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Authorizing Limited Use of Armed Forces in Libya

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Ms. ROS-LEHTINEN. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Mr. Speaker, I do not support a complete U.S. withdrawal from NATO's Operation Unified Protector. I believe that it is necessary for U.S. Armed Forces to remain engaged in a limited capacity. However, I cannot support an authorization which constitutes our current level of engagement for an entire year. This is what is proposed in H.J. Res. 69, offered by my friend from Florida (Mr. Hastings), and I therefore must rise in opposition to his resolution.

This resolution not only authorizes U.S. military engagement in Libya far beyond even the 90-day NATO extension, but it justifies U.S. military engagement in Libya as undertaken to enforce a United Nations Security Council resolution and at the request of the Transitional National Council, the Gulf Cooperation Council, and the Arab League. So we must ask: Where is the United States Congress in this equation?

If an authorization resolution had been put forward in February, I might have been able to support it. I understand the mission. But in the intervening period, conditions have changed significantly on the ground in Libya, within NATO, with our NATO partners, and here in the U.S. Decisive action with congressional authorization at the outset might have solved this problem quickly, but now we have drifted into an apparently open-ended commitment with goals that remain only vaguely defined. And that is at the heart of the problem, Mr. Speaker.

The President asserted, ``These strikes will be limited in their nature, duration, and scope.'' Well, it is now day 97--97--of our involvement of U.S. Armed Forces in hostilities regarding Libya; yet Qadhafi still clings to power and the opposition appears to be no closer to a decisive victory. Command for the military operation has been transferred to NATO; yet the constrained role the President has said is being played by U.S. forces in Libya still includes nearly one-quarter of the total sorties flown in Libya; suppression of the enemy air defense through missile strikes; strikes by unmanned Predators on Qadhafi targets; nearly 70 percent of the mission's intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance; and over 75 percent of all aerial refueling. Yet the President has yet to explain just what American interests are at stake and just what outcomes he is hoping to achieve.

The resolution offered by our Speaker, Speaker Boehner, and adopted by this Chamber on June 3 posed specific questions that required straight answers. Instead, we received a letter and accompanying documents from the Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Legislative Affairs and the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Legislative Affairs, which stated that U.S. actions in Libya were ``taken in response to direct appeals from the Libyan people and acting with a mandate from the United Nations.''

The administration proceeded to justify its current policy by asserting that U.S. military operations in Libya do not constitute hostilities. This argument is so incredulous that even the attorneys in the Office of the Legal Counsel do not agree. Therefore, I am not optimistic that the reporting provisions in the resolution we are considering today, which calls for ``a full and updated explanation of the President's legal and constitutional rationale for conducting military operations in Libya,'' will be fulfilled in a fulsome manner, respectful of congressional prerogatives.

Again, I must underscore that I do not support a complete withdrawal from our commitments concerning Libya. That would be dangerous. That would be ill-advised. A complete withdrawal of all U.S. military assets from the Libya operations would undermine our intelligence efforts and our foreign policy goals, and would all but assure a victory for Qadhafi. It can lead to greater instability, which could affect NATO operations in Iraq and Afghanistan at a critical stage of transition. There are also proliferation concerns at stake, particularly as an increasing number of weapons have moved into the region and reportedly fallen into the hands of extremist organizations, including al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb. The Qadhafi regime is an unpredictable regime that has chemical weapons, including mustard and possibly sarin gas.

While a complete withdrawal is unacceptable, the resolution before us is also unacceptable. The resolution effectively ratifies all that the President has done, and it would grant him the blessings of Congress to continue on his present course. The resolution before us would enable mission creep, rather than setting clear parameters for U.S. engagement. I must therefore oppose this resolution.

I reserve the balance of my time.


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