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. Andrew

    Bush lied, soldiers died, Jones went along for the ride, woo hoo!

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

      CIA and US intelligence lied, Bush made the mistake of believing them. As Prez, you gotta believe somebody. Too bad CIA F***D up.

      June 21, 2011 at 6:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • mash107

      When you commit thousands of people to death, you better have a better excuse than "but so-and-so told me so!"

      That is bullsh-t and you know it.

      Obama is cut from the same thread as Bush Jr. and he is as guilty of getting needlessly involved in a war as his predecessor.

      June 21, 2011 at 6:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • newworld

      Fredman… then what is he supposed to know? Yes, you rely on a lot of people… but the President's job is to get the truth before committing lives. The buck stops at the top.

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

      iamfredman every important decision has some underlying factors, but the wise man is the man who can make the best choice after sorting through all of the facts. If the CIA misled Bush, he made the decisions, therefore, ultimately, it was his responsiblility. Furthermore, remember, his father had the same choices to make and he was once head of the CIA, so let's not absolve a man of his legacy because the people he relied on erred.

      June 21, 2011 at 6:24 pm | Report abuse |
  2. zip

    After 10 years, thousands of lives, trillions of dollars in Iraq and Afghanistan, now this guy is upset?? A chance to get rid of one of the worst people on earth with no loss of American lives, and now this guy is upset?? What is wrong with the Republican party.

    June 21, 2011 at 5:50 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Tanbiker

    Yes, Walter. We know why you are suing the President over Libya. It's because you are a corrupt, blithering Republican idiot.

    June 21, 2011 at 5:53 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Anthony Quatroni

    What this idiotic country NEEDS to do is stop ALL military action, close our borders to Arabs and Mexicans, and put the hundreds of BILLIONS of dollars wasted on these other countries to good use, fixing the myriad of problems we have right here. Is that going to happen? OF COURSE NOT! We're too politically correct. True stupidity.

    June 21, 2011 at 5:53 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Wayne

    The US has absolutely the worst intellgence of any major country. It is game playing to the extreme.

    June 21, 2011 at 5:55 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Rudy Gonzales

    We have a double-faced, politically motivated act of self inflicted idiocy on Rep. Walter Jones! A conservative GOP-er with Loser stamped on his forehead. He's from North Carolina! That says it all!

    June 21, 2011 at 5:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • ndlily

      But that doesn't mean he's wrong.

      June 21, 2011 at 6:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • Stopthemadness

      ndlily it does mean he is wrong "The Patriot Act" says he is wrong. Which requires the president to hunt down and kill any terrorist threat against our country. Before you try to determine right and wrong maybe you ought to know all the things at play here.

      June 21, 2011 at 6:27 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Sonicmonty1

    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."

    Saddam? Wow- your really stupid- It wasnt Saddam you TARD...It was Osama, Hellloooo? or did you call in sick that day?

    June 21, 2011 at 5:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • pat

      He's saying he didin't believe Saddam had anything to do with it and questioned the invasion of Iraq...that was his conscience, but he didn't act on it. I'm sure he knows who was behind it. Republicans have always supported war – usually because the war machine manufacturers have them in their pockets – but now they are ready to blame Obama for everything and everything they say is for one reason only: Make Obama a one-term president.

      June 21, 2011 at 6:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • CommonSense

      Before you spew hate, at least read and try to understand what the Representative is saying. He said that he voted for the invasion in spite of what his conscience was telling him. Bush was using the 9/11 event as a pretext to invading Iraq and instead of voting against giving Bush the authority to do so, he disregarded his conscience and voted for it (which he now regrets).

      Agree with him or disagree with him – it's up to you. But at least understand what he is saying. Otherwise, you are just making yourself look like the fool.

      June 21, 2011 at 6:30 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Wayne

    The US has the worst intellegence of any country.

    June 21, 2011 at 5:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • Wayne

      ..."intelligence" Sorry.

      June 21, 2011 at 5:59 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Lawyers are evil

    Lawyers will sue anyone..they would sue their own mother...hate 'em!!

    June 21, 2011 at 5:59 pm | Report abuse |
  10. iamthefredman

    The Bush administration had a great plan of attack on Iran. It just looked good on papaer but the Iraqis and the Al-Quaeda in Iraq were not counted on to win so much. The plan was to invade Afghanistan and take over, set up military bases and run the country. Next invade Iraq, #1) take out Saddam and & Co., #2) set up military bases, #3) surround and invade IRAN and take out all the freak show Muslims running and ruining that country. Al-Quaeda could not be stopped if the crazy Mullahs in Iran were helping them. This was the best way on paper to get the bad guys out and some stability in the region. Bush & Co. didn't count on the power grab by the Iraqi people and militants that screwed up the plan.

    June 21, 2011 at 6:02 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Ben

    Political maneuvering at its finest. He's doing nothing more than playing to the mob. He's trying to get re-elected, that's all.

    By the way, the fact that Camp Lejeune falls in his district means nothing. As an active duty servicemember, your vote (if you have the time or inclination) is cast for your home of record. For instance, I was stationed in Camp Pendleton, CA, but, I voted as a South Carolinian.

    June 21, 2011 at 6:02 pm | Report abuse |
  12. JoeT

    I surely understand his oppositiion to the Libyan operation as a matter of checks and balances against a growing imperial presidency, but regret that he had to wait until now to find his conscience. How many thousands of lives and billions of dollars would haven been saved if he and others voiced their opposition, based on principle during the past decade of US war-mongering?

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

    republicans would probably be pro-choice if Obama was pro-life, they JUST want to oppose him.

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

      Now you get the idea!!!

      June 21, 2011 at 6:11 pm | Report abuse |
  14. chf

    Typical political posturing. When his party's president is in office, he fully supports war. When the other party's president takes military action, suddenly Jones grows a conscience. What Jones needs to grow is a spine and something between his legs.

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

    This man and other such partisan IDIOTS – seem to have absolutely NO knowledge of how many Presidents from BOTH sides of the isle have put US troops in harm's way (or POTENTIALLY harm's way) without either first seeking Congressional approval before it happened – or – advised Congress AFTER the action was completed !!!!!!!

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

      Iran Hostage Rescue Attempt: Is Consultation Always Necessary and Possible?
      El Salvador: When Are Military Advisers in Imminent Hostilities?
      Honduras: When Are Military Exercises More than Training?
      Such military actions upon the command of the President either BEFORE such actions were launched – or – they were already COMPLETED when Congress was advised include:

      Persian Gulf, 1987
      Invasion of Panama
      Iranian hostage rescue

      An example of a REPUBLICAN PRESIDENT engaging in initiating military action WITHOUT citing the appropriate War Powers Section to trigger the automatic 90 duration – was President Herbert Walker Bush !!

      A week after the invasion, on August 9, President Bush reported to Congress "consistent with the War Powers Resolution" THAT HE HAD ALREADY 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."

      So all this sanctimonious, partisan, b.s. and suing Obama for violation of the War Powers Act is just that – SANCTIMONIOUS, PARTISAN, B.S. !!!

      June 21, 2011 at 6:16 pm | Report abuse |
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