Senator Sanders to Secretary Rice: Escalate Diplomacy Not Troops in Iraq

Washington D.C.Senator Bernard Sanders (I-VT) today met with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and called on the Administration to escalate diplomatic efforts, rather than the number of troops, in order to end the quagmire in Iraq. In his remarks, Sanders also urged the Administration to abandon its unilateral approach to the war by working in a true bipartisan manner and by charting a new course in Iraq in consultation with the Congress. Sanders said, Now is the time to increase the level of

Washington D.C.Senator Bernard Sanders (I-VT) today met with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and called on the Administration to escalate diplomatic efforts, rather than the number of troops, in order to end the quagmire in Iraq. In his remarks, Sanders also urged the Administration to abandon its unilateral approach to the war by working in a true bipartisan manner and by charting a new course in Iraq in consultation with the Congress. Sanders said, Now is the time to increase the level of diplomacy, not the level of American troops put into harms way in the middle of a civil war. We need bipartisan diplomatic solutions in order to bring stability to the region and bring our troops home as soon as possible. Sanders today became the first cosponsor of S. Res. 39, a resolution offered by Senator Robert Byrd, which declares the need for the Administration to seek approval before instigating offensive military action against another nation. He is also a cosponsor of S. 233, which prevents the President from escalating the war and increasing the troop numbers in Iraq without the express consent of Congress. Following the State Department meeting, Senator Sanders forwarded a letter to Secretary Rice reiterating the strong concerns he raised in their meeting. A copy of Senator Sanders letter to Secretary Rice is below. January 30, 2007 The Honorable Condoleezza RiceSecretary of StateUnited States Department of State2201 C Street, NWWashington, D.C. 20520 Dear Secretary Rice: Thank you for meeting with the newly-elected members of the United States Senate today to discuss important foreign policy issues and your plans to work with the Senate for a strong, bipartisan approach to national security affairs. Let me begin by saying that my understanding of bipartisan is that it means that both sides executive and legislative, as well as Republican and Democratic/Independent have a shared role in shaping Americas relation to the world. Please dont talk about bipartisanship when, in fact, the Bush Administration has been steadfast in ignoring the Democrat and Independent Members of Congress, and their foreign policy concerns. In recent months, President Bush has shown that he is prepared to circumvent the wishes of Congress by committing us to an escalation of the war in Iraq. Second, let me voice my hope that instead of going forward with an ill-conceived escalation of troop forces in Iraq an escalation which comes on the heels of previous escalations, all of which have been unsuccessful President Bush will go forward instead with an escalation of diplomacy in the region. No less an authority than the Iraq Study Group itself bipartisan, itself first proposed by Republican Rep. Frank Wolf, itself funded by the Republican Congress, itself consisting of a former Republican and a former Democratic Secretary of State, as well as a Republican Attorney General and Democratic White House Chief of Staff, as well as a former Republican and a former Democratic Senator, and a former Chair of the House International Relations Committee set forward the idea that all parties in the region, including Syria and Iran, should be brought to the negotiating table. Now is the time to increase the level of diplomacy, not the level of American troops put into harms way in the middle of a civil war. Third, and perhaps most important, let me tell you how I read the Constitution of the United States. The wording of Article 1, Section 8 is explicit: The Congress shall have the power . . . to declare war. The Congress declares war, not the President. The President certainly plays a central role in foreign policy, but the Congress also has Constitutional authority in this area. That means if the Bush administration provokes a war against Iran, as it is currently threatening to do, we will have a Constitutional crisis of the gravest severity. If the President ignores the Constitutionally-defined and mandated Congressional role in making war, there will be very dire consequences for this administration. I look forward to working together with you in a bipartisan manner. But that can only happen if it is in fact bipartisan, if it prizes diplomacy rather than solely depending on military force, and if the President accepts the Constitutional role given to the Congress as the sole body empowered to declare war. Sincerely yours, Bernard SandersUnited States Senator