Flashback: Shameful Day in the Senate

Almost 37 years ago, long before Congress thought to pass non-binding resolutions as a first step to cut off funding in Iraq, the Senate passed an amendment sponsored by Sen. John Sherman Cooper (R.-Ky.) and Sen. Frank Church (D.-Idaho) to restrict funding for operations in Cambodia.

Senators Chuck Schumer (D.-N.Y) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D.-Calif.) have said again and again that passage of a non-binding resolution against President Bush’s troop surge would be the first step  to withdrawing American forces from Iraq.

How badly could this turn out?

The actions of their predecessors, who de-funded the Vietnam War, give us a big clue.
On June 30, 1970 58 senators voted in favor of Cooper-Church to handcuff President Nixon from sending more troops to Vietnam. The amendment limited the President’s war powers through the budgetary process with a trio of stipulations. First, it ended funding for U.S. troops and advisers in Cambodia and Laos after June 30. Secondly, it banned combat operations over Cambodian airspace to support Cambodian forces without prior congressional approval. Lastly, it cut funding to support Southern Vietnamese forces stationed outside of Vietnam.

In a July 11 editorial HUMAN EVENTS slammed the amendment. It said, “The Cooper-Church proposal does a number of things that can only cause exaltation and hand-clapping in Hanoi and Communist capitals elsewhere….The amendment also tells our Asian allies that they can go hang, for the U.S. Senate, at any rate, has no intention of helping out Asian victims of Red aggression.”

Today, liberals have drawn many comparisons between Vietnam and the War in Iraq, but reliably omit the tragic killing fields of Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam that were produced after American forces were forced by Congress to exit the region.

After passing the Senate, the Cooper-Church amendment died in the House because Nixon threatened to veto it. Then, the measure was revised and passed both houses of Congress on December 22, 1970. It was enacted on January 5, 1971.

In the fall of 1973 Church, who later lost the Democratic nomination for President to Jimmy Carter, toured the country to declare that “the Doves had won.”

In the 1974 election Republicans lost 48 House seats and five Senate seats.  The new Democrat Congress used their new power to cut all aid to South Vietnam. Soon after, the Communists took over Indochina and 4 million were killed by the Khmer Rouge communist regime.

Without knowing the future horror that would unfold as a result of this amendment HUMAN EVENTS said that June 30, the day Cooper-Church first passed, was a “Shameful Day in the Senate.”

Cooper-Church was the “first step” against Nixon’s troop deployment to Vietnam that led to the merciless deaths of our Cambodian friends. Today, the Congress is debating resolutions against President Bush’s troops surge. Taking a page from HUMAN EVENTS query in 1970, we resolutely ask Congress, “Will you send the same message to our Iraqi allies that they can ‘go hang?’”

Amanda B. Carpenter, assistant editor of HUMAN EVENTS

Shameful Day in the Senate

July 11, 1970

The United States Senate has not distinguished itself very much during the Nixon Administration. With something akin to a display of bigotry against Southerners, it rejected two nominees from Dixie to the Supreme Court. While its members prattle about fiscal sanity, the Senate majority continue to spend taxpayer money as if it were drunk.

Last week — with the Big Labor lobbyists keeping close tabs on the vote — the august body passed postal reform measure which would dragoon civil servants into unions not of their own choosing. But the sorriest performance so far has been the adoption of the Cooper-Church amendment to restrict the President’s efforts to defend our allies and our own troops in Southeast Asia.

Despite the adoption of some modifying language (the Byrd amendment for instance), the Cooper-Church proposal does a number of things that can only cause exultation and hand-clapping in Hanoi and Communist capitols elsewhere. Thus one wonders whatever possessed such basic amendment foes as Senators Dole and Jackson to go along with the thing at the last moment.

The passage of the measure by a sizable 58-37 vote flashes the signal across the world that the Senate’s will to resist Communists aggression is just about zero. The amendment also tell our Asian allies that they can go hang, for the U.S. Senate, at any rate, has no intention of helping out Asian victims of Red aggression and Hue massacres. Nor is this all.

The Cooper-Church amendment is far more than a simple declaration or a wish against U.S. involvement in Asia. If passed by the Hose and signed into law, the amendment could have catastrophic consequences.

The amendment, for instance, prevents the United States from retaining any U.S. forces in  Cambodia; it bars the direct or indirect support of any U.S> personnel in Cambodia who may want to furnish military instruction to Cambodian forces; it prevents combat activity in the air above Cambodia in support of the Cambodian forces and it even prevents the U.S. from aiding other s to aid Cambodia.

Indeed, under Cooper-Church the United States cannot provide financial assistance to advisers or troops of other countries that go to the assistance of Cambodia. The Cooper-Church forces called this the “anti-mercenary” amendment, as if it were somehow evil to provide military assistance to Southeast Asian countries which might find compelling reasons to send their troops into Cambodia.

Unfortunately, remarked Sen. Henry Jackson (D.-Wash.), Section 3 of the Cooper-Church amendment is now “drafted so broadly as to raise doubts about whether we can act to make it possible for even the South Vietnamese to enter Cambodia as part of their own defense.

“The broad language also raises doubts about whether we could support ethnic Cambodians, such as the Khmer forces, who wish to assist in the defense of their own country from invasion, and who, in no sense, should be considered mercenaries.

“The Khmer are highly motivated, well trained and are an extremely effective fighting force. Moreover, they are fully integrated into Cambodian forces; and although their  numbers are not large — perhaps 2,000 — they are now a significant element in their country’s defense. They receive for their efforts, $56 per month, hardly a mercenary wage. If anything, the Khmer tribesmen more closely resemble the case of Americans residing abroad returning to the Colonies to fight the British."

Sen. Robert Griffin (R.-Mich.) in offering his own amendment to nullify Section 3, a proposal that was defeated by five votes, revealed that Cooper-Church would actually repeal the Guam Doctrine. In the President’s statement at Guam in mid-1969 and in his report to Congress on U.S. foreign policy for the 1970s, he said that we should look to Asian nations to increasingly assume the primary responsibility for their own defense. “This approach,” he stated, “requires our commitment to helping our partners develop their own strength.” Yet under Cooper-Church the U.S. is prohibited from providing military assistance to any country that might come to Cambodia’s aid.

Thus the passage of Cooper-Church last week was anything but a glorious day for the U.S. Senate, and it seems rather paradoxical that it should be adopted almost on the eve of July 4, a day we wouldn’t’ be celebrating if countries such as France hadn’t come to our aid.

There is nothing really good that can be said of Cooper-Church, for it is aimed at crippling the power of the President at the very time he is successfully extricating us from Viet Nam precisely because he has not had a Cooper-Church amendment to contend with.

*A few senators who voted for Church-Cooper are still in the Senate today. Those voting for it were: Daniel Inoye (D.-Hawaii), Kennedy (D.-Mass.) and Ted Stevens (R.-Ala.).