Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) discusses the wisdom of using letters of marque and reprisal instead of waging conventional wars to fight terrorism, the slippery slope from government-mandated national service to military conscription, why the richly deserved criminal investigation of key Bush administration officials won’t happen and the deleterious effects of Plan Columbia and the U.S. war on drugs.
MP3 here. (31:49)
Congressman Ron Paul represents Texas’s 14th district. He is the author of The Revolution: A Manifesto, A Foreign Policy of Freedom: Peace, Commerce, and Honest Friendship and Freedom Under Siege. His archived columns for Antiwar.com appear at http://antiwar.com/paul
Transcript thanks to tmartin:
Scott Horton: Alright everybody welcome back to Antiwar Radio, KAOSRadioAustin.org, also streaming from Antiwar.com/radio. I’m Scott Horton and introducing our guest today, Dr. Ron Paul; he represents District 14 on the Gulf Coast of Texas and the US House of Representatives. Of course he writes for us at antiwar.com, his archives are at antiwar.com/paul including his new one that we ran in yesterday, “Just say no to the draft” and of course ran for President last year and did a great job teaching people all about peace and liberty. Welcome back to the show Dr. Paul, how are you?
Ron Paul: Thanks Scott, I’m doing fine thank you.
Scott Horton: That’s great. It’s good to talk to you again. I guess the first thing I want to ask you about is the news that Barack Obama has approved the sending of 17,000 more troops to Afghanistan. You did originally vote for the resolution for the attack on Afghanistan, isn’t that right?
Ron Paul: Well, the resolution never said, I don’t believe it had the word Afghanistan in it, and it was authority to go after those individuals who were responsible for 9/11. So it was rather specific on who the target should be, but it was never for taking over. The resolution that dealt with Iraq was much more specific; one for, you know, that he could use authority to go into Iraq. This one was generalized to go after those who were responsible for 9/11 but never once was an implication, “Oh yeah, this is the authority you need to occupy Afghanistan and go into nation building and protect oil lines,” all that kind of stuff that wasn’t there. But that is right, I did vote for the authority to go after Al Qaeda.
Scott Horton: So this point is it not, or is it clearly the legal case that Barack Obama does not really have the authority to expand this war without some sort of new resolution by the Congress?
Ron Paul: Well, that’s right. I mean he never had the authority to take over this country, invade it and occupy it. But indirectly he gets the authority because Congress keeps voting the money, you know. Some of the legal people say, “Well, no, it’s not new authority, but Congress gives him the money so it’s an implied authority,” that’s why we should have all been much more cautious over the years. The Congresses should have been dealing with any type of war; there should never be war unless there’s a declaration of war, then it’s very, very clear. But presidents do it and the Congress goes along with it and they don’t assume responsibility that they should be doing and then we end up with this. So, they don’t even come back, it’s true. I mean technically Obama should be asking, you know, “Am I allowed to expand the war, it’s not declared?” But how many troops are we allowed to put in there? Well it looks like whatever the President says and that to me is a tragic way to run foreign policy.
Scott Horton: What do you think, if any, is still the mission in Afghanistan?
Ron Paul: Well, I think it still has a lot to do with natural resources and pipe lines and, you know, strategic areas of the world like that. Others would argue with me and say “Oh no, that’s not just this Neocon philosophy that we have to spread our goodness around the world.” I don’t think they can describe their precise goals themselves. They’re not saying, “Well, if we go in there and we achieve this in 24 months, then it’s going to be all over.” I think from what I can tell what they’re doing; it’s a permanent presence just like in Iraq, they’re not going to be leaving Iraq. There’s no way that they’re leaving Iraq in 16 months and Obama has been pretty honest about Afghanistan all along the campaign; he said he would put more troops into Afghanistan.
Scott Horton: Yeah.
Ron Paul: And the people voted for him. So, it’s one of those things where people aren’t even on our wavelength on what type of military activity we should be engaged in around the world, and I’m just hoping that we can get some new people involved and another generation that will wake up and say “Enough is enough.” But also on our side of that argument would be the fact that these kind of interventionist policies overseas, they come to an end when countries go broke, and we’re on the verge of that, so who knows, Scott, we may have our way before we know it.
