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. Hasselhoff

    http://impeachforpeace.org/evidence/pages/war.html <–read this and decide for yourself. I just wish people would get past Democrats and Republicans hating each other. If he wants to sue Obama that's his deal. But I'd love to sue Bush for the thousands of U.S. Soldiers that died in Iraq for no reason. There were no WMD. and the war was completely pointless at least He's trying to stop a complete slaughter in Libyia. You're all just mad because there's a black man in office who knows what he's doing. Get over it.

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

      So, you want everyone to transcend partisan politics. But you also label anyone opposed to Obama as a racist. Are you listening to yourself?

      June 21, 2011 at 5:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • ShaJen

      Hasselhoff,
      I agree with everything you said. Except, perhaps for the part that says, "He's trying to stop a complete slaughter in Libyia." I don't believe the U.S. has ever gotten into a war for totally altruistic reasons. I think there is a bigger picture here that the average citizen is not privy to know. Free Speech TV, for one, makes a good case when discussing how the U.S. has become a military nation and is sustained by continuing wars. Wars are big money-makers for some people; people that operate behind the scenes to control what is going here in our country. Anyone who wants more info on the subject can watch Free Speech TV and the Thom Hartman show.

      June 21, 2011 at 5:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • ethan

      The president needs to do it in a legal fashion, he has not done it in a legal manner. He is breaking the law. RESPECT MY AUTHORITAYYYYYY

      June 21, 2011 at 5:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • AP

      truth

      June 21, 2011 at 5:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • Logical

      Obama knows what he's doing? Are you serious? That guy is clueless. He hasn't done a darn thing that he promised during the election.

      June 21, 2011 at 5:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • Alexander Nicholas Allen

      You sound like someone who voted for Obama just because he's black. Anyone being critical of his political platform doesn't equate to racism. Seriously, If you ever see yourself going with the majority, or electing a demagogue into office, you need to step back and reflect on what Obama really stands for. You can't sue Bush just because the Iraq war was pointless. Seriously, watch the news and come back with more effective rhetoric. I'm not here to slander you, Bush, or Obama. I'm no Lupe Fiasco just hate empty rhetoric.

      June 21, 2011 at 5:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • Stopthemadness

      Logical, do you know why nothing has been accomplished while the man has been in office. The rest of America does it is because of the partisan stall tactics created by republicans to try to halt anything the man tries to do to help this country get off your high horse.

      June 21, 2011 at 6:32 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Hasselhoff

    Can i sue George W. Bush for illegally going to war in Iraq?? Our own U.S. Soldiers dying for no reason what so ever, Iraq was no threat to the U.S.

    June 21, 2011 at 5:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • Brethomuel786

      The Iraq war was not an illegal war, im so sick of hearing that. You may not agree with it and thats fine. But the war was congressionally approved and to add even more evidence, Saddam broke more than 13 U.N. sactions and its in the U.N. doctrine that those actions warrant regime change.

      June 21, 2011 at 5:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • ShaJen

      Hasselhoff,
      G.W. Bush and his gang of cutthroats does need to held accountable for the many war crimes committed by him and his cronies. I would like to see the whole bunch in prison. Not some cush elite prison, but one of the prisons built to house our general population. I don't see it happening, though, as long as the elite maintain power.

      June 21, 2011 at 5:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • iamthefredman

      Iraq was "no threat" ? What disillusion drug are you taking? They had a nuke factory in the making. It was not for power supplies obviously since they are an oil exporting country. They had WMDs in the planning stages. No it was not yet built to completion, but it was known that Iraq was working on it. They gassed their own people as a test for trying out their terrorist techinques and for using gassing as a terrorist tool against their enemies... enemies like..... come on, you know... America ! Yea !

      June 21, 2011 at 5:54 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Joe Moore

    No im not mad because he's black, in fact I like JC Watts and Herman Cain. I dont like Obama because of his socialist stance.

    June 21, 2011 at 5:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • jeff

      good lord, I wish you people would make up your minds. Is Obama a corporatist or a socialist. You folks throw out so many digs, that you can't keep them straight.

      June 21, 2011 at 5:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • ShaJen

      Joe,

      Does this mean that you would like to take away health care for the millions of citizens who are living in poor health and even dying because they don't have money? Would you like to know that untold numbers of our nation's children are growing up half starved and suffer health consequences because of it? Remember the days when our elderly were forced to eat cat food to stay alive? Maybe you are not old enough, but that really happened before food stamps. How many times have you visited a homeless shelter? You might be surprised to find a lot of women and children there. Is it okay with you that a great and wealthy country such as ours should allow such things to go on? How about our country's soldiers coming home from war to find that there is no medical treatment available to help them learn to cope with the horrors of war? Many of them end up on the streets without shelter and food. Is this any way to treat the defenders of our land? You call taking care of these problems socialism? Really??? I don't get your position.

      June 21, 2011 at 5:57 pm | Report abuse |
  4. G.Saks

    Just the mention of Lindsay Graham, negates any possible intelligent mindthought of anyone, be they Democrat or Republican.

    June 21, 2011 at 5:09 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Teresa*

    WE SHOULD NOT HAVE N-E INVOLVEMENT IN LIBYA ...... WE NEED TO GET OUT OF WAR WITH THE ONE WERE N NOW ..... WHY ???? STICK OUR NOSES N LIBYA'S BUSINESS OUR GOVERNMENT HAS NO RIGHT TO DO THIS CONGRESS MUST GROW A BACK BONE & TELL OBAMA NO!

