The shero of 9/14: When one Black woman Barbara Lee stood alone

us-rep-barbara-lee

The bourgeois Big Business/corporate press went on and on recently about the significance of 9/11 and they let 9/14 pass without acknowledging  the principled stand of US Rep. Barbara Lee in one of the most extraordinary acts of bravery ever performed by a member of the US Congress. On 9/14/2001 the US Senate by a vote of 98-0 and the US House of Representative by 420 to 1 passed a resolution titled “The Authorization for Use of Military Force” giving then president George Bush open ended authority to attack those involved in 9/11.

The lone dissenting vote stood and said,

“This unspeakable act  has forced me to rely on my moral compass,my conscience and my God. September 11 changed the world our deepest fears now haunt us. Yet I am convinced that military action will not prevent further acts of terrorism against the US.  This resolution will pass. Some of us must urge the use of restraint.  Let’s just pause just for a minute and think through the implications of our actions today, so that this does not spiral out of control. I came to grips with  opposing this resolution during the memorial service as a member of the clergy  so eloquently said, ‘ as we act let us not become the evil that we deplore.’”

The resolution read,” the President is authorized to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations or persons.”

When Congress voted to authorize war on that fateful day in 2001 no one else stood with Rep. Lee, even Cynthia McKinney who at the time was the firebrand progressive representing Atlanta cast her vote with the crowd. Yet the Black woman representing the East Bay area of California, (which includes Oakland and Berkeley), never wavered. According to Rep. Lee some of her colleagues tried to coerce her into going back and changing her vote after it had already been cast.

Fall out for her stand was swift and sometimes vicious. Some of the good citizens of the US called her every name imaginable including yes, the N word. She was sent thousands of hateful letters. She was called ungrateful, unpatriotic, un-American and unfit to hold the office of US representative. She even received death threats and had to have around the clock security around her for about a year.

And evil is the best word to describe the resulting carnage dealt on the Middle East by US imperialism hell bent on creating new markets and marking new territory while demonstrating its power and ability to destroy anything that moves.

The authorization given the president that day opened the door for the invasion of Iraq where at last count over 150,000 civilians have died in the resulting conflict. Tens of thousands more have died in this never ending war against terrorism. Several thousand US soldiers have died in these wars of aggression and thousands more have been wounded. And thousands more have wounded souls and psyches and have been deeply traumatized by what they have seen and were forced to do in the name of liberty in the Middle East

It added to our lexicon “Extraordinary rendition” a fancy term for kidnapping those who disagree with or are suspected of terrorism against this government. This fateful resolution led to targeted assassinations by the US president without the benefit of due process, for the first time in US history a US citizen was openly murdered by the government without benefit of trial.

From this fateful day came, water boarding, Guantanamo Bay, Abu Gharib, drone warfare, bombings of funerals and even weddings

In the words of Fidel Castro, “history has absolved her.”  The actions of the US government in the years following the passing of this resolution have been deplorable and evil, and if we are honest they constitute a great crime against humanity.

There were some folks who I am sure had their reservations at the time, but they didn’t take a stand they figured, what does it matter, I can’t win anyway? But they would be wrong. Barbara Lee’s  career did not end that day as predicted, her constituency and thousands of others rallied behind her and she is still representing the East Bay.

As one supporter wrote at the time,”Courageous acts like yours widen the definition for all of us, giving us room to be world citizens, to express our pain and fear for all humans, and hopefully, inspire us to think beyond our borders.”

justice then peace

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