Walter Jones' war: Why lawmaker is challenging Obama on Libya
U.S. Rep. Walter Jones, R-North Carolina, regrets voting to authorize the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
June 21st, 2011
03:50 PM ET

Walter Jones' war: Why lawmaker is challenging Obama on Libya

U.S. lawmakers are split over President Barack Obama's decision to take military action in Libya without getting congressional approval. Some of them are threatening to cut off funding for America's participation in NATO's bombing campaign.

That prospect has lit a fire of its own.

"The president did a lousy job of communicating and managing our involvement in Libya, but I will be no part of an effort to defund Libya or to try to cut off our efforts to bring (Libyan leader Moammar) Gadhafi down," U.S. Sen. Lindsay Graham, R-South Carolina, said on NBC's "Meet the Press" on Sunday.

You can question the motivation of some lawmakers who are attacking Obama for the U.S. bombing of Libya.

For instance, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, in 1995 voted to repeal the 1973 War Powers Resolution, the law that requires the president to get congressional approval for sending U.S. forces to war.  In 1999, Boehner called the resolution "constitutionally suspect." Now, Boehner is arguing Obama violated it with his actions in Libya.

But it's not so easy to question the motivations of U.S. Rep. Walter Jones of North Carolina.

Well, you can: It's a free country, and he'd probably welcome it. But you're better off spending your time some other way.

He's a Republican, yes. He's a conservative, yes. But mostly, he's driven - not to go after a Democratic president, but to pursue the beliefs that got burned into him with the war in Iraq.

Click the audio player to hear this story from CNN Radio's Libby Lewis:

CNN spoke with him at his office recently on Capitol Hill.

"I take war very seriously. I've not been to war," Jones said.

Jones has been in Congress for 17 years. He knows Obama is hardly the first president to argue the War Powers Resolution doesn't apply here. Think of Grenada. Somalia. Kosovo. The Iraq surge. Afghanistan.

"No, but I really think this has been building over the last 35 years, and this is the icing on the cake," Jones said. "This just - this did it.”

He and nine other lawmakers, including a couple of Democrats, sued the president. They want a judge to order him to stop U.S. military actions in Libya.

If history holds, they don’t have much of a chance. So far, every attempt by lawmakers to challenge the president in court over the War Powers Resolution has failed.

Jones is choosing not to look at history.

The constitution gives the president broad powers to go to war. It gives Congress the power to declare wars – and to fund them. But there’s a lot of grey in between.

In 1973, Congress passed the War Powers Resolution to prevent another Vietnam War, in which three presidents committed U.S. troops without getting Congress' approval.

White House press secretary Jay Carney summed up Obama's view that the United States' actions in Libya aren't even "hostilities," much less war.

"U.S. operations do not involve a number of elements traditionally associated with hostilities, including sustained fighting or active exchanges of fire with hostile forces," Carney told reporters last week.

To that, Walter Jones says: "Well, we're killing people over there. There's no question. You cannot drop bombs without killing people."

The words of an anti-war liberal? Hardly. His district is home to Camp Lejeune, one of the largest Marine Corps bases.

Jones is the congressman who coined the term "Freedom Fries," a rebuke of France for its opposition to the 2003 invasion of Iraq. And he voted to authorize the use of force in Iraq.

It's not quite right to say that vote haunts him now, but you can see it in his eyes - it drives him. He calls it his "mistake."

In 2006, Jones said this:

"I went to Walter Reed (Army Medical Center) Monday. I saw three soldiers. One lost his leg. He's from Ohio. The other one is from my district, 23 years old; he will never walk again. He's paralyzed. I had an opportunity to see his daddy as well. Then the last soldier I visited, Eric, from New Mexico, his mom was there. He had been shot through the helmet in the head."

Jones was talking then about Congress doing its duty regarding war, not just cutting the checks.

"We owe the American people, and certainly those troops who are on the ground in Iraq, that we in Congress are not sleeping on this issue; there are those of us in both parties that want to meet our constitutional responsibility, and that is to discuss and debate the present and the future of our commitment in Iraq."

Jones' turnaround on the Iraq war made him unpopular back home for a long time, and some say it stymied his political career.

Today, the walls in his office are covered with photographs of the men and women who have died in Iraq and Afghanistan, and their children. The posters of their faces are stacked up inches deep, leaning against the wall.

"I realize my mistake of voting to give President Bush authority to go into Iraq," he said last week. "I've signed over 10,000 letters to families. That was my penance to God for not following my conscience. My conscience told me that I was not convinced that Saddam had brought down the (World Trade Center) towers. I don't blame anybody for that but myself."

But Jones says he cannot stay silent in any case where a president - any president - starts a military action when you don't know when, or how, it will end.

So he joined the group of lawmakers that sued. And if they lose? Well, if they lose, Walter Jones will have made his point - one more time.

You can also listen to the CNN Radio Reports podcast on itunes or subscribe to the podcast here.

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Filed under: Libya • Military • North Carolina • Politics • Walter Jones
soundoff (216 Responses)
  1. Publius

    Congress must act. Either the War Powers Act is law, or it is not. If it is law, it must be enforced – whether or not you agree action in Libya is required. This gets to whether we have imperial powers invested in our president or whether a system of checks and balances are in place. Obama may have advisers telling him the War Powers Act does not apply, but that question is up to Congress to decide. In their resolution, they clearly indicated Congress says it does apply. The Secretary of Defense should be held in Contempt of Congress. The legitimacy of the presidency is on the line. Mr. Obama should be seeking to invalidate the War Powers Act if he is not going to follow that as a matter of law.

