Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI), who heads the Senate Armed Services Committee, and Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI), a West Point graduate and former Army Ranger who is also a member of the committee, have proposed legislation "that would order President Bush to begin pulling out troops in 120 days and end combat by April 30, 2008," AP reported Tuesday.  --  President George W. Bush responded by saying that troop levels in Iraq "will be decided by our commanders on the ground, not by political figures in Washington, D.C."  --  This absurd statement, crafted by the White House's spin masters, not only ignores the fact that under Article I of the United States Constitution the Congress of the United States possesses both the appropriations and the war power, it also ignores the president's own responsibilities as commander in chief.  --  But the legislation proposed by Sen. Levin and Sen. Reed also ignores Congressional powers, choosing instead to "order" the president to begin withdrawing.  --  These various constitutional absurdities are themselves reflections of distortions created in the American polity by the institutions of the U.S. national security state, created to wage the Cold War but now, after several generations of dominance by the military-industrial complex, part of a dominant imperial system with a life of its own.  --  Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. had a prescription for how the United States could return to the status of a nation that is, in John Quincy Adams's words, "the ruler of her own spirit":  "Secularize the Presidency, elect Presidents who understand their business, cut the White House staff in half, revitalize the system of accountability — and forever seek serious solutions to substantive problems.  Long live the republic" (1989 epilogue to The Imperial Presidency [Boston & New York: Houghton Mifflin, 2004], p. 499).  --  It is reassuring that in January the Senate Judiciary Committee held hearings on "Exercising Congress’s Constitutional Power to End a War."  --  The hearing was chaired by Sen. Russ Feingold, whose opening statement is reproduced below.[2]  --  Sen. Feingold said:  "There is plenty of precedent for Congress exercising its constitutional authority to stop U.S. involvement in armed conflict. . . . Since the President is adamant about pursuing his failed policies in Iraq, Congress has the duty to stand up and use its power to stop him.  If Congress doesn’t stop this war, it’s not because it doesn’t have the power.  It’s because it doesn’t have the will." ...


By Anne Gearan and Anne Flaherty

Associated Press
July 10, 2007

WASHINGTON -- A senior Democrat said Tuesday it was obvious the Iraqi government has made no progress and the only way to propel it was to begin pulling out U.S. troops.

In a countermove, President Bush's national security adviser Stephen Hadley and war adviser Lt. Gen. Douglas Lute arrived on Capitol Hill to consult with members.

Sen. Carl Levin, chairman of the Armed Services Committee, proposed legislation with Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., that would order President Bush to begin pulling out troops in 120 days and end combat by April 30, 2008.

The measure would allow for some troops to remain to conduct counterterrorism, train the Iraqi security forces, and protect U.S. infrastructure.

"There is much too little pressure on Iraqi leaders to do what they have to do," Levin, D-Mich., told reporters.

Democrats are reviving their push for troop withdrawals as a progress report on the war finds Baghdad has not met key targets for security, economic, and political reform.

Members said they planned to receive details on the assessment Thursday morning, just as they likely will vote on the Levin proposal.

Rebuffing all such talk, President Bush said he won't succumb to political pressure. During a visit to Parma, Ohio on Tuesday, he reiterated that troop levels in Iraq "will be decided by our commanders on the ground, not by political figures in Washington, D.C."

"I fully understand that this is a difficult war. It's hard on the American people but I will once again explain the consequences of failure," he said.

White House spokesman Tony Snow earlier Tuesday confirmed that the coming administration report to Congress would say that Iraq has not met all the benchmarks set for it. The nature of that report was revealed earlier to the Associated Press by a senior administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

But Snow argued that the assessment is only "a look at the starting line" of the U.S. troop surge and shouldn't be used by critics to demand withdrawal.

"What Congress will get this week is a snapshot of the beginning of the retooling of the mission in Iraq," he said.

Levin's proposal, offered as an amendment to a $649 billion defense policy bill, is expected to fail because Republicans say they still oppose setting a timetable on troop withdrawals.

