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A profile in courage

Rep. Barbara Lee at an anti-war powers protest in 2020. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Twice in my life I have had the experience of living through a period of great collective danger, periods in which many of the American people completely lost their minds. One of those times was November 2016, when, though he lost the popular vote by 2.87 million votes, the criminally depraved Donald Trump was installed as president of the United States. The other time was the period after the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, when a mass madness of war fever swept over the United States.

Three days after 9/11 — three days! — a bill was rushed through the U.S. Congress giving President George Bush, vice president Dick Cheney, and their war-hungry cabinet a blank check to use the U.S. military pretty much anywhere they saw fit, if the two Republicans in the White House claimed that it had to do with terrorism. That bill passed 98-0 in the U.S. Senate and 420-1 in the U.S. House of Representatives. The only person to vote against it was Rep. Barbara Lee, who still represents California’s 13th congressional district (Oakland and northern Alameda county). The Washington Post reminds us of this in an article today about Barbara Lee: “She was the only member of Congress to vote against war in Afghanistan. Some called her a traitor.”

Sometimes people are right for the wrong reasons. But Barbara Lee was right for the right reasons. She said, on the House floor: “However difficult this vote may be, some of us must urge the use of restraint. Our country is in a state of mourning. Some of us must say, ‘Let’s step back for a moment, let’s just pause, just for a minute, and think through the implications of our actions today, so that this does not spiral out of control.’”

Many Americans subsequently come to their senses after an epidemic of madness, though many never do. I was proud of Barbara Lee then, and I am even more proud of her now. As for the Trump madness, it rages on.

I listened to President Biden’s address to the nation on Afghanistan yesterday. Insofar as I know anything about the situation and remember some history, I did not detect any attempt by Biden to mislead us or any attempt to rewrite history. Republicans, on the other hand, went as far as erasing from their web sites any references to the deal that Trump made with the Taliban last year. And, today, Republican mouths are running fast and loud to rewrite history and blame Biden for Afghanistan.

Tom Nichols gets it right in an article yesterday in The Atlantic, “Afghanistan Is Your Fault.” On the whole, that is true, because the beginning of the disaster in Afghanistan had almost total support from the American people. What have we learned?


  1. Chenda wrote:

    Good for her, she must have got so much hate but she has lived to see history vindicate her.

    I am no expert on Afghanistan but it does seem surprising that the intelligence agencies were apparently so incompetent as to believe that the Afghan government and military would do more than instantly collapse without a shot been fired. Was there just a culture of telling the superiors what they wanted to hear, Iraq WMD style ? Or was there just to much vested interest in keeping the war going as long as possible, the military-industrial complex (and indeed corrupt Afghan officials) milking the taxpayer for as long as possible ? I have no idea.

    Friday, August 20, 2021 at 12:57 pm | Permalink
  2. daltoni wrote:

    Hi Chenda: I don’t know either. I wouldn’t venture any guesses about Afghanistan itself, but I do think that President Biden would not have risked the public relations fiasco if he had had any proper intelligence about what has happened. The media are not helping us, because they see everything through a narrow (and low cost) political lens and have little to say about the realities in Afghanistan (which would come with a high cost). I will venture one guess, though. Donald Trump virtually destroyed the U.S. State Department, which might have been able to help. It is going to take some time to fix that.

    Friday, August 20, 2021 at 1:13 pm | Permalink

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