Rep. Barbara Lee trends after 2001 clip on Afghanistan vote resurfaces

A 2001 clip with Rep. Barbara Lee speaking on her Afghanistan vote has gone viral

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Rep. Barbara Lee is trending after a 2001 clip of her speaking on her Afghanistan vote resurfaced. 

Lee, who represents California’s 13th Congressional District in Congress, was vocal in her criticism of going to war. She was the lone U.S. congressperson to vote against the authorization that allowed then-President George Bush to invade Afghanistan with the use of military force, which she took immense heat for, for opposing and speaking out on.

The House passed the use-of-force resolution by a 420-1 margin, with Lee standing her ground believing it gave too much of Congress’ power to the president and because she was reluctant to approve force that could worsen the situation.

Rep. Barbara Lee
U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) speaks during a news conference with members of the Democratic Women’s Caucus prior to State of the Union at the U.S. Capitol on February 4, 2020 (Photo by Alex Edelman/Getty Images)

“I am convinced that military action will not prevent further acts of international terrorism against the United States,” Lee said in a statement at the time. “Finally, we must be careful not to embark on an open-ended war with neither an exit strategy nor a focused target.”

Lee also wrote an op-ed in which she further explained her stance.

The Taliban, a group made up of former Afghan resistance fighters, fought the invading Soviet forces in the 1980s. In 1996, Kabul was captured by the Taliban, leading to strict rules being implemented. These rules were geared more harshly toward women, according to some authorities. Rules included women being forbidden to work or pursue their education, and required to be fully covered from head-to-toe.

The resurfaced clip from Sept. 14, 2001, just days after the 9/11 attacks, shows an assertive Lee explaining her “no” vote. She revealed how she agonized over the resolution, before ultimately deciding to vote against it.

“Sept. 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. This is a very complex and complicated matter. Now, this resolution will pass, although we all know that the president can wage a war even without it. However difficult this vote may be, some of us must urge the use of restraint,” Lee said in her speech.

She continued, “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. Now, I have agonized over this vote. But I came to grips with it today, and I came to grips with opposing this resolution during the very painful, yet very beautiful, memorial service. As a member of the clergy so eloquently said, as we act, let us not become the evil that we deplore.”

Now nearly 20 years after this call to action was made, Lee’s words and worries would unfortunately prevail. The Taliban encircled and then entered the Afghan capital on Sunday causing chaos and panic. President Ashraf Ghani of Afghanistan fled the country, and U.S. military hurried to evacuate civilians and diplomats.

The sudden seizure of power caused an eruption of panic at Kabul’s international airport on Monday. Dozens of people attempted to force their way onto a plane, leaving the city in hopes of fleeing the country. Many could be seen on video swarming the sides of a plane as it was in motion.

Rep. Lee took to Twitter on Sunday to share her thoughts on the crisis, while posting her interview with MSNBC.

“What’s happening is Afghanistan currently is a humanitarian crisis,” Lee tweeted. “Let’s be clear: there has never been, and will never be a U.S. military solution in Afghanistan. Our top priority must be providing humanitarian aid & resettlement to Afghan refugees, women, and children.”

Lee said that, right now, she is focused on how to support the efforts to make sure that everyone is evacuated to safety.

“I think it’s a very dire situation,” said Lee. “Our focus and priority has got to be the safety and security of American citizens, our diplomats, the Afghans, our allies, so many people who supported the American operation there.”

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