Scott Horton: Yeah well there’s the easy way and the hard way. It seems maybe we’ve already chosen the latter there. Well so let me ask you if you’d been the President, you’d been elected and you we’re the President, would you have any mission remaining in Afghanistan, Pakistan of course it kind of goes about saying that as long as Osama Bin Laden has not been brought to justice that the mission there is open ended, nation building aside or oil pipe lines aside.
Ron Paul: No, I said many times in the campaign “Just come home we just marched into these countries we can just march out.” I’d come home from the whole Middle East, I’d come home from Europe, I’d come home from Korea, I’d come home from Japan, save a lot of money. But do you say, “Well, what about this target? What if the evidence is really there? Like they claim that Al Qaeda and Bin Laden are responsible, should we totally ignore it?” Although obviously our foreign policy was a precipitating factor, it’s pretty hard to say, “Well he just killed 3000 Americans. We don’t care about him to let him go.” But we should at least make an attempt to do it within the law, which means that if we knew he was in Pakistan, maybe we could ask the Pakistani government, “Can we go in?” But we don’t need to go in with these armed forces I’m sure. You recall my proposal back then was not to send the army in, but to revive the old idea of the Letter of Marque and Reprisal.
Scott Horton: Right.
Ron Paul: You know if we have an enemy of 25 people, do we declare war against the Muslim world, you know? It makes no sense. Why don’t we go after the ring leaders and target those individuals? And to me I think that’s why the founders were rather wise in giving us that option where you don’t have to declare war against an entire country if you’re dealing with a bunch of thugs.
Scott Horton: And of course that didn’t get anywhere. Instead everyone opted for the authorization which, I guess as you said, the language you thought at the time was specific enough. That it was about the individuals not overthrowing Afghanistan’s pseudo government and replacing it with another pseudo government, but it was narrow enough to satisfy you then.
Ron Paul: Right.
Scott Horton: Do you regret that they’ve taken such advantage of something that you did before?
Ron Paul: Yeah, I don’t like it all, but I didn’t even like it then and that’s why I immediately followed up trying to get people interested in saying “Well, yes I can’t totally say.” It’s sort of like you know, Pearl Harbor, what do you do? Our policies, you know, had a lot to do with antagonizing the Japanese. I mean when you, put an embargo on a country, you know, in a way is an act of war. You say “Oh they bombed Pearl Harbor, it’s our fault,” so we don’t do anything. By that time you have to sort of defend yourself against you know innocent people getting killed. But that was the reason I introduced the Bill to emphasize Letter Marque and Reprisal, but they wouldn’t do that, but they could still target the enemy but in a very, very narrow sense. And I think the evidence showed that they weren’t all that interested in getting Bin Laden was the fact that militarily they probably had him about captured, but they walked away you know at Bora-Bora. So maybe they liked the idea of having him out there in the wilderness some place because they can always use him as the enemy that we have to fear and the reason why we have to be over there. And you know they’re claiming we’re over there to go after him, they’re really over there to deal with gas and oil pipe lines and you know the whole Middle East situation.
Scott Horton: Well, now let me ask you about gas and oil pipe lines. From the point of view of X Make Believe Oil Company, it makes a lot of sense to me, I guess, economically speaking to invest money in lobbing and influencing the Congress to help secure your pipe line route through some Central Asian country nobody’s ever heard of in order to protect it. But I know you’re an economist and you’re a Texas Republican and you know about how oil markets work. I guess you know a lot of those oil companies have a Texas City, right it’s all full of oil; that’s part of your Congressional district. Can you address the issue of whether that’s necessary? That America, cause I think a lot of people would say “Yeah, you know they say it’s for democracy, but really we need that oil, we need our marines over there to secure those oil pipe line routes or else something bad will happen.”
Ron Paul: Well, I don’t believe it. If that were the case Japan would be awfully concerned and have a huge navy and a military and say “Hey look we don’t have any oil in Japan. The only way we can have oil is we have to invade and occupy and steal the oil from somebody.” They just go to Amsterdam and buy it, you know, and they get all the oils that they need. And what would these people do with their oils if we weren’t there trying to control our governments? What if we didn’t have a puppet government in Saudi Arabia? Somebody would have the oil and it wouldn’t be good to them unless they sold it. So the motivation would be to sell it to us, but the time you add up all the cost of the military operations and the cost in American lives in order to pursue this policy, it makes our oil very, very expensive.
