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. JH1

    The pitiful partisanship that plagues these comment boards just goes to show that America is far from being fixed. You all yell and scream "Your president did that!" "Well your president did this!" trying to one up and justify your 'sides' transgressions with past transgressions by the other side. How do you expect your reps to act any differently when you're all no better yourselves?

    Until you're all going to stand up and say enough is enough and we've all done a lot of bad stuff that we're going to put behind us; stop trying to win one for your team and try to win one for America, and toss the bums out, the US is just going to continue down this illogical, irrational path of mutual assured self destruction.

    June 21, 2011 at 6:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • SNAPPA

      I couldn't agree more, we are no longer all Americans we are now identifying ourselves as Democrat, Repulican, right wing, left wing. As funny as this sounds I truly believe that there are those that fan the flames as such, one example is FOX news Chris Wallace recently sat down with Jon Stewart of the Daily Show and told him that FOX news gives the other side of the equation meaning the right wing side. I've heard no other news station claim to be for one side or the other they are suppose to be impartial to which FOX news is not. The intelligence level in America is falling rapidly given examples of Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachman niether can define American history correctly and these are people who would like to lead this country. Another reason is religion, it divides and is only good for alienating people and some of the religious views in this country are tatamount to the Taliban's way of thinking. That is not good for America.

      June 21, 2011 at 7:30 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Scott

    So is there like a big bottle of stupid that all republicans have to drink from?

    June 21, 2011 at 6:57 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Dopes in Office

    Obviously, this buffoon has no clue about the legal principle called "sovereign immunity." You really can't sue a sitting president, even if he crapped on your sidewalk. Wake up, America... More window dressing and useless bluster.

    June 21, 2011 at 6:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • dnick47

      Of course he doesn't! Its a NO BRAINER. He's a REPUBLICAN.

      June 21, 2011 at 7:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • leeintulsa

      Weren't they elected to make jobs, jobs, jobs? Wonder when they'll get to that?

      June 21, 2011 at 7:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • Aloisae

      Actually, you are incorrect, Dopes in Office. Clinton v Jones, 520 US 681 (1997) established that the President "is subject to the same laws that apply to all citizens" and does NOT have official immunity for personal, private conduct. However, given that being the Commander in Chief of the armed forces is part of the President's official duties, in this specific case official immunity probably does apply.

      June 21, 2011 at 7:33 pm | Report abuse |
  4. John

    Of course it is just principle..............bwahahahahahahahhaahhaa......and nothing to do with election year gradstanding.....bwahahahahahahhaahahahahhahahaha

    which is why this congressman sued bush to force a withdrawl from Iraq after the US weapons inspections found abnsolutely no evidence that there was or had been any WMD programs, the specific cause mentioned in the force resolution authorizing bush to invade.

    June 21, 2011 at 7:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • Maty

      Please, people, stop using "bwa hah hahs", regardless of your political affiliations.

      June 21, 2011 at 7:52 pm | Report abuse |
  5. uFools

    Disagree with our President but, respect the highest office. Wanna do something constructive, charge Bush/Cheney with war crimes. This post will not see the light of day

    June 21, 2011 at 7:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • palmjam

      Oh no they are charge. The day they leave America soil they will be arrested.

      June 21, 2011 at 7:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chartreuxe

      I see you and your post, ufools. President Obama feels it's best to get on with the business of government. Suing those idiots won't do much more than make us all look like fools. It's a bad idea and I agree with him.

      Think how it would make us look in the world. President Clinton was under investigation throughout his entire Presidency. It's a very bad idea.

      June 21, 2011 at 7:31 pm | Report abuse |
  6. palmjam

    How much were you idiots promise to get under the table ? You should be a shame of youselves.

    June 21, 2011 at 7:01 pm | Report abuse |
  7. jDub81

    Mr (Klan) Jones and the rest of your co-horts are suing the president because of who he is and not this war you're using as a cover. You and your bunch are pathetic people whose time has pass.

    June 21, 2011 at 7:08 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Larry L

    When you're a political terrorist you take any path that undermines our government. Libya is not a war. Iraq is a war. Our greatest threat in the US is from a broken Congress. The GOP Filibuster Club in the Senate is a perfect example of political terrorism.

    June 21, 2011 at 7:13 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Joe Blow

    What a fat headed hypocrite. Then all Republicans are hyprocrites to the max! They think that God is on there side just because they believe themselves to be "Christian". Jesus will say of them n Matthew "Get away from me you hyprocrites, for it is Satan you worship not me"! .

    For every bad move that the left makes the Republicans make 2. and pat themselves on the back in front of people and God just like the Pharasees and Saducees. At least the left cares a little about we little people while the fat-headed
    Republicans worship money and power and Wall Street and Corporate America and sacrifice innocent blood to Satan in their relentless blood sucking war machine. Who was the one that sent troops to MIddle East in the first place? If they claim to be Christians, why would they have any fear of anyone? Don't they trust that God would be on there side?

    At any rate weapons will be no match when Jesus comes to judge the world. At that time you can bet that this fat-head along with the Republicans will be at the front lines trying to fight HIm and His angels. What a bunch of hyprocritical morons they are.

    June 21, 2011 at 7:17 pm | Report abuse |
  10. ksobsrver

    Are you required to have a frontal lobotomy to be a Republican?

    June 21, 2011 at 7:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • Maty

      But no ire for Kerry or H.Clinton for reversing their stances, eh?

      June 21, 2011 at 7:57 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Joe Blow

    Let Obama share a jail cell with Bush then. If you impeach one impeach the guy who sent troops over there in the first place with no Congressional approval or declaration of war. I don't care impeach them both.

    June 21, 2011 at 7:20 pm | Report abuse |
  12. brain dead angry tea party thingy

    E My conservative master told me to be a troublemaker to Obama.

    June 21, 2011 at 7:23 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Bruce H

    Sort of moot if the court decides he does not possess standing.

    June 21, 2011 at 7:32 pm | Report abuse |
  14. GoProgress

    The reason he is doing it is after his name in the photo caption: "R-North Carolina"

    June 21, 2011 at 7:34 pm | Report abuse |
  15. ben

    @joe blow: congress voted to declare war on Afghanistan and Iraq, nice try though.

    June 21, 2011 at 7:43 pm | Report abuse |
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