by Randolph T. Holhut
American Reporter Correspondent
September 28, 2001
THE BRAVERY OF BARBARA LEE
DUMMERSTON, Vt. -- President Bush's address to Congress on Sept. 20 was a declaration of war that is unprecedented in our nation's history.
What Bush declared was a war that has no geographic limits, no clearly defined enemies, no clearly defined goals and no clear beginning or end. In short, a permanent war.
Congress gave him a blank check to do this. The Senate voted unanimously to authorize the president "to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed or aided " the Sept. 11 attacks on New York and Washington.
The House vote was nearly unanimous, except for one brave woman. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., was the only House member to vote against the war resolution. She was the only person on Capitol Hill with the guts to take a stand against a headlong rush into war.
"In granting these overly broad powers, the Congress failed its responsibility to understand the dimensions of its declaration," Lee wrote in a recent column in the San Francisco Chronicle. "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."
Of course, the super-patriots have condemned Lee for being the lone dissenter. But she showed a wisdom that no one else in our government seems to have.
Those of you who've read George Orwell's "1984" know what could be up ahead for this nation - using a permanent war against an ever-shifting enemy to squelch dissent and maintain control.
In wartime, it's considered unpatriotic to question the motives and goals of your government. Writing or speaking truthfully is discouraged, lest it give comfort to the enemy. Censorship is a virtue. The press must be prevented from writing about what is really happening, and also must not point out the long and sorry record of the U.S. in supporting corrupt dictatorships, waging bloody proxy wars and collaborating with terrorists to achieve our aims.
In wartime, "protecting" freedom means sharply limiting it. To fight terrorism, the government wants the power to detain and deport immigrants without trial or due process. It wants to increase domestic surveillance and the power to read our e-mail, listen to our phone conversations and seize our credit card records without a court order.
Then there is the war itself that we are expected to support; a war that could unleash a deadly cycle of retaliation as the inevitable by-product of a policy that calls for maximum force against any person from any nation that the U.S. considers an enemy. No diplomacy, no due process,no international law and no democratic debate are allowed in the conduct of this new war.
President Bush is not Big Brother - yet. We don't have to love Big Brother, although Bush currently has an approval rating of around 90 percent. It is our duty as citizens to ask hard questions of our leaders and demand straight answers about the course this nation is headed. The conduct of war is serious business that demands clear thinking rather than mindless jingoism.
The Sept. 11 attacks were a brutal and outrageous slaughter of innocent civilians. But lashing out indiscriminately out of a need for vengeance will not settle the score. Diplomatic, legal, political and economic means must be used in addition to military means. Most of the world wants to see the perpetrators of the attacks to stand in the dock of The Hague for their crimes. Justice, not vengeance, should be our goal.
That is why Lee opposed the war resolution, and that is why she has my respect and admiration.
"We must respond, but the character of that response will determine for us and for our children the world they will inherit," Lee wrote in the Chronicle.
"I do not dispute the president's intention 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."
What kind of nation are we? Our ultimate response to the attacks of Sept. 11 will stand as the answer to that question.
Randolph T. Holhut has been a journalist in New England for more than 20 years. He edited "The George Seldes Reader" (Barricade Books).