Let’s say none of that worked and still we didn’t have easy access to a lot of Middle East oil. I mean, if you believe in freedom you still wouldn’t worry about it, you say “Oh, I guess we need an alternative source.” If the market will permit it to work, they come up with an alternative source; maybe we’d have electric cars, maybe we’d have more nuclear power, you know, something along those lines. But instead of depending on the markets here we have a new President saying, “Oh what we have to do is we have to invest money in alternative fuels, just in case the price gets too high.”
They have no confidence and no faith in freedom. They do not understand how the markets work, they don’t want them to work and then that’s the reason they’re willing to invest all this money and lives; just think of the lives that have been lost. Not only the lives of Americans; we lost nearly 3,000 on 9/11 but since then we’ve lost over 5,000 in the Middle East plus tens of thousands who have been wounded and made sick. At the same time million of displaced Arabs and hundreds of thousands killed and holy man it just goes on and on and on. Then we wonder, people still wonder, “Oh no, they don’t like us because we’re free and prosperous.” So maybe when we’re not so free and not so prosperous, maybe nobody, everybody will love us again or something. I don’t know what their theory is.
Scott Horton: Well yeah once we get rid of the Bill of Rights and completely destroy our economy they’ll leave us alone. I guess the real worry then is what happens when the terrorist attacks continue cause the foreign policy continues.
Ron Paul: Yeah, they don’t forget, you know. Americans have still not even learned that we overthrew the government back in ‘53 or the government of our own and they’re still annoyed with that. So when we’re over there meddling in that area that brings back memories but hardly, just a small percentage of Americans realize that they have been justified in turning against us when we’re always meddling in their affairs. So, one thing though, Scott, that I’ve been encouraged by in this last year, I’m talking about this and this foreign policy, has been to talk on college campuses. How many young people, you know, are starting to realize that, and we did get a lot of responses, even today I had a lot of good responses on the article against the draft. These young people, they know they’re not going to get anything out of social security and they see a financial mess, they can’t get jobs and here they’re being threatened possibly with a draft or a National Youth Service, and I think a lot of these young people are waking up.
Scott Horton: Well, you know I spoke with William Astoria [sp?], he’s a retired Colonel in the US Air Force and a professor, and he was talking about Commander David Petraeus, the head of CENTCOM, and what he likes to talk about, the long war, and the implication being that it seems like Afghanistan may really only be the beginning, that really any country with a stand on the end if it is likely to be occupied by American troops in the coming decades on some kind of permanent basis. You know I wonder if you can address that and perhaps include in your answer something about the draft, whether you think that, you know, that’s the kind of consequence of having a foreign policy so expansive even from this point on.
Ron Paul: Yeah, I’ve heard those talks about the long war and I think they’re anticipating, but the limitation won’t be from just changing party leadership, Republican to Democrat, cause the policies are the same, so they’re going to continue, but like what I said before might be the ability to finance, just as it became difficult if not impossible for the Soviets to do it and that helped bring them down.
But as the financial crisis lingers a while longer where the dollar isn’t totally destroyed and we are able to pursue this policy for another 10 or 15 years, yes, I think the likelihood of a draft is going to continue to grow. Obama and Rahm Emanuel who’s an important figure in Presidency, in the White House; they believe in the draft, they believe in National Youth Service. And besides it’s another thing I’m sure you’ve heard recently is this talk about when you have a difficult economic situation, sometimes war gets you out of these, and it’s taught to so often that, you know, the depression never ended until World War II. Others go like “Oh, finally going to war, go to that, that’s the end of it,” which is a complete fallacy.
Scott Horton: It seems like we’d all be stinking rich right now, we’ve been at war non-stop for quite a few years there.
