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. Velevet Jones

    I be tellin' Walt dat Sodom Whosayn not be like flyin' airplanes aroun' 'n crashin' inta sh/t but he be votin' "yes" anahow.

    June 21, 2011 at 4:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jazzzzzzzz

      LOL... "play that funky music right boy" taking me back, Velvet

      June 21, 2011 at 10:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jazzzzzzzz

      correction , "white boy" and I knew that name sounded familiar... Eddie Murphy from Saturday Night Live play a character Named Velvet Jones (be somebody...be a HO) I miss the original gang though.

      June 22, 2011 at 4:09 am | Report abuse |
  2. Joe Moore

    What grammer school did you attend?

    June 21, 2011 at 4:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • HarvardLaw92

      One where they taught me that the word is spelled "grammar"

      June 21, 2011 at 4:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • DB

      HarvardLaw92, that was a good catch!.....funny!!

      June 21, 2011 at 6:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bill

      Unfortunately, they spent sooooo much time on spelling "grammer", than they forgot to teach you all about periods.

      June 21, 2011 at 6:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bill

      Isn't Bush a Harvard boy?

      June 21, 2011 at 6:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jazzzzzzzz

      No your all wrong. Eddy Murphy was Velvet Jones... an ongoing character on (Saturday Night Live) "school for technology" The 'Ho" was to be technically proficient for Velvet who was a (pimp) " Be a HO... Be somebody" He He

      June 22, 2011 at 4:16 am | Report abuse |
  3. Velevet Jones

    VelEvet? Dat be like smoove. Even more somoover than velvet. An' velvet be pretta daymn smoove. Sh/it naw, heah?

    June 21, 2011 at 4:20 pm | Report abuse |
  4. john

    So bombing people isn't considered hostilities by this President, at least when it's convenient for him. I wonder if Ghadafi views tomahawk missiles raining down on him as non hostilities-doubtful.

    June 21, 2011 at 4:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • DB

      So, that would mean bombing in Pakistan and Yemen would be hostile too?

      June 21, 2011 at 6:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • PreyTel

      Simply stated – you have no idea what you are ranting about historically speaking.

      A week after the invasion, on August 9, President Bush reported to Congress "consistent with the War Powers Resolution" that he had deployed U.S. armed forces to the region prepared to take action with others to deter Iraqi aggression. He did not cite section 4(a)(1) and specifically stated, "I do not believe involvement in hostilities is imminent."

      June 21, 2011 at 6:18 pm | Report abuse |
  5. El Kababa

    Lindsay Graham is slightly less impressive than an empty chair. But I thank God for South Carolina and Arizona. Without them, everyone would be making fun of my home state of Texas.

    June 21, 2011 at 4:25 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Joe Moore

    Texas has the lowest jobless rate, than any other state.

    June 21, 2011 at 4:30 pm | Report abuse |
  7. tim

    Why even bring up Grenada, that lasted what? like a day it never would've fallen under the war powers act by any stretch of the imagination.

    June 21, 2011 at 4:31 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Hasselhoff

    Wow people are bored. Really War Crimes? C'mon. Bush commented more illegal war crimes than Obama ever has. Don't waste your time on t his Mr. Walter Jones. I'm sure there's a ton of mothers and fathers that would love to Sue George W. Bush for their sons and daughters dying in Iraq for no reason.

    June 21, 2011 at 4:42 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Observer1290

    Obama's impeachment is now inevitable.

    http://www.larouchepac.com/node/18517

    June 21, 2011 at 4:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • Cesar

      With all the blood Obama has on his hands, let's hope that you're right.,Observer1290.

      June 21, 2011 at 4:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • Beaverhead

      When I was arguing points of not going to war with Iraq with my friends on the right......they told me to just "get over it"......now I am telling you to do the same!!!! I will gladly take another 4 years of Obama than take just one day with any Republican.

      June 21, 2011 at 5:11 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Hasselhoff

    ^^^ if Obama gets impeached, Bush should be hung in public...just sayin'..

    June 21, 2011 at 4:46 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Cesar

    What the Congress needs to do is to completely cut off funding for this obscene adventure in Libya that we're currently undertaking. Unfortunately, due to a gigantic lack of moral principles, Congress will never do that!!!

    June 21, 2011 at 4:47 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Joe Moore

    At least Bush went through congress.

    June 21, 2011 at 4:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • Brian

      Yes, Only AFTER he Lied to congress saying Iraq had WMD.

      June 21, 2011 at 4:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bill

      Hey Brian, have you seen the reports the CIA put on Bush's desk? No? I didn't think so.

      So your claim of Bush lied is backed by... what proof?

      June 21, 2011 at 5:55 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Hasselhoff

    ^^ and Bush completely ignored everyone and illegally went to war in Iraq. I guess some of you just forgot that.

    June 21, 2011 at 4:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • J

      Well, actually Bush had the complete support of Congress. I guess you forgot that.

      June 21, 2011 at 5:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bill

      Please cite the law that was broken.

      June 21, 2011 at 5:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • Michael

      Bill, Bill, Please read the article: "1973 War Powers Resolution, the law that requires the president to get congressional approval for sending U.S. forces to war." found in the 4th paragraph

      June 21, 2011 at 6:29 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Hasselhoff

    Can't argue with Obama haters!..you'll never win.

    June 21, 2011 at 4:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bill

      I totally agree. Its like arguing with "Water is Wet" people. They just never seem to listen no matter how many times you claim its dry.

      June 21, 2011 at 5:57 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Joe Moore

    Congress voted for it.

    June 21, 2011 at 4:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • Michael

      Read the article and get a clue. His beef is that Congress DID NOT vote to allow the action in Libya. Right or wrong in the action, we are again throwing money that we do not have into a black hole. Bring all troops in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya home now!

      June 21, 2011 at 6:08 pm | Report abuse |
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