But in a sign that GOP frustration with the war is growing, Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine said she was considering switching her position and backing the measure. Also considered likely supporters were Sens. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska and Gordon Smith of Oregon.

Sen. Susan Collins, Ben Nelson, D-Neb., and other moderates said they were considering an alternative proposal that would demand an end to combat and allow U.S. troops to conduct only a narrow set of missions. The measure would not identify a date.

"What many of us are looking for is a new strategy that would not be a precipitous pullout with all of the problems that would cause, but rather a plan to exit over the next year," said Collins, R-Maine.

Sen. John McCain, upon his return from Iraq, on Tuesday defended Bush's troop build up, contending that reinforcements had only just recently been put in place.

"I believe that our military in cooperation with our Iraqi security forces are making progress in a number of areas," he said, noting specifically a dramatic drop in attacks in Ramadi in the western Anbar province.

"Make no mistake. Violence in Baghdad remains at unacceptably high levels," McCain added. But the U.S. and Iraq seem to be "moving in the right direction," he said.

Reed of Rhode Island, who also visited Iraq last week, said he did not see enough progress to warrant the U.S. commitment there. Reed said that Gen. David Petraeus, the top commander in Iraq, told him that the limits of U.S. military resources will factor into his recommendation on what to do next.

"Come next spring, the ability to generate 160,000 soldiers and Marines in country virtually comes to an end," said Reed.

The administration, including Defense Secretary Robert Gates, has stressed a September time frame for a wide-ranging assessment of operational strategy after about 4 1/2 years of battle, and has said such a review would be more appropriate then.

Gates planned to talk to various lawmakers on Tuesday, after abruptly canceling a trip to Latin America this week so he could help shape this week's report to Congress.

Defense Department spokesman Bryan Whitman said that military commanders believe that, "we would be able to be in a better place in September to be able to provide some assessments and make some decisions with respect to the way forward."

So far, he said, commanders are saying the build up -- which brought troops levels to about 157,000 -- has had a "positive" effect.

But concern about continued U.S. troop losses, indications of drift within the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki in Baghdad and declining public support in this country for the war have driven some key Republicans closer to the position of Democrats demanding withdrawal.

One U.S. official said late Monday that the July report would push the administration to consider its next move. Another senior official, however, said that Bush and his advisers had already decided no change in policy was justified as yet because there was not enough evidence from Iraq.

Whether conditions merited a course shift, such as troop reductions or other scaling back of U.S. operations, would be decided after the September report, said one official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to talk more freely about internal deliberations.

This spring, Congress agreed to continue funding the war through September but demanded that Bush certify on July 15 and again on Sept. 15 that the Iraqis were living up to their political promises or forgo U.S. aid dollars.



Opening Statement of U.S. Senator Russ Feingold

Senate Judiciary Committee Hearing: Exercising Congress’s Constitutional Power to End a War
January 30, 2007

Good morning, and welcome to this hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee entitled “Exercising Congress’s Constitutional Power to End a War.” We are honored to have with us this morning a distinguished panel of legal scholars to share their views on this very important and timely issue.

I thank Chairman Leahy for allowing me to chair this hearing. Let me start by making a few opening remarks, then I will recognize Senator Specter for an opening statement, and then we will turn to our witnesses.

It is often said in this era of ubiquitous public opinion polls that the only poll that really matters is the one held on election day. On November 7, 2006, we had such a poll, and all across this country, the American people expressed their opinion on the war in Iraq in the most significant and meaningful way possible -- they voted. And with those votes, they sent a clear message that they disagree with this war and they want our involvement in it to stop.

The President has chosen to ignore that message. So it is up to Congress to act.

The Constitution gives Congress the explicit power “[to] declare War,” “[t]o raise and support Armies,” “[t]o provide and maintain a Navy,” and “[t]o make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces.” In addition, under Article I, “No Money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in Consequence of Appropriations made by Law.” These are direct quotes from the Constitution of the United States. Yet to hear some in the Administration talk, it is as if these provisions were written in invisible ink. They were not. These powers are a clear and direct statement from the founders of our republic that Congress has authority to declare, to define, and ultimately, to end a war.

