EMAIL PAGE SIX
COLUMN SIXTY-FOUR, OCTOBER 1, 2001
(Copyright © 2001 Al Aronowitz)
IN DEFENSE OF BARBARA LEE
interview with Barbara Lee + attack on Barbara Lee
Date: Sat, 22 Sep 2001 11:18:46 -0700
From: "Merilene M. Murphy" firstname.lastname@example.org
To: "peazritr" email@example.com
the one house vote for NO WAR by Barbara Lee, i received the below from cyber
e-drum listkeeper, Kalamu:
lee can be reached at:
BARBARA LEE SPEAKS OUT
comments, questions and concerns to mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org
by Davey D
2001 All Rights Reserved
BARBARA LEE SPEAKS OUT
Monday Sept 17th we had an opportunity to catch up with Congresswoman Barbara
Lee and talk to her about her decision to cast the only vote opposing President
Bush's War resolution. Not even her
fellow colleagues from the Congressional Black Caucus voted with her on this
one. That includes such notable
people like Maxine Waters, Charles Rengel, Jesse Jackson Jr., Cynthia McKinney
to name a few.
is this all about?
Congresswoman Lee out of step with reality and the rest of the country?
Or is she ahead of her time? Some
people are saying she is unpatriotic for not supporting Bush on this one.
They are angry with her to the point that she now needs police
protection. Others are saying she
did the right thing by not only following her conscience, but also bringing to
the floor and public discussions, an alternative viewpoint that has been all but
locked out of this past week's conversations.
Many are claiming something is wrong with you if you are not advocating
war. Here's what Congresswoman had
to say...Let us know what you think.
D: They took this vote in Congress about what should be the response to the
tragedy this week...and elected to take military action.
In a vote 420 to 1 you were the lone dissenting voice that said no, we
should not go to war.
LEE: First, our nation is in grieving, we're all mourning, we're angry; there
are a range of emotions taking place. Myself
personally, I am also grieving and I believe fully and firmly that the Congress
of the United States is the only legislative body that can say, "Let's
pause for a moment...and let's look at using some restraint before we rush to
action." Because military
action can lead to an escalation and spiral out of control.
So, why I voted no, was one, the president already has the authority to
execute a military action. He
doesn't need Congress; under the War Powers Act he has that authority.
But Congress is the people's house, and the Congress is responsible for
providing checks and balances, and you cannot just allow the administration to
run ahead with a strategy without reporting back and without having some
we must bring the perpetrators to justice.
International terrorism is upon us---this is a new world and we cannot
make any mistakes in dealing with it. We
do not want to see our reaction lead to another reaction which could allow this
to spiral out of control. So while we grieve and while we provide
assistance---and I did vote to provide assistance for the families and
communities that have been devastated and also providing funding for
anti-terrorist activities for securing our own country---we've got to conduct a
full investigation and be really deliberate about how we move forward
militarily. We cannot make any
mistake about this, this is an unconventional war and we have to fight it in an
D: We're talking about the nature of terrorism and whether it could be a
tit-for-tat type of scenario if we go out and retaliate and hit the wrong
targets or capture the wrong people, the next thing you know we could be
involved in a situation where a can of worms has been opened that we just can't
close it up.
LEE: We don't know the real nature of terrorism in the true sense of the word.
We have not invested in combating terrorism the way we should have, which
involves many issues. It involves
our foreign policy, it involves multinational cooperation, it involves
diplomatic efforts. It involves
pulling all of these very multifaceted areas together to come up with a real way
to deal with terrorism. I don't
believe we have faced the fact that terrorism is the new war that this country
is going to have to fight. We're
looking at putting up billions of dollars for national missile defense.
Well, anti-ballistic missiles---that would not have saved the lives or
prevented the horrible morning that we saw last Tuesday, it just wouldn't have
done it. So, we're looking at
putting military money into the wrong areas.
We need to look at what this means in terms of securing our country,
securing our world, and how to use our tax dollars toward that purpose.
I am convinced that military action alone will not prevent further
D: One of things I'm concerned about is the number of people of color who will
be on these front lines. A third of
the army is made up of people of color, because of the economic conditions we're
in. If we have to go out there and fight a war, how is this going to impact our
communities disproportionately---and are we going to have some dire effects that
will be with us for generations?
