Barbara Lee wants to cancel

the 2001 ‘blank check’ for war


A WALL news report

      Rep. Barbara Lee, the only member of Congress who voted against the resolution of Sept. 14, 2001, that handed the president what she calls “a blank check” to wage war, says she will introduce a bill to repeal it.

      “I hope you will help us with the repeal of this authorization,” the representative of California’s 9th Congressional District (East Bay) told peace groups, including the War and Law League (WALL), that filled Fellowship Hall of the Berkeley Fellowship of Unitarian Universalists on Sunday, September 26.

She has called that use-of-force resolution unconstitutional but fears that it might be used by presidents again and again for future warfare throughout the world.

      It resolved “that 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.” Its aim was supposedly “to prevent any future acts of international terrorism” by those who were responsible for the attacks.

       WALL, in an article entered on this web site in early 2002, called it an unconstitutional delegation of Congress’s war power to the president. Although mentioning no country, it has been used to wage a nine-year war primarily against the Afghan people. Now the Pakistanis are targets as well.

        Insofar as any nation can be linked to terrorism, investigative writers have pointed to Saudi Arabia. The French book Forbidden Truth charged that Saudi businesses and charities nurtured al-Qaeda. Moreover, 15 of the 19 suicidal hijackers on 9/11 were Saudi, Osama bin Laden’s nationality. None was an Afghan or Pakistani.

        The CIA and the administration have admitted that Afghanistan has a tiny number of al-Qaeda members, maybe as few as 50. Yet President Obama has ordered escalation there. Representative Lee called the policy counterproductive. The occupation helps recruitment of anti-American fighters and breeds terrorism, in her view. She sees no military solution there.

       A member of the House Committee on Appropriations, she has repeatedly tried, unsuccessfully, to end the Afghan war through the power of the purse. In October 2009 she introduced HR 3699 (with 33 cosponsors) to bar funds for more troops. Last July she offered two measures concerning the war: An amendment to a $33 billion supplementary appropriations bill got 100 House votes; it would have limited funding to withdrawal of troops. Then she introduced a similar measure as HR 6045 (with 26 cosponsors).


       “We have to build the political will in Congress,” a task for the national peace movement. Barbara Lee thanked peace activists for their fight so far. “You strengthen me and you keep me going.”

        Although the war in Iraq is finally winding down after seven and a half years and Obama has declared combat ended, “I can’t understand why we have 50,000 troops there,” she said. She reiterated her opposition to permanent bases in Iraq, having led the drive in Congress to ban them. On that issue, Congress has supported her, though Bush chose to disregard the congressional will and it is uncertain what Obama will do.

         Barbara Lee said she favored a department of peace in the national administration. It has long been promoted by Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Ohio. “If we have a department that deals mainly with war, we should have a department devoted to peace,” she remarked.

         She reviewed her performance three days after 9/11, when she charged colleagues with abandoning their constitutional responsibilities, just as Congress had done in 1964: A resolution had supported Lyndon Johnson’s supposed determination to prevent aggression, following an (imaginary) attack by North Vietnamese boats on U.S. ships in the Gulf of Tonkin. He used it as a blank check to commit aggression on the Vietnamese — which he had been secretly planning.


         That day in 2001, the lone voice of dissent warned that to rush to judgment and launch a hasty counterattack ran “too great a risk that women, children, and other noncombatants will be caught in the crossfire.” Lee cautioned then against letting attacks by a gang of murderers inflame ethnic or religious prejudice. And she said it would repeat past mistakes “to embark on an open-ended war with neither an exit strategy nor a focused target.” Have any of her warnings not materialized?

                        * * * * * * * * * * *

WALL business

       The War and Law League held its 2010 general meeting following the main event. It reviewed its 12-year history of seeking to curb presidential wars and sought further ideas on how stop the Afghan war. WALL also:

· Issued a new pamphlet for dues-paying members and donors, “Our Longest

     War: U.S. vs. the people of Afghanistan—and now Pakistan,” dealing with

     legality, media, war crimes, etc. A copy was given to Rep. Barbara Lee.

· Began signing volunteers for five, reorganized committees: Event Coordinating,

     Finance & Membership, Legal, Legislative, and Public Information.

· Reelected Jeannette Hassberg, of San Francisco, as coordinator; Paul W.

     Lovinger, of San Francisco, as secretary; and Dolores Rodriguez, of Oakland,

     as treasurer. Three at-large members of the Executive Board were also

     reelected: Harry A. Scott, of Hayward; Grace Teresi of San Juan Bautista; and

     Ken Wachter of Redwood City. All six are volunteers. Terms are two years.


Sept. 27, 2010