WASHINGTON – After an emotional speech on the House floor Thursday, Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC) cast a vote to bring U.S. forces home from Afghanistan by the end of this year. The resolution, sponsored by Jones and Reps. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) and Ron Paul (R-TX), failed 321-93, but they had more votes than last year in favor of the bill.
In an interview with Raw Story after the vote, Jones said he was disappointed by the lack of Republican support, insisting that turning against the war would not only be the right thing to do, but would provide a lucrative political opportunity for the GOP to channel public sentiments.
“I’m glad to see that Haley Barbour and [Mike Huckabee] have started speaking out [with skepticism about the war],” Jones told Raw Story. “We need more people of national stature – maybe some retired generals – to start getting in the papers and on TV.”
Does the sixteen-year congressman think it can boost a Republican presidential contender to victory in 2014? “I really do,” he said. “I think that if a Republican would start speaking out on this, that would start to energize the American people… He or she would certainly have a great opportunity.”
A record-high two-thirds of Americans no longer believe the war is worth finding, according to an ABC News/Washington Post poll this week.
“We’re going to keep fighting the issue,” Jones added, “but until the American people get outraged about the deaths and the broken bodies, it will keep going in my humble opinion. Too many times the military-industrial complex that [President Dwight] Eisenhower spoke about, they have a lot of influence.”
Just eight Republicans joined 85 Democrats in supporting the resolution Thursday. Jones was particularly disappointed by the absence of support among newly elected Republicans, several of whom supported withdrawal during the campaign.
“None of the new freshman – and that surprised me and disappointed me, and I’ll tell you why. Eleven of the new freshmen Republicans campaigned against staying in Afghanistan,” Jones said.
“Somebody said to me, maybe it’s because Dennis Kucinich introduced the resolution. Well that’s got not a damn thing to do with kids dying in Afghanistan and supporting a corrupt government. It wouldn’t matter if Satan had his name on it – we should vote for it because we’re against it, because of the policy.”
Added Jones: “Nobody said that to me about Dennis, let me make that clear. It was suggested to me and I had it on my mind.”
Army Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, warned Wednesday in stark terms that if the measure were to pass, “The Taliban and al Qaeda obviously would trumpet this as a victory, as a success.”
The Obama administration maintains that U.S troops will begin a staged withdrawal from Afghanistan this July, and Petraeus and Defense Secretary Robert Gates have set a tentative deadline of 2014 for an end to combat operations.
“That’s a pipe dream at best,” Jones said, predicting that come 2014 they’ll say “well, we just need another year or two.”
Regardless, it’s at least three more years of a war that critics fear has become a quagmire. “How many more kids are going to die and lose their legs by then?” the North Carolina Republican said. “How many children are going to have to go to the funeral of their daddy and their momma? How many families are going to meet at Dover and accept the flag-draped transfer case? How many families are going to have to deal with suicides? That’s what this is all about.”