A Timely ProposalInterview of Congressman Ron Paul by Thomas R. Eddlem
Rep. Ron Paul has reintroduced H.R. 1146, a measure that would end U.S. involvement in the United Nations. With anti-UN sentiment growing, the time may be right to Get US out!
Vol. 19, No. 8April 21, 2003
Congressman Ron Paul (R-Texas), a medical doctor, represents the 14th district of Texas. He is one of the few steady voices for fiscal restraint and strict adherence to the U.S. Constitution.
Recently, Dr. Paul reintroduced in the new Congress H.R. 1146, a measure that would end U.S. involvement in the United Nations and rescind diplomatic immunity for United Nations officials. Dr. Paul was interviewed on March 27th about H.R. 1146 and the war in Iraq.
THE NEW AMERICAN:
What prompted you to introduce H.R. 1146, a bill that would get the United States out of the United Nations?
Congressman Ron Paul: I introduced this legislation because I do not believe it is in our interest to be in the United Nations, principally because it undermines our national sovereignty. And I think current events verify that.
Nearly all politicians say that they support national sovereignty, but most people only have a vague idea of what national sovereignty means. What is national sovereignty?
Paul: That means that a country’s citizenry controls its own destiny. In our case, the people through their representatives and the contract of the Constitution determine everything we do, whether it has to do with trade, immigration, borders, or national defense. And the responsibility falls on the legislature rather than any international body, like NATO, the WTO, NAFTA, or any of these organizations that make decisions for Congress. Even though they may be well-intentioned and even correct at times, the principle of sovereignty ought to be protected. And if they have a correct position, we should implement that position on our own rather than by some type of a mandate from an international body.
TNA: You said that current events have borne out that there is a threat to our sovereignty. How so?
Paul: Today, we are in the midst of a war, which is a continuation of a UN war started in 1990-91, and that is still in process. Even this administration has used UN resolutions as an excuse to go into Baghdad and into Iraq. And ironically it is without the explicit approval of the UN. But that’s still the excuse for going in. And I maintain that once we do that, we don’t win wars. And we certainly haven’t been very victorious over the last 50 years. I think we can go back to Korea where we first got involved in fighting an undeclared UN war, and we are still in Korea. Our relationship with North Korea is as bad as ever, and the war really wasn’t won even though a lot of men were killed. We still face potential danger there, and we went there under a UN resolution. And I suspect that despite our great power and military dominance over Iraq we are going to have a tough time having what we call a good victory.
TNA: We could win the war and still have a pretty tough "peace."
Paul: That’s for sure, and I think that’s what’s coming. Every day you see the world rising up against the United States. We are at odds with France and Germany, and this week, in particular, we started bad-mouthing Canada. If I had anything to do with it, I would be a little more diplomatic. Our Founders didn’t advise being undiplomatic. In fact, they advised friendship and trade with countries æ just not entangling alliances and meddling in their internal affairs.
Being for national sovereignty never implies that you are at odds with other countries and that you are undiplomatic. As a matter of fact it means the opposite.
TNA: There appears to be a sea change in opinions of the UN. The UN has become more unpopular, and yet if you listen to the conservative talk shows backing the war, there is an increased urgency by many of these conservatives to back the UN because our soldiers are enforcing the UN resolutions.
Paul: It is totally inconsistent. Our administration wants to use the UN when it pleases them, to ignore it when it pleases them, and to play on the sympathies of those of us who don’t like the domination by the United Nations. I think they know our numbers are growing. Therefore, they talk about national sovereignty and not kowtowing to the United Nations. But at the same time we are marching on in the name of enforcing UN resolutions. There is no consistency at all with this.
There are three options. One, pure internationalism, with the UN telling us to do everything. The second is following it half-heartedly and pushing militarism. And the third option would be to pull out of the United Nations, ending our militarization of the world.
TNA: Does the inconsistency mean that there will be more or less support for H.R. 1146?
Paul: Inevitably every day one or two or three congressmen will come to me and say, "It looks like you are winning this. I want to see how the vote goes this year, if you can get a vote." The hawks now are very anxious to be on my side and support getting out of the United Nations. And that’s a mixed bag. I don’t think the motivations are exactly the same as ours, who believe in true national sovereignty and a non-interventionist foreign policy. I have to admit that I have mixed feelings about that support. But indirectly it is a benefit, because more people will vote to get us out of the UN.
It’s somewhat similar to the debate last year on the International Criminal Court. I wanted to just get out of it and not pay any attention to it. But the administration’s position was: "Oh, the International Criminal Court is okay, and we’re for it, and we’ll send the criminals we catch to the International Criminal Court, but we want to be exempt." That attitude irritates other countries, which find us a little bit more arrogant than they would like.
You tried to force Congress to comply with the Constitution’s mandate that Congress declare war before we get into hostilities. Why is that so important?
If we can reject the Constitution on the war power issue just because it is more convenient, there is nothing left of the Constitution.