Ron Paul: Of course it’s the war that, you know, helped bring us to our knees and that whole argument one can show, and I can argue the case even from memory, is that World War II was not much fun. I was born in ‘35 so I did have a memory of the war, and boy there was rationing and I was in a family of 5 boys, and things weren’t all that robust. There were no new cars, no hope, people were driving junk cars and they had a difficult time though. The depression actually ended when the debt was finally liquidated at the end of the war, and then there was a lot of consumer demand and a lot of people came home. So the war didn’t end the depression, it was ending the war that ended the depression.
Scott Horton: Well, and that’s something that we’ve talked about on this show a lot, but you’re right, it really does seem to be a defining myth particularly for these economic times. The New York Times wrote just the other day that, and Dr. Paul pardon me but really they did with a straight face, that, well, World War II, one of the things that it was really good at was that it brought down the unemployment rate.
Ron Paul: What a way.
Scott Horton: With the draft, with conscription.
Ron Paul: Yeah. I think I’d rather live in poor conditions than putting on a uniform and getting shot at, especially for some war that made no sense.
Scott Horton: Well, what is your moral case against the draft? Obviously you’re a patriotic guy and you’re all about the Declaration of Independence and all the America’s founding traditions and all those things. You don’t think people should have to serve their country?
Ron Paul: Well, I don’t think you can serve your country if you succumb to slavery. You could say “Well you know we need you to be a slave and work in this plant to manufacture products.” With me obviously slavery doesn’t enhance your country and they can’t be patriotic and that’s the same way with the draft. I start on with the basic principles, that our lives come to us in a natural or God-given way and we have a right to our life and to our liberty, and the government should be very limited to protect that life and liberty, and the responsibility on how this life is being used is yours alone, as long as you don’t hurt other people. So it’s a moral principle and secondary to that I think it’s so impractical; it causes people to go to war when they shouldn’t go to war, it’s economically a disaster. So there’s all these other ones, but the basic argument is, each and every one of us has a right to our life and we should not be controlled by our government and told what we can do or can’t do. But I would use that same argument to the right of your income, too. I think it’s a moral principle that your income is an extension of your life, your blood, your sweat and your energy, therefore the government doesn’t have the right to your income either, because that is in a way a form of slavery too.
Scott Horton: Alright now I’d like to ask you about Iraq. Various reports have it at least that President Obama means to stick by his plans to get the combat forces, although the definition of that seems a bit flexible, out of Iraq in 16 months. And I’m not sure if you’ve been keeping up with Gareth Porter’s work at IPS but certainly the Washington Post and other places have covered General Odierno’s and General Petraeus’ pretty obvious attempt to try to spin this. That they’ve warned us that if we don’t stay for at least 23 months then things will go bad, and it will be kind of the Vietnam stab-in-the-back all over again and seems to be bordering on outright insubordination on behalf of General Petraeus there, I wonder if you can comment sir.
Ron Paul: Well as a matter of fact Gareth Porter was in my office this weekend; we did talk about this. I don’t think there’s any chance in the world that the troops will be out of Iraq in 1, 2 or even 3 years. And you implied that they might change the name, you know, the active personnel versus is probably just stilling there. But they’re not close that embassy down, not in front of the people. What about those 12 or 15 bases that they have there? We’re not going to leave those. And if there’s more violence next week, I think more troops will be sent over there, and I think it’s a whole farce to think that all of a sudden we’re going to leave after all this investment and time and energy to protect these oil companies’ interests over there.
Scott Horton: And you think that really is the root of the policy and Iraq, is basically the same as Afghanistan and is mostly about controlling that oil?
Ron Paul: Yeah probably more so in Iraq, you know. Afghanistan doesn’t have the, it was more geographical, geography there of transportation.
Scott Horton: Right.
Ron Paul: But yeah I think definitely Iraq was involved and I think you can’t argue that Israel doesn’t have something to say about this as well. I mean, there’s very, very loyal dedication to whatever Israel wants in the Congress, and many members of the Congress, even though they know it might be the right thing to do, wouldn’t take a certain vote if they thought this was construed as being anti-Israel. I think in terms of what’s pro-American, you know, what’s best for America. And when people say, “[…] your position doesn’t sound like it’s pro-Israel?” I said, “Well I take all the funds away from all those Arab nations too and I wouldn’t be sending weapons over there to Arab nations. I wouldn’t be propping up enemies of Israel either.” So I just think the non-interventionist foreign policy serves our interest best, but serves the interests of all our friends and all our potential enemies as well, and I think the world would all be a much more peaceful for it.
