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. BENJI

    He is suing Obama because he is a black man in charge and people like him do not like black men in charge of anything. If McCain was president and attacked Libya this guy would be supporting him 100%.

    June 21, 2011 at 9:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • la

      Absolutely !!!!!!

      June 21, 2011 at 9:13 pm | Report abuse |
  2. K3Citizen

    Walter Jones must not forget that America has allies and we need to keep those allies. Backing away from Libya will empower Ghaddafi even more than ever.

    June 21, 2011 at 9:07 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Rick1948

    Why I'm suing the President? How about because you're an idiot.

    June 21, 2011 at 9:08 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Philip

    Several American's are sueing G Dub for his blunders. Even 9/11 victims families are sueing him and his Arab House of Saud buddies. Dubya offered all of the victims's families 1/2 million dollars each to drop these lawsuits. Not all of the families were so easily bribed though and are still pursueing this matter in court. The case has been going on for 10 yrs. Someone(s) is's dragging their feets O' justice.

    June 21, 2011 at 9:16 pm | Report abuse |
  5. ben

    @BENJI: the race card isn't going to work forever, just like blaming Bush isn't, sooner or later Obama is going to have to answer for his policies.

    June 21, 2011 at 9:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • nightfatty

      Answer what about his policies? What has he done wrong?

      June 21, 2011 at 9:57 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Philip

    Hogwash. Bush hasn't had to answer for squat and neither will Obama. Both are masters of talking out of the sides of their necks. And that's the lingo most folks relate to.

    June 21, 2011 at 9:21 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Warrior

    In times of war, where an imminent threat exists against the US or its allies...why do we not condone enlistment for felons...why send a kid looking for college cash who has never even been in a fist fight? Why not send those who ARE combative by nature...instead, we send bright eyed kids with a future. We fill prisons with able bodied men @ $22,000 apiece annually. Do the math. Black or White...our last few presidents were bad for thus country.

    June 21, 2011 at 9:25 pm | Report abuse |
  8. ben

    @Philip: you always manage take a small tidbit of fact and twist it. It's the Saudi's and al qaeda that are being sued not G Dubbya. BTW Alena Kagan is the Supreme Court Justice who suppressed the lawsuits, guess who nominated her-that's right Obama.

    June 21, 2011 at 9:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jazzzzzzzz

      Hello he's taking about the Iran/Iraq war in 82 – 87 read before you comment

      June 21, 2011 at 10:35 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Stan

    I'm not suprised. If the Rebublicans lose the lection they will move to imeach the President for some rediculous thing they conjur up. Its treason in my book. Unamerican and dishonorable.

    June 21, 2011 at 9:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • nightfatty

      I fully agree with you. It will also cost money!

      June 21, 2011 at 10:03 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Dr. Canuck

    I'm suing the President because it shows I am doing something in my worthless career. Now, I don't have to worry about things that matter to everyday Americans: jobs; the economy; the deficit and debt; housing/mortgage issues; etc. I AM busy – suing POTUS. See me work hard and earn my taxpayer funded salary, benefits, expenses, etc.?

    June 21, 2011 at 9:30 pm | Report abuse |
  11. ben

    @Warrior: I agree somewhat, but do you really want those crazy people in possession of those kinds of weapons, doubtful if you think about it.

    June 21, 2011 at 9:32 pm | Report abuse |
  12. she

    Aaaaahhhhhhh, another retrublican. As they stated when Obama won, we will not let him succeed at
    anything! Even at the expense of this country and it's people they continue to stop any change that wil help
    everyone, except of course, the very wealthy, power hungary corporate Americans. Why can't the average
    person see how much they are losing and the power hungary are gaining. They are trying to eliminate all that
    has been gained for the people, i.e., health care, SS, medicare, better education, EPA, unions. It's all there
    for us and we do contribute. Libya and Egypt were for humanitarian reasons. We should have gone in and
    helped the Iranians when they were slaughtering all the young people. With all the technology, the world has
    become to small not to care about all people on this planet.

    June 21, 2011 at 9:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • nightfatty

      Agreed. It's the only promise they stuck with

      June 21, 2011 at 10:07 pm | Report abuse |
  13. ben

    @she: Oh, I see, so we SHOULD go into Libya and Iran to help the people but it was WRONG to go into Iraq and Afghanistan to help the people. Yep makes perfect sense to me-not.

    June 21, 2011 at 9:44 pm | Report abuse |
  14. qpq

    They are all corrupt! Bush is also a low brow idiot. Obama said he would bring the troops home and run a open presidency to which he has done neither. He also extended the bush tax cuts to the rich and gave nearly 3 trillion to the bankers. Obama is a tool.

    None of them have proven to be fit for office!

    June 21, 2011 at 9:52 pm | Report abuse |
  15. gung hoe

    Hey jazzzzz im not necassarily right boy but iam white boy and im playing that funky music lol but jazzz talking to something more serious ya know obama didnt intend to have to invade libia when he took office ya know just like bush g w didnt intend on iraq but there was this this little thing called 911 and ya know what bush had the responcability to keep yours and my family safe and we have not been attacked since then and some people need to wake up but thats why we have troops over there taking the fight to them instead of on our shore so everyone of you had better stop and think the next time they complane about the war we didnt start this this thing but were trying to end it

    June 22, 2011 at 2:58 am | Report abuse |
    • Jazzzzzzzz

      thanks for the correction, so I guess for me your Nick Name is (White Boy) from now on. And No we invaded on purpose for the oil. Look at the Pipeline, The National Security Directives Reagan issued. Now were going back for the oil.

      June 22, 2011 at 4:01 am | Report abuse |
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