“America,” said President John Quincy Adams, “does not go abroad in search of monsters to destroy.”
In theory, Congress has ruled that the United States can, as long as the president consults Congress, and the monster hunt lasts 60 days with a 30-day come-home period. In practice, the dogs of war can pursue these monsters endlessly without the supposed leash of Congress.
On Tuesday, Sen. Rand Paul sent one letter to Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, asking him what authority justifies the presence of US troops in Niger and what training the US gave Brig. General Moussa Barmou and other forces responsible for the recent coup in this country. “The US military has been stationed in Niger for about a decade, ostensibly to train, advise and assist Nigerian forces. One of these US-trained individuals, Moussa Salaou Barmou, is one of the coup leaders who overthrew the duly elected government of Niger on July 26,” the Kentucky senator wrote. “As a result of the military coup in Niger, more than 1,000 US service members deployed there now face additional dangers to their security.”
Beyond the questions listed above, Paul asked for detailed accounts of US forces killed or wounded in Niger since the US established operations there in 2013 and asked how funds were distributed to train, equip and support to Nigerian forces, citing Title 10 of the US Code. “What steps has the Department of Defense taken to ensure that nations that receive funds, training, equipment, or other support from the United States under Title 10 do not engage in human rights violations?” the senator added.
After the senator’s letter, Paul granted him an exclusive interview The American conservative about the US presence in Niger and how America could restore a constitutional foreign policy so beautifully encapsulated by John Quincy Adams.
US involvement in Niger began a decade ago. “At first, I think they were sent there to support the French troops,” Paul said by phone.
“I think their mission, like so many other military missions, has morphed into something different now and it includes training and equipping the military. My concern is that in the midst of a military coup there , with threats of war from surrounding countries, threats of retaliation to the military junta, which is a bad place to be in the middle of something like that.” Paul told TAC that due to the instability affecting Niger and the entire region, which has seen several coups in recent years, “an accidental or deliberate attack could lead us into a bigger war.”
“There’s always the possibility that troops will be involved in an escalation of war, and that they’ll be in the middle of a civil war, and not just potentially in the middle of a civil war,” Paul said. “The Economic Community of West African States has threatened to intervene from the outside this year by sending troops, and then Burkina Faso and Mali have threatened to respond by the new military junta.”
“This looks almost like it could turn into a regional conflict,” Paul said. If it comes down to it, US troops stationed in Niger would be “in a completely defensive position”. The U.S. would quickly find itself in a situation where “1,000 soldiers who really shouldn’t be fighting, really don’t know who we’re supposed to attack and how they’re supposed to defend themselves,” would be at their throats. of a regional conflict probably far beyond its original mission and far beyond the actions approved by Congress.
“The 9/11 AUMF is used to justify all these activities. This is a real insult to any soldier who is asked to give his life around the world,” Paul argued.
“Don’t they deserve at least one vote? If you get sent to Syria and you die in Syria (there are still a couple of hundred US troops in Syria, we have troops in Iraq, we have troops in probably a few dozen countries), if you want to give your life , shouldn’t there have been a debate in Congress? Paul asked. “I think if there was more debate in Congress, there would actually be less support,” Paul added, pointing specifically to the continued use of the 2001 AUMF.
“While it may not be a cure-all, the debate over repealing the 2001 AUMF is important,” Paul suggested. “Look at our history. Throughout our history, we haven’t had any kind of open and ongoing AUMF, so we haven’t had to vote. I mean it’s been 22 years now. Our young soldiers who haven’t even they were only born then don’t they deserve a live current debate on current situations if we are going to send them to war?
“We have a long way to go to win the argument,” Paul admitted, but “it’s not all pessimism.” On the Republican side, “probably 10 percent of elected Republicans are for less or no additional money for Ukraine,” for example, but “I think over 50 percent of Republican primary voters now oppose sending more money in Ukraine”. and “the Trump administration made it easier to be a non-interventionist or less interventionist Republican now than it was years ago.”
“My father started this debate and popularized it, but it was not yet a popular or dominant position. Trump came along and embraced a little bit of that doctrine,” Paul told TAC. “Most voters in the Republican primary probably really believe in less intervention,” and “we have a lot more candidates running around the country than actually they have these beliefs.”
As for Democrats, Paul said, “I’ve had several Democrats come up to me and say, ‘Well, you’re right, we should repeal it, we should repeal it and replace it.'” My response to that is, “Yes, we should repeal it and replace it with the Constitution,” Paul continued, “replacing it with something that can actually absolve us of another debate vote is a mistake.”
US troops in Niger have already paid the price for Congress’s unwillingness to act on its constitutional authority. In October 2017, there were four Green Berets dead in an ambush by IS-affiliated fighters near Niger’s border with Mali. However, “the so-called bipartisan consensus on foreign policy is still pretty strong,” Paul said. Refusal to take action is action, and it is total support for the status quo. The US justification for having troops in Niger is “the same kind of argument that has been made in most of the Middle East: terrorism is everywhere, al-Qaeda is everywhere, and we can create a world with less terrorism by trying.” to take down one terrorist at a time, one drone at a time.”
The Kentucky senator believes this “exaggerates” what is happening on the ground. “Most of these are tribal disputes. Most of them involve disputes over land. In almost every case, “these are not people sitting around with plans to come and attack New York City. These are people who are angry at people taking part of her goat herd. These are not international criminal masterminds. These are local people involved in conflicts.”
Since US troops were stationed in Niger in 2013, “there has actually been an escalation of activity.” Beyond the four Green Berets who died on patrol in Niger, the US military has trained several soldiers responsible for destabilizing Niger and the surrounding region. Reports from intercept suggests that US-trained military officers have played a role in at least eleven coups in West Africa since 2008. Moussa Salaou Barmou, leader of the July coup in Niger, was trained at Fort Benning in Georgia and the National Defense University in Washington. “We have a really bad record here,” Paul told TAC. “We think we’re training people to set up governments in the image of the American republic,” but in reality, “we’re training officers who then go home and lead a coup.”
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“If ostensibly our goal is democracy and free elections, we don’t seem to be having the right effect,” Paul suggested, adding that current and past presidential administrations have “lied by omission” to Congress about the activities from the United States to Niger and others. countries like this. “I think they’re working day and night to hide details from Congress.”
“I see it as a recipe for disaster,” Paul says of the situation. “I’m going to force the debate. I don’t think we have the votes to win, but at the very least, it’s a privileged vote under the War Powers Act, which means I can’t be stopped,” Paul said.
The vote is likely to be scheduled within the next two weeks, conveniently buried in the fight over a potential government shutdown.