Scott Horton: Are you concerned at all about the seeming insubordination and the dispute between the Generals and the President? Or do you buy that there even really is a legitimate dispute going on?
Ron Paul: I think there is and I think it’s healthy you know. I like that that they’re doing that, it will be interesting to see how that plays out. But obviously you know there is a disagreement in some of this, and these military people are who are arguing this from a strictly military point of view, that they might be absolutely right. They might be correct in saying, “Oh, if you leave in 15 months there’s going to be a mess here, a mess there.” But you know the way I figured, yes there could be, but it’s not my fault. The mess is because we went there in the first place. Yes it’s tough getting out of there an there may be some repercussions but I still think long term it will be better that the local people there solved these problems. To say that if we walked out of there tomorrow, and everybody would be hugging and kissing each other, I don’t think I’d argue. But it might be a lot better than we anticipate. I mean, right now we walked out of Vietnam and they unified; that’s more you can say for Korea. Vietnam is unified and they’re not exactly hostile toward us… we have American investors over there and we have good, much better rapport with Vietnam now that we’re not fighting with them. So it could be better if we just walked away than some people realize, but I wouldn’t laugh at what the military people say and say “Yeah, it could be rough and tumble.” But that’s the fault of the people who voted and put our troops over there and stirred up all the fuss.
Scott Horton: Well and it seems like General Petraeus wants to have it both ways where he’s created peace and prosperity for Iraqis and his strategy’s so much better than General Pace and Sanchez and his other predecessors, and you know, the surge and buying off the Sunnis rather than fighting them and all that. But at the same time he’s saying that, he’s been admitting that he hasn’t really solved anything at all because if the US military isn’t there to stand between the groups then he says they’ll start fighting again.
Ron Paul: Right. Of course my conclusion would be they haven’t solved anything, we spent too much; so admit the truth and get out, you know. So, I guess it boils down to what they think our role should be in the world, I don’t think we should be the policeman of the world. We should be a nation builder, we should keep minding our own business and providing for the defense of this country which we can do very adequately. Nobody’s going to invade this country or bomb us or attack us, and we’re more likely to be hit by a few nuts, you know, with homemade bombs or razor blades, by us being over there. So I see all that we do over there as a great danger to us rather than helping us in any way whatsoever.
Scott Horton: Alright now, I’d like to ask you about probably the most controversial topic of the show today. War crimes prosecutions or potential criminal investigations into the principles, they call them, the leadership of the last administration and perhaps their lawyers who helped them construct the legal arguments, for them to torture people and violate the FISA felony statue which forbids them to tap our phones without judicial check. Are you in favor of criminal investigations or any of these truth commissions or things that people are talking about?
Ron Paul: Yeah I’m in favor of it but I don’t expect anything to happen, because the policy makers stand behind either a McCain or an Obama, exactly the same, and of course Obama’s already backed off to protect the states secrets you know. You can’t interfere with the importance of the state, the state has an interest in this. So they’re not going to pursue it, but they should; people commit crimes, they should be investigated, I mean, the whole process. The whole idea of how many lies were told to us, and how much were deliberate. I think there should be an investigation but I’m very pessimistic that nothing’s going to happen.
Scott Horton: I once had a friend who joked that the whole Monica Lewinsky investigation was simply a conspiracy to get rid of the independent council statute.
Ron Paul: I guess that’s possible. Remember during that time it was also used as an excuse to drop off a couple of bombs on a few people to distract us from Monica Lewinsky.
Scott Horton: Right. Operation Desert Fox got to hate those weapons.
Ron Paul: Oh boy, that to me is even though Clinton dropped a lot less bombs than Bush did it was pretty abhorrent to think that bombs could be dropped on people and innocent people killed, you know, with the flimsy excuse that we had there. That’s pretty bad.
Scott Horton: Yes it seems kind of strange to name it Desert Fox, but maybe that’s just me, wasn’t he a Nazi? Anyway so one last issue here before I let you go Dr. Paul if it’s okay, I’d like to ask you about the regime change and back again in Somalia that’s taken place over the last two years, if you can just tell us what you know, what you think about that.