LEE: Certainly, that's always the case---our communities are always
disproportionately represented in the military and we'll be called to serve and
fight. Whenever that happens,
whomever it is, we have to be very careful.
We don't want our young men and women put in harm's way. I am a very patriotic person, and I support the United States
and our government. And I believe
that my support for our country and for our people dictates that I be prudent,
that I not rush to judgment on any decisions, and that we step back for a minute
and realize any impact that this could have on young men and women of color, and
all young Americans as we move forward. Fighting
a terrorist war...I'm not sure our young people are prepared for that, and we've
got to stamp out terrorism in the world but it's very complicated.
D: I've got the sense that people think that this will be over in a hurry,
almost like you're playing a game, and I'm trying to tell people, that this is
real stuff. You've got people that
have committed themselves to dying, and that's kind of scary.
LEE: We're all in trauma right now, in a state of disbelief and mourning.
A member of my staff had a family member killed in one of the planes.
This catastrophe has touched the lives of so many people. Going back to why I said "No, let's use
restraint,"---it's for that reason. My
professional training is as a social worker, and I understand the human psyche,
and the community psyche, and our country's psyche.
Right not, were dealing with recovery, and we're dealing with mourning,
and there's no way until we settle in, should we deal with decisions that could
escalate violence and spiral out of control.
We just all must be reasoned and reasonable about this. When we bring
these terrorists to justice, we have to be pointed and know what we're doing.
The world is a dangerous place.
D: With all the money that we pay in tax dollars directed toward intelligence
gathering, the CIA, the FBI, the racial profiling at airports and the like, how
could we have someone come in to this country, learn to fly from our own
schools, and fly an airplane for 20, 30 minutes and not be detected?
Was this a breakdown in the intelligence community?
LEE: Obviously, that money has not been spent properly and I think that one of
the reasons I did vote for the $40 billion is that there's money in there to
really look at how we increase the public safety of our people in this country,
within the confines of civil liberties. We
have to find that balance. Protecting
the public, protecting the country, and not allowing our civil liberties to be
eroded. That's where we need to put
the funding and resources, and that's why I did support that money.
But something went terribly wrong, and we'll see how these investigations
go. But we have to insist on a full and thorough investigation.
D: Do you think with all the concern right now, we will be finding our civil
liberties actually taken off the paper altogether in the name of national
security? Will people be pulled
over, profiled, searched more? If
I'm a part of an organization that says "Peace not war," will they
label me a potential terrorist?
LEE: Certainly we have to fight against that trend. There are those who would like to see that happen.
They will overreact to a tragedy and use this opportunity to do just what
you said. That's part of the danger
in rushing to judgment. As a branch
of the government that's responsible to the people, it's up to Congress to
execute our Constitutional responsibilities to ensure that there's checks on
policies that could be put in place under the name of national security.
This is very serious.
D: You've come from an era of the Black Panthers, from the Vietnam era, when
there were a lot of groups that found themselves subjected to the Cointel
policies of the FBI. They were
harassed by the various government agencies, from the local police to the CIA,
their patriotism was questioned. If
we don't keep that in mind, do you think it might lead to us just falling in
line and maybe not questioning government when we have a right to do so?
LEE: We better understand the history, and I'm very on top of my own history
with these agencies and I know what can happen. So we must be vigilant right now, because under the cloak of
national security, many of our civil liberties could be just wiped off the
floor. There are those of us who
are going to fight to make sure that's not going to happen, but we're also going
to fight to make sure justice is served by making sure that the people and
organizations who did this are brought to justice. We also have to begin to look at our foreign policy, our
diplomatic efforts, and some of the reasons why we don't engage in dialogue with
certain countries and individuals and organizations.
This is a very complex issue in the US, and we should be right now
leading the world in showing our children how in the face of adversity we
respond and minimize the loss of life. We
don't want to see any more people lose their lives.
We cannot tolerate another terrorist attack, and we certainly cannot
tolerate any loss of life, any more in our country, and anywhere in the world.
D: Many are painting a picture that, "if you're not with the US, you're
against us. " They would take
a look at your dissenting vote and say, "Congresswoman Barbara Lee is not
patriotic, she's not supporting the president, she's making it difficult for us
to do what we need to do." How
do you respond to that type of criticism?
