way you want." And then it doesn't go well and they jump on him.

So I think that's unfair to have given him the authority, then all of a sudden say, "Now we're going to get you for political reasons." I think we could have prevented a lot of problems by having this debate that we're having now in the media and in these committee investigations a long time ago.

And I would ask you, is there any reason why we can't consider going to war in a more precise manner rather than allowing our executive branch to make the final decision?

SEC. POWELL: War should always be considered in all seriousness. It should be a matter that is discussed, time permitting-if there isn't a sudden attack that you have to respond to-time permitting, by deliberations between the Congress and the president; Congress, the president and the American people.

I think that discussion was held over a period of time in the fall of 2002 when members of Congress were asking for an opportunity to hear from the president and the intelligence community and to express a view through a resolution.

It could be done other ways with the Congress determining that a resolution for war at the time of the war is required. It's been done different ways over the course of our history, Mr. Paul. And I wouldn't presume to tell the Congress how to discharge what its constitutional obligations are.

But I would certainly agree with you that, as one is approaching the possibility of war, there should be the broadest national conversation between the president and the people, the president and the Congress, the Congress in its collective and individual capacities, with the citizens of the United States.

REP. PAUL: Well, do you think that process might have prevented some of this politicizing that's going on and now the finger-pointing? That's what I think it would have prevented. And I think the founders were --

SEC. POWELL: That could well be the case. The intelligence information that was available to the Congress as they were considering the resolution was the same intelligence information that was available to the president and was available to me. There was no other body of intelligence that I was using. It was what was made available to the Congress for its deliberation.

REP. PAUL: Thank you.

SEC. POWELL: I can't comment on the issue of casualties, Mr. Paul.

REP. PAUL: On the what?

SEC. POWELL: You made reference to casualties.

REP. PAUL: Oh, yes.

SEC. POWELL: Yeah. That's beyond my competence to talk about.

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