The lone dissenter from the U.S. congressional resolution approving the use of force in the war on terrorism continues to defend her position. Representative Barbara Lee has come under criticism, but she has found a sympathetic audience in Los Angeles.
It is said nothing succeeds like success, and the overthrow of the Taleban and routing of the al-Qaida network in Afghanistan is proof for most Americans that the decision to use force there was a wise one. Not for Barbara Lee, a Democratic congresswoman who represents the cities of Oakland and Berkeley, California.
September 14, just three days after the terror attacks in New York and Washington, she alone voted "no" on the congressional resolution approving the use of force against terrorists and those who harbor them. The congresswoman considered the resolution overly broad, believing it gave the president too much discretion in selecting the targets and timing of military actions.
Four months later, she still holds that position. Ms. Lee says many of her constituents agree with her. "My constituents," she said, "are like everyone in our country in terms of grieving, [being] fearful, understanding that there are some serious risks that we're dealing with. But we also believe, and I've talked to many people in my district who believe that we must see past the moment, that we must consider peace as an option, and that we must not allow our actions to prompt any reactions that could lead to more violence and could allow this to spiral out of control."
Congresswoman Lee worries that congress may have little voice in determining future targets as the war on terrorism shifts to other countries.
One conservative commentator has called the congresswoman an anti-American communist and a traitor. More temperate critics point out that she alone in the House of Representatives and the Senate, opposed the resolution authorizing force, and judging by opinion polls, that she is out of step with much of the country. Ms. Lee said she was surprised to cast the only vote against the resolution, and still believes that some others in Congress felt as she does.
In a speech before the organization Town Hall Los Angeles, Ms. Lee drew warm applause from a largely sympathetic audience. The noted feminist Gloria Steinem was there, and she supports the congresswoman. Ms. Steinem said she is no friend of the Taleban, which refused to let women work or receive an education.
But the writer had hoped to see the Taleban fall without the U.S. bombing. Ms Steinem said, "More women have been killed by the U.S. bombing than by the Taleban, by far. So I'm not at all convinced that we have gone about dislodging the Taleban in the most wise or humane way."
Nancy Snow, who teaches a university course on the media and terrorism, says she also admires Ms. Lee's courage in supporting an unpopular cause. "As an educator," she said, "I work with students all the time and talk to them about how important it is to speak up and speak out and to support free speech and the Bill of Rights, and she's a model. She's an example for them and is an example for me as an educator. She's really one of my heroes in the sense that I look up to her and admire her for speaking up."
As Ms. Lee repeated her call for restraint by the United States, one questioner asked if the country had not waited long enough to respond to terrorism, despite deadly attacks on two U.S. embassies in East Africa, on the USS Cole, and finally against the World Trade Center and Pentagon.
Investigators suspect all are linked to the al-Qaida network. The congresswoman responded that she supports stronger efforts against terrorism, but not at the cost of freedom of speech or issues like education, housing and health care.