Congressman Dennis Kucinich delivered this address to Congress on March 31, 2011.
Mr. Speaker, the critical issue before this nation today is not Libyan democracy; it is American democracy. In the next hour, I will describe the dangers facing our own democracy.
The principles of democracy across the globe are embodied in the UN Charter, conceived to end the scourge of war for all time. The hope that nations could turn their swords into plowshares reflects the timeless impulse of humanity for enduring peace and, with it, an enhanced opportunity to pursue happiness.
We are not naïve about the existence of forces in the world which work against peace and against human security.
But it is our fervent wish that we should never become like those whom we condemn as lawless and without scruples, for it is our duty as members of a democratic society to provide leadership by example, to not only articulate the highest standards but to walk down the path to peace and justice with those standards as our constant companions. Our moral leadership in the world depends chiefly upon the might and light of truth and not shock and awe and the ghastly glow of our 2,000-pound bombs.
Mr. Speaker, our dear nation stands at a crossroads. The direction we take will determine not what kind of nation we are but what kind of nation will we become.
Will we become a nation which plots in secret to wage war?
Will we become a nation which observes our Constitution only in matters of convenience?
Will we become a nation which destroys the unity of the world community, which has been painstakingly pieced together from the ruins of World War II, a war which itself followed a war to end all wars?
Now, once again, we stand poised at a precipice, forced to the edge by an administration which has thrown caution to the winds and our Constitution to the ground.
It is abundantly clear from a careful reading of our Declaration of Independence that our nation was born from nothing less than the rebellion of the human spirit against the arrogance of power. More than 200 years ago, it was the awareness of the unchecked arrogance of George III that led our founders to carefully and deliberately balance our Constitution, articulating the rights of Congress in article I as the primary check by our citizens against the dangers they foresaw for our republic. Our Constitution was derived from the human and political experience of our founders, who were aware of what happens when one person took it upon himself to assume rights and privileges which placed him above everyone else.
“But where,” asked Tom Paine in his famous tract “Common Sense,” “is the king of America?”
“I’ll tell you, friend. He reigns above, and doth not make havoc of mankind like the royal of Britain. So far as we approve of monarchy, that in America the law is king; for as in absolute governance the king is law, so in free countries the law ought to be king, and there ought to be no other,” said Thomas Paine in “Common Sense.”
The power to declare war is firmly and explicitly vested in the Congress of the United States, under article I, section 8 of the Constitution. That is the law. The law is king.