What follows is the text of the statement of Representative Barbara Lee (D, 9th Congressional District, CA) given on the floor of the House of Representatives, September 14, 2001, prior to casting the lone dissenting vote against giving the President of the United States virtually unlimited power to declare and wage war against an enemy defined only as ‘terrorism’.
MS. LEE: Mr. Speaker, I rise today with a heavy heart, one that is filled with sorrow for the families and loved ones who were killed and injured in New York, Virginia, and Pennsylvania. Only the most foolish or the most callous would not understand thegrief that has gripped the American people and millions across the world.
This unspeakable attack on the United States has forced me to rely on my moral compass, my conscience, and my God for direction.
September 11 changed the world. Our deepest fears now haunt us. Yet I am convinced that military action will not prevent further acts of international terrorism against the United States.
I know that this use-of-force resolution will pass, although we all know that the President can wage a war even without this resolution. However difficult this vote may be, some of us must urge the use of restraint. There must be some of us who say, let’s step back for a moment and think through the implications of our actions today – let us more fully
understand its consequences.
We are not dealing with a conventional war. We cannot respond in a conventional manner. I do not want to see this spiral out of control. This crisis involves issues of national security, foreign policy, public safety, intelligence gathering, economics, and murder.
Our response must be equally multi-faceted.
We must not rush to judgment. Far too many innocent people have already died. Our country is in mourning. If we rush to launch a counter-attack, we run too great a risk that women, children, and other non-combatants will be caught in the crossfire.
Nor can we let our justified anger over these outrageous acts by vicious murderers inflame prejudice against all Arab Americans, Muslims, Southeast Asians, or any other people because of their race, religion, or ethnicity.
Finally, we must be careful not to embark on an open-ended war with neither an exit strategy nor a focused target. We cannot repeat past mistakes.
In 1964, Congress gave President Lyndon Johnson the power to “take all necessary measures” to repel attacks and prevent further aggression. In so doing, this House abandoned its own constitutional responsibilities and launched our country into years
of undeclared war in Vietnam.
At that time, Senator Wayne Morse, one of two lonely votes against the Tonkin Gulf Resolution, declared, “I believe that history will record that we have made a grave mistake in subverting and circumventing the Constitution of the United States … I believe that within the next century, future generations will look with dismay and great disappointment upon a Congress which is now about to make such a historic mistake.”
Senator Morse was correct, and I fear we make the same mistake today. And I fear the consequences.
I have agonized over this vote. But I came to grips with it in the very painful yet beautiful memorial service today at the National Cathedral. As a member of the clergy so eloquently said, “As we act, let us not become the evil that we deplore.”