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USA: Lee is Lone Voice Against Violence

by Ben FentonThe Daily Telegraph (UK)
September 18th, 2001

The only member of Congress to vote against a resolution giving President Bush a free hand in retaliating against terrorism represents a constituency that has become a byword for liberalism.

The House of Representatives passed the resolution 420-1, with Barbara Lee (http://www.house.gov/lee) the lone voice of opposition.

Within her Ninth District of California lie the cities of Oakland and Berkeley, homes to probably the largest social change communities of the 1960s and still hotbeds of radicalism 30 to 40 years later.

The peaceniks may have disappeared from the campus of the University of California at Berkeley, scene of some of the most ardent anti-Vietnam protests, but Ms Lee, remains a symbol of resistance.

But, as one of the handful of black women in the House of Representatives, she now finds herself far out on a limb from her colleagues and most of America. She certainly has a track record of swimming against a military tide.

In Washington since 1998, she also voted against authorizing the bombing of Iraq, one of only five members of the House to do so, and she stood alone in opposing the commitment of troops for the 1999 Kosovo campaign.

Indeed, for the past two years, she has voted against giving any money at all to the US armed forces. She was unafraid to justify herself with this vote, in the 420-1 passage of the resolution. Ms Lee said she was not opposed to the use of force, but fears that Congress was bestowing broad powers on President Bush without understanding what he intends to do with them.

"Let me tell you, I want to see justice done also, and I agonized, and I'm grieving like the rest of the country," she said. "But we have to sit back as members of Congress and think of the implications of using force.

"I don't believe we need to let this cycle of violence spiral out of control, and I believe when the dust settles people will understand that."

A spokesman for Dennis Hastert, Speaker of the House, did not criticize Lee. "The focus shouldn't be on her vote, it should be on the almost absolute unity of Congress," he said. But at home, there were less diplomatic voices.

James Hartmant, the chairman of the Alameda county Republican Central Committee described the vote as showing "supreme poor judgment and gross egotism". He said: "She talks about having a moral compass, but she should take a closer look at that compass because she's way, way off track."

Ms Lee is following in a rich tradition. Her predecessor, Ron Dellums, was a 30-year veteran of the House and chairman of its armed services committee, in which capacity he opposed every conflict from Vietnam to the Gulf War.

It may be significant that Ms Lee is a self-styled "army brat", the daughter of a retired US Army lieutenant-colonel.

Although she has modeled herself on Mr Dellums, for whom she worked as a congressional aide, she may be more likely to follow the pattern of an early female member of Congress, Jeanette Rankin.

Miss Rankin, the first woman elected to the House, voted against America joining the First World War in 1917.





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