Barbara Lee's line in the sand

Posted: Sep 19, 2001 12:00 AM
Maybe if someone had inserted language into last week's House war powers resolution calling the slaughter of more than 5,000 Americans a "hate crime," Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., would have voted for the measure. Or maybe Lee would have voted yea if the measure had included language against global warming. Lee has written that she sees global warming as a "national security" threat. Or maybe she'd have voted differently if someone had mentioned that Afghanistan's ruling Taliban and Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda organization are anti-gay -- like the Boy Scouts, from which she asked President Clinton to resign as honorary chairman because of the group's anti-gay policies. Instead, while she voted to authorizing spending $40 billion on post-terror spending -- no easy deed for a woman as anti-military spending as Lee -- she was the one dissenter in the 420-to-1 vote on the war-powers resolution. "I am convinced that military action will not prevent further acts of international terrorism against the United States," Lee explained. And: "Violence begets violence, and we don't want that to happen. That kills people." Exit logic. Lee apparently belongs to the Neville Chamberlain school of dealing with murderous dictators that figures: Let thugs kill some people, and then they won't kill more. Forget that Chamberlain's appeasement strategy only emboldened Hitler. Or that the way to stop the school bully is not to hand him your lunch, but to punch out his lights. "We don't have to use violence to impose peace. That's the wrong premise," Lee told me last month when I called her about her support for a bill to create a $3 billion Cabinet-level Department of Peace. But the old peacenik talk doesn't work here. As in: What if they had a terrorist attack with passenger planes flying into big buildings and nobody came? Lee's defenders have praised her for being a brave dove, who has been a consistent vote against military involvement and opposed President Clinton's plan to use force against Serbia and a 1998 vote on bombing Iraq. But she wasn't a brave dove on KTVU's "Mornings on 2" yesterday. She did not spout pacifist claptrap. She instead said the military had to be "very careful, very methodical" in its response. She defended her vote as asserting congressional "checks and balances," and noted that her vote did not undercut President Bush' authority to act militarily. And she has a safe seat. She won 85 percent of the vote in the last general election. Besides, if Lee were brave in her unpopular vote, so was the Rev. Jerry Falwell when he said the ACLU has to "take a lot of blame" for the brutal attacks. But it's hard to admire Falwell's courage when his stupidity is so breathtaking. The Bay Area has no shortage of citizens who argue that America should rethink its foreign policies in the wake of these killings. No doubt the boys in al-Qaida are heartened by the many calls for America to bury its dead then turn the other cheek. Especially when Americans argue that our actions precipitated the purposeful killing of children in planes. The doves don't get it: Pacificism begets violence. When then-President Clinton pulled American troops out of Somalia in the wake of an attack that left 18 Americans on a humanitarian mission dead, he let the wrong people know that if they can knock off some American troops, they can chase America out of their country. If the United States changes its policies on Israel now, it will send the message that terrorists who want to change U.S. policies can blow to bits a few thousand civilians, then get what they want. Barbara Lee understands diplomacy, even if she doesn't understand defense. Lee went as a delegate for the Congressional Black Congress to the U.N. conference on racism, even though, she said, she disagreed with the pre-conference "Zionism is racism" language. She has dined with Fidel Castro, who is hardly Mr. Nonviolence. She has been, shall we say, flexible, with leaders of other countries. But when President Bush wanted to show an America united against terrorism, she drew her line in the sand.