    June 21, 2011 at 5:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • loo jang

      lets just leave them civilians to suffer and rot under the current totalitarianim, that will show them we are a good country.

      June 21, 2011 at 5:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • SmarterThanYou

      I disagree with the term "war" being thrown around in this Libya situation. I have yet to see us put troops on the ground or set up any bases that are independent of the operations we are running with NATO. So am I to understand we should to just pull our obligations to NATO out, perhaps resort to isolationism?

      June 21, 2011 at 5:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jim

      I'd bet dollars to donuts that those whining about US involvment in Libya would be whining about the humanitarian crisis caused by Kadhafi's military slaughtering unarmed civilians if the US had done nothing.

      Newt Gingrich is the perfect example of Republican thinking. He said Obama should have attacked Libya, until Obama did. The flip flopped and criticized Obama for the very think HE wanted to do only hours before.

      Obama could single handedly cure all cancers and republicans would cry that he's putting doctors out of work. The GOP is the party of NO, meaning NO Credibility.

      June 21, 2011 at 5:57 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Jason

    Hey Hasselhoff, you really believe there were NO wmd's in Iraq? Ever hear of Fallujah? There WERE wmd's in Iraq, which subsequently moved OUT of Iraq right before and during the invasion to Syria and Iran. Idiot.

    June 21, 2011 at 5:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • Patrick Lewis

      There were no WMD's and no active WMD programs in Iraq when we were debating invading that country. Even the weapons inspectors thought invading them over non-compliance with UN resolutions was WAY overkill.

      Please read a book. Your "facts" aren't straight.

      June 21, 2011 at 5:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • Brethomuel786

      Correction, There were no Nuclear WMD's in Iraq. There absolutly was chemical WMDS. The U.S. military found over 500 chemical mortar and artillery rounds ready for use.

      June 21, 2011 at 5:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • effelbee

      There were neither nuclear nor chemical WMDs in Iraq, as that term is defined by the United Nations. Facts do matter.

      June 21, 2011 at 5:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • Neal

      There were no WMD's in Iraq. It was a lie to the american people to pursue alterior motives, and suckers like you believe it. Yet here we are making a big deal about Libya, which pales in comparison to the lives, time and money wastes in Iraq (which will probably crumble anyway soon after we leave)

      June 21, 2011 at 5:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jim

      Jason – I feel very confident that if George Bush has found a micro gram of fissile material in Iraq Bush would have paraded the find up and down Fox news channels. The fact that even George Bush doesn't claim that any WMDs were found seriously undermines your argument.

      Never the less, I'll give you a chance to identify the source of your information.

      June 21, 2011 at 6:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • ShaJen

      Jason,

      No, there were absolutely no WMD's in Iraq. It was all lies and the Bush bunch have publically admitted it. The truth doesn't matter at this point as the warmongers got what they wanted.

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

    For those wanting to sue Bush, don't forget to sue all the members of the House and Senate who voted to YES to that use of military power

    June 21, 2011 at 5:18 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Joe Moore

    You are absolutely correct Jason

    June 21, 2011 at 5:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • Patrick Lewis

      correct? On what planet? You think Iraq would have given anything to Iran of all people? Nothing went out of Iraq. There was NO WMD's. Even the Bush administration now admits that they got it wrong!

      June 21, 2011 at 5:29 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Patrick Lewis

    Ok, so, Obama hasn't done a great job in consulting with congress. At least he didn't boldly LIE HIS PANTS OFF AND FURTHER HAVE OTHER PEOPLE REPEAT THE SAME LIE TO CONGRESS.

    June 21, 2011 at 5:23 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Joe Moore

    If you want to sue anyone, then sue the world socialist billionaire George Soros. He is the one pulling Obama's strings.

    June 21, 2011 at 5:39 pm | Report abuse |
  11. OP

    This guy is gonna get a "kick in the pants" by the military industrial complex if he follows through with this.

    But I think it's all hot air for quick media exposure. He doesn't have the guts to stand up to the military machine.

    June 21, 2011 at 5:40 pm | Report abuse |
  12. ruben

    He use his Presidential power to declare war on Libya but cant'n use it to legalize the 12 millions hard worker the people who pick your vegetable, clean your houses and office, people that been ex ploy by unscrupulous employer. please don't come and ask for the Hispanic vote and please Republican get a candidate that we the Hispanic can help to put incharge enough of this administration that is sinking this country LETS VOTE OBAMA OUT.

    June 21, 2011 at 5:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • SmarterThanYou

      Again, when exactly did he declare "war"?? Do you have family members deployed there in Libya? Donde esta la familia? Yeesh.. I wish more people would read things to understand before just jumping out with "words that sound good" The War Powers act doesn't anything about NATO

      June 21, 2011 at 5:49 pm | Report abuse |
  13. hippediva

    Wh? Because he's a jerk wasting taxpayer money. Did anyone sue Bush Baby for Iraq? BigDaddy Bush for Iran? I didn't think so. Lunatic fringe loser

    June 21, 2011 at 5:48 pm | Report abuse |
  14. JakeF

    The hypocrisy of the political world is just amazing.

    Last time I checked, Saddam Hussein wasn't behind the planes flying into the WTC.

    But, unless history has changed, Ghadafi is still responsible for the deaths of 178 Americans on Pan Am flight 103.

    June 21, 2011 at 5:48 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Trump assistant

    I don't understand republicans, if was Bush bombing Lybia, none of the hillbillies would say anything, not that I agree with bombings or wars, but I don't get is the double standards.

    June 21, 2011 at 5:48 pm | Report abuse |
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