When the resolution to transfer this power to Bush came up in the International Relations Committee, I brought the subject up and offered the amendment to declare war. I wasn’t for the declaration of war, but neither were the others and I was trying to put them on record. I was told at the time by the chairman that this portion of the Constitution was an "anachronism." The ranking minority member said this was "frivolous." And somebody else said that this was very "impractical" and that we should just give the president this power and let him make up his own mind. I think that is a very dangerous precedent.
They said it was frivolous for Congress to utilize its power to "declare war" when American lives are possibly going into harm’s way?
They said it was frivolous to bring up the subject of making a formal declaration because this part of the Constitution was anachronistic, not necessary, and not practical. That’s the way a lot of people in Washington, conservatives and liberals, look at the Constitution. It gets in their way, and that’s why they don’t welcome an open debate on these issues and a constitutionalist is a thorn in their side.
Did Congress vote at all on the Iraq war?
Paul: A resolution passed, probably with one or two dissenting votes in the committee, and then it went to the House floor and there was a vigorous debate. I think I had a couple of minutes to represent the Republican opposition. But it turned out that there were 120 or 130 Democrats that voted against it and six Republicans voted against it.
But the resolution wasn’t a declaration of war; it was political cover to say that the Congress supported the president’s efforts to go into Iraq and gave him the authority to use force. But it didn’t tell him to use force or not to use force. It was a transfer of power. The president should take the orders from the Congress, and he becomes the commander-in-chief of the military forces once the military directive is given. But that understanding has been totally lost, and what we did was we transferred congressional power to the president. The whole process, as far as I was concerned, was essentially illegal.
How did the Founding Fathers view war powers?
They debated who would have the power to go to war and they definitely did not want it in the hands of the executive branch. They were too much aware of the perpetual wars in Europe by kings and dictators who pushed people into war and conscripted men to fight these wars, stationing troops in private citizens’ homes. So this was a big issue. And they wanted this power to be given to the people through their representatives so that the presidents could never go to war without the approval of Congress.
Did the president ever even attempt to give Congress any information documenting that Iraq had attacked the United States or that Iraq had imminent plans to attack the United States, or did he merely refer to UN resolutions as justification?
In that resolution where we transferred this power, I did count it up. I’d have to double-check, but I think it was 11 times that the United Nations was mentioned. The Constitution’s war power was never mentioned. There was never any attempt to say we had been attacked. There was an attempt to imply that they might someday get a weapon and they might someday use it against us.
During the debate in the committee, I remember saying that the Iraqis have never committed aggression against us. And one member chastised me and said, "I don’t understand what the congressman is talking about, because they shot at our airplanes when we were bombing them." We go 6,000 miles and we bomb them for 12 years and they keep shooting at our bombers. And they call that an act of aggression. So that’s how distorted language has become in Washington. But most of the justification was the UN resolutions, that Iraq wouldn’t listen to the UN resolutions. They didn’t listen to the fact that there have been 100 other UN resolutions with other countries that have never been enforced. And nobody dares talk about those. And there was never any direct evidence. But they always implied that this war has something to do directly with 9-11. And there has never been any proof of this. As a matter of fact, the opposite is the case.
TNA: When we fight wars that have nothing to do with our national defense, are we not transforming our patriotic soldiers into legionnaires similar to the French Foreign Legion?
Paul: Well, sometimes I think we might be acting like Roman centurions, going in and occupying and keeping the people in check. I think they overestimated this whole idea that we could be a French Foreign Legion that could just go about and dictate to other countries. This emphasis on technology is probably overdone. You still need troops for occupying and keeping the peace. So the peace will always be even more difficult than the war.
TNA: How much will rebuilding Iraq cost U.S. taxpayers? I have heard figures in the tens of billions of dollars.
Paul: It is hard to say. I think the administration admits we are going to be there a couple of years and it’s going to cost a lot of money to fight the war and to maintain the troops. And the invisible cost of what it does to the economy and what it does for trade with our trading partners. I foresee the possibility of trade wars coming out of this before it is all over. In direct costs it could be hundreds of billions of dollars before it is all over. I hope it is a lot less than what we spent in Korea with a failed policy. Adding it up in today’s dollars, it could be close to a trillion dollars that we have spent on Korea. And we are no better off than we were many years ago. We are still confronting them.
TNA: The first congressman to introduce a resolution to get us out of the United Nations was John T. Wood, a medical doctor from Idaho, in 1950. Dr. Larry McDonald of Georgia, a urologist, also offered a "Get US out!" resolution in the 1970s. And you are a medical doctor. Is there something about doctors that gives them some special insight into the United Nations?
Paul: I don’t know, but it is interesting. You would think that would be encouraging, because we have a lot more doctors in the Congress these days. But if you look at all of the doctors in the Congress right now, I would say that they are a reflection of the Congress rather than saying that doctors are all on the right track. But hopefully, the three of us that advocate getting out of the UN are on the right track.
Get US out! of the UN
With anti-UN sentiment spreading nationwide, now is an excellent time to encourage your representative to cosponsor H.R. 1146, Congressman Ron Paul’s bill to withdraw the U.S. from the UN. To email your congressman, go to www.jbs.org/visitor/congress/cgcontact.htm.
For more information about the UN threat, and an action plan to Get US out!, go to www.getusout.org.
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