02/14/07 — Jones will speak for anti-surge resolution

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Jones will speak for anti-surge resolution

By Matthew Whittle
Published in News on February 14, 2007 1:53 PM

In 2002, U.S. Rep. Walter Jones, R-North Carolina, voted for the use-of-force resolution that gave President George W. Bush the authority to enter Iraq. Later, Jones changed his mind and began publicly taking a stand against the war.

Today, Jones was expected to stand on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives and speak in favor of the controversial non-binding resolution he is co-sponsoring with Rep. Ike Skelton, D-Missouri, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, and Rep. Tom Lantos, D-California.

The two-sentence resolution lays its position out plainly.

"Congress and the American people will continue to support and protect the members of the United States Armed Forces who are serving or who have served bravely and honorably in Iraq; and Congress disapproves of the decision of President George W. Bush announced on January 10, 2007, to deploy more than 20,000 additional United States combat troops to Iraq."

But it holds no actual authority.

"This is non-binding," Jones said. "It's a statement.

"It says we support the troops, but we're opposed to the surge."

Co-sponsoring the resolution, though, was not a decision that Jones came to lightly.

"I have listened to the professionals and talked to the generals and they say this will not work. All of them (Gen. Colin Powell, Lt. Gen. Jay Garner, Gen. Barry McCaffrey, Gen. John Abizaid and Gen. Joseph Hoar) are very clear -- the proposed solution to surge more troops won't work. The proposed number of 21,000 is too little, too late," he said.

"I hate to see our men and women refereeing a civil war and that's what this is -- a civil war."

He does not believe that this resolution will hurt the morale of the troops on the ground.

In fact, he said, both Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Peter Pace told the House Armed Services Committee that it would not.

"When asked if it would hurt the morale of the troops, both men answered, 'No,'" Jones said. "They understand Congress has a responsibility when it comes to funding the military and that we have a responsibility to discuss policy."

And right now, he continued, America's policy in Iraq is not going in the right direction.

"I support the troops, but right now we have a failed policy," Jones said. "We don't know where we're going. It's like we're in a dark hole with no light.

"To me, somebody has to got to say, 'Mr. President, you have got to work with us.'"

But he admits he doesn't have an alternative solution to the president's troop surge.

He said that he doesn't favor an immediate withdrawal, but would support some sort of redeployment. He just doesn't know what form that redeployment might take.

What he does know, is that the Iraqi government and the Iraqi people must do more.

"I think there's got to be a review by the administration and Congress trying to figure out some way we can say to the Iraqis that they've got to pick up the slack and stop depending on Americans," he said. "There's got to be a political solution. They're going to have to work this thing out."

He hopes that such a solution can eventually be found through Congress' debate of the issue, possibly by next month when a war spending bill is expected to come across members' desks.

"This is the first time since we began in Iraq that there's been any type of statement," Jones said. "I hope this is the first step in a multitude of steps. I think you're going to see more discussion and debate between Congress and the administration about what options are available besides a pullout. This is the beginning of a debate that should go on several months.

"Of course, I'm not in the majority so I don't know, but I think it is.'"

So far, he added, his support of the measure has been taken in stride by the Republican Party.

"Most people know me. I've been outspoken on this issue for three years now," he said. "One of my colleagues, defeated this past November, said, 'There's one thing about Walter Jones. I don't agree with all of his policy, but there's no questioning his heart.'"

Right now, though, the battle lines over the resolution appear to be drawn mostly along party lines -- Republicans against and Democrats for -- but Jones does expect several of his colleagues to cross over.

"A lot of Republicans will vote for this," he said. "I guarantee that more than 30 want to, but I will say there will be 20 to 30 that will."