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. VIRANKA

    Walter Jones your a nobody trying to sabotage bipartisanship just to try and make a name for yourself,what your wife want more power or lobbyist money?

    June 21, 2011 at 7:46 pm | Report abuse |
  2. ben

    @ufools back at you, disagree with the president but respect the office, oh that's right you didn't. What goes around comes around, you had your turn now it's ours. Charge Obama and Biden with war crimes immediately for killing innocent Libyan citizens.

    June 21, 2011 at 7:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ben

      Civilians dying during military action is not a war crime. Deliberately targeting civilians is a war crime. There is no evidence that civilians are being deliberately targeted by the US. That is only being done by their own government. Try throwing some reality into your comments for a change.

      June 21, 2011 at 8:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • joey

      great, now we have neocons and libs playing TAG. just what we need.

      June 21, 2011 at 8:21 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Ronnie Harper

    /yawn. Next?

    June 21, 2011 at 7:53 pm | Report abuse |
  4. VIRANKA

    so MR. Jones not been to war ,have you served in the military? do you actually now the price of 200 years of freedom other than what you have read in a BOOK!!!!! just another disgusting republican.(i am not a demo either). i am for the man that can do the job for all American REGUARDLESS OF PARTY!!!!

    June 21, 2011 at 7:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • joey

      no women, eh ?

      June 21, 2011 at 8:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • the_truth

      @joey ewwwwww girls have cooties

      June 21, 2011 at 9:19 pm | Report abuse |
  5. ben

    @Scott: yeah it's the same bottle of stupid Democrats drink from.

    June 21, 2011 at 7:59 pm | Report abuse |
  6. kim

    Crazy ass rude people are just trying to start a racial war even though no one cares who they are or what they got to say there not that important

    June 21, 2011 at 8:01 pm | Report abuse |
  7. dieselbug

    I thought Republicans didn't flip-flop on war votes?

    June 21, 2011 at 8:02 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Michigan_Joe

    If all these Republicans spent as much time trying to get people back to work as they do on frivolous lawsuits, we might get this economic mess under control. These are all diversions to keep them in the news and avoid the real work they were hired to do.Being a Corporate puppet means REPUBLICAN these days.

    June 21, 2011 at 8:04 pm | Report abuse |
  9. bart

    @hasselhoff: no you can't sue Bush for going into Iraq illegally because he didn't, he had approval from congress. @Brian: Saddam used WMD's on the Kurds, so no it wasn't miss information.

    June 21, 2011 at 8:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • dieselbug

      @bart – Who is miss information – did she compete in Miss USA the other night? The justification for Iraq was he currently had WMDs which he did not. The administration misled the American people and the UN by knowingly presenting false information.

      June 21, 2011 at 8:11 pm | Report abuse |
  10. lloyd roberts

    Your conscience told you that you were not convinced Saddam brought down the WTC. Jeez, I was convinced he didn't do it the next day. Here you go idiot head Bush lapgog; 19 hijackers on 9-11. 15 from one country alone, Saudi Arabia. Two from Pakistan, one from Egypt and one from a Gulf State. And the previous attack in 1993, Ramsy Yusef and five other Pakistani terrorists. NOT ONE FROM IRAQ. Your consciece allowed W to waste huge amounts of time, money and American manpower on some BS yellow cake scam. Worst military and diplomatic blunder this country ever made.

    June 21, 2011 at 8:10 pm | Report abuse |
  11. ben

    @kim: quite making everything about race. Obama and Biden are war criminals.

    June 21, 2011 at 8:11 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Larry

    another old angry white man.....how dare u black man overstep ur boundaries and take us to war?? That right is only reserved for white males from texas gadammit!...eeeeeeeeeeyaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhh!

    June 21, 2011 at 8:13 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Ariel Young

    Regardless of whether or not you agree with this law or with the military involvement in Libya, and regardless of how you feel towards Obama...If you actually read the War Powers law, it is pretty clear the what the president is doing is illegal. There is a reason that the government has three branches of government with checks and balances. It is important to maintain that balance in order for our government to really speak for the people. To say that other past presidents have failed in that respect does not mean that we should come to expect such behaviour.

    June 21, 2011 at 8:14 pm | Report abuse |
  14. N

    "Jones is choosing not to look at history." You have to look and listen to history – you have to -gasp-LEARN FROM HISTORY. Otherwise we are all doomed to repeat it due to your stupidity.

    June 21, 2011 at 8:16 pm | Report abuse |
  15. ben

    what Saddam didn't use on the Kurds he sent to Syria and Russia or perhaps you forgot about all the truck loads and plane loads of materials being shipped out the months leading up to the invasion. I agree that he shouldn't have made his case on WMD's due to the fact it would be impossible to prove, I always thought the case to congress and the U.N. should've been about genocide the U.N. would've had to join us then especially after we helped them with Bosnia. And yes you're right it should've been misinformation, I'm on a blackberry and I was just typing too fast and didn't catch that mistake-thanks.

    June 21, 2011 at 8:22 pm | Report abuse |
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