LEE: People have said that. And in
my response, I tell them that I'm very patriotic.
As a citizen, I have the right to represent a point of view.
That's central to our democracy---the right to dissent, the right to
provide a different point of view that's out in the open, in the full view of
the American people. I did not make
this decision behind closed doors; I've explained my decision.
I think the beauty of democracy, and one of it's fundamental
principles,is the right to free speech and the right to disagree.
I support the administration in their actions; that's not the point.
Their role is this, they're moving forward.
What we have to understand, is that the Congress is a body that
represents the people in our country. It's
up to us to step back and say, "Okay, now we have an additional
responsibility." We must make
sure that the president reports to us, so that we can report back to our
constituents what's going on. You
donít want to not know, do you? Congress has a very critical role in this.
So if I am going to be patriotic, and I am, and if I am going to be a
good American, which I know I am, I am going to make sure that our democracy
works and I'm going to hold it accountable, and make sure that it works not only
for my constituents, but for the whole country.
You don't want to rush to judgment while we're depressed and angry and
frustrated. That's like herding
cattle in one direction. You want
people who are thinking clearly, who are working with the president, and giving
them different ideas and insights. I'm
an African-American woman, I'm on the International Relations committee.
I have a point of view...as an American...that may be useful when we talk
about international terrorism. There
are many people who have different points of view...that's America.
So to those people who say those things, they better check their own
credentials. They may need to
become more participatory in our democracy.
D: That's a key word---participatory. I
come across a lot of people who are waving the flag, but aren't registered to
vote. All this information about
foreign policy and our government's role has been out there, but a lot of people
have ignored it until now. All of a
sudden, they're out for blood, and don't even understand where Afghanistan is
and what it would take to defeat it. This
is a country that beat back Russia, a couple of times.
It's not going to be an easy haul, and I'm afraid people aren't really
thinking long term.
LEE: Being patriotic at this moment in our history means participating in
decisions about the future of our world. It
means participating in decisions that will hopefully bring us to peace, and
ensure that these terrorists are brought to justice and that no man, woman, or
child, ever gets killed in such brutal assaults ever again That's what
participatory democracy is about at this moment. People should feel understand and feel empowered that it's
through their members of Congress that represent them, that they can make their
voice be heard. Not just react, but
D: People would question, would you acting on behalf of Barbara Lee or were you
acting on behalf of the Berkeley-Oakland district you represent when you decided
to be that lone dissenting vote against Bush's resolution for war?
LEE: First of all, this was not a poll-driven vote. This was the most painful vote I have taken in Congress,
really in all 12 years that I've been in elected office. It was a grueling experience for me. I have been in many briefings, classified and unclassified.
I have been in so many meetings. I
was in the Capitol when the plane went into the Pentagon, and we had to
evacuate. It's been a nightmare.
I went through the intellectual process, through the fact-gathering,
through the policy analysis, looking through the foreign policy and intelligence
and military implications of our move. It weighed heavily on me.
I was not going to the National Cathedral for the prayer service..because
I wanted to continue in my discussions, and reflect on the resolution that was
coming up. But at the last minute,
I decided to go, that I had to pray over this.
I realized I had to settle down and say some prayers, to try to get some
strength to help me through the rest of the week.
was a very powerful, very beautiful prayer service, very painful. I listened to
the prayers, and prayed, and listened to the comments and the sermons.
One of the clergy, very eloquently said, in his prayer, "As we act,
let us not become the evil that we deplore, " And at that moment, I knew
what the right vote was, and what I had to do. So it was a combination of
factors that brought me to that place. There are very few times when there are
votes of conscience that your moral compass must guide you, very few times that
there's some bottom
has got to be the body that says, "Let's use some restraint, lets make sure
that our actions lead to what we want to accomplish, and that's to make sure
their are no more attacks on our people and on our country" We've got to
make the most deliberate strategies that we can that are going to be effective.
D: There's been a number of attacks throughout our country on our Arab brothers
and sisters...even on those who look like they might be Arab.
Sadly, some of this abuse has come at the hands of black and brown folks,
who have gotten caught up in the wave of patriotism that has swept the country.
What are your thoughts on this?
