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. marci

    Great another waste of taxpayers money

    June 21, 2011 at 6:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • fiskenmann

      Obama's goose is cooked if he hires Casey Anthony's lawyer!!!

      June 21, 2011 at 6:49 pm | Report abuse |
  2. DB

    This is why OB will be president again in 2012, because of republican flip-floppers like this. Pretty much all of the contenders are switching their tune to firm up support with their base...pitiful. How can you all fall for this stuff!

    June 21, 2011 at 6:19 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Jennifer

    I did not know that was an option....

    June 21, 2011 at 6:23 pm | Report abuse |
  4. xmik

    No one has any respect for the office of the President of the United States; not Democrats and not Republicans. As soon as one party takes the oath of office, the other party begins every campaign that they can think of to keep the country divided for the entire term of office of the President with no regard whatsoever to the cost of all these underhanded plots. It just keeps the whole country divided and sadly, probably always will.

    June 21, 2011 at 6:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • vincent

      Wow you really hit the nail on the head....

      June 21, 2011 at 7:01 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Stopthemadness

    It's pretty simple the patriot act which republicans made sure stayed in effect simply translated says it is the duty of the president to hunt down and defeat any and all threats of terrorism against the United States. Which has been done and now the president has to follow the mandate of "The Patriot Act" They won't win in court and it is a further attempt at wasting tax payer money filing frivolous lawsuits.

    June 21, 2011 at 6:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • Pat in IL

      This is one of the most irresponsible acts these idiots could participate in. Suing the president for a made up agenda just to "make a point" uses resources that are needed to govern the country....people and finances. These people need to be booted out of office for treason immediately.

      June 21, 2011 at 7:00 pm | Report abuse |
  6. bashaleebee

    They are going to investigate and sue because it's the best kind of taxpayer waste of a Starr Report the Republicans can do. It's always something, isn't it? They have become so dirty and their blind followers are just that. Forget about koolaid ... these folks are drinking poison.

    June 21, 2011 at 6:24 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Marv

    He's sueing because he's a d-bag. He's sueing because he's a d-bag.

    June 21, 2011 at 6:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • infonomics

      Suing not sueing. Don't get Sue involved in your rage.

      June 21, 2011 at 6:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • the_truth

      lol @infonomics you just made my day

      June 21, 2011 at 7:48 pm | Report abuse |
  8. jdog

    where were these cowards when idiot Bush practically did the same thing with Iraq, riiiight the RUSH to condemn and mislead, and revenge sapped their common sense that eh rest of the world seemed to have

    June 21, 2011 at 6:26 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Congolezza Rice

    Let's see, he voted for attacking Iraq, the President voted against attacking Iraq. The President is only supporting our allies in Lybia and not sending any ground troops and this fool wants to sue the President???? He should sue himself for voting for the war in Iraq and supporting the life sustaining injuries and deaths of many of our young service personel that were affected by that war. This guy has already spent to much time in Congress and needs to be booted out. Intstead of wasting so much of his time by sueing the President, that is paid for by the taxpayers, perhaps it would be better spent on how he can help the country and his district. Just saying....

    June 21, 2011 at 6:26 pm | Report abuse |
  10. ARAV

    Clown! Did have these sort of reservations when we were losing many young men and women in Iraq and Afghanistan. Hypocrite!

    June 21, 2011 at 6:38 pm | Report abuse |
  11. USATxMx

    Obama is American:) ALL THAT ASIDE. About the wars... We all have our own opinions & views which at times we will disagree... That's Democracy. Now consider this..(WITH ALL DUE RESPECT AND THANKFULNESS TO THEM) Our soldiers have VOLINTEERED.. (They signed Themselves in Pledged in times of war or no war... meaning they were NOT DRAFTED. ¶Gone are the days when anyone would loose respect for Our PRESIDENTS in decisions regardless of error.

    June 21, 2011 at 6:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • the_truth

      you spelled volunteer wrong

      June 21, 2011 at 7:51 pm | Report abuse |
  12. clarke

    One would think there are more important issues to be taken care of on the home front. Guess these fellas in Washington haven nothing to do. That being the case why don't they just retire, so we can pay for that too. Put it on the backs of the taxpayer, we are loaded, cut services well you are at it. We don't need them. Disgraceful.

    June 21, 2011 at 6:43 pm | Report abuse |
  13. katu

    well he could just lie to Congress and tell them that there are WMD's there like Bush did, that would stir up the compassionate conservatives, oops oxymoron

    June 21, 2011 at 6:48 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Ichi

    It's not going to work, lmao

    June 21, 2011 at 6:51 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Dennis

    A vote wasn't good enough.

    June 21, 2011 at 6:53 pm | Report abuse |
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