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. Philip

    @lloyd roberts...great post. You explained it exactly as it is/was. The idea the Iraq had anything to do with 9/11 was obvious to everyone except the blind flag-wavers who think that the US gov. can do no wrong. (when their fav party is in charge)

    June 21, 2011 at 8:27 pm | Report abuse |
  2. DesMoiner

    So why didn't he sue GWB for the "war" in Iraq, a complete abomination. Jones is a typical amerikan GOP robot driven to push his fascist ideologies onto all the non-believers.

    June 21, 2011 at 8:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • Fiddle Fidelis

      You got it @DesMoiner. A pit of vipers.

      June 21, 2011 at 8:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • Poop Flinger

      GW Bush had Congressional apporoival for invading Iraq. OBlubber is going against the wishes of the people and Congress continuing his illegal attack without approval before or after the fact.

      June 21, 2011 at 8:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • TomFoolery

      In case you were unaware, sir, GW Bush went to the Congress and got specific authorization for that action. Whether you agree with it or not is moot. It is not a situation analogous to the current one, where the president is refusing to request the authorization of the Congress for his action in Libya.

      June 21, 2011 at 9:03 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Fiddle Fidelis

    No GOPer has a leg to stand on when it comes to challenging the President on killing people. These are the same guys who called anti-Iraq and anti-Afghanistan protesters "un-American". They are the same ones who allowed Bush to place us into deep hock to China because they wanted to kill brown people but didn't want to raise taxes to do it. Now China owns us and we have a Dem President and suddenly the Reps have morals. ha. I see through them.

    June 21, 2011 at 8:34 pm | Report abuse |
  4. CBR

    The lawmakers suing President Obama are an interesting group of politicians. They are suing over the United States involvement in a United Nations mission. A few years ago we were complaining about the UN and the lack of participation of friendly neighbors in our fight with Saddam. No troops have landed in Libya although they have in past years. Although it may have been Dwight Eisenhower how sent them in.

    Libya was happy to receive those involed in the bombing of the PanAm Flight. I believe their leader met them and treated them like returning heroes. Folks, many innocent men, women and children were on that flight. They had not done anything to anyone and were not on a political mission. Do not forget those who have died so violently but remember where the bomb makers were from.

    The killing of men, women, and children is abominable. However, putting men, women, and children in harms way is wrong as well. All of us need to remember that every action causes a reaction. Let's give those participating in the mission a chance to do their job.

    June 21, 2011 at 8:35 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Philip

    Where did Saddam get all those weapons? Who in their right mind would arm a madman with high-tech weaponry AFTER he had comitted atrocities against his own people? Read The Teicher Affidavit. Sworn testimony by the highest ranking CIA official to ever come-clean about who did this dastardly deed. (arming a known madman) Teicher's testimony includes every detail about how the US and israeli governments did in fact arm that idiot. The CIA helped the Kurds plan their rebellion and armed them, promising to back them up with troops when they rebelled. The Kurds rebelled but the troops never showed. Saddam easily wiped them out with his shiny new weapons and and his twisted mind.

    June 21, 2011 at 8:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • DesMoiner

      We back despots and tyrants all the time, and we never learn our lesson. Pinochet, Noriega, The Shah, Saddam....same situation over and over...

      June 21, 2011 at 8:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jazzzzzzzz

      yeah just google it and its the first one on the list... takes you right to "information clearing house"

      June 21, 2011 at 10:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jazzzzzzzz

      @ Desmoiner .. yeah at it's all for the BLACK GOLD

      June 21, 2011 at 10:32 pm | Report abuse |
  6. ben

    @ben: So we're in agreement that Bush\Cheney aren't war criminals then? Good now we can move on to more important issues.

    June 21, 2011 at 8:36 pm | Report abuse |
  7. annieL

    Congress has NEVER voted against a resolution to wage war and wouldn't have even if President Obama had asked for it in advance for Libya. So what's the point of asking? Until we get enough Congressmen and women who are not afraid to say No to the saber-rattling "patriots" back home, not afraid of being called "unAmerican" or "coward," there's really no point to the War Powers Act. Congress will do what ANY president tells them he needs to do militarily.

    June 21, 2011 at 8:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ariel

      The War Powers Act doesn't require the president to ask for permission in advance. It requires that he requests permission within 60 days of sending in the troops, so that it is the entire nation that is behind the war effort, not just one guy. After that 60 days, the president is supposed to start withdrawing troops if it was, in fact, just a brief mission. After that 60 day period, the next 30 days are when the troops should be withdrawn. If it was so obvious that it would be approved, then it wouldn't be that hard to run it by Congress. To me, it seems disrespectful of the president toward Congress and the voters who Congress represents.

      June 21, 2011 at 8:57 pm | Report abuse |
  8. felton

    Seems that Mr. Jones is attempting to make for a past mistake by doing to Obama what should have been done with Bush, however, I will suggest that Obama's action, I'd be more willing to support.

    If Mr. Jones want to make up for his mistake with Bush, I'd suggest Mr. Jones should investigate war crimes against Bush and his admin, now that is something the entire world would support even the Brits.

    June 21, 2011 at 8:41 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Derasa

    What he need to do is find a job where he can do something positive. Why don"t try to find a way to help create jobs instead? why these people keep looking to fight the president ?

    June 21, 2011 at 8:41 pm | Report abuse |
  10. ben

    AnnieL: So you're stating that the President should just say the hell with the Co nsti tution, sorry had to split that up due to CNN censors, ol' Ted Turner hates the Co nst itution kind of like Obama.

    June 21, 2011 at 8:54 pm | Report abuse |
  11. gung hoe

    Boy i love reading the post from you obama backers every reason under the sun that you love this mutt that you elected your presedent but the main reason you idiots elected him i have not heard anybody say and id like to ask you obama backers just how that hope and change working out for you people because i know how its working for me my hope is we have a change in 2012 perry palin bachman huntsman and you dummie demmies think the elephant isnt coming after the donkey better think again

    June 21, 2011 at 8:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • hustlenflo

      next time you try to post – please put down the beer bottle.

      June 21, 2011 at 9:01 pm | Report abuse |
  12. pablopaul

    Surprised no one has mentioned Reagan's bombing of LIbya. He didn't have COngressional approval. I think gaddafi would also consider that hostilties.

    June 21, 2011 at 8:57 pm | Report abuse |
  13. David

    ...and he's preparing to indict Cheney, Wolfowitz, Rumsfeld, and Bush for war crimes and lying to Congress next, of course. Wait, he isn't? Hmmmm...

    June 21, 2011 at 8:58 pm | Report abuse |
  14. hustlenflo

    Graham wants everyone to forget that Obama took down Bin Laden which Bush was never able to do. In fact, Bush's bungling allowed Bin Laden to escape from Tora Bora. If Dubya had invaded Libya Lindsay Graham would have been singing his praises for attacking a terrorist state and bringing democracy to the oppressed Libyans. However since Obama is a Democrat and dark-skinned, Senator Graham is defending Ghaddafi. Who would expect anything less from the senior senator from the state of South KKK .... er I mean Carolina.

    June 21, 2011 at 9:00 pm | Report abuse |
  15. ben

    @pablopaul: Reagan targeted a military facility also he didn't need congressional approval for that it fell within the purview of his powers as Commander In Chief. Obama is now in violation of that.

    June 21, 2011 at 9:02 pm | Report abuse |
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