Ron Paul: Well I try to keep up on that and I have a real good staffer that’s good on these issues. I keep telling him, I said, “This is something we need to watch because there’s not much attention given to it, and I consider it very, very important, you know, because of the geographic location as well as other oil reserves in that region.” And of course Bush was a lot smarter than Clinton was in his early years by sending troops over there and getting trapped. But then we went and used the proxy army, used the Ethiopians to go in but now they had to be pushed off. So I think it’s chaotic there, I don’t know the minutiae about that but I don’t expect anything good to come from it, but I don’t expect us to walk away from that either. I think that we’re either going to use proxy armies or we ourselves will be involved once again in that area.
Scott Horton: Yeah, it seems like the news reports are saying that basically the very same people who were overthrown two years ago with the American backed Ethiopian invasion are the same people who’ve taken back over now.
Ron Paul: Yeah. So right now it’s a failure, a failed policy, but I’m not sure they won’t have enough determination to come back with a Plan B. And if I’m correct that policies don’t change, Obama will be very much involved there as well.
Scott Horton: Well you know, I’m interested in one of the aspects that you mentioned there. It goes with such little coverage, America’s intervention in Somalia, you think the average member of Congress even knows that America had a proxy war in Somalia?
Ron Paul: I wouldn’t think 10%. But you know the other place that they don’t watch, and it stays quiet, is Columbia. We spend a lot of money down there and early on I think you implied that maybe our military serves the interest of our companies, but that’s why down there. In Columbia we’re protecting oil interests as well. There’s a lot of money involved down there, but just because, and I think some Americans have been killed and somehow held hostage, but that’s kept very, very quiet. You hear very little about that.
Scott Horton: But that’s all in the name of protecting us from the cocaine supply though.
Ron Paul: That’s right. I mean, we got to teach the kids on what to do and how to run their lives and it’s the fault of the growers, it’s never the fault of the people here, or the fault of the stupid drug lords. Think about that.
Scott Horton: I guess you’re arguing that’s basically an excuse, so that’s just cover for again protecting oil interests.
Ron Paul: Sure and that’s why when we had the early votes when we did have a little bit of a debate early on it, was construed as if you voted against this you were voting for drugs. It was indicating you are weak on drugs, and no politician, they claim, can exist if you appear to be weak on drugs. But of course, I’ve taken this position for a long, long time and it was used against me a whole lot, and I just think the people are a little more sophisticated than we give them credit for. You know, I take a lot of stands that are controversial, and up until now, I don’t know what the future will bring, but up until now I’ve been able to, you know, convince my district and what I’m doing and why I’m doing it, even if I do take a position that the drug war is a total failure then we shouldn’t waste any money. So I’d like to encourage others to do the same thing.
Scott Horton: Well that really has proven true in terms of the war like in Iraq for example. I mean they scheduled the vote in the Congress right before the midterm elections of 2002, and so many Democrats were intimidated into voting for a war that they opposed, and you’re a Republican from Texas who opposed the President who anomally is also from Texas from the same party opposed his war in your district and walked right back into your House seat, because they respect the fact that you don’t sell out, that you stand by what you say and that you explain what you mean very well.
Ron Paul: That is required. I’ve had people come up to me, I’ve taken some tough votes, they say, “You know I agree with you but I can’t go home and explain that to my people.” Well they might not be just energetic enough to do it, but that’s my job you know. It’s to explain exactly what I’m doing if I’m representing them so that they understand it. Of course it’s in my interest for them to understand it too, so that they don’t just yell and scream at me. And now though after a few years people expect and understand what I’m doing, and they’re not surprised at all when I have to stand alone.
Scott Horton: Alright Dr. Paul I’ve already kept you overtime I really appreciate you coming on the show today.
Ron Paul: Okay Scott. Bye bye.
Scott Horton: Alright everybody, that’s Dr. Ron Paul who represents district 14 in South Texas in the US House. The books are “A Foreign Policy of Freedom” and “The Revolution: A Manifesto” along with “The Minority Report from the Gold Commission” and a lot of other great books. You can find his AntiWar.com archives at AntiWar.com/paul and we’ll be right back.