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Remarks by U.S. Senator Robert C. Byrd

April 09, 2003

In the Hope for the Safe Return of Missing Soldiers

The world is now well aware of the story surrounding Private First Class Jessica Lynch, the young solider from Palestine, West Virginia, who was taken prisoner by the Iraqi military on March 23. She is now recovering from her captivity at a military hospital in Germany. While we regard with awe the reports of her courage at the time of her capture, as well as the daring of the troops who carried out her rescue from that hospital deep in Iraq, our nation cannot forget that there are others who have been captured or gone missing during this war. The Pentagon reports that seven Americans remain in Iraqi hands, and that eight of our troops remain missing.

These troops deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. The resolution before the Senate is right to point out that the government of Iraq, even in the waning days of its authority, is obligated under the Geneva Convention and customary international law to give humane treatment for our captured troops, and protect them against acts of violence or intimidation and against insults and public curiosity.

While the resolution makes a clear and commendable statement about how we expect our prisoners of war to be treated by Iraq, it is unfortunate that this resolution raises political issues about the policies that brought us to war in the Persian Gulf. Like two previous resolutions passed by the Senate, the preamble to this resolution contains a clause which states, in part, "Whereas, the military action now underway against Iraq is lawful and fully authorized by the Congress in Sec. 3(a) of Public Law 107-243."

I do not concede that this war is "lawful and fully authorized by Congress." The Constitution clearly states that Congress, alone, has the power to declare war. That is one of the powers that Congress should not have the power to delegate to the president, which is exactly what we attempted to do in the use of force resolution passed by the Senate on October 11, 2002. Allowing a president whether Democrat or Republican to exercise powers that are intended to reside only with the Legislative Branch is the surest way to upset the careful system of checks and balances that was designed by the Founding Fathers.

It appears that Baghdad is now falling under the control of U.S. forces. It is my sincere hope that the war can soon be brought to its conclusion, but the cessation of hostilities may still be some time away. We do our captured and missing service men and women no favors by glossing over the realities of this war. I hope that the 15 service members who are now captured or missing will be able to return to the safety of their homes and the love of their families. It is in this vein that I will vote for this resolution.

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