LEE: This is very a serious problem. We
passed a resolution on that same night that condemned attacks on Arab-Americans
and Muslims and all those who could be under attack as a result of this. What we
see now is an environment of fear. The
worst is coming out in people. We've
never had a war on our land before--other countries have, the US hasn't.
Were vulnerable. When people
react in fear, what do they do? They
turn on each other. The person who
looks the wrong way receives the brunt of your anger and fear.
So I'm urging and encouraging young people to please understand that when
these planes crashed into the towers, they killed people of all colors, ages,
It was an equal opportunity destroyer.
D: It just seems a shame that people who have been persecuted, especially blacks
and Latinos, who have been the brunt of abuse by the military, are turning
around and attacking people in our own communities.
Once upon time Latinos in LA were attacked by US Sailors in what is now
known as the Zoot suit riots. African
Americans were at the short end of the stick in numerous situations and
LEE: We've got to pause and understand the moment that we're in.
Moving forward, whether it's on a political level, or in our communities,
against each other, there's some serious implications of this.
If we donut understand that were grieving, we're baffled, we're afraid,
this behavior is going to escalate. I'm
trying to help young people understand who their enemy is and who it is not.
In this moment of all moments, we should be embracing each other.
My constituents are as conflicted and upset in California as people are
all over the East Coast and the country.
D: Do you think when you get back to Bay Area, you'll have some kind of a town
hall so that those people that voted you into office can come on down and build
LEE: We' re definitely going to be holding events in our community to try and
help sort though this grieving process. In
terms of future direction, we want to bring some clarity and understanding as to
how the Congress should function when we're in a vulnerable state, when we've
been attacked and what our role is in terms of checks and balances.
I want to do some education and forums and basic discussions with young
people about their fears. I know
children are scared about what they're seeing on TV But the way our country
responds to it will ensure as they grow up that they are able to deal with their
problems in a way that is appropriate. It's
important that they see that rage and war gets out of control and leads to more
violence. We have to be very
measured in our response as we go after the perpetrators of this horror, and
make sure that our children know that in the face of adversity, America can rise
up and be the great democracy that it is, and deal with all these problems
D: Have you heard from any high ranking officials about your vote.
Also, Bush has two daughters who are college age...do you think that they
would be on the front line? How do
you think it will perceived if 19 and 20 year olds are being asked to serve this
country and his daughters are still making headlines getting drunk at rat
LEE: That poses the kind of questions and dilemmas before us. There are many
questions that have to be asked..the kind of terrain ahead of us in a country we
don t know, how much
collateral loss will we be inflicting in terms of innocent women and children?
Loss of life is loss of life. The
Congress needs to ask these questions, force the administration to answer these
questions. That does not mean that we, and I, are not unified.
I'm sure I will hear from the administration, I'm on the foreign affairs
committee. I see Secretary Powell fairly frequently.
I haven't talked to him. Hess
been fairly measured in his response, I think Hess trying to bring some balance
to the policy. But in terms of
supporting the President, that Congress has to make sure that he is successful,
that any reaction to this horrible attack does not come back in terms of any
spiraling out of control. If you
have nobody to check that, it could be very scary.
D: Congresswoman Lee thank you so much for taking time out of your day to break
it down for us. To reach Barbara Lee call her at 510-763-0370
contact the list owner, send your message to FNV_Newsletteremail@example.com
below is right-wing attack on barbara lee---includes politically-biased
discussion of events in grenada. the rep. rankin referred to in the article was
a life-long peace activist and progressive. This opinion claims to have been
published in the wall street journal as an op-ed piece. the url for this article
FUND'S POLITICAL DIARY
Is Barbara Lee? And was her "no" vote motivated by pacifism or
September 17, 2001 12:00 a.m. EDT
us not become the evil we deplore," Rep. Barbara Lee said on the House
floor last Friday in explaining why she was the "1" in the 420-1 vote
against a resolution giving President Bush authority to use necessary force
begets violence, and we don't want that to happen. That kills people," she
told her colleagues. She suggested that as an alternative the U.S. capture and
try those responsible for the terrorist attacks in Washington and New York and
enhance security at key installations. Apologists for the Ms. Lee, a California
Democrat whose district includes Oakland and Berkeley, are already explaining
that her vote is consistent with her lifelong commitment to nonviolence, which
includes a bill to establish a "Department of Peace." One wishes Ms.
