Factbox: Many U.S. lawmakers remain skeptical on Libya

WASHINGTON Thu Mar 31, 2011 3:00pm EDT

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Congress members expressed concern and skepticism on Thursday about U.S. military operations in Libya, a day after they received closed-door briefings about the war from the Obama administration.

At public hearings with senior officials, Republicans and Democrats asked how the conflict would be paid for, how long it would last, who the Libyan rebels are and whether the Obama administration had consulted enough with Congress before taking the military action.

Here are some of the lawmakers' comments:

HOWARD MCKEON, HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES ARMED SERVICES

COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN (REPUBLICAN)

"The president's strategy seems to consist of two mutually exclusive parts. The first is to protect Libya's civilians ... However, the president has also stated that Colonel Gaddafi must be removed from power ... I'm concerned that such a -- such a mismatch is a strategy for stalemate."

"Moreover, the president went on to observe that until Gaddafi steps down from power, Libya will remain dangerous. That sounds like foreshadowing for an enduring military mission to protect the Libyan civilian population."

ADAM SMITH, HOUSE ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE'S SENIOR

DEMOCRAT

"I think it's perfectly consistent to say we want Gaddafi to leave but the cost of doing it with U.S. or even NATO boots on the ground is entirely too high and we have to put pressure on him in other ways to drive him out."

"...A lot of members of Congress (are) feeling like they've been -- been completely left out and that the law has not been followed ... It would have been better for the White House to have began discussions with key Republican and Democratic leaders as we built up to this decision."

ILEANA ROS-LEHTINEN, HOUSE FOREIGN AFFAIRS COMMITTEE

CHAIRWOMAN (REPUBLICAN)

"Some Americans ... question whether we have assumed obligations to forcefully respond to crises elsewhere, including Ivory Coast, Sudan or Syria ...

"There are reports that some opposition figures have links to al Qaeda and to extremist groups that have fought against our forces in Iraq. My constituents are asking me: Just who are we helping and are we sure that they are true allies who won't turn and work against us?"

HOWARD BERMAN, HOUSE FOREIGN AFFAIRS COMMITTEE'S SENIOR

DEMOCRAT

"This operation will not be a success unless it ends with the demise of the Gaddafi regime. The reason is clear: The mandate for this operation is that it protect Libyan civilians. Yet, we all know that there can be no enduring protection for the Libyan people as long as Gaddafi remains in power."

MICHAEL TURNER, REPUBLICAN REPRESENTATIVE

"I think that there is significant question as to whether or not you have congressional support ... I can tell you that I believe that if you placed a resolution on this floor today for a vote for approval, that I doubt that it would pass..."

"This mission is unclear and the goals are unclear ... We don't know who they (Libyan rebels) are. We don't know what their position is with the United States. We don't know what they will do if they're successful. We don't know what form of government they will pursue."

NIKI TSONGAS, DEMOCRATIC REPRESENTATIVE

"I worry that we have a stalemate on our hands and we are already seeing the limits of what can be done from the air. And numerous reports have indicated that within the just past two or three weeks that President Obama has signed a covert finding which would authorize military aid to the Libyan rebels."

"To me, this signals that other options besides the current arms embargo, no-fly zone and air strikes are being left on the table. With two other wars ... and our armed forces nearly at the breaking point after a decade of combat, deployment of our ground forces into Libya cannot be one of them."

ROSCOE BARTLETT, REPUBLICAN REPRESENTATIVE

"In Afghanistan, we went in to assist a well-organized resistance group, the Northern Alliance ... In Libya, the only opposition group in recent history is the LIFG, the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, a radical faction that has been waging jihad against the Gaddafi regime ... Are we now aiding and abetting the same organizations that we are fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq?"

"...Many people feel that this is an unconstitutional and illegal war. But I think almost everybody agrees that the costs shouldn't be borne by taxpayers by increasing our $14 trillion debt or by raising taxes, and they shouldn't come out of the hide of DOD (Department of Defense)."

RICK LARSEN, DEMOCRATIC REPRESENTATIVE

"I'll give you my assessment of a vote in Congress (to authorize the intervention). It would truly be bipartisan on the yeas and the nays."

JIM COOPER, DEMOCRATIC REPRESENTATIVE

"Many people have wondered about the lack of adequate notice to this body. Well, the leadership in each party was informed promptly after the president's decision, so perhaps we should question our own contact with our own party leadership ... Congress should be more than a Congress of backseat drivers, more than a Congress of armchair generals."

(Additional reporting by Andy Quinn; Editing by John O'Callaghan and Vicki Allen)

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