Voice in the Wilderness - US Congress
Representative Barbara Lee of Oakland who cast the only dissenting vote against the use of force. This week Barbara Lee was placed under guard by Capitol Police after receiving threats from people opposed to her position.
In the wake of the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon last week, the US Congress voted almost unanimously to authorize President Bush to use military force to fight terrorism. Almost. Representative Barbara Lee of Oakland cast the only dissenting vote against the use of force. It's a position she has become accustomed to. Barbara Lee cast one of only five votes against the renewed bombing of Iraq in 1998. In 1999 she cast the lone
dissenting vote against the bombing of Yugoslavia. This week Barbara Lee was placed under guard by Capitol Police after receiving threats from people opposed to her position.
Rep. Lee may be reached at < email@example.com>, 202-225-2661,
202-225-9817 (fax). I would hope that we could all send her a note of
appreciation for her courageous stand.
[Below is the text of the statement of Rep. Barbara Lee on the floor of the
House of Representatives, Sept. 14, 2001.]
Mr. Speaker, I rise today with a heavy heart, one that is filled with sorrow
for the families and loved ones who were killed and injured in New York,
Virginia, and Pennsylvania. Only the most foolish or the most callous would
not understand the grief that has gripped the American people and millions
across the world.
This unspeakable attack on the United States has forced me to rely on my
moral compass, my conscience, and my God for direction.
September 11 changed the world. Our deepest fears now haunt us. Yet I am
convinced that military action will not prevent further acts of international
terrorism against the United States.
I know that this use-of-force resolution will pass although we all know that
the President can wage a war even without this resolution. However difficult
this vote may be, some of us must urge the use of restraint. There must be
some of us who say, let's step back for a moment and think through the
implications of our actions today--let us more fully understand its
We are not dealing with a conventional war. We cannot respond in a
conventional manner. I do not want to see this spiral out of control. This
crisis involves issues of national security, foreign policy, public safety,
intelligence gathering, economics, and murder. Our response must be equally
We must not rush to judgment. Far too many innocent people have already died.
Our country is in mourning. If we rush to launch a counter-attack, we run too
great a risk that women, children, and other non- combatants will be caught
in the crossfire.
Nor can we let our justified anger over these outrageous acts by vicious
murderers inflame prejudice against all Arab Americans, Muslims, Southeast
Asians, or any other people because of their race, religion, or ethnicity.
Finally, we must be careful not to embark on an open- ended war with neither
an exit strategy nor a focused target. We cannot repeat past mistakes.
In 1964, Congress gave President Lyndon Johnson the power to ``take all
necessary measures'' to repel attacks and prevent further aggression. In so
doing, this House abandoned its own constitutional responsibilities and
launched our country into years of undeclared war in Vietnam.
At that time, Senator Wayne Morse, one of two lonely votes against the Tonkin
Gulf Resolution, declared, ``I believe that history will record that we have
made a grave mistake in subverting and circumventing the Constitution of the
United States.........I believe that within the next century, future
generations will look with dismay and great disappointment upon a Congress
which is now about to make such a historic mistake.''
Senator Morse was correct, and I fear we make the same mistake today. And I
fear the consequences.
I have agonized over this vote. But I came to grips with it in the very
painful yet beautiful memorial service today at the National Cathedral. As a
member of the clergy so eloquently said, ``As we act, let us not become the
evil that we deplore.''
Published on Sunday, September 23, 2001 in the San Francisco Chronicle
Why I Opposed the Resolution to Authorize Force
by Barbara Lee
ON SEPT. 11, terrorists attacked the United States in an unprecedented and
brutal manner, killing thousands of innocent people, including the passengers
and crews of four aircraft.
Like everyone throughout our country, I am repulsed and angered by these
attacks and believe all appropriate steps must be taken to bring the
perpetrators to justice.
We must prevent any future such attacks. That is the highest obligation of
our federal, state and local governments. On this, we are united as a nation.
Any nation, group or individual that fails to comprehend this or believes
that we will tolerate such illegal and uncivilized attacks is grossly
Last week, filled with grief and sorrow for those killed and injured and with
anger at those who had done this, I confronted the solemn responsibility of
voting to authorize the nation to go to war. Some believe this resolution was
only symbolic, designed to show national resolve. But I could not ignore that
it provided explicit authority, under the War Powers Resolution and the
Constitution, to go to war.
It was a blank check to the president to attack anyone involved in the Sept.
11 events -- anywhere, in any country, without regard to our nation's long-
term foreign policy, economic and national security interests, and without
time limit. In granting these overly broad powers, the Congress failed its
responsibility to understand the dimensions of its declaration. I could not
support such a grant of war-making authority to the president; I believe it
would put more innocent lives at risk.
The president has the constitutional authority to protect the nation from
further attack and he has mobilized the armed forces to do just that. The
Congress should have waited for the facts to be presented and then acted with
fuller knowledge of the consequences of our action.
I have heard from thousands of my constituents in the wake of this vote. Many
-- a majority -- have counseled restraint and caution, demanding that we
ascertain the facts and ensure that violence does not beget violence. They
understand the boundless consequences of proceeding hastily to war, and I
thank them for their support.
Others believe that I should have voted for the resolution -- either for
symbolic or geopolitical reasons, or because they truly believe a military
option is unavoidable. However, I am not convinced that voting for the
resolution preserves and protects U.S. interests. We must develop our
intelligence and bring those who did this to justice. We must mobilize and
maintain an international coalition against terrorism. Finally, we have a
chance to demonstrate to the world that great powers can choose to fight on
the fronts of their choosing, and that we can choose to avoid needless
military action when other avenues to redress our rightful grievances and to
protect our nation are available to us.
We must respond, but the character of that response will determine for us and
for our children the world that they will inherit. I do not dispute the
president's intent to rid the world of terrorism -- but we have many means to
reach that goal, and measures that spawn further acts of terror or that do
not address the sources of hatred do not increase our security.
Secretary of State Colin Powell himself eloquently pointed out the many ways
to get at the root of this problem -- economic, diplomatic, legal and
political, as well as military. A rush to launch precipitous military
counterattacks runs too great a risk that more innocent men, women, children
will be killed. I could not vote for a resolution that I believe could lead
to such an outcome.
Rep. Barbara Lee represents the 9th Congressional District, which includes
Oakland, Berkeley and Alameda.
©2001 San Francisco Chronicle
listen to an interview with Rep. Barbara Lee at:
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