Lee were just a clueless liberal, but her history leads me to conclude that she
is the kind of "San Francisco Democrat" that former United Nations
Ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick criticized in 1984: someone who "always blames
history is chock full of examples of lone voices standing up against the
conventional wisdom. Some were profiles in courage, such as Justice John
were sincerely confused. Rep. Jeanette Rankin, a Montana Republican, voted
against U.S. entry into World War I in 1917 and was promptly turned out of
office. A full 22 years later, forgiving voters elected her to another
term---just in time for her to cast the lone vote against U.S. entry into World
War II. She wisely chose to retire from public life at that point, though she
briefly considered another race just before her death in 1973.
won't be so lucky with Rep. Lee. She frequently intervenes in controversial
issues with an unapologetically left-wing perspective. Last year, she traveled
to Cuba with Rep. Maxine Waters to hear "firsthand how the people of Cuba
feel about" Elian Gonzalez. Ms. Lee returned to say that "as a trained
social worker, I can unequivocally say that Elian's father is totally fit and
equipped to raise his son in a loving environment."
1998, she was one of five House members to oppose retaliatory air strikes
against Iraq. In 1999 she was the lone vote to oppose a resolution supporting
U.S. troops during the conflict with Serbia. "I believe in peace," she
explained. "I believe the way we resolve conflict is not through military
action and bombing." But she was aware of the fact that other peace
activists had voted in support of U.S. troops. "I was surprised," she
admitted. "Being the only 'no' vote is troubling. You wonder if there's
something you've missed."
the surface, Ms. Lee is consistent in her pacifism. She was appalled that the
U.S. didn't do more to stop the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, in which 800,000 people
died. "We should have been there," she said, "but not with bombs.
We should have negotiated, and put our stake down." She left unsaid how the
U.S. could have negotiated with the rampaging machete-wielding madmen who
massacred whole villages.
than dismiss Ms. Lee as a starry-eyed innocent, I believe her history shows her
to be an intelligent and focused opponent of the use of American power. In 1975,
she graduated with a master's degree in social work and started a community
mental health center. In 1979, at 33, she joined the staff of Rep. Ron Dellums,
a radical product of the antiwar movement. She rose to become his chief of
radical politics of Rep. Dellums and much of his staff came to light in 1983,
when the U.S. invaded Grenada, freed a group of American medical students and
deposed a Marxist regime that was building a large airfield with
Lee is here presently and has brought with her a report on the international
airport done by Ron Dellums," the documents read. "They have requested
that we look at the document and suggest any changes we deem necessary. They
will be willing to make changes." The meeting documents go on to discuss
possible military uses of the airfield.
document captured by American troops was the diary of Grenada's Marxist defense
minister. He wrote "The Revo[lution] has been able to crush
counter-revolution internationally. Airport will be used for Cuban and Soviet
military." The implication of this is that the Dellums team either were
hopeless dupes or something more sinister. Mr. Dellums's final report to
Congress on the airfield concluded that "nothing being done in Grenada
constitutes a threat to the United States or her allies."
was done to discipline Mr. Dellums after these revelations, even though a letter
from Mr. Dellums's special assistant Carlottia Scott to the island's Marxist
ruler said that Mr. Dellums is "really hooked on you and Grenada and
doesn't want anything to happen to building the Revo and making it strong."
A Reagan administration official explained to me at the time that stripping Mr.
Dellums of his senior status on the House Armed Services Commitee would only
make a martyr of him.
documents have appeared in few places outside of National Review, Human Events
and the syndicated column of Rowland Evans and Robert Novak. Authors
Rep. Lee's district is perhaps the most radical in the country. Last year the 9% of the vote that Ralph Nader's won there almost equaled George W. Bush's 12% showing. Oakland's Mayor Jerry Brown, a political independent, says his biggest policy challenge often is dealing with people for whom the excesses of the late 1960s are still today's reality. But I suspect that even in Berkeley, there are constituents of Rep. Lee for whom her latest departure from sanity is too much. America has been attacked, and while pacifism has an honorable tradition in this country, what Ms. Lee seems to use as a cloak for her belief that when it comes to the use of American power, her country can never do right. ##
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