Our founders wisely kept the power to fund a war separate from the power to conduct a war. In their brilliant design of our system of government, Congress got the power of the purse, and the President got the power of the sword. As James Madison wrote, “Those who are to conduct a war cannot in the nature of things, be proper or safe judges, whether a war ought to be commenced, continued or concluded.”

The President has made the wrong judgment about Iraq time and again, first by taking us into war on a fraudulent basis, then by keeping our brave troops in Iraq for nearly four years, and now by proceeding despite the opposition of the Congress and the American people to put 21,500 more American troops into harm’s way.

If and when Congress acts on the will of the American people by ending our involvement in the Iraq war, Congress will be performing the role assigned it by the founding fathers -- defining the nature of our military commitments and acting as a check on a President whose policies are weakening our nation.

There is little doubt that decisive action from the Congress is needed. Despite the results of the election, and two months of study and supposed consultation -- during which experts and members of Congress from across the political spectrum argued for a new policy -- the President has decided to escalate the war. When asked whether he would persist in this policy despite congressional opposition, he replied: “Frankly, that’s not their responsibility.”

Last week Vice President Cheney was asked whether the non-binding resolution passed by the Foreign Relations Committee that will soon be considered by the full Senate would deter the President from escalating the war. He replied: “It’s not going to stop us.”

In the United States of America, the people are sovereign, not the President. It is Congress’ responsibility to challenge an administration that persists in a war that is misguided and that the country opposes. We cannot simply wring our hands and complain about the Administration’s policy. We cannot just pass resolutions saying “your policy is mistaken.” And we can’t stand idly by and tell ourselves that it’s the President’s job to fix the mess he made. It’s our job to fix the mess, and if we don’t do so we are abdicating our responsibilities.

Tomorrow, I will introduce legislation that will prohibit the use of funds to continue the deployment of U.S. forces in Iraq six months after enactment. By prohibiting funds after a specific deadline, Congress can force the President to bring our forces out of Iraq and out of harm’s way.

This legislation will allow the President adequate time to redeploy our troops safely from Iraq, and it will make specific exceptions for a limited number of U.S. troops who must remain in Iraq to conduct targeted counter-terrorism and training missions and protect U.S. personnel. It will not hurt our troops in any way -- they will continue receiving their equipment, training and salaries. It will simply prevent the President from continuing to deploy them to Iraq. By passing this bill, we can finally focus on repairing our military and countering the full range of threats that we face around the world.

There is plenty of precedent for Congress exercising its constitutional authority to stop U.S. involvement in armed conflict.

In late December 1970, Congress prohibited the use of funds to finance the introduction of United States ground combat troops into Cambodia or to provide U.S. advisors to or for Cambodian military forces in Cambodia.

In late June 1973, Congress set a date to cut off funds for combat activities in South East Asia. The provision read, and I quote:

“None of the funds herein appropriated under this act may be expended to support directly or indirectly combat activities in or over Cambodia, Laos, North Vietnam, and South Vietnam by United States forces, and after August 15, 1973, no other funds heretofore appropriated under any other act may be expended for such purpose.”

More recently, President Clinton signed into law language that prohibited funding after March 31, 1994, for military operations in Somalia, with certain limited exceptions. And in 1998, Congress passed legislation including a provision that prohibited funding for Bosnia after June 30, 1998, unless the President made certain assurances.

Our witnesses today are well aware of this history, and I look forward to hearing their analysis of it as they discuss Congress’s power in this area. They are legal scholars, not military or foreign policy experts. We are here to find out from them not what Congress should do, but what Congress can do. Ultimately, it rests with Congress to decide whether to use its constitutional powers to end the war.

The answer should be clear. Since the President is adamant about pursuing his failed policies in Iraq, Congress has the duty to stand up and use its power to stop him. If Congress doesn’t stop this war, it’s not because it doesn’t have the power. It’s because it doesn’t have the will.