    June 22, 2011 at 4:28 am | Report abuse |
  2. michaelfury

    June 22, 2011 at 7:54 am | Report abuse |
  3. Philip

    @Jazzy...Eddie Murphy wasn't Velvet Jones. Garret Morris was. "So you want to be a ho" was the name of his book. I could be wrong though, as you know.

    June 22, 2011 at 8:11 am | Report abuse |
  4. Philip

    @ben...Gdub is in fact named in those lawsuits. Even Condoleeza Rice is named. Get a clue.

    June 22, 2011 at 8:16 am | Report abuse |
  5. Philip

    And everyone needs to just relax. There are only a handful of the world's 200 or so countries that haven't been occupied, so it won't be long before Uncle Sam will be focused on domestic affairs. (The CIA has moved it's official Domestic Affairs division to Denver, CO for this very reason) It won't be long before you won't have to wait on snail-mail for that letter from the IRS. Two men wearing dark suits and sunglasses will hand deliver it...without even bothering to knock. The situation will resemble a dragon eating it's own tail.

    June 22, 2011 at 8:33 am | Report abuse |
  6. gung hoe

    Ya know jazzzzz and phillip as much as i hate to admit it you two are pretty much right about our goverment if youve ever been overseas for extended period of time you are able to see a side of our Government that people here dont get to see our government lets us see what they want us to see and hides what they dont want us to see or understand in other words brainwashing the populace of the us

    June 22, 2011 at 11:00 am | Report abuse |
  7. Philip

    The government isn't as stupid as some say. Uncle Sam goes about his foreign affairs with impunity these days. Most of his supporters are blind flag-wavers, so he doesn't need to hide anything from them. And hardly anyone reads anymore, so US isn't concerned with print. (how many wikileaks have you read?) And the TV news is hardly news these's just talking heads giving you your opinions, both from the left and the right. It's like having a big fat retarded uncle that likes to go around shooting his guns in public, with ricocheting bullets flying everywhere killing whoever happenes to be standing there. He might be big, fat, ugly, and well-armed. But he's still your uncle.

    June 22, 2011 at 11:57 am | Report abuse |
  8. ben

    @philip: even if he is named in it that doesn't necessarily mean he is the one being sued, it may mean he is just being named to testify-same with Rice. BTW if they are suing him then their case is going to get thrown out because they have to sue the people who planned 9\11. Oh yeah get a clue.

    June 22, 2011 at 12:23 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Philip

    When we hear so-and-so was named in a lawsuit, that means so-and-so is being sued. So-and-so in this case is Gdub. American Airlines is even "named" (aka being sued) in these lawsuits. Even Gdub's youngest brother 'retarded' Marvin Bush. He was a director of the Securacom Corporation, who had security contracts with the WTC, Boston Logan , and Dulles Airfield clear up till 9/11. Retard dissolved the corporation on 9/12 and neither himself nor any Securacom employees were ever publicly questioned about any possible security lapses. how is it even possible that this is the first time most of you ever heard of Marvin's 9/11 link? Oh, that's right. It wasn't on TV.

    June 22, 2011 at 3:49 pm | Report abuse |
  10. samwitwicky

    Revolutions are internal matters of a country … the revolution in Gypto was successful internally … people were not killed, cities were not bombed, war was not raged, outside countries didn’t send their forces … whatever was done … it was within the country and by the people … without outside support … that’s a revolution.

    Look at the massacre they are carrying out in Tibby … you call that a revolution man … you call that an operation for the people?

    Read more:

    June 24, 2011 at 8:01 am | Report abuse |
  11. Alan MacDonald

    Aside from a few, Congress is just a 'rubber stamp' for this Empire, which hides behind the facade of its totally 'bought and owned' Two-party "Vichy" sham of democratic government.

    Regarding the swath of wars throughout the Middle East and beyond:

    The Congress is either too 'stuck on stupid' to understand, or too complicit in this disguised global Empire that now controls the US.

    This series of increasing  wars is easily understood if one reads Thomas Barnett's 2006 war strategy plan and Naval War College book, "The Pentagon's New Map", in which he promulgates the strategy for the global Empire (called the "Old Core" - US, UK, Israel, Europe) to start and prosecute a series of aggressive military actions across the entire swath from Mauritania to the boarders of China and India, in order to control the natural resources (predominantly oil) of the Middle East and to dominate the geopolitical structure of this entire global sector of what he calls the "Gap" countries.

    The highly CIA-connected "journalist" Bob Woodward has cynically alluded to this well understood and deadly war strategy, and the seminal, but hidden, driver of this strategy, which may very likely cause a third World War is the global corporate/financial/militarist Empire which has now taken full control of our former country by hiding behind the facade of the Empire's modernized version of a Nazi-like TWO-Party 'Vichy' sham of democratic government - of which these dolt or complicit Congressmen and Senators (and the mainstream-media) are just 'fronting for'.

    Global Empire must be understood by the American people soon, or it will quickly become painfully apparent to all.

    Alan MacDonald
    Sanford, Maine

    Liberty & democracy

    New America People's Party 2012 (the last chance)

    June 25, 2011 at 11:47 am | Report abuse |
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