North Carolina Congressman Walter B. Jones, a hero of the left? Well, that’s maybe overstating the case. But in recent days, Jones’ critical comments about the Bush administration’s war in Iraq (which he supported when it was about weapons of mass destruction) have certainly made the rounds of liberal blogs and listservs.

In response, the North Carolina Republican Party sent out this e-mail “letter to the editor” from the congressman on June 16. In it, Jones–the author of the infamous “freedom fries” bill–insists that he does not favor a certain military withdrawal from Iraq, but a plan for eventually reducing troops. And he lays out what he considers to be the other “emerging threats” to America–including the flood of “illegal aliens” from Mexico–that may escalate to the point of requiring military attention.

Here’s the letter:

From the desk of Congressman Walter B. Jones

To the Editor:

In recent days there has been considerable press coverage on my position on America’s presence in Iraq. Despite what some media accounts have said, I want to make it crystal clear that I am NOT in favor of any immediate withdrawal nor do I support setting an end date at which time all troops must be out of Iraq.

What I do support is a public discussion of our goals and the future of our military involvement in that country. The non-binding resolution I am co-sponsoring will do no more than call on the President to set a plan and a date to begin reducing the number of troops we have in Iraq. It does not in any way, shape or form set a date certain for withdrawal. This approach should give the President the flexibility he needs to reduce our presence in a way that protects U.S. troops and allows Iraqis to pick up the fight. No one is talking about “cutting and running.”

In my opinion, this is the appropriate action to take for our troops, for our national security and for the Iraqi people. America faces many other threats that can easily escalate into conflicts that require military action. Iraq’s neighbor, Iran, is a constant nuclear threat. A madman ruling North Korea has openly admitted to having nuclear weapons. Communist China is sucking up American jobs, using its booming economy to rapidly expand its military, and threatening Taiwan and other Asian allies. Even at home, every week 16,000 illegal aliens stream over our weakly guarded Mexican border, and any one of them could be a terrorist. With this in mind, we need a plan to begin a gradual reduction of our presence in Iraq so that our military, which is the most potent fighting force in the world, is ready to address these other threats.

No one is prouder of our military men and women in Iraq, or more grateful for their service and sacrifice, than I. They deposed one of the most ruthless tyrants in human history. They have trained, and continue to train, thousands of Iraqis in the skills necessary to defend their country against insurgents. They allowed Iraqis to freely cast their ballots in the country’s first democratic election in decades. And because of them, Iraq is on track to establish a new Constitution in October of this year, and to elect a permanent government in December.

As Brigadier General Donald Alston, the chief U.S. military spokesman in Iraq, said last week: ” … this insurgency is not going to be settled … through military options or military operations. It’s going to be settled in the political process.”

With that political process now reaching its maturity, and with the number of trained Iraqi security forces increasing daily, it is perfectly reasonable for the American military presence in Iraq to, at some point, begin to decrease.

Conservatives across the spectrum from Robert Novak to Patrick Buchanan to the godfather of modern conservatism, William F. Buckley, have come to a similar conclusion. In fact, on May 6th Buckley wrote: “The day has to come, and the advent of that day has to be heralded, when we say that our part of the job is done as well as it can be done … It is an Iraqi responsibility to move on to wherever Iraq intends to go.”

Clearly, we are giving Iraqis every reasonable chance for a democracy, but at some time in the near future, the ultimate fate of Iraq will, and should, rest in the hands of the Iraqis. We will continue to support them in their efforts, but we cannot forever be depended upon as the primary defense force in Iraq, nor can we compromise the ability of our armed forces to adequately respond to the other emerging threats that endanger America.


Walter B. Jones, Member of Congress